Use Your Heart as a Wall: Make It Stronger Instead of Shutting Down


“The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.” ~Unknown

“I’m done here. It’s time for me to move on,” she spoke softly as if unsure herself. For a moment, I swore she said “I’m not done here,” but she didn’t. She was leaving me.

The poison in the words numbed my body and my soul. All of a sudden, there seemed to be a big hole where my heart used to be.

Survival mode kicked in and I started protecting that “empty” space. For me, it was isolating myself from social situations, even work. I sunk myself into spiritual reading, grasping for any words that might fill the hole.

This was the first time I had felt it. Heartbreak. This was my first experience feeling something so painful that I fell into the cycle we all do.

In Your Own Defense

That sense of an empty heart is something all of us are familiar with.

When we are hurt, we immediately want to protect ourselves. We change some behavior to act as a defense mechanism for the “next time.” These mechanisms compound to build a thicker and thicker wall “protecting” our heart.

For me, it took forever. The pain began to have breaks, yet came back with the same intensity. After more forever, the breaks became longer until the pain began to be only spikes during memories. Finally, the pain began to slowly subside in intensity.

Leaving only emptiness.

What About the Emptiness?

It turns out that emptiness is atrophy. When there is no love in the heart, it is like a precisely tuned machine with nothing to produce. It just sits there and begins to rust.

So, I, as do many of us, waited for the pain to subside behind the walls built from heartbreak. All the while, my heart sat rusting.

Hmmm. Now I’ve got a rusted heart and a bunch of walls to break through.

There’s got to be a better way…and there is.

A Different Kind of Wall

It is said that there are two ways to deal with pain. One is to shut your heart off so it won’t be hurt; the other is to open it bigger to allow more love to find it.

These are odd phrases, you know? Your heart is a muscle. It has inherent strength that can be made stronger, like every other muscle, by using it.

Choose to use your heart as the wall to protect you.

Even when hurt, continue to build the heart muscle from use. Yes, it’s weakened by the sting, but it’s still capable of all the strength it had before.

A strong, loving heart is more prepared to absorb hurtful blows than weak attempts to hide it from the world. Even a broken heart continues to feed the body.

Grow your heart by learning from the pain and continuing on. Continue on as before, loving as deeply as you can. The more you love, the more strength your heart retains and builds.

Love. Learn. Love more.

Imagine your heart as a castle. When something approaches, let it in just as a castle’s drawbridge lets in its guests. Let your still loving heart’s strength protect you from emotional attacks, catapulting letdowns, and poisonous relationships, like the stone walls of those castles.

You see, walls are built stone by stone. Let your stones be loving acts both given and received, instead of compounding defense mechanisms. Give and be grateful for receiving each piece of strength to your wall, knowing there’s still a drawbridge.

Un-loving Is Impossible

I loved “her” dearly, you know?  No matter how much it hurt, though, I couldn’t un-know that love. The pain subsided, but the love was just as strong—just still there.

Those that I meet now that approach my castle are greeted and welcomed with the love I learned from her. Sure, some may aim to hurt, or do so unintentionally, but they have no idea the strength they’re up against.

Love after love, my heart becomes stronger. With each loss, a new layer of muscle rebuilds over the last.  With a stronger a heart, a stronger love, and a new, different, more beautiful cycle is born.

Of Nothing

So, what was the point of the defense mechanism walls? Nothing. They only served to contain, block, and otherwise stifle the beautiful strength the heart could build.

The more you compound your defenses, the more you stifle your heart. The longer you wait to love, the more your heart rusts. Conversely, the more you simply love, the stronger your heart-wall becomes and the more able you are to absorb the hurt and build again.

Crazy In Love

The pain still comes, soft and far between. My eyes still tear. But now, it’s for the memory of that time we shared, the gratitude for the biggest lesson, for the little piece of my heart that tells her it’s okay when she’s staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.

Crazy, isn’t it? I left a piece of my heart with her. My heart shouldn’t be as strong as it was, let alone stronger.

But it is, because the heart, like any other muscle, gets strong with use.

Build your heart. Love with every opportunity. Be readily prepared to open that left ventricle when the charming knight or beautiful princess arrives.

Or even the pizza guy.

Photo by nanny snowflake

About Stewart Snyder

Stu uses old-world philosophies to help people navigate what mystics call “everyday life in the real world.” He tells stories at Digital Nomad Path, helps people find professional freedom, teaches more-than-yoga, and valets… finding fulfillment on the fringe. Take the Quitter’s Survey to start your path.

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  • RnS

    Lots of love to you Stewart! 🙂

  • VanessaSF

    Thank you for this.

  • Anon

    My boyfriend just left yesterday. I read this and while I am still not ready to do much more than sleep, I take comfort in the words.

