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Lions, Lambs and Therapy

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I am never quite certain as to what a cliché is and what constitutes a proverb.  Both are repeated phrases but perhaps there is something around longevity and the profound for proverbs and a sense of the obvious for clichés.

So what about this saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  The words suggest both the raw power of the cold biting wind with the first hint of a warmth to come.  

There is also something in the phrase which underlines the awkwardness of trying to hold opposite views within a single frame. By referring to the lion and the lamb, the saying invites us to consider the brutality of a sharp cold winter at the beginning of March and the softness of spring sunshine at the end of the month with both feelings set inside a single calendar border.

This occasional need to grasp contradictory ways of feeling, thinking and being at the same time can be really challenging and even more so if we think of feelings as opposed to temperatures!  It is difficult enough for the toddler screaming with rage directed at the protective parent who just happens to be also his or her entire world but perhaps even more so when we fast forward thirty years or so to find ourselves wrestling with that real irritation when the person with the annoying habits just happens to also be the partner for whom we hold great affection.

It is rather tricky stuff!

Love and hate, desire and rejection, compassion and irritation are all examples of conflicting emotions that can be difficult to reconcile, particularly when these very different feelings are so strong but occur simultaneously. Usually in relationship terms there is one feeling which predominates over time. That can be sufficient to eventually prompt action whether to embrace and accept the other or to push away and reject.

Sometimes however we can become stuck within this dualism. That may be in a particularly ambivalent relationship or perhaps when we are wrestling with a challenging complex personal issue, where options or outcomes seem to be equally balanced. 

In these situations it can be helpful to explore issues with others be that a friend, relative or a therapist. A professional counsellor can sometimes encourage a measure of objectivity which may be more difficult to attain when talking with those who are close to us.

Different approaches within the therapy room can also be helpful. Is this a case for the type of objective dispassionate analysis which may come from a more directive and structured approach such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); or is it more important to look down into the web of human experiences to try to understand what is happening and where this could lead? That may move into the realms of psychodynamic therapy or existential work.

Whichever approach is adopted, work in the counselling room with the right therapist may just be sufficient to help the lion to both appreciate and coexist with the lamb – so long as the intervention occurs before the lion gets too hungry!


Geoff Boutle

added on 3rd March 2016

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