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  • Aliza Aziz

The Snake in the Room - 1

Everyone has heard of “the elephant in the room,” a metaphor for an important issue that everyone involved is aware, but which no one is willing to mention. All are fearful of bringing it up, perhaps to avoid a conflict or confrontation. Perhaps it is embarrassing, or liable to hurt someone’s feelings. Perhaps everyone is expecting someone else to be the first to bring it up. So the proverbial “elephant” in the room wanders free.

Within relationships, whether between lovers, siblings, friends, spouses, or parent/child, I evoke a different animal metaphor, “the snake” in the room. The snake represents problems that arise in the relationship. Each and every problem that remains unspoken has the potential to become like a snake, insidious, defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as something unpleasant or dangerous, gradually and secretly causing harm. It lurks in the dark, hides under rocks, prepares to strike, either for self-defense or to enhance or empower itself.

There is a tendency in so many of us to consistently avoid discussions of issues and problems. It doesn’t matter if they are little issues, like dirty laundry, or big ones, like substance abuse. We fail to face these issues head on. We ignore that “snake” in the room.

To ignore a snake almost guarantees that at some point it will strike. If we are unaware of it, or close our eyes to it, eventually, we will either accidentally stumble upon it, at which time it will strike out of fear and self-defense, or, when it gets hungry, it will seek us out and strike.

If on the other hand, we acknowledge the snake, we can together seek out evasive actions to either avoid the snake or evict it completely.

The same goes for most every problem that arises within a relationship. If we can face them straight on, acknowledge their existence, not ignore them, then we can find ways, either on our own, or by calling upon the myriad of services and service providers, to help us take control of these issues and remove the toxic venom, thereby rendering them inert.


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