ΑρχικήΨηφιακή ΒιβλιοθήκηΆρθραΆρθρα (Αγγλικά)Blum, Harold P. - "A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into Pandora's Box"

Blum, Harold P. - "A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into Pandora's Box"



The Greek myth of Pandora’s Box has been within our personal and collective imagination through the ages.  In contrast to many other mythological characters, Pandora has remained familiar and has never lost her psychological and social vitality.  Over time the myth has been altered or modified but the essential features and outline have remained relatively intact.  This paper will discuss the myth of Pandora and her box as symbol and metaphor in psychoanalysis, as well as in western art, and literature. The Pandora myth, inextricably related to psychoanalysis, represents the repressed, the return of the repressed, resistance in clinical psychoanalysis, and resistance to analytic inquiry. Clinical examples will used to illuminate the unconscious meanings of the Pandora myth.  These include focus not only the traditional interpretation of Pandora’s box as the female genitalia and reproductive organs, but the additional meanings of her box as concealed and reveled secrets.  The myth of Pandora is described as representing basic human ambivalence and conflicts related to universal fantasies as well as individuals’ secrets. 

From a psychoanalytic perspective, Pandora’s box refers to structurally distinct conscious and preconscious secrets, as well as to the repressed unconscious metaphorical danger, which is hidden from awareness.  If released from repression or suppression, and/or projected externally, the contents would be perilous to the individual, the family, and/or society.  These mythical dangers, however, are the opposite of the psychoanalytic process. In clinical psychoanalysis, lifting repression, suspending censorship, and revealing secrets all contribute to therapeutic action and progress.

There are numerous permutations of the Pandora myth.  In the typical narrative of the Pandora myth, she was the first woman, a beautiful woman. Formed of earth and water, either by Prometheus or Hephaestus, she was animated by Athena or with the aid of fire stolen from heaven by Prometheus.  Pandora was completed by all the other gods, each of whom gave a gift, thus the name "Pandora" – "all gifted".  The gifts of Aphrodite and Hermes were malevolent rather than benevolent so that Pandora, always with the box bestowed by the gods, became a symbol of ambivalence, "a beautiful evil" (Panofsky & Panofsky, 1962).  Though Prometheus warns his brother, Epimetheus, against Pandora, the latter, nevertheless, takes her, with her sealed box, as his wife.  She subsequently becomes the mother of suffering and sorrowful humanity.  Unable to resist her insistent curiosity, she opens the lid of the sealed box, releasing every evil into the world with permanent destructive consequences.  Only hope remains in the box or jar.   While hope is not lost, neither is it available, since it is resealed in the box.  Pandora’s Box is like the Trojan horse, betrayal and fatality disguised as a gift.  Pandora’s Box is clearly related to our vernacular expression, "opening a can of worms", and "curiosity killed the cat", etc. 

The biblical myth of Eve is a modified version of Pandora within another culture in the western tradition.  Eve is warned against eating the apple from the tree of knowledge.  She too is curious, and cannot resist the temptation of the forbidden fruit.  As a result, Adam and Eve are expelled from the utopian bliss of the Garden of Eden, which becomes lost paradise.  This lost paradise is never to be regained and the offspring of Adam and Eve, humanity, will henceforth experience such negative affects as pain, shame, and guilt.  Exiled by the formerly loving but now punitive God, Humanity will have to work and sweat for its existence.  Humanity will have to contend with love and hate, good and evil, destruction and death.  Immortality is now gone forever, and humanity must struggle with uncertainties and hardships in a finite life span.

Pandora and Eve are related to the sirens of Greek myth whose seductions are irresistible.  Anticipating the gifts of sex and love, the men are betrayed and led to their own death.  The sirens might be compared to the modern day version of the seductive woman who seemingly offers boundless gratifications, which are inherently dangerous.  The relationship has the potential for seduction and destruction.

