‘Pandora’s box’ AKA ‘can of worms’ - Fear of counselling reframed

How can you trust that counselling can help with fears and anxieties, if anxiety around counselling is one of them?

When discussing the therapeutic process with clients they often express a concern of entering, either by accident or by therapist’s suggestion, some unknown, dark, implicitly unpleasant or even dangerous territory, where things are bound to get out of control and cause some problem or disaster.

This anxiety is often worded as: 

"I am scared to open 'Pandora’s box' or a can of worms" 

and with an image like this, who indeed would like to get involved and take the risk?

This unfortunate metaphor somehow crept into the vocabulary of counselling and is not doing any favours to clients or therapists. It creates an image which adds a new fear and anxiety to the ones we are already struggling with – a fear of things getting even worse and less manageable because of counselling.

Fortunately – it is just a metaphor.

There is no box (why poor Pandora? maybe she could be let off at last?).

No can of worms.

Nothing is real.

Fortunately - we can choose what we imagine and what feelings it might evoke. Once we change the image, we can change our emotional response.

Here it is…

Imagine sitting in front of a large aquarium, made of shatter-proof glass, so you may knock on it, or kick it, whatever you feel like.

You can see some bits floating inside – some of them you know, some you don’t; some are scary, some just embarrassing; some quite hilarious, some quite beautiful… none of them can get out on their own, or live outside the container.

Next to you there is someone you trust who is interested as much as you are in watching the bits float around and in understanding what they mean.

That person is your counsellor, and the bits in the aquarium are bits of your life - your stuff. You and only you can decide what you would like to do with each bit. You could:

  •  just look from the outside
  •  take it out
  •  put it back
  •  throw it away
  •  ignore it completely until the next time.

And your counsellor will be there to support you, whatever your decision might be. 

In this image counselling is helping you to create your own safe container for anything that is going on – your troubles, your "worms" and your treasures. You will learn how to manage them and only you will know the access code to the container. And you will never drop it or lose it, because somehow it is a part of you.

With the presence of someone you trust - and who trusts in your strengths and resilience (after all you made it through life until this session, didn't you?) - counselling can be an interesting and rewarding viewing of your life’s spectacle.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London WC1A & SW16
Written by Anna Jezuita, (MBACP) Relationship Reconciliation,Counselling, Mindfulness
London WC1A & SW16

I help my clients make changes they need to live the lives they want.I am passionate about building resilience and self-confidence in my clients , so they can  overcome life challenges when they happen. During the current Covid-19 restrictions I am seeing clients via online video platforms like...

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