From Pandora’s Box to the Perception Box in the Human Quest for Mental Wellness


Should we open this box…?




A funny thing happened on psychiatry’s way from Freud to psychopharmacology. Funny because Freud himself thought that psychiatry could—and should—become more biological. He also opened up psychoanalysis to lay learners.

Freud loved Greek myths, especially that of Oedipus. Pandora’s Box is another of those Greek myths. In it, curious Pandora is tricked by the god Zeus to open a container of human miseries, only leaving hope inside. Many of those mental miseries are what psychiatrists have tried to understand and heal. Those miseries seem to be increasing even more during the pandemic years.

In modern times, following and adapting another original Freudian strategy, individuals have tried various self-healing strategies: lucid dreaming instead of dream analysis; ketamine clinics; meditation apps; and TikTok influencers. All seem like searching for the mental health Holy Grail.

Now, we have a new candidate from a surprising source, as described in last Sunday’s New York Times business section: “The Billionaire’s Daughter Knows What You’re Thinking.”1 She is a daughter and heiress of the conservative multi-billionaire Charles Koch, and is described as being in sort of a Campbellian heroic journey of personal healing.

In 2021, according to the report, she started Unlikely Collaborations after years of using formal and informal interventions for her own depression, obsessiveness, and an eating disorder. The key metaphor is what she trademarked at that time, called the invisible Perception Box. In it are all the personal historical remnants of the unresolved, unconscious internal conflicts that result in external conflict, messiness, miscommunication, and projections onto others—like I talked about in terms of hate in Monday’s column.

The intent is to open the box by using eastern and western thought sources to provide “provocative experiences that help you face who you think you are.” She also hopes to develop a curriculum for a Moral Courage College in order to let out and “lower their emotional defenses so that contentious issues can be turned into constructive conversations.”

The plan and view are long term and global. Will people trust her family background and disposable wealth? Should we in psychiatry try to join her in collaboration on this quest, or just wait to see what happens? Is this just a trendy new product that we often see in psychiatry? We know, as did the Beatles, that money can’t buy love, but can it buy a pathway for mental healing? Let’s see.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Barnes B. The billionaire’s daughter knows what you’re thinking. The New York Times. February 23, 2023. Accessed March 3, 2023.

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