Pandora is the femme fatale of the world’s literature, drama and art.  She has been variously and vividly represented by such great writers as Calderon, Voltaire and Goethe, as well as by artists.  In literature, her representation has been influenced by issues of gender, culture, and language (Amati-Mehler, Argentieri, and Canestri, 1993).  In some of the literature, Pandora, as in the traditional version of the myth, wreaks havoc and disseminates disease, disasters and death.  In others, the converse is the case.  Pandora turns vice into virtue, is a humanizing and harmonizing influence, and brings happy endings to former conflicts.  Representing a variety of allegorical and metaphorical meanings, the beauty and charms disguised the deceit and destructiveness of femininity.  In Calderon’s drama, "The Statue of Prometheus," Pandora is not the first mortal woman, but rather retains the image and attributes of a goddess.  Presented with a very attractive box as a present, Pandora is curious but unsuspecting as she disregards the prohibition and opens the vessel.  The two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus and their allies fight over her and all sing in despair "Woe to him who saw good change to bad, and bad to worse."  (Panofsky  & Panofsky, 1962, p 119).  In the end Prometheus marries Pandora with the union as a metaphor for the harmonious fusion of art and science.

Voltaire wrote an opera, Pandore (1740), in which Pandora is depicted as a traditional foolhardy woman whose unrestrained impulsive curiosity who unleashes evil upon humanity.  Pandora has a loving but frail character and the opera has a happy ending. 

In Voltaire’s view, she did not deserve punishment.  She opened the lid for love and with the assistance of hope, conquered all.

In 1773, Goethe wrote a play about Pandora, a life-long interest.   In the play, Prometheus stoops before the image of Pandora, addressing his self-made statue with a paean of praise: "Pandora, sacred vessel of all gifts that are delightful under the broad sky on the infinite earth….all that which I have ever tasted as a pure radiance of heaven and a calm pleasure of the soul…all this – my Pandora."  (Panofsky & Panofsky, 1962, p 123).  She is presented as an innocent beautiful bright girl who has learned from her father the secrets of life and death.   Later in 1806, Goethe was attracted to a lady whom he gave the pseudonym Pandora.  When she left he wrote a second play, "Pandora," in which Pandora loses her lover and is left with grief and longing for his return.  Goethe suggests a connection between the myth and madness, and the relationship between art and the irrational. 

Pandora has been painted and sculpted by artists of the ages in many different styles.   Henry Moore did several sculptures of Pandora.  For Dante Rossetti, Pandora is depicted as a sensuous beauty with deeply shadowed eyes, holding a golden box from which a cloud of evil spirits escapes.  Swinburne described the painting as "among Rossetti’s mightiest in God-like terror, an imperial trouble of beauty, shadowed by the smoke and fiery vapor of winged and fleshless passions crowding from the casket in spires of flame-lit and curling cloud around her fatal face and mourning veil of hair."  (Panofsky & Panofsky, 1962, p 109).  Paul Klee’s drawing (1920), conveys the traditional psychoanalytic symbolic meaning of Pandora, representing Pandora’s Box as a kantharos vase with evil escaping as vapor through a thinly disguised representation of open female genitalia.  Max Beckmann’s painting (1947) depicts an explosive fiery scene, as a metaphor for devastation.  In this connection, Pandora is not infrequently encountered in the writings and cartoons of the news media, i.e., with reference of the horrors of war, the Holocaust, and the  epidemic of HIV.  Pandora’s box has become a general metaphor for the eruption of violence and destruction.  Pandora, in the ancient myth, also represents the phallic, castrating, devouring witch of literature and fairy tale.  Faced with the technological capacity to destroy civilization, humanity, like Epimetheus, may become wise too late.

Although not mentioned explicitly, the myth of Pandora figures prominently in Freud’s choice of "Dora" as the pseudonym for his famous patient, as well as in the case report.  Freud encountered Pandora in the form of Theodora, in the theater, while studying with Charcot in Paris, 1885. Theodora was a Pandora-type figure in the form of a Roman empress.  Freud played upon the titles of the playwright Sardou’s dramas, inventing such titles as Thermadora, Equadora, and Toreadora; he imagined a play named Dora .  On April 16, 1900, Freud wrote to Fleiss, "since E hates to suffer through all my technical and theoretical errors, I actually think that that a future case could be solved in half the time.  May the Lord now send the next one".  Freud called this case "Dora", a gift from God (Malcolm, 1982; Decker, 1991).  There were boxes in two famous dreams in the Dora case. The best known is the jewel box, which Freud interprets in terms of Dora’s virgin genitalia.  In Dora’s famous dream, she was attempting to flee her burning house but her mother wanted to stop and save her jewel case.  Her parents had failed to protect her.  She was exposed as a young teenager to Herr K, her father’s friend who pursued her with gifts, blandishments, and courtship.  She was to be the bartered bride, given to Herr K in exchange for her father having an affair with her Herr K’s wife.   Herr K had given Dora a costly jewel case, which in idiomatic German was slang for the female genitals.  Freud interpreted that Dora was to give him her jewel case in exchange for his jewel case.  Dora’s precious jewel case referred to her virginal genitals, and to her virtuous ideals. For Freud it was clear that Dora was consciously or unconsciously conflicted about defloration by Herr K (and unconsciously by her father and Freud).  At that time, Freud had written that the case had smoothly opened to his existing collection of "pick locks", then unaware of his intrusive, invasive counter-transference in the analysis of an 18 year old in the culture of her time and place. 

