What's the great secret to release your barriers to love? It's understanding specifically how they are protecting you! Armed with that knowledge, you'll be able to "whisper" them down, sometimes more quickly than you ever might have imagined. In this episode, I'll teach you some simple, life-changing techniques to help you learn the secret language of your own barriers to love, and to release them–starting right now.
Table of Contents
- The Different Stages of Our Barriers to Love
- Holding Our Barriers to Love With Cupped Hands
- Teaching Our Psyche How to Handle Our Barriers to Love
- The Decalcification of Our Barriers to Love
Episode Introduction: Barriers to Love
What do you do when you have a wall up in relation to love? Something that every single one of us experiences. In this episode, you're going to learn the keys to be able to understand your personal walls against love and begin to transform them. So stay tuned to the Deeper Dating Podcast to learn more.
Hello, and welcome to The Deeper Dating Podcast. I'm Ken Page, and I'm a psychotherapist and the author of the bestselling book Deeper Dating. And today, in this episode, I'm going to talk about the second two stages in healing our walls against love, and I'll catch you up as well on the first two stages of that process.
Every week I'm going to share with you the greatest tools I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process. Because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love, and the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy, meaningful life.
And if you want to learn more about the Deeper Dating path to real intimacy, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com. And if you sign up for my mailing list, you'll get free gifts and you'll learn more about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey. You'll also find a complete transcript of every episode.
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I also just want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It's not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment for any condition. And if you're experiencing any serious psychological or psychiatric conditions, please do seek professional help. And by the way, if you like what you're learning here, it would be a tremendous thank you if you subscribed on Apple Podcast or elsewhere and left me a review. So thank you so much for that.
So let's jump in because this subject of our walls to love is one of the richest and most powerful ways for us to deepen our entire lives, find love, keep love alive, and have more and more of a sense of true meaning and deepest growth in our existence.
Our walls are the meat and potatoes of our journey. Our walls and understanding those walls, and seeing how those walls are made up of us, and how we've had to build them to protect ourselves, and to learn the language of our walls, and to be able to change those patterns, bringing more compassion to ourself and to other people, well, that's the real deal.
It's the real deal, and it's what all of us should be striving toward in our lives.
The Different Stages of Our Barriers to Love
And when we do it, our worlds open up. And the feeling of our world's opening up, even if it's just a sense of a kind of heart-melting feeling of knowing that you didn't treat somebody well enough and that you're going to talk to them and let them know that you feel badly about that or that you understand something about someone that you hadn't understood before or you make space for a part of yourself that you never were able to make space for before.
And it's when we can't make space for parts of ourselves that we then have to create a wall because our deep psyche knows that our adult self is not going to be able to protect it in that arena. So let me talk about the first two stages, which I go into in greater detail in the last episode. Then I'm going to move into talking about the second two stages, the third and the fourth stage of this process of healing our walls to love. We're going to go into those in more detail in this episode.
The first stage is a state of kind of unconsciousness of our walls. It's not just that the unaware people have that or the ignorant people. All of us have this. In fact, for me, it's almost every day that I notice my walls to love in so many different ways. And usually, it's kind of in the peace of my meditation time or in downtime that I have when I'm less revved up that I have this humbling experience of realizing that I dropped the ball or I missed a point to care about somebody.
The Opposite of Unconsciousness
And as I said, this happens for me mostly every day, and I treasure those experiences because I try to do something about them and then that helps my life and helps my relationships. But it is humbling, humbling how many things I miss, how many subtle push-aways I do without even knowing it.
I just want to say that this unconscious state is something that all of us have, and the opposite of that unconsciousness is realization, a realization of if I did this I'd allow in more love. I'd accept this person more. I'd be braver in sharing who I am. So the first stage is one where we are just not aware of this yet. It's a human stage, and I think we can always assume that we're going to have parts of ourselves that are unaware.
When we soften into ourselves more and more, and doing things like just listening to this podcast is going to help you soften your unconsciousness around your walls. My guess is that by the end of this podcast you will have a richer sense of what those walls might be and how to soothe, and heal, and transform them because it's not rocket science. It's deep. It's powerful. It's stuff that we don't get taught, but it's the simple tools of intimacy. So I'm very excited to talk about the third and the fourth steps in this episode.
But the second step is the step where you become conscious of the ways that you push love away, and you're also conscious of the fact that at this point you cannot necessarily really stop that. There's a habitual quality to it. There's a driven quality. There's an entrenched quality.
Befriending Our Barriers to Love
And maybe you think, "Well, I'm just going to stop doing this," and then you find again, and again, and again. For me, judgmentalness and irritation are two ongoing wall defenses that I have. And I tell myself every day that when I realize it, I could just stop. I'm just going to stop. But I can't stop, and that's not the way it works.
He says, " We can't get rid of our walls. We can't get rid of our anger. We can't get rid of our greed, our jealousy, our hate. We can befriend it."
