We’re all built of different parts: we’re not easily defined; rather we are a multitude of experiences. Often we think that there’s a kind of ourselves that feels the most like our ‘true self’, and the rest is a façade. Almost as if the real you is imprisoned and often only known to you. The façade or wall then becomes something which isn’t you. By thinking of it that way you may end up feeling powerless and isolated.
A more helpful way of looking at it might be to consider that the wall you have built is you as well. The part of us behind the wall is often vulnerable and overlooked, whilst the wall is often cold, rigid and tense. One of the difficulties is that once we become aware of that, there is often an instant urge to get rid of one or the other. We want to push the vulnerable part even further down, or make the wall disappear without having a feel of it and getting to know it first. In the former situation, you end up creating more distance between you and the people around you; in the latter, you might lose a source of your power and your boundary.
Acknowledging that you aren’t just the overlooked part within, but also the hard exterior isn’t just a rhetorical difference. Doing so is the beginning of a process of integrating more parts of yourself into a whole. Letting yourself express both parts with a friend or a professional who you feel connected to can be powerful. You can really begin to get a sense of the purpose of your wall, as well as get to know its limits. Similarly, by sharing the vulnerable part of you with a person you feel safe with allows space for a response you may not have expected. We’re usually convinced that we know how someone will react to something. That conviction is often based on previous experiences where significant people in our lives failed to respond to us in a way that we needed.
Taking ‘safe risks’ by sharing both parts of you with someone you trust can reduce loneliness and help you become more flexible about who you experience yourself to be. You can learn that it is OK to be vulnerable at times, as well as not giving yourself a hard time for having the ability to create distance and keeping yourself safe.
The way to quieten our inner opposites isn’t to try and get rid of one or the other but to acknowledge that you’re more than one thing, giving each part a voice and seeing how they relate to each other. Perhaps what’s needed more than anything is work on our tolerance of tension, our ability to hold more than one thing as valid. We can then be free of the pressure that there is an inner true self, deep inside of us waiting to be discovered and a wall around it that needs to be knocked down. Instead we can focus on what is already here – a dialogue between them waiting to happen.