The Wall of Unshed Tears

IMG_3025The wall around your heart is not made of bricks or concrete or glass; it’s made of unshed, hardened tears, water that began soft and fluid then gathered together like guards when they were not allowed release.

Our hearts are born soft. We’re born to love: to give and receive without reservation or inhibition. We’re born to allow a trusted few into the deepest regions of psyche, to the places where imaginations roam freely in the forests and wild spaces. We invite them in, and if they don’t receive us as we need to be received, if they hurt us or come too close or leave when we need them most, the heart shuts down just a little.

If it happens again, if the children make fun of us and the grownups fail to protect us and we learn anything other than the truth – that we’re magnificent, worthy, intelligent, beautiful beings – the heart begins to seal shut.

If we had been guided to grieve and shed the tears that collected like a dam in the heart, we would have remained open. But we learned to be good and lie down in the fields and not complain about the shards of tears that pierced up through the earth like glass.

Until you meet the one who does not walk away, the one who loves you the way you’re meant to be loved and sees you the way you’re meant to be seen. The wall of unshed tears rises up even stronger then; it finds every reason in the world why you must not trust and must run away. It tries to convince you that you don’t really love him/her, that you’re settling, that you’re not attracted, that the sex isn’t hot enough, that she’s not intelligent enough or he’s not successful enough. Underneath all of these arguments is a well of pain, which, when left ignored, forms the wall of unshed tears.

How do you soften your wall so that you can allow your heart to open?

Every time you cry, the wall softens. The old, hardened tears trickle down in puddles and leave the kingdom. The tears clear your eyes and you see the beauty of a being who sits before you, who has been waiting all along.

Every time you find the courage to say, “My wall is up,” the wall crumbles a bit. The wall cannot sustain the truth; it trembles in the presence of vulnerability.

Every time you take your partner’s hand and say, “Sit with me. Climb over the wall. Let’s sit inside it together,” the wall exposes its holes.

Perhaps, like deep soul healing, softening the wall is, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says of the practice of mindfulness, the work of a lifetime. Perhaps we can be soft with ourselves as much as with our partner as we recognize that the work isn’t about ripping down the wall like ripping off a bandaid but recognizing that the depth of the wall is the depth of the pain, and so we move slowly and with great gentleness and compassion. We seek not to indulge the wall and justify its presence; that only thickens its resolve. Rather, we notice it, name it, and move toward the practices that slowly erase it from its place around our hearts.

In my next round of Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, I’ll be teaching you these practices. I’ll take you by the hand and guide you, day by day, with the gentleness and wisdom of one who has been there and slips back there still, toward the rippling, spiraling path of opening your heart so that you can reclaim your birthright of giving and receiving love with ease, joy, and freedom. You deserve it. Your partner deserves it. With focused attention and effective tools, you can create or rediscover the relationship of your dreams.

24 comments to The Wall of Unshed Tears

  • Kim

    This is defently what I needed to read today as I have just started seeing a new guy but my walls are up as I’m worried and scared .I’ve been so hurt in my previous relationships

  • Jennifer

    Wow…..As I was just sobbing about a horrible sexual experience & how my anxiety from being with the most open & living partener I have ever encountered, this blog pops up. Ive folowed you for a while & your timing is impeccable. In the throws of my “relationship aniexty maddness” I find myself lost & wandering to a place of pain I tried to avoid for 20 years. My partner accepts me 100% & for that I am grateful. But the anxiety loves to mask & my lizard brain hates anything stable & available or safe. I just want to say thank you because this blog helps keep me grounded when all I want to do is run, you give me hope.

    • I’m so glad that this site has provided a beacon of hope and light for you, Jennifer. It sounds like you have immense consciousness about your wounds and the areas that need attention, which is half the battle. Now to put the insight into practice, yes?!?

