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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?