  • Stu

    Thank you! I trust it’s a lesson I only had to learn once. 🙂

  • Joan Harrison

    I like the analogies you use Stewart. It is difficult when the pain is raw to understand that sometimes life ends up moving in a better direction as a result of the hurt.

    Trusting the path that has already been laid for me helped me through some pretty difficult times, also allowing the awful feelings to rise was necessary to avoid further pain later on.

  • Stu

    You’re welcome Vanessa. I figure if our lesson can help ease someone elses pain, then we have a duty to share it, yeah? Thank you for reading.

  • Stu

    Go easy on yourself. It’s not an overnight process (though I wish it was). You’ll pass the sleep-it-all-away stage… and when you do, go find people and activities to love. They will heal you. You’ll be better for this… I promise.

  • Antparty

    Enjoyed this, Stewart. For me, it’s been 18 months since my relationship ended. Many of my friends keep telling me to “just move on.” As if I can flip a switch and turn it off. I’m working hard to understand my attachment while honoring the pain of it. Each day is such a slow path, but it’s the only path. Unfortunately, the time I thought i’d need to heal was underestimated so I’m still working on it. Just booked a much needed session with a counselor. Looking forward to continuing my healing and will definitely find other ways to love. Thanks for sharing!

  • Fiona

    This really couldn’t come at a better time. I am really hurting from a painful breakup right now. Thank you.

  • Stu

    Analogies always help us understand the things we don’t yet fully understand, right?

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Trusting the path laid out for you is terribly important.

  • Stu

    I completely feel you here. The time it took for me to “move on” was way longer than I had expected. We all heal in our own time… and there’s a lesson we need to learn buried in there somewhere. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t “stopped my life” as much as I had. The more I leaned into what I was doing (instead of what I should be doing and wasn’t), the more angels and sages got thrown my way. I wish you all the best. You’ll find yourself whole again… real soon.

  • Stu

    Isn’t that always the way? I hate to give the “cheesy” advice, but it’s time-honored for a reason: Breathe. Accept what is happening. Love. Keep moving. (..and it’s called a broken heart cause it does really hurt… but it’s still feeding you. Keep moving.)

  • for me the trick is holding the hurt with equanimity — it’s there and it will lessen with time, but it will never go away. I can compound my suffering by walling off my heart and never seeking love again, but where’s the joy in that? Life is for living, love is for giving and thriving.

  • Stu

    “Life is for living, love is for giving” That’s gonna make it’s way to Twitter! I love it, Tara.

  • Beautiful article Stewart. Thank you for sharing

  • Great quote

    “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow” or one I thought is very pertinent too, ” One day this pain will make sense to you” It is so scary some times with new situations or changes arise we don’t know how to act and we hold on! Trust it will unfold !

  • Stu

    Thank you, Shelly. I appreciate the feedback.

  • Stu

    That is another appropriate quote. I know sometimes, though, the pain never makes sense… and sometimes we’re just not meant to know why. But, I definitely agree: trust it will unfold as it should.


    Thank you!!! I found answers to some of my questions in this article…It sounded you were talking directly to me….Thanks!!

  • I had a 13 year relationship that died a slow death. I had a five month relationship that crashed to bits, leaving me on the floor moaning.

    Then I had an on-off on-off ‘never had a chance’ relationship that I was constantly trying to give cpr to. I think I was trying to be the strong one in this case.

    I think that with me, a healthy dose of strenth is needed, as you say. But also: some discernment and some discipline. Some wisdom.

  • Stu

    That’s fantastic! Thank you for sharing the feedback. Glad to have helped.

  • Stu

    Bobby, I think you’re finding little bits of wisdom from each relationship. It’s a funny thing about cycles. Once you notice it’s a cycle, you begin to see them coming. Not every relationship is meant to last (even rolling my eyes at myself for that one). You’ve learned some valuable lessons, though, like a relationship not working when there’s only one person always being the strong one. Just keep focused on the times that were go and the next horizon.

  • Kathleen

    Thank you so much for your beautiful words. My random searching brought me to your article and thus your website. Makes me happy to hear the feelings I’ve been having articulated so perfectly. Finally some semblance of calm and understanding has come over me. Much love to you Stu!

  • Life, Love and Other Stuff!

    Hey love your blog and the last few posts, I’m going to send them to a friend who is struggling to accept the end of a relationship x. You and your readers may enjoy our new TV show about the male and female persective on ‘LIFE, LOVE AND OTHER STUFF’ have a look and please help us if you can ‘Share it’ ‘Like Us’ ‘Love it’! Many Thanks! xx

  • Stu

    “some semblance of calm and understanding”. Awesome! That’s the first step. I call it “the new normal” (ironically this is the name of the last phase of any plague outbreak. Sort of feels like the chaos, huh?) I wish you all the best on your journey. Feel free to reach out if you come upon another wall.

  • Stu

    Thank you so much for the share.

