Isolation seems to be the order of the day. After an experience of deep emotional pain, many of us wish to protect ourselves from having to ever feel that way again. This “protection” often comes in the form of emotional separation: we step back from making connections with others in order to avoid the risk of hurt.

This measure of defense seems to make sense on the surface: if you don’t get close to anyone, no one can hurt you. But the logic is flawed. The absence of relationship with others doesn’t protect the heart, but rather starves it, for it is through relationship that we experience the richness of life. And while we may desire for the experience to be replete with nothing but that which feels affirming and good, this simply will not be so. It cannot be so, for life is far too complex and varied to be experienced on a single emotional dimension.

The problem with emotional cages is that they disconnect us not only from the bad, but also from the good. So while the anguish and hurt we want to avoid is outside us, so too are the positive energies of joy, hope, and love. Yes, we can still experience these through the cage, but the vividness is lessened and dulled; what we feel is a muted shadow of the true brilliance. Detached and disjunct, our hearts thus experience a different sort of pain: loneliness.

Our personalities and characters are wide and diverse; there is no relationship, no area of personal connection, that will be completely devoid of conflict and hurt feelings. We would better serve ourselves by developing mature methods of confronting and handling emotional unease, rather than segregate ourselves from these potential occurrences.  Because to cut off the path to the heart is no less an assault on your Self than the very pain you’re attempting to avoid. Only now the source of that pain – the keeper of the cage – is you.

– A Caged Heart