And he really means that when he says it. And his monastics and the people who study his work make space for their walls. They make space for their anger. They learn how to do that. And I think that that's a great, great thing.
So that second step is that step of realizing "I have a wall", and at this moment I can't get rid of it. I can't turn it into a door. I don't know how to do that. I don't have the tools to do it. I don't have the capacity to do it. And here I am with this wall. But, I am seeing it, and that is a huge growth step.
Now we're going to move onto the third step, and the third step is being able to hold our wall places, our entrenched defense places, our walls against love with cupped hands.
Holding Our Barriers to Love With Cupped Hands
This is an image that I use a lot, and you might want to try it right now. If you take your hands and you imagine holding something. So just imagine you're holding, let's say, a wooden ball, a wooden ball, a polished wooden ball. You're holding it. And now take your hands and make them really, really flat, completely flat next to each other and open.
And imagine holding the ball that way. Well, there's really kind of no warmth to that way of holding the ball, but you're holding it. Now imagine squeezing really hard and holding the ball that way. And that kind of hurts. That kind of hurts because you're pressing up against it really hard and you're squeezing.
Now, imagine taking your hands and holding this ball with cupped hands. There's a kind of feeling of love that comes from that cupped hands position, a feeling of holding something with space, but also tenderness. When we can do that with our walls, well, that's like the human definition of amazing because there's a humility that that takes. There's an imperfection in that. But there's a beauty, and a truth, and a bravery. And maybe most of all there's a caring enough about love to be willing to admit this.
So this third stage is a kind of holding our walls, when we feel them, with cupped hands. I'm going to say something about what the fourth stage is and then come back to kind of enriching the explanation of this third phase. The fourth stage is developing a language and a skill set around working with and understanding that wall. But that's going to be … Well, we'll get to that one.
The Things That Came Make Us Numb
We'll get to that one in a minute, but I just wanted to say what that fourth stage is. In this stage, in this third stage of this holding with cupped hands, sometimes what the wall might be is the feeling of "I feel nothing." That's been a wall that has been really hard for me. That's been a signature one of my walls that has caused me great guilt and pain and concern in my life is the "I feel nothing place."
I remember many years ago someone who I was in a relationship with was moving from another country to come and live with me. I was shopping with a friend for bed linens and all the things we needed, and this was a few days before he was going to arrive. I had done a lot of shopping before, but there was more shopping I had to do.
And I remember being completely numb, 100% numb. At other times in my life when really big things happened, I found that I would go numb and I would think, "What is wrong with me? Can I not love?" But no. It's what I discovered by holding it with cupped hands is that that went away, and of course the feelings came back.
I think that love and death are two things that are so big that walls happen really easily and naturally. I remember losing my uncle who I loved a lot and not being able to cry about it. I remember talking to a friend of mine, a very wise person, and he said to me,
"It makes sense that you're not feeling anything because death is so big that you can't just put your arms around it."
Our Psyche’s Immediate Protective Response
Your arms will never fit around it. So you could be walking down the street five days from now and all of a sudden burst into tears because it's so vast. It's so deep. It's so profound as love can be that we don't get to control the volume level that our psyche determines we need to be at, and our psyche protects us with walls. So that's been a big one for me. I don't know if you've had a similar experience of this feeling of I feel nothing at times when there's big stuff going on. But I worried in many ways that it was a sign that I just couldn't love.
Here's something else as well that might feel like a wall but is actually something other than a wall, and it's allowing space for an ebb and flow of feelings. I know that for me when I have a wave of deep feelings there needs to be a compensatory period of just integrating, or not feeling much, or vegging out, or just needing time.
And when we feel that and we feel that need for space, and time, and integration, and quiet, and I guess aloneness or privacy with whatever it is we're feeling at times, and this is something that highly sensitive people get a lot and often wonder, "Well, what's wrong with me? Why am I shutting down? Why can't I sleep spooning the whole night? Why do I have to stop holding hands at a certain point? What's wrong with me that I can't be like everyone else?"
Teaching Our Psyche How to Handle Our Barriers to Love
But people who feel deeply and profoundly need pauses and need to know that there's going to be an ebb and flow not of their feelings necessarily, but that their feelings … But of an awareness of their feelings and that our feelings go subterranean sometimes and it doesn't mean they're gone. And in dating, this is really, really true. And most of us, or many of us, when we finally meet someone who's good, and wonderful, and decent, and attractive, and we kind of realize that there's just no question but that they really are kind of consistently interested in us, our feelings go away.
I call this the wave of distancing, and I think that it is the greatest single saboteur of healthy new love, not because it arises but because we believe in it and we think our feelings have really gone away or that they were never there enough, instead of understanding that in the presence of the vastness of real potential love, our psyche has to do a lot of different things to help us bear the true risk of real intimacy, and one of them is pushing people away right at that point.
I have been plagued by that, and it took me years, decades, let's be honest, decades and decades to learn how to handle that wall of mine. I talk about that wall in other episodes, and they talk about the wave and what to do about it. I speak about it in my book, too.