In both of Dora’s dreams, while the box unconsciously represents her genital, metaphorically, its highly meaningful hidden contents represent preconscious personal and familial secrets as well.  Dora’s family secrets were a heavy burden.  Her father’s extramarital affair with Frau Kay was supposedly a secret as were Herr K’s designs on Dora.  Her father having been treated for syphilis was another secret.  Further, Dora secretly believed her mother had been infected and degraded by her father.  Her conscious adolescent fantasies were associated with fears of being shamed and degraded like her mother, dishonored by losing her virginity before marriage, and exploited as a bartered sex object.  Behind Dora’s contempt for doctors and her negative transference to Freud was her contempt for her father’s inheritable disease, his infidelity, and deceit, as well as contempt for her mother’s passive complicity.  There was secret collusion among the Ks and her parents.  Her mother managed to not be curious, to not know or disavow what was going on in her own family. Dora’s mother silently colluded in the familial secrecy and duplicity. Dora, however, in some measure wanted to understand and be understood.  While inhibited, she also wanted to lift the veil of secrecy within the family.  Like Pandora she struggled with keeping the lid on the bejeweled box despite. her thoughtful curiosity and her perception of the deception and hypocrisy of her parents, the Ks, and Viennese society. 

Dora’s reluctance to be treated by Freud had been preceded by her refusal to see new doctors.  For Freud this meant that she was afraid that each doctor would uncover her secrets.  He referred to her secret masturbation, the secret of her childhood enuresis, and the secret of her vaginal discharge.  These secrets were linked to her shame and humiliation over her mother’s vaginal discharge and her father’s venereal disease.  Dora, like so many women of that era had experienced maltreatment or lack of treatment at the hands of male doctors in authority.  Freud’s interpretation of Dora’s contempt for physicians was that the inept physician had been unable to discover her secrets.  When Dora opened and shut her reticule (a small cloth purse), opening it, Freud interpreted this behavior on the couch as a masturbatory equivalent.  Freud then declared "no mortal could keep a secret.  If (the patient’s) lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore."  (Freud, 1905, p. 78 ).  While there is a balance between the wish to conceal and the wish to reveal, the demand to withhold and the command to confess, it is not possible for the analyst to define every patient’s secrets.  All patients are Pandoras in degree, more or less inhibited, and initially reluctant to lift the lid and reveal their deepest secrets. Some patients reveal such secrets only in the terminal phase of their analysis and others keep some of themselves in the closet for a lifetime.  For example, Anna Freud stated that she was taking some secrets with her to the grave.  Many homosexuals in public life formerly remained "in the closet" avoiding social stigma and possible economic and political repercussions, the secret often kept from spouse, family and friends.  Throughout history, such issues as illegitimate birth, abortion,adoption, corruption, and imprisonment have been associated with secrecy. 

As with Pandora, however, some secrets are best left as secrets.  Culture often determines what is secret and what is overt.  For women in some cultures menstruation was an overt or covert taboo, a secret that is sometimes more apparent and sometimes more opaque.  Menstrual blood, emanating from Pandora’s box was frightening and hardly recognized as the only form of normal bleeding.  Menstruation activated fantasies of mutilation and castration in both sexes with cultural and religious ritual, to avoid "blood contamination".  The menstruating female could be kept "boxed up", forbidden to have physical contact with the rest of her family.  Long regarded as the "curse", and the woman as being "unwell", the blood and vaginal discharge were among the ills, which Pandora released.  As a personal and social secret, menstruation was kept in a sealed box in ordinary discourse, and in the art and literature of past generations.

