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.
Wow. That was pretty powerful.
(side note: aside from the “avoid me” part, your wall sounds like my mother. trying to protect me from sadness, but that protection is a lot more stifling than any sadness! your wall’s a lot more reasonable though.)
Question: How do you manage to get such clear imagery in your meditation? I visualise easy, but it all has a very artistic look to it, and half the time I can’t tell whether I’m really encountering something or whether I’m just making things up in my head.
Tiaras last blog post..Changes of opinion.
This really, really resonated with me deeply. Because I’m up against a wall that wants me to pay attention and I don’t want to. There’s the shame and the not-deserving and the hating and all the rest, and really it’s only there to make me safe.
This was so powerful, I need to go away and think about it deeply.
Joely Blacks last blog post..A post about spending time in an awkward space
I was reading through some archives here and found a comment by you about how you see fear as being broccoli-like, dark green and puffy. That’s pretty close to how I see panic attacks – like a green (though mine’s more luminous) and black Dementor cloud.
Thought I’d reach out and say hello to a fellow synesthete with a similar mode 🙂
Tiaras last blog post..Changes of opinion.
Wow. Thanks, Havi.
“How it was love, of all things, that was the form through which the wall both came into being and disappeared.” –Havi Brooks
“It is in love that we are made, in love we disappear.”
You are brave and wise and true. Thank you for sharing this amazing encounter with your dear wall!
Biggest hugs and so much love to you,
Hiro Bogas last blog post..Creative Connection: Where’s Your Muse When the Baby’s Spitting Up at 3 am?
So it was the wall itself you were meant to discover? That’s pretty amazing.
I started visualizing my stuck after listening to the audio you packaged (I think) with the Procrastination Dissolve-o-matic. And I want to thank you for introducing me to this technique because it’s been very powerful.
I’m always struck by how grateful I feel to these stuck patterns after I visualize and try to speak to them — to think that these patterns, however misguided, have been in service to me for a long, long time, just to keep me from pain. Kind of like what you say about your mother, Tiara – it may be stifling but she’s doing it out of love.
Wow, thank you so much.
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This blog made me smile. Clever, well written and full of good advice 🙂
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I am always so completely moved and inspired when you share these experiences.
And the part that Hiro quoted, about love being the cause of both the appearance and disappearance of the wall – I wonder how much faster stucknesses would dissolve if we could really, truly know that they’re coming from a place of love.
I know for me, it’s easy to get so mad at the stuck, even though I know that’s not going to help matters. Because it must be doing this for the sole purpose of making me miserable, right?
But if I look at the stuck as something that loves me…now *that* changes things quite a bit.
Those additional layers of stuck that come from the place of “Why is this happening to me? Why can’t this just stop?” can melt away.
Thank you for this.
Victoria Brouhards last blog post..Little Girls Can Be Such Bitches
This may be the most beautiful post I have ever read.
And pretty darn useful and applicable to my life, as well.
Paces last blog post..Book Bonanza Wednesday! Chapter 2: Different communication styles
Last night I cried during Grey’s Anatomy. and then I cried during Private practice. Then I wrote a blog post, and after I published it, I cried because it didn’t say what I wanted it to say at all… but I left it there for some reason.
Just now I read your post and I cried because I realize now that I need to be less ashamed of who I am. I need to stop apologizing for what I think I know.
You’re so insightful. I’m so glad I found you.
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I’m crying too. I’m feeling ashamed at the moment about a mistake I made this week. Nothing really bad happened as a result but it could have.
I know that making mistakes is a learning experience but I’m still feeling pain about it 🙁
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It is completely bizarre and weird that you wrote this today.
I talked to my fear this morning and that inner 12 year old who just wants to hide.
And it turns out that my fear was actually just there because it loves me and wants to protect me and it really just wants me to love it back, and for me to talk to it more often.
I understand entirely what that experience was like. And I am moved and touched that you shared it here, because this is so intensely personal.
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I’ve learned so much from you just in the past few weeks. Thank you.
Mmmm. Hi, guys!
@Tiara – I’m not really much of a visual person either, believe it or not. 🙂
I think of it as “Percepting” to use a word borrowed from Suzette Haden Elgin who is a linguist who writes about words and communication and change. The idea is that you use words and concepts and perceive them or experience them in whatever way you works for you.
