Partially-closed/open doors pique me – they cause a sudden in-burst of anxiety, a strong desire to correct the deformity, and rather curious physiological reactions. This is a recent observation, one that continues to grow as each day passes. Often, I stop doing the activity that I am engaged in to stare at such a door and then move to open or close it fully, depending on my requirement. At other times, when I am affected by an anxious stupor, I delay any action on my part, only restoring myself to normalcy when the aberration has been removed. In my mind, a partially-closed/open door is equivalent to asphyxiation brought about by walls closing in on my physical body.
The word, door has its origins in old English and Germanic as duru or dor. It is also related to the Dutch synonym deur and the German equivalent tür, and has been mentioned since the 1800s. We have been introduced to the common symbolic importance of doors, their meanings varying from new opportunities to a closed past. In my research mostly to assuage my anxiety regarding partially-closed/open doors, I came across fascinating bits of knowledge – modern and mythological – and this blog post is dedicated to the understanding of how doors have been represented in various periods and their effect on the human psychology.
In ancient Greece, the temple of the Greek God Apollo at Delphi held an inscription on his entrance. It said – Gnothi Seauton, meaning know thyself. It is believed that visitors from far off places came to the temple to consult the oracles to learn about their future prospects and solutions for any crises that may be meted out to them. However, the inscription on the entrance whether visitors realized it or not, held the only significant wisdom that they had to learn – to know their own selves. The same wisdom is the fundamental content in all religious and spiritual literature, however distorted or renewed, and has been passed on to generations since the first visitors to the temple at Delphi.
It has been observed that doors, when they appear in dreams, can point to opportunities or limitations depending upon where and how the door is placed. A door that is locked could mean that the dreamer is not able to reach his/her goals while a door seen within a building could indicate severe limitations to growth in the real life. Contrary to this, an open door is often interpreted as a free flow of positive energy and hence, fulfilment of wishes and dreams. It also points to achieving harmony or embarking upon a spiritual journey.
Certain analyses also speak of the power of a door to symbolize how controlled the dreamer is of the events surrounding him/her. Significantly, if you see a door that is half-open in your dream, it promises the incoming of pleasant love relationships. I do not remember any dream that has had a significant symbolic representation of doors, but the research took me to another aspect of this innocuous object – Entamaphobia.
Entamaphobia, according to the website, FearOf.net is,
“…the fear of doors is a debilitating phobia often associated with Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia. The word Entamaphobia is derived from a combination of Greek words eisodos and portos, for entrance or entryway and phobos which is the Greek God of fear.
In Entamaphobia however, most people are afraid of all kinds of doors irrespective of whether they are closed or open. In sufferers with the general fear of doors, there may be the general tendency of being afraid of the insecurity or fear of the unknown that lies outside. The fear of doors is also linked with Claustrophobia- the fear of cramped spaces-where the victims feel that closed doors might cramp up or suffocate him/her.”
The causes of Entamaphobia are usually credited to childhood trauma involving violence, abandonment, death of a loved one, or a strong dependency on the mother. The person suffering from this phobia shows a wide range of psychological and physiological symptoms including anxiety, shivering, suffocation, nausea, headache, hysteria, obsessive checking, and a racing heart. This part of the research was the most difficult to learn about.
Contrary to this scary predicament, doors often appear in the Greek and Roman mythology. For instance, in the Roman mythology there are seven deities associated with doors, thresholds, and keys. Such deities are called liminal deities, the word limen coming from Latin meaning threshold. Janus is the most popular of these deities – the two-faced God seeing the past and the future, presiding over time, doorways, and passages. The month January is believed to be named after Janus. Apart from this, the God also presided over war and peace, the doors to his temple were open during times of war and closed, marking the onset of peace. The Romans, claiming Janus exclusively as their own God, believed that Janus was the guardian of the gates of Heaven, where he held the power of time, religion, and the abstract and concrete concepts of the world. More importantly, Janus is believed to be the initiator of human life.
This part of any research is my favourite – the part where it leads to mythological figures, deities, and myths. It is empowering, at least to me, to see that what I experience as basal human fears and apprehensions have been forethought by our common ancestors who had had the prudence to preserve these legends as documents or as inscriptions. Without these legends, human life would rather lack its constant brush with the mysterious, the world of alchemy.
My research, at last led me to Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, which has a reference to a partially-open door. The scene is one where D’Artagnan finds himself in a dark room, where he becomes alert to the Queen’s presence in the room adjacent to his. Dumas writes,
“He heard her approach and withdraw from the partially open door, and twice or three times he even saw her shadow intercept the light.
Finally a hand and an arm, surpassingly beautiful in their form and whiteness, came through an opening in the tapestry. D’Artagnan at once understood that this was his reward. He fell to his knees, took the hand, and touched it respectfully with his lips. Then the hand was withdrawn, leaving in his an object he perceived to be a ring. The door was then immediately closed, and d’Artagnan found himself again in complete obscurity.”
Dumas closes the scene with D’Artagnan leaving the room without resistance, and a confirmation of his having fallen in love.
The act of writing down this recently-discovered anxiety has removed some ailments from within me. I seem to approach most of these instincts that could be a blessing, as a sign of potential neurosis or a sickness becoming the more of me. Perhaps, this is why research helps, causing the researcher to look beyond his/her present affliction and find throughout history, anecdotes and instances similar to his/hers. I am quite sure that if I encounter a partially-closed/open door, I would again walk up to it and change its position. This time however, it would be with some knowledge, perhaps envisioning the God Janus protecting me.
- Liminal Deity, Wikipedia
- Janus, Wikipedia
- Fear of Doors Phobia – Entamaphobia, FearOf.Net
- Door, Auntyflo.com
- The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas, Google Books