As One Door Closes…

When you go through a doorway, what happens to your memory?

According to new research, the act of walking through a doorway opens a new “episode” of memory, so that information from the previous room becomes harder to recall.

This rings true from everyday experience. When was the last time you went upstairs to fetch something… only to forget what it was?

And it rings true from my coaching and change work. People frequently use “portal” metaphors (doors, gates, French windows etc) to symbolise a transition. As they step through into a new world… everything changes.

The world they’ve left behind (for example, “being unemployed”) will typically become blurred or dim, while the new world (“being my own boss”) takes on bright colours and fascinating movement.

The reported experiment hints at a way that real-life doorways can be very useful in making life changes.

If a friend or client is depressed, I’ll get them to move – ideally, to go outside in the fresh air.

I already knew that the upright body position and increased oxygen flow was helpful in releasing unhappy feelings and allowing new thoughts in. I hadn’t realised that the act of going through the door was useful, too, in dimming their memory of the unhappiness.

  • How else could this be useful? Please comment below.

2 Comments

  • Anna Shum

    07/11/2011

    Doorways can remind us to be fully present wherever we are, e.g., check issues that don’t serve you at the door before “going to work” (entering into the noun and verb), while leaving office matters behind to immerse into family and relaxation at home. For self-employed workers operating on their own accord, physical doorway divides between work time– whether at the home office or Starbucks– and non-work time– e.g., in the bedroom– may be particularly useful.

  • Judy

    08/11/2011

    Excellent points! I find it really useful to keep my “work” in my office at the bottom of the garden. OTOH my husband enjoys the feeling of being constantly connected to his work, and keeps a device running in the house!

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