For me it’s more of a “sense” that I can then translate into a visual. Though I will say that the Shiva Nata work I do has restructured my brain to the point that I can now access visuals too if I try, which is new.
In terms of your (very useful) question about how we know if we’re really encountering something or just making things up in our heads, I don’t think it matters so much.
I mean, even if it is a completely invented construct, as long as there is still value in it … you could use just about anything as a way to help you untangle a pattern. So if the image is intrinsic to you or you make it up as a tool, it should still work for you.
Does that make sense?
@Lola Dragon – loved your post today!
@Jolie – *waves*
And to everyone else … just wanted to add that I hope it was clear that I’m not advocating that we all force ourselves to love and embrace our stucknesses or anything, just that we work on getting ready to engage them in a conversation once in a while. 🙂
No shoulds there either.
You guys are WONDERFUL. I love that I can share things like this with you and you don’t even think I’m crazy.
Internet hugs all around!
It’s interesting that you mention you’re perceptual – that’s how I am too! Like it’s a bit more than just “seeing” but that’s the only words you can work with. Intriguing!
Tiaras last blog post..Changes of opinion. 
I feel so honored by what you share with us, Havi.
Holy Mackerel! Compelling experience, beautifully told. That’ll stay with and serve me someday, if only for the mediation techniques. (Quipping = moved.)
I love your post. But what if this wall is
Fybromyalgia—intense chronic pain? Please help if you can. I am on the edge.
I have been working in an experiential therapy group for two years. Although my therapist and my group members have often talked about shame, anger or addiction or whatever it may be that keeps one stuck, I never truly understood what they meant. I have watched them be kind and loving to their anger. I have watched them accept that their wall of shame served a purpose. I never understood what they were doing. Until I read your post today, Havi. I finally get it.
Speaking to my own wall makes perfect sense. Knowing that it exists to lovingly protect me makes perfect sense. And loving it back…perfect sense. My job now is to use compassion. It will take time for me to speak to it with love.
You have taught me in such a poignant way that it is through love that I can heal. I will carry this with me always.
Thank you, Havi. Thank you.
And it is this. This is why i love you.
i talk to stuff too. ghosts mostly. but i’m going to try walls now. seems like they have a lot to offer. 🙂
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OMG! You totally looked into my soul! It’s ironic to me how we think we are the only one that can possibly feel something so personal & yet somebody speaks it & it resonates with so many others. It amazes me just how many walking wounded there are in the world & it makes me sad to know that other people feel like I do. I have been slowly chipping away at my wall over the last few months but every time I think it is gone forever, something comes up to trigger it & I realize it is still there. Since reading your blog, I’m trying to be more aware of exactly what triggers those feelings of shame, anxiety & all other negative feelings about myself & offer myself some mercy to feel them, accept where I am but to keep on moving. Thanks Havi for a great blog & for giving little pieces of yourself so that the rest of us can move out of stuckification.
Beautifully written and articulated. I’m a meditation practitioner and therapist. This experience reminds me of the Buddhist teachings on Maitri (pronounced My-Tree), which means “loving-kindness” practice. It’s a very difficult practice to describe but is an important aspect of meditation practice to develop. Maitri is also described as unconditional friendliness toward oneself. Thank you for sharing this very intimate and profound experience.
Wow! This is really powerful, Havi. It takes remarkable courage to confront a wall. I know I have several and I never really make the time to sit and talk with them. I know that I need to discover their purpose but they always seem so daunting. It’s like I’m a fangirl and they’re a teen idol. I can gaze from a distance, bouncing on the spot with eager anticipation just to SEE them, but “talk” to them? They’re GODS! How can I talk to a God?
Ok, so my walls aren’t Gods. They’re just parts of me, doing their best to protect me from pain. It’s time I stopped idolizing them and became their friend instead of their underling.
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This is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve read this post since you originally wrote it.
I just want to say thank you. 🙂
And thanks to Shivanata, my wall of shame has been dissolving a little more every day.
Wow… I started crying when the Wall of Shame explained that it’s trying to save you from sadness.
My wall is self-hatred, but it serves the same function. Self-hatred keeps me busy and blocks me from accessing what I need to heal, and then I procrastinate to numb it all out.
Thank you so much, Havi. I will be reading your blog regularly in an effort to guide my self-talk in a different direction.