This past spring I was gifted the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by a dear friend. I had heard of this tome over the years but had never made it a priority to read. It seemed to come into my world at just the right time; the way it always seems to happen with great books.
Over the past six months as I read Women Who Run With the Wolves I often found myself mentioning it to women in my world. Surprisingly, most women knew of it and had even read some of it, but only one or two had fully read it. At close to five-hundred pages, with content that dives deep into multiple layers of meaning, it is not what I’d call an “easy read.” Nor should it be.
Women Who Run is written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian psychoanalyst and story teller extraordinaire. It is an exploration of myths and the Wild Woman archetype as they relate to the inner lives of women.
Using stories that have passed down through many cultures over time, Pinkola-Estes walks us through the many ways of interpreting the stories and applying the wisdom conveyed in the tales to our own journeys as women.
What made this book so special was the exploration of soul. The soul of a woman, her psyche, the most essential part of her being is what we are learning about in this book. The part of her that directs her life, that maintains her energy and the way in which she relates to herself and moves through the world. To name this element and honor its mystery, beauty, resiliency and wonder is a true literary feat.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the weaving in of women’s dreams and the importance of the symbolism of those dreams as they relate to women’s psyche’s. Pinkola-Estes offers many examples of the way our dreams offer a compensatory viewpoint to our waking life situation. This is a hallmark of Jungain dreamwork. She uses examples throughout about the types of dream-themes that manifest throughout the lifespan. I, myself, have had many of the dreams she names and I relished seeing myself and my experience as a part of a larger community of women, all sharing a similar struggle.
Tending to the soul-life, developing a healthy animus (the male energy that exists within women), nourishing a creative life, emphasizing the importance of creating opportunities for solitude, recognizing the internal predator, partaking in the Life/Death/Life cycle, and healing the injured instincts in women have all been powerful teachings for me. Some were new ideas, and others were timely reminders.
I can’t say enough positive things about this book. It is been a real inspiration for me and has caused ideas to percolate and excitement about how the inspiration I have drawn from it will continue to unfold.