Saturday, 5 October 2013

Walls

(Written on December 6, 2012)

When someone has writers block, it is sometimes said that they have hit a wall.  I plan on hitting a few walls before the end of this article.  Fortunately, walls are the very thing I'm wishing to talk about.

I'm not talking about physical walls, but if you'd like you can picture one as you continue reading.  Personally I'm imagining a layered red brick wall.  It's held together with cement or mortar, and relatively solid.  If you tried to punch it, chances are your fist would start to throb.  Yet, strike it with a heavy sledge hammer and you'll be able to wear away at it.  A wrecking ball probably would be a better choice, however.

But this wall was likely standing for a reason.  There are a number of reasons for which walls stand:
- they can hold up a roof
- they can be a barriers
- they can be protectors
- they can mark boundaries
- they can be for decorative purposes

You can decide if any of this was relevant as you read.

Let me start out by saying that walls can be a good thing.  I didn't take any psychological courses, so perhaps there is a good term out there synonymous with "mental wall."

Mental walls keep out stress, a very threatening adversary.

What stops you from getting stressed out at work?  Perhaps you enjoy your work, your enjoyment is a wall that keeps out stress.  Perhaps you have distraction as a wall, your thoughts of things other than work keeping you sane during your shift.  There are walls that exist that protect your mind from a limitless supply of stress from currently unknown locations.  These walls are eroded by worry.  The more you are able to worry, the more stress you let in.  Perhaps though, you are able to see something previously missed with this increase in worry.  Living and learning, you decided to be merely "concerned" and not "worried," to see past these walls.

Some of these walls are your conscious constructions.  You found out your body doesn't agree with lactose, so you refrain yourself from buying your familiar dairy products.  You also love animals, and create a wall in your mind which blocks any temptation to eat beef or pork.  You'll eat chicken, but not if you have seen said chicken in real life beforehand, because then you'll have a connection with the chicken and a new wall goes up in your head.

Other walls are erected unconsciously.  Somebody insults you, and your mind goes into self-defense mode.  It walls up.  It blocks the insult and doesn't let it bother you.  Of course, you'd like to think this wall is a rubber one, and that your retorting insult is just a result of their own insult bouncing off your bouncy barrier of the brain .  Yet you know this isn't true, but another wall protects you from the implications of this fact.

It's ironic that the more you read on about walls in this article, the more walls that will go up.  Or perhaps I'll merely expose walls that you didn't know was there.  Either way, brick walls are things, and so are wrecking balls.

If you haven't figured out by now that my usage of "walls" implies that they are potent symbols and you're still stuck in the mindset that I'm going on about certain physical barriers or membranes, your brain had different limits than my brain; you and I have different walls bordering the thought processes of our mind.  So hop over that wall of yours, and hope that you'll have the energy to bound across a few more.

Absence of emotion is most definitely a wall that I'm intimately familiar with.  By not associating emotions to things, I'm holding up walls that protect me from being emotionally vulnerable.  For instance, hypothetically I could be mad that the NHL is not currently running and there's no games to watch.  Yet, at least for me personally, it's easy enough to ignore that little issue and refuse to get riled over it.

But that same wall that protects one emotionally also prevents that same person from experiencing the joy that this emotion may bring.  An unmarried person may not feel lonely, but they are also missing out in the happiness that is brought about in being in a relationship.  Even someone in said relationship can be blocking emotion.  Would you agree with me that in these kind of situations, balance is needed?  A wall is needed, but shaped a certain way, a specific size.

Before I go on, I want to emphasize that I merely want to identify some walls.  What you do after you realize these walls are there is completely your prerogative.

I'm going to state something, and let's see what walls go up in your mind.  Around the world, right now, thousands of people are starving, millions are struggling just to survive.

BOOM!
Did you see that?!  All those brick walls just came flying down out of the sky and landed soundly in the ground of your psyche.  I think I may have seen a few steel walls land as well.  What, you didn't just see that?  Perhaps there is a wall preventing you from seeing them.

Let me see if I can't try to guess what's going on in your mind because of that statement.  "Oh, all those poor people.  They have it so rough."  And... "And what?"  You know what you want to say, take down that wall, there you go, it's not a hard one  "fine.  And I'm so glad I'm not them."

Why didn't you want to say that last part?  It's because things get complicated as soon as you start to relate your own situation to theirs.  Now, ever so slowly, new factors come into play (but not to worry, you have mental walls in place so they don't get so far).

You have just gained the tiniest amount of satisfaction, and dare I say, happiness in your current situation.  A happiness that was a result of a statement of the misfortune of others.  "So what?  Should I not feel grateful for my life?"  Look, right there, right under your nose as you said that.  There is a wall, a wall to protect you from feeling guilty.  No, I'm not saying you should feel guilty, I just want to point out a few walls here.

