Before you read: Please note - I am NOT an ancient history academic and whilst I enjoy reading some this is really intended to be a quick toe-dip into one story with a look at what lessons I have interpreted from it. Please feel free to comment, with respect. x
In this myth Orestes' father is killed by his mother. In vengeance, and to protect his family name (and to hide his shame) he feels it is his obligation to kill his mother. He tries to justify this (to the gods) by blaming others and claiming he had 'no choice' (he is not responsible). He is punished by the gods by being condemned to roam the earth and haunted by 'The Furies' - spirit voices that plague him with condemnation, increasing his guilt and suffering.
Several years pass and finally Orestes seeks refuge a sanctuary, where the gods allow the voices to sleep, temporarily, allowing Orestes to reach his goal - redemption in Athens. The Furies wake and catch up to him there. He asks the gods for forgiveness and takes responsibility for his actions. The gods answer his pleas and change the nature of the voices into benevolent spirits, that now support Orestes.They are his positive lessons that empower him. Their name is changed to the Eumenides, or "kindly ones," to symbolize their new character. For the rest of his life these spirits encourage and guide him.
This is a story of what can happen when we indulge vengeance, shame, obligation, and guilt and when we do not own our action. We suffer our internal voices and 'karma'. This can be addressed in many ways and one such was is to seek refuge and sanctuary (to allow us to see a way forward). When we have a clearer mind we can take positive action, which could include asking for help, forgiveness or taking the time to forgive ourselves. It is a journey of discovery that we can learn from.
As much as we are responsible for ourselves we also need each other and ultimately we may not have control of everything that is thrown our way, but we can strive to find the right actions for this time, place - to address our emotion and ourneeds and learn the lessons of the past.
I found the story useful in realising that all the mistakes we have made, problems we have or struggles that I face are essentially 'useful' and can become my greatest assets, if I can take ownership of them, work with them and seek the help I need, connecting with myself, with others and with something greater than myself alone. So many times I have seen people with great struggles, shame or mistakes go on to accept and forgive themselves and become strong once again. It is almost as if the bigger the mistake or shame the bigger the opportunity for growth - perhaps even a super power. My own struggles with shame, around my body, my ability to dance, the lies I've told in the past and the failings within my professional and personal life have all become part of my strengths, and continue to be. I believe this can be true for anyone.
I love words and there is an interesting tangent on this article, thanks to Etymology. Our words have deeper meaning than we give them credit. In this case the word 'Euphemism' comes from the Greek word εὐφημία (euphemia), meaning "the use of words of good omen". Etymologically, the 'eupheme' is the opposite of the 'blaspheme' "evil-speaking." The term euphemism itself was used as a euphemism by the ancient Greeks, meaning "to keep a holy silence" (speaking well by not speaking at all). Or as Don Miguel Ruiz said, in one of his 'Four Agreements': "Be Impeccable With Your Word."
Perhaps it is useful to remember that we can choose the words we say to ourselves and others. They can even be humorous, as many of today's Euphemisms are. Euphaisms can be a way to soften words and be kind, but it is a slippery slope towards dishonesty and ignorance. Life is a constantly moving adventure, which is why a Euphemism can be both damaging or beautiful, depending on the context. See the examples below.
Neil Morbey is a meditation teacher, group facilitator and inspiration guide for Positively-Mindful.com