Book Review: Women Who Run With the Wolves

Grief is not reserved for death. Sometimes we grieve for the loss of our true nature; sometimes we fight to get it back. And it’s never too late to get it back. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a handbook for women’s lives. In fact, it is so dense I have yet to read the entire book (and I am a good reader). I don’t think it’s meant to be read cover to cover. Instead it should be consulted when we reach a new phase in our lives, like a trusted mentor.

A wild woman is one who lives in a way that honors her “wildish nature." Everyone has a wildish nature hidden under the rules of society. Although this book is written for those who identify as women, it provides priceless observations of human nature through exploration of ancient stories and the lens of Pinkola Estés’s practice as a Jungian analyst. It would be amazing for men to explore the book for the purpose of gaining insight into the women in their lives. It would also be amazing if we all explored our wildish nature and started to build a culture that supports it. Indeed, some people are working on that as we speak.

Creativity is the thing we have to do; it is the thing that nags at us if we ignore it.

One of the ways we obscure our wildish nature is to deny our creative impulses. When this book first found its way into my life, I quickly flipped to the chapter on “Nourishing the Creative Life.” I was making the transition into my expression of creativity through songwriting and the words seemed as if they were written for me. Creativity is the thing we have to do. It is the thing that nags at us if we ignore it. For me, that thing started as singing and found its way to songwriting. Pinkola Estés defines creativity as a “shapechanger” that is “the love of something, having so much love for something — whether a person, a word, and image, an idea, the land, or humanity — that all that can be done with the overflow is to create.”

Sometimes people get scared of the word “creativity.” I’ve heard countless people say “I’m not creative.” But if you are human, you are creative. You are creative when you shape your day so that you can wake up on time for work. You are creative when you cook dinner. If you are a parent, you would not survive without creativity. Creativity is related to art, but not confined by it. Then there is the ultimate creative part of people that is often called “life purpose.” If this piece is neglected, it will continue to get louder and louder until you get sick or you listen.

Pinkola Estés explains that sometimes women will “[sneak] a life because the real one is not given room enough to thrive….”

“Captured and starved women sneak all kinds of things: they sneak unsanctioned books and music, they sneak friendships, sexual feeling, religious affiliation. They sneak furtive thinking, dreams of revolution. They sneak time away from their mates and families. They sneak a treasure into the house. They sneak their writing time, their thinking time, their soul-time. They sneak a spirit into the bedroom, a poem before work, they sneak a skip or an an embrace when no one’s looking.” - Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I have been known to sneak things because I was trying to play a part in the “real world” that did not align with my life purpose. I was sneaking my spirituality with a partner who put up a brick wall to the discussion of possibilities. I was sneaking my singing time in the shower and at karaoke bars. I was sneaking my songwriting in journals. I didn’t even know they were songs.

In my estimation, a “captured and starved” woman is one who has not yet gathered the courage to stand up and fight for the expression of her true self. Many men are “captured and starved” too — by jobs, relationship norms, gender role expectations, and other traps. Sometimes it is simply that we never learned how to let our true nature shine through. There was no road map. In fact, the maps pointed us in the wrong direction. Sometimes even if an opportunity to shine presents itself, we turn the other way because the unknown territory is just too scary.

It’s scary because we want it so badly.

When I decided to break trail into the unknown territory of singing and songwriting, I did it a little bit at a time. At first I was adamant that it was “just for fun.” Then I left my job in child protection work to free up the emotional space to dedicate my evenings to songwriting. Then I left the 9 to 5 so I would have even more time for it. I had no idea that when I opened up that craigslist ad seeking a vocalist, I would be going down the path I was meant to travel all along. One step got me hooked and suddenly there was no other choice but to free my “wild woman.”

If you find yourself sneaking, it may be time to #IgnoretheRules and bring just a tiny part of you out into the open. What does your sneak look like?

Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.

Dare to be immortal.


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