Humanizing Our Barriers to Love
There are some ways that we can begin to hold these walls with cupped hands and understand them in deeper ways. One thing that we can ask ourselves is, "what part of me doesn't feel right at this moment? What part of me doesn't feel good?" Then we give room for whatever answer comes out because the chances are great that this is intimately linked to the unconscious wall that we have built.
Another great question is, "what part of me am I now protecting?" And a really fabulous question to me, the key and essential question is, "what does that part of me want? How would it most want to be treated at this moment? What does it need?" This is the most fabulous, fabulous question because it gives us space to humanize our wall. So I know that for me I have places of deep timidity in my being, and those places need to not be touched or to be touched lightly and carefully again and again because I disappear. I can also be really intense and then that intensity creates other kind of walls. But one is a kind of timidity, a kind of quiet that I need and a kind of space that I need that when I don't get it I go away.
And this is the big, big, big part, when I can honor the feeling that's underneath the timidity that's saying, "I need space. This environment doesn't feel safe. I need breathing room. I need to take a walk," I've lost a part of myself. I have to find it again.
What Our Barriers to Love Are Made Of
When I can give myself space to do that, usually my wall … Because these walls are, again, they're not concrete. They're not steel. They are made of our flesh. They're made of us. They're made of our spirits. So when I can do that, and then when I can ask, "What does that part of me need?" then my wall begins to change. And we're going to talk about this now more in the fourth step about what to do when we realize that.
But this is the step that none of us are taught. This goes under the category of some phantom fear of intimacy issue I have that God knows hopefully one day I'll be able to figure out instead of this exquisitely specific act of saying, "What part of me doesn't feel right? What part of me doesn't feel safe? What part of me feels nervous?" And you could even take a minute right now. And if you like, you could pause the podcast to do this, and just think of a time when you felt a wall up.
Didn't have to be a big dramatic wall, but you were shut down to a relationship or to a connection or to those around you. Go back there and ask yourself these questions: What part of me didn't feel safe? What part didn't feel protected? And what did it need? What did it want? These are the questions that when we ask our walls literally begin to deconstruct and we see the humanity that was behind them.
The Decalcification of Our Barriers to Love
In my work with clients and in my intensive, this is so much of what we do is seeing the walls, which are unconscious, helping make them conscious, go through that period of holding them with cupped hands, and then learning the language of them that's underneath. And each one of you can do this. In your places of walls, you could say, "What's the sanity behind this wall? What's the valid reason why I had to put this wall up, and how can I protect the part of me that this wall is protecting?" Ongoing journey, step by step, but it's a beautiful process.
And when we don't do that, that's when the wall becomes calcified. That's when it begins to feel like concrete. That's when it begins to feel not like flesh but something impenetrable and hardened. That is what happens when we shame ourselves for the time we have a wall. I know people who in relationships, me included, very often will say, "Honey, I feel my wall. I feel my wall." Then, my husband will say to me, "What do you think it's about?"
And I'll try to find the words about what is it about and what do I need. I don't always get it exactly right. But the minute I do that, I'm in so much better shape because I am not creating self-loathing. I'm creating self-dignity, and I'm somehow finding my personal path around whatever wall it might be that I'm feeling at the moment. The brilliant psychiatrist and theorist Winnicott talked about this concept of "good enough mothering."
Good Enough Loving
That's when all of the kind of psychological awareness was coming into the picture of kind of the intense role that parents and especially moms in those days played in a child's development. A lot of mothers got really scared thinking, "Well, what if I'm not doing this well enough?" And his concept was "good enough mothering," which was such a soothing and healing concept, which is that if you're doing it kind of good enough, then it's going to be good enough. And when we do good enough dating, good enough loving, but that does include recognizing and doing these steps with our walls.
And then the next step, which is the fourth step, the step that we're on now, the next part of that is to talk to the people we love, if they're safe, about these walls because that changes things dramatically, dramatically. Because left in our own heads, we probably won't necessarily, especially in the early phases, be able to work this out well enough.
So such a hugely important thing in your relationships to be able to with the people you love, say, "Oh, this was my wall. That was my wall. Here's where it's from." There's a wonderful saying from 12 step programs which is "if it's hysterical, then it's historical." In other words, if all of a sudden you get triggered to shut down, it's going to be from something in your past.
Helping Love Flourish
These steps will save you from shame, stuckness, and kind of a calcification of self, and they will lead you to a more fluid ability to live, and breathe, and connect with the people you love, and they will give you problem-solving skills that are just so essential. And we're not taught how to do these things. We're not taught how to honor, acknowledge, and work with our walls and then build a personal language with the people we love that helps us navigate our walls and their walls.
And when we do that, all of our relationships transform. This is one of the absolute greatest keys for helping love flourish and getting it to the point where it can flourish. So thank you so much for listening, and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode of The Deeper Dating Podcast.