Women Who Run With the Wolves Book Club: Chapter 8

I meant to write this on Monday but misplaced my book.  Naturally, I put it in a safe place that I thereby forgot until today.  I think Momnesia is settling in.


In this chapter, Estes goes into detail about traps – how to identify them, where they come from, and how to protect/heal ourselves from them.  This chapter is full of treasures in which I will only discuss a few things that particularly stuck out to me.  It goes without saying that to fully appreciate what Clarissa has written would take a million blog posts. (I guess that’s why we read these types of books, right?)


“If a woman attempts to be a part of an organization, association, or family that neglects to peer into her to see what she is made of, one that fails to ask “what makes this person run?” and one that does not put forth effort to challenge or encourage her in any positive manner…then her ability to thrive and create is diminished.” (p. 244)

In many cases, it’s easier to accept a person’s surface-level characteristics.  It takes work to fully comb out the nuances of a individual’s character, habits, etc.  There is danger in this.  I have been in many places in life in which it was easier to put up a façade of confidence and fulfillment when deep down my psyche was yearning for more.  So much more.  But, as is often inherent in these types of environments, I was forced to hide that part of myself.

“A woman who is starved for her real soul-life may look ‘cleaned up and combed’ on the outside, but on the inside she is filled with dozens of pleading hands and empty mouths.”  (p. 246)

As easy as it is for an organization or particular set of people (i.e. in a church setting) to glance over a person, it is also easy for a woman to keep up appearances by showing forth what she feels society wants from her.  This falsehood she perpetuates is dangerous.  One can feel empty inside for only so long before she seeks for something – anything – to fill her up.

“Overkill through excesses, or excessive behaviors, is acted out by women who are famished for a life that has meaning and makes sense for them.”

I recall when I was in a dark place and how, rather than addressing the real issue (my starved soul) I found solace in (over) exercising, counting calories and, therefore, under eating, and the internet.  I could spend hours poring over blogs and other websites in attempt to forget the monstrous pain that dwelled inside.

“The instinct-injured woman usually gives herself away because she has a difficult time asking for help or recognizing her own needs.” (p. 251)

When I read this sentence, I buried my face in a pillow and simultaneously laughed and cried myself into a silly stupor.  Before this last year, my poor husband would often ask what I needed and I, I just didn’t know.  It’s awful to not know what you need or be able to ask for help.

“Sneaking a counterfeit soul-life never works…It’s better to get up, stand up, no matter how homemade your platform, and live the most you can, the best you can, and forgo the sneaking of counterfeits.”  (p. 256)

I am still learning how to live an authentic life.  With the pressure I face in society to conform, I struggle with allowing my inner voice to sing.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Were there traps, or one trap, that stood out to you?
  • Have you found yourself in engaging in excessive behaviours as you’ve come to know Wild Woman?  How have you stopped this process?  (If you are still working through it, how are you doing so?)

How We are Trapped

“And in this light, it must be asked at each level how it came to be that any individual woman feels she has to cringe, flinch, grovel, and plead for a life that is her own to begin with.  What is in any culture that demands such?”

I am in the process of evaluating the culture I grew up in to examine the layers that produced the intense conformity that exists.  It’s not easy to look at something I loved so much for what it truly is; at the same time, it’s refreshing to recognize that I wasn’t broken, something within my culture is.

Discussion Questions:

  • Has society contributed to your traps?  If so, how?
  • Do you feel that certain religious cultures are more demanding and, therefore, entrapping of its members than other religious cultures?  How about cultures within a country?  Or countries in general?

Healing from and Avoiding Traps

“Regaining lost instinct and healing injured instinct is truly within one’s reach, for it returns when a woman pays close attention through listening, looking, and sensing the world around herself, and then by acting as she sees others act; efficiently, effectively, and soulfully.

“If our own wild natures have been wounded by something or someone, we refuse to lie down and die.” (p. 273)

The symbolism of not laying down and dying reminds me of a parenting method I employ.  When my kids fall or get hurt in some way or another while doing an activity they enjoy, I don’t coddle them and tell them to stop the activity, I provide comfort and encourage them to try again.  Healing is important; and so is getting up.

“One of the most important things we can do is to understand life, all life, as a living body in itself, one that has respiration, new cell turnover, sloughing off, and waste material.