      • Jennifer

        Thanks Sheryl, it is quite intense most days and it seems like it has been on going from the start. I have periods of time where I feel connected and in-love with him but it always seems to be chased off from the anxiety and depression. These issues are things from my childhood that I tried to stuff away unknowingly. The anxiety blocks out an in-love or sexual feelings I would like to have but I can feel it underneath that I love him and want nothing but his happiness. I just keep holding on and hoping that through therapy the anxiety will work itself out and my fear walls will come down.

  • Jennifer

    I loved this :The wall cannot sustain the truth. The wall trembles in the presence of.vulnerability.Thank you-that is so beautiful, n a reflection of what has been happening to my own walls. Blessings.

  • Kim

    Sheryl, Your work has helped me realize that I am not my fears and I am much stronger then them. I would NEVER be where I am right now without you and the forum. Thank God I’m laying next to the one I love after a relaxing laid back weekend instead of hiding both literally and figuratively from this joy. And it is joy after all. Beneath all the struggle is the beauty and peacefulness of love. Thank you so much 🙂

  • leigh

    Hi Sheryl,

    This post really resonated with me – I definitely put fear walls up around my heart. I even question (out of fear) why I do this – does it mean I’m unable to face the truth that my partner might not be right for me?

    I have experienced pain in longing for a best friend, whom I was convinced I felt love for, as I sacrificed time, effort, and gave up any ideas of ‘physical attractiveness’ as I felt I found a soul I could connect to. However, coming to terms with the fact that his walls were up and I was not seen in that way was painful as it brought me back to reality: I was the pursuer, he was distant, and although we share a wonderful and loving friendship it was not in itself a relationship. Nothing ever happened but it was the ‘promise’ of the potential that hooked me. I am so scared of the thought that I could have dropped my relationship with my current partner in order to ‘wait’ for my best friend!

    I am now in a safe and loving relationship, that had no ‘intense’ feelings or feelings at all to start – only a curiosity about the person. The confusion came in the fact that I had a mad infatuation for him before that subsided and feelings for my best friend arose. It is hard, because I don’t like to even use the word ‘feelings’ any more – I think of it now in terms of ‘walls’ to be overcome. I need to overcome the fantasy I held for my best friend, in order to appreciate the connection I have with my current partner. I need to let go of the fantasy of my current partner even, and that he holds 100% of the characteristics I’d look for in a partner (including a stable family, comfortable living, a degree in a subject I have interest in) and appreciate him for who he is, and how caring he is. He has helped me through my ‘walls’ of emotion but of course I still search for the ‘feelings’. Is this anxiety to do with the walls I put up? I think I am so used to falling for unavailable people that having found someone who is not only fully available but in my eyes ‘perfect’, my walls come up and I feel that I don’t feel enough, or anything at all.

    Thanks Sheryl, your posts are always inspirational.

    • Candie

      Leigh I thought I would reply to this as I can identify with the place you are in. Because your friend was unavailable you felt longing. Real love isn’t longing- it’s a deep gratitude for the actual person and all they stand for. It is based on real reasons. Your anxiety and all its questions have taken over your thoughts and that makes it impossible to focus on anything else so you don’t feel gratitude for what you have before you. When we focus on fear it’s all we feel- when we unravel the fear and see it for what it is we can then move towards gratitude and true love is born. True love ebbs and flows and is built over a life time. The more you both show love the more gratitude and care is born and the deeper in love you become.

      When someone is 100% available and there is no chase we feel no longing. Longing isn’t real love, appreciating a person to the core to the point of knowing you would never want to be without them is based in reality and for genuine reasons. I think the reason many people are depressed or anxious after marriage as marriage is the last leg of longing. Marriage is the ultimate commitment and once it’s taken place many people are baffled as to where their feelings have gone. Assuming the love has gone when really they have transitioned from feeling longing to feeling comfort and stability. I hit the same wall after my partner moved in. The excitement wore off and so the questioning began. I chose to unravel the fear thoughts and look at what is real. The love you feel from genuinely appreciating your man is even better then any feeling of longing. However at that point I had to not try hold onto the feeling and just be. Trying so hard to feel anything only brings fear and numbness.

