I have a wall inside of me made entirely of shame.
Right now, as I write this, my sense is that this fact could not be more obvious, but yesterday when I first encountered it, my wall was a shocking discovery.
Here’s how I ran into the wall.
I was in meditation. Asking myself for clarity. Specifically with regard to a particular pattern I’ve been slowly untangling, but also just kind of in general.
The sensation was pure tingly anticipation: understanding that I was about to be shown something.
And just when I was about to get to whatever it was, boom. A wall. Standing in the way. Made of shame.
My wall, in fact. It’s just that I hadn’t known it was there.
The wall was thick and high and powerful. Composed of some weird futuristic-looking substance that was both gel-like and immobile, and kind of an off-white.
There wasn’t any way over, around or through.
So I talked to it.
Sometimes it feels like you’re talking to the wall.
Me (tentative): Hello. You seem to be a wall of shame. I guess you’re mine.
Wall: Uh huh.
Me: Seems like you don’t want to let me through.
Wall: Mm-hmm. That is correct.
Me: I’d really like to see what’s going on beyond this wall.
Wall: Sorry. We can’t have that, you know.
Me: Wow. I really get that you don’t want me back there. I can feel the strength of your commitment to that.
And at the same time, I can tell there’s something useful for me there. Can you tell me why you’re so intent on keeping me out?
Wall: You will be so sad if you go back there. I just couldn’t it bear to see you sad. No one should have to have so much sadness.
I looked at the wall. The wall was hanging its head.
I mean, it didn’t have a head, but that was the general effect. It was sagging a bit, looking weak and vulnerable. Sad wall.
In fact, I kind of wanted to give my wall a hug, even though shame is one of my least favorite sensations and also it looked kind of sticky.
Talking around things. Talking through things.
Me: Oh, my poor wall. You’re trying to protect me from sadness.
Wall (nodding): I feel so helpless. I just want to keep you safe even though you will never appreciate me.
Me: So you know that you fill me with agonizing dread and self-loathing but basically you think that’s a better option than me being filled with sadness?
Wall: Well, when you put it that way … I don’t know, I just really don’t want you to be sad. It seems like — when I was built, at least — it was worth it.
Me: Oh. Well, that is a lovely thought, not wanting me to be sad. And at the same time … I don’t know how to say this … it’s like this:
When I encounter my shame, it’s a miserable and frightening experience for me.
To me shame seems harder to bear than sadness. Because it blocks me off from myself.
The shame fills me with terror and keeps me from looking at things. And if I can’t look at things, I can’t get clarity. And without clarity I might not be able to heal.
And I’ve been through a lot and I am really ready for some healing here.
Wall: I didn’t know. I thought I was helping you, not hurting you.
Me: Oh wall, are you crying?
Wall: I love you. I just can’t let you through.
Walking through walls.
The wall was seriously sagging now. Parts were giving away. The wall was almost melting in some spots. And I was sure it was crying.
Me: I understand. You want to keep me safe.
Wall: Of course I do. That’s my entire purpose. I am devoted to you.
Wall: What did you think?
Me: I don’t know. I guess I’m so used to running into things and hurting my head on them and resenting them for being there that I hadn’t really thought about their purpose.
Wall: So would you please go away and let me keep you safe from this sadness?
Me: You know that’s not what’s going to happen. I am much less afraid of sadness than I am of shame.
Can I meet you halfway? What if I bring some protection with me when I go into the sadness?
Wall: Tell me more.
Me: What if I bring Selma? And the part of me that’s really sarcastic and funny and mean? And the zebra that my dead friend gave me? Couldn’t they help keep me safe?
Wall: You don’t have the zebra anymore.
Me: I have an internal zebra.
Wall: Okay. So … if you have these companions with you … are you sure? Do you think you can look straight at all that sadness and not be washed away by it? Because I cannot bear to know that I have lost you.
Me: Oh wall, I am ready to be with my sadness. I am big enough to contain sadness. My sadness will never be able to leave me if I don’t find out what it needs from me, right?
Anyway, don’t you know how painful it is to feel ashamed? Don’t you know how I have been avoiding you my entire life?
Wall (shrugging): I’m sorry. It’s just … that was all part of the plan. I would protect you and you would avoid me. I didn’t realize it would hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you.
Me: I know, sweetie.
And then I cried for a while.
When I looked up the wall was gone.
Holding Selma, I went looking for my sadness. But we didn’t really find anything.
The feeling of anticipation, of “it’s about to happen” wasn’t there anymore.
We were ready to be shown what we needed to see. And we were ready to be patient and let it take its time.
But nothing seemed to be there. So we just went for a walk instead.
Love. And things like that.
I sat for a while and thought about what I had been shown in place of the sadness.
How I had walled part of myself away. And how the wall desperately needed me to really acknowledge its purpose.
How it was love, of all things, that was the form through which the wall both came into being and disappeared.
About how many things I have been deeply and intensely ashamed of. And how many walls I have built.
About the people and concepts that have come into my life in the past few years. The ones who have taught me to interact with things consciously and softly and patiently instead of struggling against them.
I’m thinking … I may be talking to walls more often now. It could happen.