“It is just as fatuous to think that once we solve an issue it stays solved, that once we learn, we always remain conscious ever after.  No, life is a great body that grows and diminishes in different areas, at different rates.  When we are like the body, doing the work of new growth, wading through la mierda, the shit, just breathing or resting, we are very alive. we are within the cycles of the Wild Woman.  If we could realize that the work is to keep doing the work, we would be much more fierce and much more peaceful.” (p. 274)

I think that this idea is exhausting and empowering.  Again, it parallels how I see parenting: while I would like my kids to learn their lessons the first time, to not hit their sibling again, I know I will need to teach them over and over again.  It’s exhausting and sometimes frustrating, but to raise mindful children takes love, dedication, and a lot of repetition.

Discussion Questions:

  • If you are a parent, did you also find many of Estes’ ideas in this chapter mirror your parenting?
  • Are you healing or have you healed from traps?  What has kept you going?


Filed under Book Club

3 responses to “Women Who Run With the Wolves Book Club: Chapter 8

  1. So many things to say! This chapter was probably my all-time favorite, next to the last one that goes through the entire process of initiation. I’m going to have to write down my thoughts on this and get back to you. Also, please remind me if I haven’t posted by tomorrow, okay? I really want to share, but I’m stretching myself a bit thin today. Gotta give myself some time.

  2. Janae

    Ones culture I’ve decided is so different within each family. For existence if your talking about the mormon experience I’ve found it varies a ton from family to family. The LDS culture I was raised in is so different from many of my mormon peers. For example the idea of never drinking coke because it was coke was never an issue in my family. It’s been weird lately to hear of other mormons talking about never being allowed to drink coke that it was taboo, etc. Maybe it was because my dad was and is very liberal/democrat so I was raised in my opinion in a very “stable” mormon household. My mom the republican/conservative and my dad the Liberal found an amazing middle ground and I never felt restricted or looked down upon as a mormon women. My dad taught his girls to be independant, to get their education, to never rely on a man , to wait to get married, to use their brains and know they were more then reproductive cooking machines. I give my dad alot of credit for raising 4 independant strong women. Hmm I guess I believe parents have a TON of influence on how their children relate with the world?!

  3. I loved how she kept coming back to Janis Joplin in this chapter. The real life example gave me another level of understanding. It also made me think seriously about addictions and healing from them.

    It’s easy to say,”Don’t do drugs, then you won’t get addicted.” But the problem with that is that the root of addiction is not the substance or the behavior that we are struggling with. It’s much deeper than that. If we ever hope to end the drug problem in our country, we have to look not at laws that restrict/ban drug use, but the reasons people start using to begin with.

    “It is a famine of the soul that makes a woman choose things that will cause her to dance madly out of control…” (page 236).

    Our Wild Woman instincts can tell us when we are going too far, but if we live in a culture (society, family, church) that teaches us to mistrust our instincts, there is nothing there to protect us from falling into addictions.

    “…the loss or deadening of instinct is often entirely supported by the surrounding culture, and sometimes even by other women who endure the loss of instinct as a way of achieving belonging in a culture that keeps no nourishing habitat for the natural woman.” (page 269)

    So what can we do when we are already trapped by addictions?

    We have to keep trying. There will be ups and downs, two steps forward and one step back. Early in life, I fell into the trap of thinking that I could fix it once and it should stay fixed. Repent and sin no more. I took it very literally. I also was taught (whether or not it is really doctrine) that if you repented and then did it again, that the repentance was negated, and now you had to repent for both times, or 4 times, or 25 times that you messed up. That is just completely overwhelming and leads to more escapist behavior.

    “To aright all this, we resurrect the wild nature, over and over again, each time the balance tips too far in one direction of another.” (page 274)

    “If we could realize that the work is to keep doing the work, we would be much more fierce and much more peaceful.” (page 274)

    I’m learning, slowly. And I don’t always see the changes right away. And sometimes the things I have fought so long to achieve, just seem to fall into place one day. I had that experience this week as I found myself replacing a dangerous habit with something less harmful. I had been trying to do that for years and it hadn’t worked, but now I am ready for it.

    The other important element of healing is that we have to give up trying to struggle all by ourselves.

    “It is deadly to be without a confidante, without a guide, without even a tiny cheering section.” (page 257)

    I loved the quote from Charles Simic, “He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.” I am learning how to howl and I am finding my pack.