  • Julia

    So beautiful, real, sincere and so honest. There is no pain like a heartache but there is hope to love again, which you so beautifully express in your post. Thank you for sharing! /Julia

  • Seraphic Ananias

    Too good, what you wrote just strikes in right there. In a way we all are so different and then again we are all the same. Emotions have a beautiful way to connect people across religion, color, nationality etc.

    Thank you for enlighting me with what I felt.

  • Era Anastasia

    I’m on the tract that I find my self easy to love and always try to make it simple with my feeling now, after so many hurt that affected my heart in the past. I thought maybe it’s because I become invulnerable by that wounds, which is mean not good. So I start observe what actually going on here, and what is the right thing I suppose to do, whether be more careful to love or just flow it out with no scare to get hurt.This is truly convinced me Stewart, thank you!

  • shiki

    I can relate to this the only difference is that I was the one who let her go cause she cheated on me multiple times and I’m here left so broken and lost and yet there she was after a month of break up got another new companion.. it hurts.. but I want to be strong and be a better person for myself

  • Elizabeth Oboy

    So real,,love it! It feels like your talking to me directly,.your article is truly sincere and honest. I found answers to some of my questions. and for that, I thank you sir,,for sharing it!

  • Layla

    Those who carry th pain you speak of, you bring it into new relationships and cause pain for others. The same pain you feel.

  • Hari

    so courageous of you to write this, my friend.

  • Fadedglory

    Wow. You don’t know how that hit me. I feel like dead meat. The walking dead. I closed my heart off years ago to protect my heart from pain. To deal with my reality. I died inside – I really did! No intimacy, no outside contacts to support us. I take drugs drink because I have no hope & have tried to overdose. You can’t love from a dead heart. God help me.

  • babes

    i read your blog and i read me- my pain, my numbness and all the feelings in between. i don’t know how long this would last.thanks for sharing.

  • Care

    I just broke up with my guy on New Years Eve. I saw him today to give him all the stuff he left at my house. It felt like taking a bullet. I was so sad with despair that I literally googled “how to build a wall around your heart” and your article came up. I read it and it gave me some hope. You’re right, I should love more. This isn’t my first broken heart, I think the first time it happens, its usually the one that hurts the most. This time around isn’t so bad. But it still is very so painful because I thought I was careful here, not to get hurt again. But like love, its taking a chance. Loving someone and using your heart also comes with that uncertainty that you won’t get it back. I know I’ll get thru this, and who knows how long it will take. But I know me. I don’t think I can build walls if I tried. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of having love, and I don’t think I ever will. No matter what happens. To live is to love, right? Thank you for this.

  • Bernice McDonald

    What a wonderful article!! Thank you so much!

  • vetiarvind

    Seems to be easier said than done. After the n-th letdown, I don’t think I ever want to love or make my heart be stronger. For what? So I can get hurt even more and let the cycle continue? No thanks, I’d rather let my heart rust and embrace the emptiness when it hits me some day. Better to be “comfortably numb” than “completely broken”.

    Looking back, I’ve never really learnt to build a wall, but maybe it’s time for me to start doing it for the first time. I can only hope my experience will be different from yours, since I don’t see any other feasible road.

  • Michelle Corlee

    I know this comment is old. You may not see it, be notified it’s here, etc; But your last couple of sentences made me feel compelled to say something to you. I am in the same boat. My heart is literally shattered. As I, I have turned to alcohol as an outlet. No drugs. Ever. I’ve been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. With my breakup came a multitude of other problems. I felt overwhelmed, and at times, I wished I could just end the pain. But, I’m still here. Because every day gives me strength. And I want to let you know, it won’t rain all the time. I hope everything is better for you.

  • Ernesto Martinez

    All opinionated. Nothing to back up your claims.

  • midnight joker

    it was a hard time.
    you know that feeling… first love, first broken heart and broken soul.
    thank you Stewart for sharing it, it may help me a lot

  • AroldisTheCubanMissileChapman

    Wow this was exactly what I needed to hear right now… Thank you.

  • Melissa

    Beautiful. It’s amazing how you write.

  • jess

    Fter experiencing loss of husband of 17 yrs, I come across this article and want to thank you for allowing me to find it. Definitely makes me have better hopes for feeling happy again. And thank u also to stu on here for your words of encouragement to others on here have helped me a lot also..

  • jess

    Thank you for all your words of encouragement as I read your remarks to others and u definitely have me thinking I will one day be happy again

  • Stu

    That happiness will stay brighter and longer than you can imagine now. I promise.


  • Anne

    Thank you for this article. I feel its gonna help me yet I feel my situation is just too complex for this but I wud still apply what I’ve learnt open my heart and make it stronger by loving even more. He really hurt me and now all I av left from the love I felt for him is a lil baby in my hand to love even more. Thanks stu I wish I cud get ur email