Where is your sadness?  Do you feel sad?  Is it not sad that people are starving?  If your mother was starving, would you feel sad?  Perhaps you can spot a wall or two on your own now.  There's that wall protecting you from feeling sad.  But there's another wall up, a wall that I mentioned earlier.  It's a wall that surrounds your mindset.  Your mother is inside the scope of your comprehension.  Yet all these people starving and struggling to survive is outside of this wall.  You are not only guarded against the emotions you feel, but you're guarded against who you'll feel it for.

Here's another statement to add on top of the previous one:  last week you bought a $10 DVD to a movie you already saw.

BOOM!!
Did you see that?  Even if you didn't, you can guess what that sound was.  More walls.  Let's take a look at a few new ones.

"It's my money, I earned it, I liked that movie.  It's really none of your business!"  Well there's a few things wrong with that statement.   However, it's true that it's really none of my business what you do with your money.  What you do is up to you, I'm just pointing out walls.

Why did you get self-defensive there?  There was more to it than refraining from feeling guilty.  It's because I offended one of your beliefs.  This belief in particular is that it's fine to do seemingly illogical things simply for your own amusement.  There is a wall that protects your instinct to look out for number one.

Looking out for number one, why shouldn't you do that?  You're important, so therefore your happiness is important.  But, if you're important, that must mean that everyone else is important too...

You may do even more for other people if it wasn't for one particular wall that circumferences a place described by a familiar term:  comfort zone.  The comfort zone is cozy, with happiness and a generally positive atmosphere.  You like that wall.  You like it a lot.

That DVD in and of itself provides walls.  It's a distraction from reality which protects us from the cares of the real, in-the-flesh world.  It shades us from stress, worry, and unpleasant emotions that we may feel otherwise.  But do you remember those starving people I mentioned earlier?  Now you do, but you didn't when you were thinking of different movies.  Your mind put up that wall to protect you from all sorts of things, including a sense of responsibility.

Let me shift gears, create a wall to ward off at least a portion of the irritation that is building up as a result of my statements.

Let's forget about the less fortunate people for now.  Now, recall that mother, along with her belligerent four year old child in the grocery store that won't give up crying and whining and throwing a fit.

What's your initial reaction to that?  You know what, I'll tell you mine, and you can say whether or not you agree with me.  "That mother needs to discipline that child.  That is not how a well-behaved kid should act in public, and shame on her for letting him carry on in such an unruly manner!"

Let's ignore (for at least the moment) the fact that I'm completely right in saying this, and try to identify the walls.  You didn't hear the walls fall after that one, did you?  Oh, but they're there.  I just walked right into one of them and stubbed my toe.

Wall number one:  the wall of difference of belief.

I have in my mind a structure of how a person should act in public.  Anything that crosses this wall imposes on the ground of my self-righteousness and is subject to my mental judgement.

"The more perspectives from different people you're able to see through, the bigger the picture you can comprehend."  That was my facebook status today.  It is a good reminder of another wall we put up.  This wall circles the previous one I mentioned.  It is the wall of my perspective.  I fail to see through this lady's or even her kid's eyes.  True, there is no way to get past the wall of reality and actually see life exactly how she sees it, but I can imagine it.  I can imagine that she is usually a great mom but she's currently worn out from a rough day and is letting herself be less than perfect in disciplining her child today because she just doesn't have the energy.  I can imagine that life is tough for a mom, and since I don't have any kids I really shouldn't be mentally looking down at my nose at her.  Do you think I should have broken down that wall?

I want to go on about more walls I see in my own life.

I see walls stopping me from doing actual work because that would take effort and stress and impede on the enjoyment I could be having in the moment.

I see walls stopping me from caring about who reads this.  Because as soon as I start to care, that makes me vulnerable to disappointment if very few people do.

I see walls stopping me from forming relationships with other people.  Why?  Well, emotionally I can't say I'm very vulnerable so that must not be it.  But time and money it tends to use up...  MY time and money!  What a wall!  The wall protects my idea of what is mine, and the door that allows what I'm willing to share and with who is one that has a complex lock on it - too complex.

I see walls stopping me from understanding the immense meaning behind the fact that people are dying.  This is one wall I'm guiltily incredibly grateful for.  For the more this wall is wall is broken down, the more connected I feel with the people who are dying.  The more connected I feel with the people who are dying, the more emotional I feel.  I feel depressed, and moved to tears.  In fact, if the wall were to be completely torn down until there was nothing left, I would be drowning in the sorrow of the sad reality and be incapable of functioning.  These are real people, no less important than myself, and they're going to die!

I'm not guilty for being grateful merely for the existence of that wall, for it needs to exist at a certain level in order for me to function.  But I'm guilty because of the level I like to maintain that wall at and let it shelter me from even taking more than a quick peek on the other side.

Not to be misunderstood, there are also walls that protect me from the extreme opposite of the sadness that I could be victim to; there are walls that protect me from being immobilized by extreme bliss.

There is a balance to the world, to my emotions, walls to keep them in place.  Some of those walls are permanent, immovable by nature for my own protection so that I can function in society.

Brick walls are a thing, however.  So are wrecking balls.

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