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Brick Walls and Disassociation

Posted by JDB , 29 December 2012 · 50 views

Rachel is a complex person, who represents me and many others who have been sexually abused. The experience leaves us with coping mechanisms to protect ourselves when we feel threatened. Unable to keep healthy boundaries throughout life, I found myself constructing brick walls and disassociating myself from others when pressured. Here is Rachelís take on the experience:

My nerves are on edge, and I try to remember points in my conversation with Dr. Grayson. I need to keep my emotions in check and part of me teeters on disassociating myself from the entire experience. I know if I go that far, my eyes will glaze over, and I wonít hear a thing he says. Instead, Iíll be busy constructing the brick wall so I wonít get hurt.

For those who have never experienced what itís like to check out mentally and run the other way, I can only say that itís a reaction that I often donít consciously make myself. It seems my brain at times has another switch in the electrical department and abuse wired my responses. If I perceive you are a threat to me in any way, whether physically or emotionally, I pull away. In my mind, Iím busily constructing a wall between the two of us. Sometimes the wall is constructed in stellar time. I laugh at myself because my ancestors were brickmakers and bricklayers. Perhaps that is where Iíve inherited the skill.

When the wall is up, there is a shield that protects me from the threat of hurt. The majority of the time, Iím not really worried about physical pain from that person, but emotional pain. Here are the triggers for my construction:

  • Youíre challenging me. Youíre in my face, bold, pushy, overbearing, and I donít have the skills or strength to handle the assault. Quickly, I build the wall and mentally step back from you. You may find me turning my head, walking away, looking at you, but not seeing you. Itís all part of the plan to protect.

  • You want intimate knowledge of who I am. Letís face it, the closet is dark inside. No one in their right mind is going to let you in willingly to see what is behind that door! Your push to be intimate threatens my secrets and exposes my shame. If you know my darkest thoughts, you may leave, or you may try to change me. It only triggers me to cut my emotional ties with you, because Iím not in a state where I can handle intimacy. If you really want it, youíre going to have to be patient and carefully climb my brick wall and then reason with me from the top.

  • Youíre a danger. I perceive that youíre going to hurt me emotionally, and there is no trust in my heart that you can love me unconditionally. Brick walls and disassociation keep me from that hurt. This way, I am in control. I can keep you at armís length. Itís survival of the fittest, and I cannot allow you to take away another part of me without my consent.

Iím sure, though, that many of you feel the same way. Our brick walls and disassociation are the way we cope with perceived threats. Iíve never been an assertive person, and I attribute that, of course, to my childhood sexual abuse. Perhaps because I was dominated and not in control of my body as a child. Itís hard to stand up for myself. In response, I check out.

Rachel struggles with feelings of abandonment, distrust of men, and emotional intimacy. Thanks to patient and loving Ian, she finally puts down the mortar and opens her heart to receive, rather than closing it off. She represents for me the bravery I often lack, and Conflicting Hearts is my fantasy and hope.

J.D. Burrows

July 2016

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