I love a good moral tale, sometimes the oldest stories still resonate with us in modern times. Many of us will have heard of Pandora’s box and know the lamentable misfortunes that opening it creates.
What if the story that we were told was wrong? What if we need to open our proverbial Pandora’s box in order to be fully well?
In Greek mythology, Pandora was created by Zeus and given to Prometheus as a gift. Prometheus was rightly sceptical of Zeus’s intentions and he hid the box that Pandora came with, believing it to be dangerous. Epimetheus, was Prometheus’ brother, he was very fond of Pandora and not quite as sharp as his sibling.
One sunny day in ancient Greece he opened the box against the better advice of his brother. Immediately the box was opened, thunder filled the air, lightening cracked- Zeus’s displeasure was all around the brothers. Inside the whistling storm that leaked out of the box were human conditions – misery, greed, pain, heartbreak, misfortune, woe, jealousy, anger … all came spilling out of the box and whipped around the two frightened brothers who were cowered by the storm.
After the storm had settled humankind became afflicted with the negative conditions previously trapped inside the box. All that was left, rattling around the empty box was hope, a futile element against such a negative force.
We often talk about not opening Pandora’s box and the thing is, when it comes to mental health, a controlled opening is exactly what we need.
A life spent avoiding getting in touch with our darkest parts is often a life spent filled with avoidance strategies. These strategies range from defensive busyness, comfort eating, self harm, depression all the way through to addictions. To avoid getting in touch with our pain, human’s will do countless destructive things to themselves – when really, if we could lean into our pain, if we could face our storm in manageable chunks, it dissipates, it loses its power over us.
We need two things to master our Pandora’s box, we need to gather hope and we need to learn how to tolerate our own distress. After that, anything is possible.