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Janus Faced? The New Year, Counselling and Psychotherapy

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I have always had an underlying affection for the gods of the classical world.  There is something rather engaging about a vision of various gods squabbling over substance and trivia on Mt Olympus. Perhaps the image suggests something akin to a celestial soap opera but with a rather more dramatic background.  

I am not certain however as to how well these comments will go down in the pantheon of the gods. Nevertheless this humanistic representation always seems a little more real and meaningful to me than the rather austere figures which head the great monotheistic traditions including Christianity and Islam.

Certainly some of the classical deities do have particularly engaging features.  There is a great dramatic presence with Zeus and Poseidon, something rather congenial around Hermes and Iris, a seductive eroticism surrounding Aphrodite and Artemis and a decidedly sinister aura around Nemesis and Hecate.

And the link to counselling and therapy?

Well this is all rather awkward.   The god from classical times who particularly resonates for me within the counselling room is Janus. The difficulty comes from the rather irritating point that Janus is not a particularly good fit with daydreaming about the events on Mt Olympus. Unfortunately Janus is a Roman god with no Greek name. As such he may not hold the right immigration documentation for Greece or be particularly welcome on Mt Olympus.  

All slightly awkward. Nevertheless in the spirit of the festive season I see no reason for these minor details to deflect from my musings.  Janus has been chosen and Janus it is.

My preference for Janus within the therapy room reflects the attributes associated with the god. Janus has been described as the god of beginnings, choices and doorways.  These are powerful concepts which I often use in the counselling room. I have to accept however that there are some rather discordant challenges associated with this nomination.

Janus is usually presented as two faced. That may be potentially disturbing for some given the connotations that such a phrase can engender. Being two faced can be associated with deceit and subterfuge and some of the more pious members of the counselling fraternity or sorority may well look askance at such a linkage. 

So yet more problems with Janus.  Since there are benefits in maintaining some vestige of credibility within the therapeutic world, I will quickly stress that I am not suggesting that counsellors or therapists are in anyway deceptive or duplicitous. I will however stay my supportive thoughts on this chosen deity.

Janus resonates through that idea of looking at things differently and encouraging a change of focus. Often work in the counselling room is about assisting clients to alter the way they may look at what has happened, at where they are and at the options that lie ahead.  

The concept of doorways is also be a powerful idea. If I think of Janus and those doorways, it is a reminder that sometimes clients will often be trapped in one viewpoint. Clients may be transfixed on just one approach or interpretation when their reality is that there are actually a number of alternative doorways available to them.  These doors may also be unlocked but the challenge for the client is to firstly recognise that the different doorways actually exist, to find the motivation to turn the handle and then find the courage to walk ahead.

The ability to look at things in very different ways can be particularly important at this time of the year. As December turns into January we are invited to both look back and reflect and to look forward and anticipate – and it is not easy to do the two at once unless of course you happen to have some of the attributes of Janus.

Should we spend time looking back over the last twelve months with an accompanying feeling of satisfaction or despondency depending on how the year has been; or alternatively do we keep looking ahead to the next twelve months, again with either gleeful anticipation or a sense of dread depending on where we are.

You will decide which direction is for you. We can acknowledge however that there is always a powerful temptation as we move into January to forecast and predict. Whether those predictions are upbeat or pessimistic will depend on a mix factors including our usual way of being in the world and also our experiences both recent and long past. 

Time to think again about those classical gods and issues around predictions. With discussions concerning gods, deities, fortune and fate, there can be a tension between inevitability and free will. That tension or stress may come into play when we look forward and wonder what lies ahead.

I will often come back to that well-worn phrase about the only certainties being ‘death and taxes’.  The rest is up to us.

I suppose that puts me very firmly in the 'free will' camp. Fates may or may not have something mapped out for all of us. Nevertheless I hold to the view that what matters is what we do  We can choose which door to walk though and when. And as for what is on the other side of the doorway?  Well perhaps this year it will be fun to find out.

And what of Janus? I sense he/she is around particularly at the start of the year. So perhaps this January Janus can be encouraged to jog alongside you as you move into a New Year of 2016 which really can be different.  This can be your year to recognise different possibilities, to acknowledge free will, challenge the fates and then to stroll through that doorway of your choosing.

Strong words and maybe we should acknowledge these may be easier actions to describe in theory than to actually carry out in practice.

So if it is proving difficult to shrug off that cloak of fatalism and inevitability; and you feel that some additional support may be required, then there is always a door way to walk through which will lead into the therapist room!   There will certainly be a warm welcome from myself  - even if alas Janus is not sitting alongside me 

Whatever you decide to do I hope 2016 is a great year for you!

And in line with the classical theme I am now off with a pipe and flute to the woods and groves to see the New Year in in style. As for what that means?   I will leave you to work that one out!





Geoff Boutle

added on 1st January 2016

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