      My advice to you would be to accept the highs and lows of your relationship and focus on appreciating him truly- from that real love can be born. 🙂

      Ooh I hope I make sense, I have a concrete understanding in my head but wording it is so difficult!

      • Tereza

        It makes sence totally. many times when I have a thought that I don’t love my partner, I get nervous about that thought and analize it. If its really true, and so on, but I don’ feel comfortable that I even had that kind of feeling and I feel afraid. How can I learn to just be, enjoy the relationship as it is? we have three month to the wedding which is really close and I cannot imagine calling it off, I want to be with him, but Why do I feel like not lovig him. sometimes it changes during the day like 4 times or more. thelast two months I was totally OK, but now??

        So Sheryls help in this article and your comment helped me, thanks

  • Leah77

    Hi Sheryl, are there still places available on your course starting Feb? If so, can you please reserve me a place and I will make the payment this evening? I’ve now read most of your site and feel confident enough now to “take your hand”….I just hope I can find the time for all the work involved as I am stay at home mummy to a wee two year old, but I’ve decided the time is NOW to let myself open my heart again. I’m definitely getting there and already working hard at it, but I think your course will be invaluable in showing me the tools necessary to keep going,, even on those low road days and when things get really difficult again.Hope there are still places. Much love.

  • Myjanne

    Your posts always come at the right time Sheryl, it’s like you write something and it’s as if it was written just for me! These last few weeks I have been feeling incredibly negative and have had a huge wall up against my partner. We even had “the talk”, but thankfully something finally clicked over the weekend and all of a sudden I let the wall down and saw and felt again such tremendous love for him, it was such a relief. I cried and cried for two days but the tears were from a place of joy, because I could feel that my soul is/was slowly but surely healing and that has given me so much hope again for the future. If I’m honest, then I have had this wall up our entire relationship and then have felt frustrated when he didn’t make me feel the way I wanted him to make me feel. Through this process of whatever happened to me this weekend, I came to realise that the feelings I wanted him to make me feel were already there inside me, I just had to let them be and open my heart 100% to him. And so by doing that, I feel for the first time in the entire time we’ve been together, I’ve finally let my guard down and let him in and it feels wonderful! I just hope that I can hold onto the love that I feel for him now and bring myself back to this place next time I start getting negative again. Your posts always help bring me out of my anxiety as well, so I will bookmark this post and look forward to receiving your next blog in my inbox. 🙂

    • Beautiful, Myjanne. This work happens in layers and spirals, so it’s realistic to expect that your walls will appear again. It would be nice if they disappeared in one fell swoop but it doesn’t work that way! We keep bringing consciousness to the tightness, gently bringing compassion and curiosity to the walls, and they eventually appear less frequently and remain for shorter periods.

  • Sarah

    Sheryl, your site has given me strength and taught me a great deal. I continue to struggle with whether or not to continue my relationship with my partner. He is loving, committed, loyal and kind. I have struggled, though, since the beginning, with a feeling that we have not been able to connect on a spiritual, deeper level. We have fun together and enjoy one another’s company, but I’ve never felt a deeper, soul to soul connection. We also are unable to be fully intimate due to some health issues I am still working out. After a therapy session last week that forced me to face up to some of my walls/demons, I spent this entire weekend thinking, crying, and praying and feel that it may be time for us to part ways. How can I know for sure that I am making the right decision — what if he is right for me, and I’m too caught up in my own issues to realize that?

    • This is the million dollar question, Sarah, and only you can answer it. If you commit to working through any walls that you may have, your clarity will reveal itself. In the end it comes down to self-trust and also trusting in Life itself, meaning, as long as there isn’t abuse, that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers or choices; only learning.

      • Sarah

        Thank you so much for your response. This helps me think about things in a clearer way.

