One of my favorite times of day is twilight. The sun has set, painting what colors it will against the clouds on the horizon, and darkness has begun to fall, but just barely. The sky is a soft blue-black and the streetlights are just beginning to flicker on. It’s neither day, nor night. It is in between.
There is a French idiom that captures the nature of this fleeting moment: entre chien et loup. Translated literally, it is between dog and wolf. It is the time when the light is so dim that one cannot distinguish a dog from a wolf.
Figuratively, entre chien et loup represents the threshold between certainty and the unknown, between hope and fear. It is a precipice that is often encountered in therapy.
As humans, we’re wired to crave certainty. A predictable world is a safe world. And yet safety can also ensnare us, keeping us tied to the comfortable and familiar, and precluding any possibility for change. People enter therapy when they are ready for change, or at least when they think they are ready for change. When they feel stuck in an endless sameness that is at once comfortable and chafing.
As a psychologist, I walk with people down the path of choosing to either stay tethered to the dog or to approach the wolf. Most of our time is spent entre chien et loup, in that in between space, which is full of possibility, and also often fear. We explore this space until the once unfamiliar and threatening becomes old hat, until old, troublesome patterns transform into new, promising ones.
There will always be another twilight, another time when one is compelled to choose between staying the same and changing. It is during these times that it is wise to proceed with caution, but to proceed nonetheless.