July 24, 2012 by Vicki
Women Who Run With the Wolves is part self-help book, part psychological journey and part literary archaeological expedition. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD uses old fairy tales as guides for how human beings, specifically women, need to live their lives in order to be healthy. Each chapter highlights a particular story, which is included in the text, and then she goes over each section of the story highlighting the rules and lessons that we can learn. I find that this book speaks directly to me and my life experiences. I also can see the traits and characteristics of other women detailed within the text. I have decided to split this review into two parts because Women Who Run with Wolves requires a deeper examination and discussion. In part one of my reviews; I will cover from the Introduction to chapter eight. In part two, which I will post next Tuesday, I will cover from chapter nine to the end of the book.
The Introduction to Women Who Run With the Wolves highlights the thesis of the book and explains Clarissa Pinkola Estes reasons for writing. I recommend reading the Introduction of this book. I, frequently, skip introductions because I want to get into the nitty gritty of the book, but this is one occasion where the Introduction is needed. The Introduction provides definitions and explanation that the book requires for full understanding. It also sets the tone of exploration that you are about to begin.
Within the Introduction, she explains what she refers to as the “Wild Woman”. The “Wild Woman” exists within every woman though society has tried to destroy or capture her. The “Wild Woman” continually seeks to reunite with us and guide us through the traps and wilds of our lives. She represents and offers us our natural selves and our natural lives without constriction, containment, or disguise. She knows who we truly are and loves us for our authentic self. The fairy tales and stories detail different means of accessing our own inner Wild Woman.
One of those means is through psychology, and the collecting of our own dead selves. The idea of “bones” frequently appears in the first half of the book. Those bones represent the aspects of ourselves that we have allowed to die or be thrown away. Society often derides these aspects as inappropriate, evil, childish, and immature. Such bones include the aspiring artist within the business woman. She threw away her writing because everyone told she had to have a “real” job. Such bones also includes women who dress like their mothers because they was never allowed to dress the way they wanted to. The mother forced to send her children to boarding school because she “mothered” them to much; her bones are there too. The woman who hides her bruises with glasses and long-sleeved blouses; her broken bones are there too. Only by gathering our bones can we hope to put ourselves back together again, and sing life back into our lives.
Once we have accomplished the gathering of bones and begin to set ourselves free, however, we still face great danger. Clarissa Pinkola Estes discusses the dangers of being a “feral” woman (230). Once we have broken our cage and step free of our shackles, we still do not have the natural instincts that should have been our birthright. Traps exist everywhere and we do not know how to avoid them. Therefore, we must learn to identify them. Body image can be one of those traps. By trying to fit ourselves into society mould of beautiful; we ignore our own nature and ancestral history. We walk back into our shackles again. Our body’s shape result from our ancestral history which we have the right to be proud of. We need to learn how to accept our bodies and love them.
Our bodies interpret the world around us for us. Shoes are a requirement of modern civilization and yet, shoes block the sensations gathered by our feet. We all know just how sensitive our feet can be. Think of how information we lose by wearing coverings around them. Next time you are outside, take your shoes and socks off and enjoy the feel of grass between your toes. Notice the sensations that you feel. Is the grass dry or wet, sharp or malleable? It is a small example and yet a very powerful one of the confinements that society requires of women.
I honestly feel like I could write a post a week about each chapter in this book. I recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves lost and looking for direction. I recommend this book, also, to those feel a bitter grief and yet, cannot identify the cause. Let the Wild Woman be your guide to find your way and let life sing within you again.