        • Me myself and I

          I completely relate to the connection piece and think you are one of many of us who were brought to this site for that very question. The beauty is Sheryl gives is tools to do the self work so we can learn to trust ourselves and decide what is the right decision for ourselves. It’s not easy to sit with these feelings of uncertainty nor is it easy to face ourselves. Many times I’ve thought i should leave and hysterically cry and thought but something has been making me stay because I don’t want to give up yet. I know we read all this hoopla other places on the internet where one’s gut tells them to leave but since most of us are prone to anxiety and fear, those gut messages may just be our wounded selves and so that’s why we have to work Through our fears.

  • Rebecca

    This is wonderful and I am curious but my question is- I have gotten to the place where I love my husband and know it’s not him that causes my anxiety (most days, I still stumble of course) but I realize the deep issue is the wall I have between myself and myself, so to speak, due to childhood trauma. I hate myself on a level so deep it seems terrifying to approach this wall, as you say. Could this help me with that or is it only focused on partners?
    Thanks. Your site is my buoy!

    • Rebecca: The Open Your Heart program actually works best once you’ve taken the projection off your partner and realize that the problem isn’t him or her. Week Three is called “Loving Yourself”, so there’ s a strong focus on cultivating self-love, but the work in this program is primarily about growing the love and connection with your partner.

  • Jelena

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have read most of your blogs and i must say that it is unbelievable in what moments i have actually discovered them. I am in a two year long relationship with my boyfriend and it is a long distance one. It is developing to be the most amazing relationship that i have ever been in, but it wasn’t all so easy and pretty. From time to time when we are both apart I have moments when i question my love and commitment, but that fades completely away when we are together. I always tell him how I feel and what scares me, and he accepts and listens without any drama, he says he is happy i am so opened with him. At times i question his love for me, but what I have come to realize is that that probably happens because I have those moments but I am transferring my fears and anxieties as he is feeling that. In those moment the fear of loosing him is so great,it is really painful, i become extremely anxious and i question my trust in him. Anyway, I choose to trust him(regardless of some moments in the past when i questioned him and for a good reason) but I choose to love him, because through this relationship i have learned a lot about me, about relationships and love. I am grateful for all the previous relationships which failed, because through those i see the magnitude and beauty of this one.
    I am aware that i might get the same questioning thoughts again, but it is in this moments that i say to myself to remember this feeling and that everything passes, regardless of how scary it seems and feels. It always does.

  • Leah77

    I love this post! My God, if only I’d come across your work a long time ago, I might have saved myself A LOT of unnecessary anxiety! It’s so interesting what you say about how our society believes that love should be about a feeling. I remember during our IVF treatment totally obsessing over this. I used to constantly beat myself up for not wanting sex and I would sike myself up every day about how I ‘felt’every time my husband came back home from work or from a night away somewhere. I often panicked when the ‘loved up ‘ feeling didn’t magically happen the instant I saw him. Then panic Would turn to almost repulsion or a weird sense of unfamiliarity….. until eventually I’d look into his eyes, exchange a few reassuring words and relax into the knowledge that my love was there after all. I didn’t know back then about ‘fear walls’and so forth and just really doubted myself. Those exact words about not deeming your relationship ‘valid’ used to plague me all the time…. simply because I hadn’t experience fairytale-like infatuation as everyone else seemed to at the start! Sheryl, I cannot wait to do your Open Your Heart course. I know I’ve come a long long way in alleviating my anxieties and nurturing love for myself and my family again. But I am now SO eager to take it all the way. I’m doing this for myself, my husband & little girl and also in the hope that it will help me re- build bridges with family & friends again. Much love and thank you again, xxx

  • Phoenix

    Wow! I loved this – it’s so similar to what I often experience. There are times when I cry for maybe 5, 10 seconds at a time. It’s like a release, but it’s also.. like my wall is tumbling down, piece by piece. Each time I have a miniature breakdown, it’s actually a miniature healing spell… I found this difficult to explain to my SO, but you managed to do this perfectly. Coming to this realization felt incredibly reassuring! They aren’t just metaphorical tears!

    Thanks so much for the work that you do,


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