In case you don’t realize it, I love the Phantom of the Opera. Sometimes I think I’ve squeezed every living morsel out of the story, and then some life experience or inspiration hits me between the eyes and another part screams symbolism. When it came to writing about the lair, I put it on the shelf for a long time. Frankly, I didn’t know what to write about the Phantom’s home and was stuck in a bad case of writer’s block on the subject. It’s taken me 42 posts to find an application to its existence, but I believe it's one that will touch your heart.
What is the Phantom’s lair? What does it symbolize? Well, it's obviously his home, hideout, den, hangout, retreat, and hideaway (love the Thesaurus). You will notice his lair is surrounded by the boundary of a lake to keep you from the inner sanctum of his world. For me his lair symbolizes the inner heart of who he is, and the lake the boundary he has set to protect himself from the cruelties of the world outside. Let me explain the analogy.
Boundaries serve the purpose of protection from intruders. Whether it is a fence, brick wall, or a moat, it is a symbol to others - do not cross this line. It’s apparent the Phantom doesn’t want you to enter his lair. For extra assurance, he has those tricky trap doors everywhere, and just in case someone traverses the lake and makes it across, the entrance is sealed with a gate. The lair is his safe place. It’s that one solitary location where he can be himself.
No one from the outside world can stand before him and call him ugly because of his deformity. There’s no one at the shore pointing their finger and laughing at his mask. There are no voices of condemnation ridiculing him while he composes Don Juan Triumphant. There are no crude remarks thrown his way like daggers passing by candlesticks burning him with hot wax. He has pulled the gate down at the entrance and locked everyone out. He makes a conscious decision not to expose himself to the lack of compassion and mean cruelty of the world. So what is this behavior? Is he a loner that lacks social skills that won't let you in? Remember, the Phantom actually wants redemption and wants to be accepted and loved by others. Believe it or not, he has the right to protect himself from what he allows in his lair and is wise to do so.
Setting limits around our inner heart is what psychologists term as erecting boundaries. Boundaries define where you end and someone else begins. This is you. This is me. Our personal lair is the inner soul and heart of who we are as individuals. It’s a place beyond the lake you don’t wish others to cross. It doesn't mean no one can ever enter. If I choose to, I can send you the gondola and a paddle to cross the lake, but if you dare to come uninvited don’t be surprised if I stand on the shore and yell at you to get out! Can you hear the anger of the Phantom when someone crosses his boundaries into his lair uninvited, “How dare you enter!” Why? Because he feels threatened. People who don’t understand the concept of personal boundaries tend to test the lines between what separates each of us; that is, where you end and they begin.
Each of us control our own boundaries. We choose what to let in and what not to. The Phantom did so with Christine. He trusted her and allowed her to cross that boundary into his inner world because he loved her. There is a risk, however, in letting others into our lair. Some people are safe, some are not. How did Christine use her knowledge of the inner lair of Erik?
In reality, each of us need a safe space. Having healthy boundaries in relationships is a means of protecting our hearts and souls from those who would enter in and hurt us. A wise king once wrote, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” If we don’t watch over our hearts, they can be damaged. People who have never learned to set healthy boundaries in relationships suffer throughout their lifetime unnecessarily.
Do you feel like you have no lake dug around your liar? I encourage you to read more about the meaning of setting boundaries in your life by visiting OG’s library. I highly recommend the book by Townsend & Cloud entitled "Boundaries." It was a lifesaver to me after living many years without boundaries. I’ll be quite frank. It took a long time for me to dig that trench around my lair and surround myself with a lake. It also made people close to me angry that I was under construction and attempting to change the playing field.
I am happy to report construction is complete, and I stand and look across the shore and ponder who is asking for admittance to my lair. I may look at one and say, okay, that person is safe. I'll send the gondola over to you. Then I'll see another and say, there's no way in hell I'm giving that person a paddle! I leave them on the shore, turn away, close the gate, and stay safe knowing I'm keeping a boundary protecting my heart.
Far fetched symbolism? Perhaps or perhaps it really hits home in your lair. Do you have your trench dug? I have shovels if you need them, and I'll help fill the lake with water. My lake was filled with tears.
Written from my lair,
The Phantom's Student
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