Freud had imagined a plaque commemorating his discovery of "the secret of dreams," and kept his specimen dream of Irma’s injection a secret from Fleiss, his figurative analyst, for five years (Freud, 1900; Blum, 1995).    Freud was aware of his growing contempt for Breuer by the time he wrote the "Interpretation of Dreams," but then was only dimly aware of his rising secret devaluation of Fleiss.  A closed box figures in Freud’s correspondence with Fliess, and then among the specimens of unconsciously motivated forgetting described by Freud (1901), "Psychopathology of Everyday Life". He wrote to Fleiss on August 7, 1901, "I have promised Miss L. that I would buy her a small iron strongbox in which she could keep her valuables, but I continually forgot about it."  Eventually, she reminded me, ….it must have been somewhere in an easy to find location in the inner city.  But I was absolutely unable to find this place on my walk.  So I resolved to look it up in the phone book….but then I forgot about it again on five successive days.  Finally I forced myself to remember and look up the address.  Where is the place of this (store) window with the iron box? Brandstatter, across from Breuer, where I must have seen it several thousand times."  Freud’s conflicts concerned Breuer and money, for Freud was resentful about having been in Breuer’s monetary debt, for which Breuer had refused repayment.  Freud may also have been consciously or unconsciously disparaging of his own father for being unable to support his large family.  The actual sources of financial support of Jacob Freud’s family remain among history’s secrets.

As previously indicated, Pandora’s box with dangerous content, not to be opened, represents the repressed, disguised unconscious.  Freud’s provision of psychoanalytic access to the unconscious, and to the unruly child in the adult, was tantamount to opening Pandora’s box, but with beneficial rather than harmful effects.  Conscious secrets were linked to silent daydreams and then to the unconscious pathogenic components of infantile neurotic phenomena.  Pandora’s box represents the unconscious forces of censorship and repression that keep the unacceptable contents under wraps and a lid on the jar.  

In the Pandora myth, Prometheus had warned his brother, Epimetheus not to accept the gift of Pandora from Zeus, just as the biblical Eve was warned never to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge.  The fear of opening Pandora’s box is directly related to the ever recurrent opposition to psychoanalytic findings.  This is not to say that psychoanalysis should be immune from scientific challenge or criticism. Nevertheless, much of the criticism and invective leveled at psychoanalysis and the flogging of Freud in the media is based on an irrational visceral opposition.  The lid must be kept on Pandora’s box and the unconscious must be kept out of conscious awareness.  The iron strongbox must be kept safe, intact and its dangerous unconscious conflicts and fantasies kept permanently locked and sealed against any form of escape.

Pandora’s box also represents the conscious or pre-conscious personal and/or familial secrets, contained or suppressed within the box.  Shared secrets, in silent collusion, become important components of the relationship between the secret sharers.  Secrecy and silence of the object world exacerbates traumatic experience, often associated with the isolation of affect, with parts of the self and object kept compartmentalized in a Pandora’s box.  The traumatized person, often sensing that a dark secret is being withheld, is afraid to open the box; curiosity is inhibited.  The traumatized person may be left in doubt about what happened in reality. Affective awareness may be further blunted by concern for the welfare of love objects.  In the case of child abuse, an adult authority’s false claims that nothing really happened, or that all that happened was innocent will further the child’s denial of reality.  The child may be left in perpetual doubt.  If the child feels caught in an abusive quandary with no exit, then hope too is sequestered in Pandora’s box.  For persons with fragile reality testing, massive denial of external and internal danger may eventuate in a psychosis.  Pandora’s box could lose its symbolic or metaphorical meaning and encapsulating function.

The following two clinical vignettes, illustrate Pandora’s universal dilemma, to conceal or reveal, and with what cost and consequences.  The locking of Pandora’s box may also lead to a learning inhibition, avoiding inquiry and comprehension.  Before entering puberty, X had been a lively, vivacious and popular girl who enjoyed school and was a good student.  She got along well with her teachers and peers, spontaneously attended to her homework, and wanted to have a college education.  By the time she was fifteen, her attitude towards school had noticeably changed.  She seemed no longer involved in her studies and class participation.  Her grades gradually declined and then plummeted to the point of her being on the verge of failure in most of her school subjects.  When pressed to prepare for examinations, she would study for a great deal of time, but with impaired concentration; she was unable to absorb the subject matter.  Panicked by their daughter’s development of a learning block and the threat of failure in school, her parents brought X for diagnosis and treatment.  What emerged in the modified analysis of this adolescent were shared denials and rationalizations involving the entire family. 

With adolescence, X became much more interested in her appearance, clothes, cosmetics, etc.  This interest was more than matched by her mother who presented her daughter with a lavish wardrobe complete with ostentatious, impressive accessories such as pocketbooks, shoes, bracelets, etc.  X was learning about a world of high style. 

