Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pandora's Box

So, how many times have you heard the story of Pandora's Box? Several? Me too. It seems to have either found it's way in to our psyches, or the story was created to convey what was already there...the fear that if we let our emotions out, if we take the lid off of that box, we will "lose it" and "all hell will break lose". We will have no control over our anger, over our sadness, over our rage, etc. And, these emotions will destroy us (or those around us) if we let them out.

This fear of our emotions leads us to hold them back as much as possible. We don't allow ourselves to feel what is there. We push them down and hope they'll magically go away.

The only problem is that they don't go away. Instead, they grow and get bigger, only to explode down the road or come out in deviant ways, leading us to believe in Pandora's Box even that much more. Because, "See. I knew that if I expressed my emotions they would destroy things."

So, how do we change our relationship to our emotions?

How about considering another way of looking at Pandora's Box? What if instead of one box there are several boxes. Imagine there is a wall of shelves, and on those shelves are multiple boxes, each representing a different emotion and/or a different negative experience. When you are ready, you get to take down a box from the wall of shelves and then open the box long enough to deal with the emotion you choose. You then get to put the lid back on and put the box back on the wall. It's not overwhelming because you are only dealing with one emotion/issue, not every possible emotion all bottled up at the same time.

How much could you get done by approaching it this way? In my professional experience the answer is "a lot".

So, which box would you like to take down and work on?

An art therapy directive that works well with this analogy is the Inside/Outside Box. You choose a box (I usually have several shoe boxes to choose from for my clients) and then choose an issue you are dealing with. Once you have chosen, open the box and put magazine images you have cut out inside and on the outside of the box. The negatives go inside, while the positives go outside. You then put the lid back on the box to close the negatives back in, letting the positives out. Every situation has positives and negatives. And, sometimes just looking through magazines and choosing images that call to you can put you in touch with the positives and negatives.

Have fun with the directive. Play with it and see what happens.

You are the one in control, and you can take any box down you would like, or put any box back on the shelf until you are ready to work on it with someone you trust.

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