Having had polio as a child, I was left to deal with the physical and emotional aftereffects. While I recovered very well physically, I kept finding different ways the illness and hospitalization affected me for years to come. Seeing a doctor became difficult because I reacted like a turtle, part of me closed up and withdrew instantaneously. I had no control over it; it just came on like pulling back my hand from a hot stove. The months of intrusive treatment and handling as a child of 7 left me traumatized.
In order to minimize the contact I had to have with traditional medicine, I found myself studying and using alternative therapies, some of which were amazingly successful. One modality in particular, acupuncture, was very helpful. The acupuncturist, Doug Johnson, has an undergraduate degree in psychology and has taught acupuncture at one of the primary American acupuncture schools. He was a good fit for me and what I needed at the time.
One thing Doug told me that has always stuck in dealing with relationships is the metaphor of “the inner gate and the outer gate.” He said, we meet people with our heart. The human connection of person to person, as opposed to role to role, takes place in the first seconds of an encounter, or it doesn’t. We have an unconscious visceral reaction to each other, for better or for worse.
- Some people we meet will not get past the outer gate to our heart, our authentic self. We know we can’t afford closeness in this relationship.
- Others we meet will be allowed into the space between the inner and outer gates: for a specific purpose, a span of time, or in some rare cases, forever.
- The inner gate remains closed to all but a select few. Those who make it through this gate are trusted and cared for, unless and until they prove themselves otherwise. Most of the time, however, those who make it that close to our heart have earned their way and proven distinctly who they are.
Is there anyone, or anything (a habit, a compulsion, an addiction), in your life currently too close, but shouldn’t be? Have you let in someone who would be better off outside the inner gate, or perhaps out of your life for good? Conversely, is there someone who has been excluded from your life who would make a positive difference for you now? Is there someone you would like to invite into your life but who is outside, looking in?
Perhaps old, outdated reactions have cut you off from a person or a situation that could be useful to you now. Or, perhaps you’ve kept a relationship that no longer serves and you’d be better off without. Either way, the path to clarity and balance in your life might pass through a proper evaluation of and action on your relationships.