September 1st, 2008 · individual, individual therapy, the unlived life, unlived life
As individual therapy shows, we all live our lives, and in the course of just “getting through” our lives, we all have to make decisions. With each major decision that we make, we open a door and walk through it. We also close at least one door, perhaps several. Sometimes that closing is forever, and we cannot go back and make the choice again. The river of life moves: we can’t reverse the flow, and head back upstream.
Whatever choices we make, we are closing off options that we could have taken. Sometimes these options call to us, beckon to us, despite our having left them behind. Sometimes we leave them behind, and don’t think of them.
But we can reach a point at which our unlived life comes back to us. Consciously, or sometimes unconsciously, we can begin to feel the weight of what might have been if only we had made different choices, if our luck had gone slightly differently, if we had seen things just a little bit more clearly. When I was at the Art Institute of Chicago, I saw a painting, which seemed to me to capture this feeling with a great deal of eloquence, American artist Ivan Wright’s That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door). For me it evoked all the “doors” that we do not open, and all the feelings — hopeful, melancholy, grieving — that are associated with them. As clients remind me constantly, there are so many choices that could have been made, each with the seductive aura of possibility surrounding it.