Hi there. I'm Steve.

Do you want to open Pandora’s Box?

Published 10 months ago • 4 min read

I wasn’t ready for my brain to explode last week, but here we are.

I was listening to an interview with Brené Brown on the Tim Ferriss show (episode #409), and they were talking about doing work on themselves through therapy, reflection, and all that jazz.

Tim asked Brené a question we’re all familiar with:

“What do you say to the people you meet who are on the third marriage, their kids don’t talk to them, and there are certain things that they have convinced themselves—subconsciously or otherwise, maybe through an abusive upbringing or trauma, whatever it might be—that it is unsafe to feel certain things?
...they’ve asked for help, but they do not want to open Pandora’s Box.
They do not want someone to drag them into the deep waters of emotions that they’ve kept under lock and key for so long.
How do you help someone like that?’s going to get messy before it gets clean, right?"

As somebody who is no stranger to the strategy of “let’s take this emotion or random thing I’m dreading and put it nicely in a box in the corner for later,” I had a hunch how Brené would respond.

Something along the lines of “It’s healthy to wait until you can get to a safe space where you can manage these things and then address them.”

Her response, however, hit me like a sack of hammers:

“What I would say to people is…
‘Pandora’s Box is closed right now, but are you under the impression that you’re living outside of the Box or in the Box?’
I mean, you don’t want to open Pandora’s Box… that’s strange to me, because you’re living inside Pandora’s Box.

OUCH. Damn, Brené! How dare you make me feel things!?

I thought about this for a while, and realized we all do this.

We believe we’re doing ourselves and our friends and family a favor by “keeping Pandora’s Box closed” from the feelings and stuff we’re struggling with. We decide we’re going to keep it locked up until we can deal with it later.

The problem lies in the fact that we are trapped in the box with those monsters!

Not only that, but they’re coloring every decision we make, every interaction we have with our spouse, or our kids, or ourselves. It’s part of us, because we’ve trapped ourselves in that box.


“How’s that working out for you?”

After Brené broke my brain, she continued her discussion on making change:

"...We’re not going to do this process without walking through some deep sh**. There’s going to be deep, swift water…
You need to go through that with a therapist and get that settled.
We all grew up and experienced to varying degrees, trauma, disappointment, hell, you know, hard stuff.
We armored up and at some point that armor no longer serves us. And so what I think I would say to that person is…
‘How is not talking about this serving you?’
I’ve been sober for 23 years. So someone in AA would be like, ‘How’s that sh** working for you?’
I would say that ‘It’s not serving you anymore. And now the weight of the armor is too heavy and it’s not protecting you.
It’s keeping you from being seen and known by others."

I know. It’s Monday and I just made you go, "Come on, Steve! Now I gotta deal with all this crap I’ve been putting aside. Why can’t I just keep putting it aside until I’m ready? It’s too uncomfortable."

I hear you. Avoiding the tough stuff served you in the past, but it’s not serving you anymore.

How much longer do you want to keep yourself trapped in Pandora’s Box with these monsters?

If we can work up the courage to sit with uncomfortable thoughts, and start doing the work with this stuff, amazing things can happen. When we shine a light on the monster in the box and look it straight in the face, we can finally start to do something about it.

We change by doing the uncomfortable, un-fun work.

This is how we develop the awareness to figure out why we:

  • Fight with our spouse when the dishwasher is stacked “incorrectly.”
  • Eat when we’re bored, and happy, and anxious, and sad.
  • Have to have a drink in our hands in social situations.
  • Are afraid to set boundaries with our boss/parents/children.
  • We get triggered by certain situations, responses, and criticisms.

Let me bring this around to why you’re probably on this newsletter: making lasting, healthy change that goes so much beyond “just eat less and move more.”

Those things are true, but it’s usually the problem behind the problem that needs to be addressed in order to make meaningful and manageable progress in those areas.

It’s figuring out:

  • Why we can’t build a workout habit?
  • Why we self-sabotage ourselves after a few weeks of progress?
  • Why we can’t get ourselves to stop eating candy when we know we should?

I’ll throw in my weekly recommendation to seek professional help! I do virtual therapy bi-weekly.

Healthy people go to the gym to work on their muscles. Mentally healthy people go to therapy to work on their minds.

Today’s mission:

Grab a flashlight, muster up 20 seconds of courage, and open up Pandora’s Box.

Sit with one of those uncomfortable thoughts you’ve been avoiding. It’s not serving you to stay in the box with them.

If you are up to the task, feel free to hit reply and let me know what you’re letting out of Pandora’s Box. I can’t reply to all emails, but I promise to read them!

I just want you to know that you’re not alone on this journey. There’s a huge group of nerds in this community all going through it, together.



Hi there. I'm Steve.

I founded Nerd Fitness way back in 2009. Wherever you are coming from, I’m glad you are here. Every week, I send out a short email that’s guaranteed to make you live a tiny bit better, think a little deeper, and overcome the obstacles that get in the way.

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