We gradually came to understand that X was bewildered about how her mother managed to present her with such a large and expensive wardrobe.  Her parents both worked, earning an adequate, but not high income.  They were upwardly mobile, living in a middle class home in a middle class neighborhood; no one in the family had won the lottery or had a significant inheritance.  X was gratified, but also bewildered and distressed by her costly wardrobe.  Pleased with the way his wife decorated their home and their daughter, her father seemed serenely unconcerned with the source and signs of luxury.  He would not look a gift horse in the mouth, and wore blinders as a way of life.  He was in silent collusion with his wife about avoiding perplexities regarding family finances.

Family and personal secrets are often associated with important repressed conflicts.  (Jacobs, 1980).   The fantasy of sexually acting out now emerged in X’s treatment.  In one area of her personality she had traditional values and ideals.  She wanted to be respected and respectable, postponing sexual relations until she was an adult and in a love relationship with "prince charming".  Unconsciously she had prostitution fantasies with fears of dire punishment in the form of incurable venereal disease, infertility, and social disgrace.  These conflicts proved to be associated with the forbidden daring inference that her mother was having an extramarital affair or affairs.  Her mother had unconsciously represented promiscuity and prostitution that inwardly frightened her.  Her defense had been a massive learning block characterized by, "I see no evil, I hear no evil, and know no evil."  With the lifting of the veil of denial and repression, X began to learn at home and at school.  She began to understand her distrust of me, as well as her inability to make connections about family life and finance.  Her incestuous temptations emerged in the transference alongside her immense disappointment in her parents, especially her mother.  Were material rewards truly as important as they seemed to be to her mother?  Becoming inquisitive and perceptive, she noticed that one of her mother’s charge accounts had a strange name or title.  Perhaps this was previously noticed, but disavowed.  To question the account could be devastating to herself and her parents.  Pandora’s box was ajar, partially open, partially shut.  X no longer accepted her mother’s gifts, made only modest purchases, and immersed herself in schoolwork about which she had previously been so inhibited.  Her mother was upset that X would no longer accept gifts.   Pleased with X’s progress, and probably sensing her daughter’s suspicion, X’s mother decided that she was now cured.  X was very sorry to leave but also relieved.   She had learned enough, and in unconscious compliance with her parents, did not want to learn more.  She had by then assumed that her mother had a wealthy lover and was conflicted about her treatment, which might be illicitly subsidized.   As a girl X had a fantasy that she was a beautiful princess surrounded by rich and adoring regal parents.  Was this a fantasy shared with her mother?  While the mother’s lavish gifts to her daughter began with the girl’s adolescence, X. did not consider that possibility that her mother might have been having an affair long before that time.  She was not prepared to deal with the possibility that she had been an illegitimate child, with more dark dangerous secrets.  Could her mother’s wealthy lover be her biological father, unconsciously her analyst?  The invisible source of the seemingly wonderful yet sinister gifts bestowed upon her remained a mystery, locked in her mother’s Pandora’s box.  The myth of Pandora’s box does not encompass the partner’s share in co-constructing his/her own destruction.

X preferred to distance herself from these potentially explosive issues as she prepared to leave home for college.  She disengaged from incestuous objects and from what she regarded as collusion in parental corruption.  Her identification with analytic values and goals and her insight into Pandora’s box, however limited were important to her further development.

In the following case, Pandora’s box referred to both a dangerous secret and a mother’s conflicts regarding her sexual and reproductive functions.  Ms. Y originally wanted psychoanalytic help concerning her delinquent adolescent son.  He was in very serious trouble for theft and truancy from school. Evasive  and frequently lying, he showed little remorse when caught by the authorities.  The immediate precipitating event leading to Mrs. Y’s entering psychoanalytic treatment was her son’s facing possible imprisonment.   She spoke tearfully about the crisis in her family, tremendous tension between her husband and their son.  Her husband was "fed up" with him, felt that the lad was ungrateful and undeserving. She then announced she had to brace herself and warn me about an issue that had dire consequences.  What she was about to say was a "bombshell."  With tremendous anxiety and grief, she then revealed that her son was not the biological son of her husband.  She had been infertile in the first years of her marriage.  Neither partner wanted to adopt, so they decided on artificial insemination with donor sperm.  Her husband insisted that this should be an absolute secret, kept even from his own parents as well as all relatives and friends.  With the onset of her son’s problems, this deeply troubled rather devout Christian woman blamed herself and thought that she had committed adultery.  Furthermore, she felt that her husband harbored a deep-seated grudge against her and their son.  Keeping her pledge to her husband, the boy had never been told that his father was not his biological father.  He sensed that his father resented him, and a hostile argumentative alienation between father and son developed early.  To compensate for her husband’s rejection and animosity toward "her son", she tried to be evermore supportive, affectionate and indulgent.  The father tended to be excessively restrictive and punitive, while the mother overlooked infractions of the family rules and was unable to set consistent limits.  If the son had a clash with his father, he could turn to his mother, who would overlook or minimize any real or imagined wrongdoing. 

