We act like there is work, and there is our other (some call it our “real”) life. In this scenario, events that occur in one have nothing to do with the other. The reality, however, is very different.
Much like the Berlin Wall, the walls that we so often try to put up between different parts of our lives are not impervious. They may help to conceal things for awhile. They may allow us to compartmentalize how we spend our time, and with whom. They may elicit excitement as we slip over the “pleasure” wall after a grueling day (or week, or month) at the office. They may even become forgotten, as invisible to us as they are to everyone else. But sooner or later, like the Berlin Wall, they will probably come tumbling down.
Simply put, they are an illusion. You are only one you; I am only one me. What affects us in one aspect of our life carries with us into the other areas of our lives as well; no wall can prevent that. You may no longer be recalling that grueling experience at the office, but as you relax on the beach (or the slopes), your body does. It feels the exhaustion, it lets down its defenses, and before you know it, you are sick in bed or struggling to stay awake on the lift, or…
Some people are really good at putting up those walls, and fortifying them. They have an affair that last for years. They run a Ponzi scheme that deceives hundreds or thousands of others. They are in the closet. They have an addiction. They have some aspect of their life that they do not want to share with others (or perhaps to even acknowledge to themselves).
These walls are strong. They are high, and thick, with deep foundations. But they are not impenetrable. After all, those who build them know that they are there. They know that when they are on one side of the wall, there is another side as well; they may even move back and forth between the sides.
Walls don’t sustain themselves; they need to be maintained. The cost of maintenance is high. There may or may not be any financial investment needed. But, there is incredible mindshare and emotion involved. And, that is mindshare and emotion that cannot be spent on either side of the wall, since it is going into keeping the wall in place.
I often work with clients, helping them to face their walls, and to tear them down. Every once in awhile, someone wants to put a window in the wall so they can get a clearer view of life on the other side, or a door in the wall to make it easier to pass back and forth. But once they do that, they inevitably decide that as hard as it might be to take down the wall altogether, they want it gone.
Tearing down a wall is hard work. It directly impacts your relationships on both sides of the wall; it directly affects your relationship with yourself. It takes courage, and strength, and time. When the wall is gone, you find that you’ve made a really big change in how you spend your life, how you invest your time and mindshare and emotional energy. Tearing down walls allows you to live your life more fully as yourself, more fully in integrity with who you truly are. Tearing down walls can be transformational, changing your relationship to the entire world around you.
Sometimes when you tear down walls, you need to replace them. Replace them with boundaries, not other walls. (See my post Where Are Your Boundaries? for more on the topic of boundaries.) Properly established boundaries don’t require the same emotional and mental investment to maintain. They let the real you show through. They can be flexible when that is the right thing to do, and they can be rigid when that is required. They are easier to declare, when declaring them is appropriate.
If you find that you are having great difficulty maintaining a boundary that you have set, either it is not set properly or there is a wall that needs to be torn down first. You may not see it, but I can almost guarantee that it is there. If boundaries are about living truly into yourself in the here and now and you are not able to do so, there is something else going on. Find the wall. Get others to help you do so, if needed. It may be a family member, colleague, a mentor or coach, or even a therapist, depending on the wall. Find the wall and tear it down. Then re-establish the boundary and live into it.
What is your experience with walls? Are there walls that you have torn down? Have you replaced them in some way, and if so, how? Comment below.