Life Lessons from Movies- Sliding Doors

This week, Imagine Hope therapists are reviewing different movies that help us see a life lesson within the story.  If you haven't gotten the opportunity to check out the earlier blog posts from this week, I encourage you to do so-- there are some great lessons and interesting points of view!  (WARNING:  These blog posts contain spoilers!!) The movie "Sliding Doors" with Gwenyth Paltrow is a story about a girl (Helen) who leaves for work one morning, having several things go poorly.  Upon getting to work (late), she learns that she has been fired from her job.  Leaving the office building, she races to make the soonest subway home, and at this point in the movie, we learn what would have happened if she made the train, and if she hadn't. 

In one story, as she races down the stairs to make it before the doors close, she has to side-step a little girl who is in the way.  This split second occurrence causes her to miss the train, only to find out that there aren't any more trains-- so she is stuck with finding a different way home.  In the process of finding a taxi, Helen is mugged, goes to the hospital and arrives home to find her live-in boyfriend, Gerry (who is an unemployed author that Helen is financially supporting), in the shower.  In this version, Helen becomes more and more miserable with her life and her relationship.  She is working two jobs to support her boyfriend, Gerry, not knowing that he is carrying on an affair.  She continues to muddle through life, enduring the hardships, until eventually her pain gets higher than her fear of making changes.  The affair is eventually discovered and Helen breaks up with Gerry.  Immediately after this, she is involved in a tragic accident, and Helen is hospitalized, but she is stable and recovers well.  Upon leaving the hospital, she runs into a man named James in the elevator.

In the other story, when Helen races down the stairs to make the train, the little girl is pulled out of the way by her mother, allowing Helen to get on the subway just as the doors are closing.  She sits next to a man named James, who attempts to strike up a conversation with her, showing interest in getting to know her better.  Upon arriving home, she catches her boyfriend Gerry cheating on her with another woman.  In this version of the story, Helen breaks up with Gerry and ends up eventually forming a happy relationship with James.  She endures other hardships in this version of the story, including a continual struggle with the trust issues from her previous relationship, though it appears that the bond between the two and the goodness of the relationship will win out in the end.  This doesn't prove to be true, though.  When stepping onto the street at the end of the movie, Helen is involved in a tragic car accident and is rushed to the hospital.  James sits by her bedside until Helen eventually passes away. 

In this movie, we learn several lessons.  First of all, going through difficult and painful experiences, while awful and overwhelming, can often teach us a lot about ourselves and get us to a better place (even when it seems like things won't get better).  We tell our clients in therapy that there typically aren't any "quick fixes" to life struggles.  In this movie, it shows how going through a very painful experience got Helen to a better place-- but only when she was *ready* for it.    In both versions, she finds out about Gerry's infidelity and breaks up with him, and in both versions she meets James.  But in the first version, she wasn't healed enough (emotionally) to receive the gift of relationship with him, which lead to a sad ending.  In the second version, Helen went through a lot to finally meet James, but it's implied that she was given the gift of relationship when she was ready for it.  It reminds me of the saying "be careful what you wish for".  Sometimes we think we know what is best for us, only to find out that we have some growth work to do of our own before we are truly ready for whatever we are asking for.

 Another life lesson this movie teaches is that we can't control the outcome-- we can only control our actions and the choices we make in life.  And we can continue to trust the process that there is something we are supposed to learn through the process of letting go.

We hope that you enjoyed this week's blog!  Check back with us next week, and as always... thank you for reading!

Happy New Year!!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.