The patient was guilt ridden and filled with self-reproach about her contribution to her son’s juvenile delinquency.  When later she spontaneously and surprisingly proved to be fertile, her husband treated these subsequent children far more benignly than he did their first child.  Filled with regret and self-reproach, she lamented what she had done and questioned why had she done it?  Her son’s punishment was her punishment for infidelity, deception, and lack of discipline.  His imprisonment would be her punishment; she felt that she deserved to be punished more than did her son.  Not recognizing such complicating issues as the boy’s identification with the father’s aggression and deception, nor his gratification in manipulating his parents, she sometimes saw her son as the innocent victim of his parents.  She also harbored the belief, that her son might have a genetic abnormality.  Perhaps the donor semen was defective and he was the "bad seed."  If the son’s criminality was biologically genetic, then her family might be absolved and exonerated. 

Ms. Y then pondered about another secret.  Who was the sperm donor?  She wondered if her husband were jealous of the donor who had been able to impregnate her.  The infertility had initially been considered a joint problem, and she had had the thought that perhaps her husband had kept a low sperm count a secret from her.  The sperm donor had probably been paid, and she wondered if she had thoughtlessly participated in an act of prostitution.  The sperm donation had then led to an illegitimate pregnancy. 

Was her son trying to punish his parents or had they arranged to make themselves miserable through their influence on their child.  This mother began to understand her unconscious fantasies of crime and punishment.  Her son may well have acted out his mother’s unconscious fantasy (Johnson, 1952), significantly contributing to his delinquency.  In this case, the bad seed was the husband’s originally infertile sperm, the donor sperm, and the embryo of deceit and delinquency in the mother’s womb.  The gestation culminated in the fraudulent fatherhood.  As is so often the case, the web of deception encompassed layers of secrets.

This mother regarded herself as a Pandora with an evil spirit springing from her genital box.  Her son’s misdeeds and misdemeanors could spread harm within the family, school, and community.  The guilt that she felt over son’s serious adolescent delinquency, was an intensification and addition to the guilt she harbored from the time of her pregnancy.  The artificial insemination was an artifice, a false pregnancy, a form of imposture.  She had sadly tried to appease her husband and conceal his infertility and with conscious good intentions.   Alongside her love of her family, she had to face her tremendous disappointment and anger at herself, her husband and her son.  His birth should have been a gift from God, but as in the Pandora myth, the gift engendered an antisocial illness.  The mother’s fears of revelation were tantamount to the opening of her own Pandora’s box.

Family secrets become an anxiety and guilt-ridden burden for those who share them, as well as engendering inevitable conflicts of power and control.  Family secrets, associated with shame and guilt, affect the developing child.  There is always concern that the secret will emerge from "under wraps" with the possibility of reprisal, recrimination and narcissistic mortification.  There may be power associated with the threat of revealing the secret.  Conflicts associated with Pandora’s box coalesce with the expectable fantasies and challenges of a patient’s phase of development and life situation.  Although manifestly female, Pandora may be unconsciously bi-sexual and bi-parental.

In the myth Pandora is blamed for all the ills of humanity.  Pandora here represents the split off virtually all-bad mother, and women have been demonized as sexual and aggressive witches.  In modern times, mothers have been blamed for conditions ranging from autism to schizophrenia.  In the other pole of splitting, motherhood was glorified and idealized. Pandora carries hope in her box-womb.  Hope, like faith and charity evolves in the object relationship encompassing good enough mothering of an adequately responsive infant.  Hope lies in the mother’s capacity to set limits upon enactment of her own infantile impulses, and to control regression in the service of the infant’s development.   Finally, for some deeply disturbed patients, supportive, suppressive psychotherapy may be indicated, helping to close Pandora’s box and safeguard sanity.


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