Unveiling the Path to Love: Dismantling Inner Barriers Inspired by Rumi

“Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that

you have built against it.”

One of my favorite movie scenes is an emotionally-bruised Tom Cruise crying out to Renee Zellweger in the climax of “Jerry McGuire”: “You complete me.” That scene buys into the idea that one is not whole – or complete, if you may – until one has met their soul mate. But what if the journey of finding love begins not with searching outwardly, but by looking inwards?

This seems to be the idea Rumi proposes when he talks about removing barriers to love. He invites us to embark on an inner quest rather than an external pursuit. At its core, his words speak to the inherent barriers we erect within ourselves that hinder the experience of love in its various forms. In encouraging us to focus within, therefore, Rumi seems to support the position that we’re already complete, but true love only happens when we remove our inner barriers, such as fear of vulnerability, self-doubt, and past traumas that cloud our perception.

Dismantling these barriers, however, is only the first step. Like a garden cleared of weeds, our inner landscape requires nurturing to flourish and prevent a relapse to old habits. Therein lies the connection between Rumi’s admonitions and positive psychology, which holds that happiness is not merely the absence of negativity but the presence of positive emotions and a sense of fulfillment as well. By heeding Rumi’s wisdom, we can begin, not only to identify and dismantle the barriers that obstruct our path to happiness, but also cultivate habits that foster a healthy, resilient, and positive spirit for emotional and mental growth.

Fear of Vulnerability 

Of all the barriers to fulfillment, one of the most damaging is the fear of vulnerability. People who have been hurt in the past, or are naturally guarded, always harbor a fear of vulnerability, believing it to be a sign of weakness. This fear manifests in a reluctance to open up to others, freely express their emotions, or engage in spontaneous acts of affection. This hinders their ability to form deep connections. By recognizing and challenging this barrier, however, you allow yourself to experience the joy and warmth that genuine connections bring. A client of mine used to keep people at arm’s length, fearing vulnerability would lead to heartbreak. But when she finally shared her fears with a close friend, she experienced empathy, instead of rejection. This encouraged her to begin the dismantling process. 


Another barrier is self-doubt or low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem typically mask their condition with rituals or other superficial behaviors that have been cultivated from a young age and so ingrained, they have become automatic. But journaling about your fears, insecurities, and past experiences can help uncover the barriers preventing you from fully embracing love.

Defense Mechanisms

A third barrier to love has to do with the defense mechanisms we create in relationships to protect our emotions: pride, resentment, or lack of communication. Or take the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in couples’ therapy: criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness. These are all barriers to love. They result in strained relationships and unresolved conflicts and misunderstandings with our partners, family members, and friends. By acknowledging our role in perpetuating these barriers, we take the first step towards healing and reconciliation. Cultivating empathy and practicing active listening can transform these relationships, fostering deeper connections rooted in authenticity and understanding.

But what are some practical ways to remove these barriers?

Integrating Rumi’s wisdom with principles of positive psychology offers a practical roadmap for personal transformation and growth. First, we need to set aside time for introspection and self-reflection to identify internal barriers and patterns of thought that hinder growth. We can also engage in mindfulness meditation or journaling to cultivate self-awareness and gratitude.

Practical Steps for Growth:

In addition, we can remove our internal barriers by changing our mindset. Deepak Chopra regularly makes a distinction between abundance versus scarcity mindset (“I’m not enough”). Rumi’s message encourages us to appreciate the abundance in our lives by shifting our focus from what is lacking to what is present. By dismantling the barriers of entitlement or resentment, individuals can cultivate a sense of gratitude for life’s blessings, both big and small. Gratitude exercises like “Three Good Things” and “Random Acts of Kindness” are a cornerstone of positive psychology, and associated with improved well-being and resilience.

Another practical way is to cultivate a growth mindset. We do this by setting realistic yet ambitious goals aligned with personal values and strengths, and persevering in the face of challenges. Grit, as defined by psychologist Angela Duckworth, is the perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Cultivating grit involves bouncing back from failures. This is the essence of resilience. But Duckworth also encourages self-compassion, recognizing that sometimes letting go is the bravest act of all. Rumi’s guidance aligns with this concept by urging individuals to confront their inner obstacles head-on, regardless of the challenges they may encounter.

Last, by building a supportive network of friends, mentors, or mental health professionals to navigate obstacles and foster resilience, we can access all the resources available to help us on our journey of growth. Also, engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, whether it’s your hobbies or volunteering, fosters a sense of meaning and purpose and connection to your true self. In essence, Rumi invites us to see our barriers, not as obstacles, but rather as opportunities for growth. As you confront and dismantle the barriers to love within yourself, celebrate each milestone and breakthrough along the way. Whether it’s overcoming a longstanding fear, forgiving yourself for past mistakes, or expressing vulnerability in a relationship, make a move.

And may Rumi’s words illuminate our paths as we turn our inner barriers into stepping stones onour quest for authenticity, purpose, and fulfillment, whether in our romantic relationships, self-discovery, or personal development.

What barriers are you dismantling today?

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