The ability to open and close is crucial to any living organism. Anemones reach out to catch their prey, but withdraw when a predator is near. Some flowers open during the day, but close at night. And channels in the membranes of our cells open and close to allow for the passage of essential nutrients.

People, too, have the ability to open and close themselves, both physically and emotionally. We begin to practice this ability in childhood. Children extend their arms up to their parents to signal they want to make contact. Or they hide behind their parents’ legs when an approaching stranger frightens them.

We need this ability in adult life. If we haven’t learnt to close ourselves off, the outer world can drown out our inner world. This can make it harder to take healthy decisions, be attentive to our needs or reflect on the deeper movements of our lives.

If, on the other hand, we cannot open up our hearts to others, we cannot make a meaningful and intimate connection. Sure, we can exchange information – How was work? What are your plans? – and engage in joint activities, but without involving the heart and soul the relationship will be a ghost of itself.

Some people have even closed themselves off from their own feelings and bodies. By being overly analytical or concerned with how things ought to be, they become oblivious to what goes on deep inside. Like a plant whose roots cannot access water, these people live with less vitality and joy, and go through life feeling numb or depressed.

It is important to realise that being too open or closed is not a character flaw. It is not something that we are, something that defines us. It is simply an ability that needs to be (re)trained, something that needs to be practiced. And this is within everyone’s grasp.

Ilja van Roon

P.S. If you want to explore how you open and close emotionally and how you can become flexible in that area, contact me!

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