Living Life with an Open Door
Are you living life with an open door (a metaphor for parenting and marriage)
How open is the door to my heart?
When I am working with parents and kids in my private practice, I love using metaphors to explain the dynamics that exist in relationships. One of my favorite metaphors is the “Open Door”.
What does an open door represent to you? To me it represents an invitation to be known. It represents an opportunity to love and be loved. It communicates to others that I feel I am valuable and worthy to be seen. It says come and connect with me.
A closed door sends the message to those around me that I don’t want to be seen. I want to protect myself behind the door until I feel safe enough to come out. I am not sure if I am worth knowing or being seen. I am uncomfortable with connection at this time.
It can also lead to confusion to the person that wants to connect with you because they can’t fully see what is happening behind the door. It breeds anxiety and uncertainty.
Many people that have the door totally closed or partially closed tell me they do this because they have been hurt too many times and want to protect themselves. I point out to them that the door doesn’t really protect them because I believe the door isn’t about safety. It is about shame.
The protection they feel they get from the door is an illusion. It is only through vulnerability that courage is developed.
Take a moment to pause and think about this question. Then move on to step 2.
How open is your door today to your kids, your spouse, or to God even?
How open is your door to your child today?
Every day I try to be aware of how open my door is to my wife, my kids, and my clients. I have noticed in observing relationships that closing the door typically doesn’t happen in just one moment. Closing the door to your heart is a gradual choice over time.
For the most part when parents first have a child their door and the door of the child are completely open. Love flows freely from both on a daily basis.
As the child, becomes more independent and their is less time spent connecting the door closes a little bit. As the child transitions from elementary school to middle school both the parent and the child have gradually closed the door about halfway.
Many times this is due to unresolved conflicts that occurred over several years. They will both start believing a subtle lie that they aren’t loved for who they are but for what they do. The parent feels like they are failing their child and the kid feels like a failure.
Every time the kid chooses their friends rather than their family, or goes into their room and closes the door the parent begins to believe their voice and value is waning. By the time the child has moved into the teenage years they are on the verge of closing the door completely.
Out of fear and a lack of connection their relationship with their parents has become almost completely conflictual. This has caused both parties to no longer feel safe being vulnerable and really showing up. It now becomes challenging for either the parents or the child to receive love or to give love.
Shame and fear of rejection have become the driving force behind their actions. Somebody in the relationship needs to take a risk and begin opening their door again if there is ever going to be restoration.
Take a moment to think about this question before moving to step 3.
What unresolved conflict, fear or shame is keeping me from completely opening up the door and being truly seen?
How do I open the door to my heart?
In this metaphor, how closed the door is to my children represents the level to which I am allowing fear and shame to dictate the terms of the relationship.
If my goal is to eventually have an open door with my kids then I need to take some concrete steps towards this endeavor. I have to determine that I will not allow my child’s behavior to dictate to me how open my door will be with him.
I have got to remind myself that I am not safer nor am I protecting myself by hiding behind a door of fear and shame. It is only with the open door that I can fully show up and truly be seen. It is in this space that I can lovingly and courageously set healthy boundaries with my child.
The first step to opening my door is believing I am worthy of love and what I bring to the table is wanted and valuable. I must be convinced that my presence is necessary and vital to my child developing into a healthy adult.
I must not let my kid’s behavior dictate the narrative of whether or not I am worth loving. When they act out of anger I need to realize that it is fear and shame driving this, and they are just showing me that their door is still closed. The more I model an open door to them the more and more they will desire to have that openness with me.
This brings me to the next step. Once I have done the internal work to remind myself that I am loved and accepted just as I am then I need to send that message to my child. I do this through empathy and compassion.
When they are hiding in their room with the door closed (both figuratively and literally), I want to pursue them and invite them into connection with me. When they rebuff me I want to meet them with empathy and compassion.
I can do this because I don’t believe their rebuff is a rejection of me, it is their way of saying I don’t believe it is safe enough to open up the door and be seen right now. This may be due to some ruptures in my relationship with my child or it may be due to some rejection or shame they are struggling with in themselves.
Either way the antidote to all of this is for me to daily show up with my door open and invite my child to do the same.
Choose your Legacy,