Tag Archives: Homer and Greek mythology

Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis (part 2 of 2)

The idiom “between Scylla and Charybdis” has come to mean being forced to choose between two equally dangerous situations. In Greek mythology, Scylla was a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water, opposite her counterpart Charybdis. The two sides of the strait were within an arrow’s range of each other—so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis would pass too close to Scylla and vice versa. For the purposes of bipolar disorder interpretations, Scylla has an acidic, raging, violent fury about her, akin to the worst of mania. In contrast, Charybdis, was simply a large whirlpool. Downward Spiral, end stop. No recourse. In bipolar disorder our choice is not simply between avoiding one monster or the other. It is between becoming one monster or the other. Between the two, is it any wonder that Odysseus chose mania over depression?

Between the devil and the deep blue sea [reissued post, with musical afterword]

Odysseus had to navigate between the two destructive forces — a ferocious six-headed sea monster and a downward spiraling maelstrom. If you read the Odyssey and work through the analogy there are similarities to navigating between mania and depression. [This is a reissued version of my first post. A reader referred me to a George Harrison song, which I felt was a useful addition and so added it to the end.]

Between Scylla and Charybdis – Part 1. The Odyssey, by Homer

“Come then, goddess, answer me truthfully this:
is there some way for me to escape away from deadly Charybdis,
but yet fight the other one off, when she attacks my companions?”

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