Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
April 2016 - Volume 16, No. 4
A Second Door
Since 1977, I’ve have three different office locations, my current one now for seven and a half years. And in each location my own office has a single door - through which folks enter, and then depart. Then another client or couple may enter from my waiting room, and at the end of their session, also depart. A simple and common pattern. Hardly noteworthy. I do it myself every day.
Years ago I heard of a therapist who had two doors in his office - one by which a client or patient entered, and a second by which they departed. The idea was that the person (or couple) would leave therapy for a different life rather than just return to the previous one. I never quite understood the logistics of it, but the theory continued to intrigue me.
Every once in awhile, and this has happened over many years, a well-established client will walk into my office, look around and say to me “that’s new, isn’t it!” - while drawing my attention to an object or photograph that has been there for years. Frequently this will happen during a “dry period” a time when I don’t see the person making much progress. I have an immediate sense of what has just happened - this person is developing new eyesight. And if the circumstances seem right, I’ll interpret that to them.
One of my metaphors for the changes one makes in therapy is that a person “develops new eyesight.” This is a deep change - often out of awareness, even out of my awareness. One biblical phrase that will catch my attention is “and the scales fell from their eyes.” I do feel at such times “on holy ground.”
Now let me pull these themes together. Within recent months I may casually mention to clients that my office has a second door - gesturing to the corner opposite the door they entered. I’ll say something like this:
“You’ll notice that this office has one door. You came in through it, and at the end of our session you’ll go back out through it. It’s so obvious there’s really no need to mention it. But every once in awhile some folks begin to see there’s another door; it’s in that opposite corner. You may never actually see it, but it’s there. And there’s a reason I mention it to you. You come in the first door from the world where you live. This room is not really a part of that world you came from. It’s kinda separate from that outside world - and that’s on purpose - so it can be more powerful to help you with the reasons you came here in the first place. So doesn’t it make sense that when you leave this room, you find yourself leaving to a slightly different world. Or maybe a very different world. You came in here from one world, you go out from here into a different world. Through a different door. I can’t really explain it to you, that’s just the way it is.”
And to my amazement, I also began to see something that had been there for many years, but I only now really notice.
My office has two specific photographs on two walls - the walls that converge into the corner of that second door.
Each has a theme of something hidden from our eyes. Each has long attracted me as psychologically significant. Each came as a special gift to me, yet each giver had already known of my attraction. And each carries the story of a special relationship in my past.
But only recently have I begun to see how each specifically guides my sight to, and then beyond, that second door.
I do most of my work with people in the space between the two doors. In many ways folks will return to their world with new and richer gifts to share with their people. Yet there are some or perhaps many ways where folks cannot return to their former world. They have to move on.
Life hungers to move on. It’s often said of life, if it stands still, it will die. Nor can people stay in the middle with me forever. It’s not mine to dictate, or even know, what’s beyond especially that second door.
But it seems I’ve always trusted it. Even now as it becomes clearer to myself. For we are each bidden to
It’s by intention that I rarely make changes in the decor of my office.
More Than One Path
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