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Women Who Run with the Wolves (Estes)

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 1992
Random House
608 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345409874


Summary
Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species.

For though the gifts of wildish nature belong to us at birth, society's attempt to "civilize" us into rigid roles has muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr. Estes unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, and stories, many from her own family, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature.

Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine. Dr. Estes has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth— January 27, 1945 
Where—near the Great Lakes, USA 
Education—Ph.D., Union Institute and University 
Currently—lives in Colorado, USA


Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. is an American poet, psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist who was raised in a now nearly vanished oral and ethnic tradition. She grew up in a rural village, population 600, near the Great Lakes. Of Mexican mestiza and Magyar heritages, she comes from immigrant and refugee families who could not read or write, or who did so haltingly.

Similar to William Carlos Williams and other poets who worked in the health professions, Estes is a certified psychoanalyst who has practiced clinically for 37 years. Her doctorate, from the Union Institute & University, is in ethno-clinical psychology, the study of social and psychological patterns in cultural and tribal groups. She often speaks as "distinguished visiting scholar" and "diversity scholar" at universities. She is the author of many books on the life of the soul, and her work is published in 32 languages.

She is controversial for proposing that both assimilation and holding to ethnic traditions are the ways to contribute to creative culture and to a soul-based civility. She successfully helped to petition the Library of Congress, as well as worldwide psychoanalytic institutes, to rename their studies and categorizations formerly called, among other things, "psychology of the primitives," to respectful and descriptive names, according to ethnic group, religion, culture, etc.

As post-trauma specialist, she began her work in the 1960s at hospitals caring for severely injured children, 'shell-shocked' war veterans, and their families. Her teaching of writing in prisons began in the early 1970s at the Men's Penitentiary in Colorado; the Federal Women's Prison at Dublin, CA, and in prisons throughout the Southwest. She ministers in the fields of childbearing loss, surviving families of murder victims, as well as critical incident work. She served at natural disaster sites, developing post-trauma recovery protocol for earthquake survivors in Armenia, and teaching citizens deputized to do post-trauma work on site. She recently served Columbine High School and community after the massacre, 1999-2003. She works with 9-11 survivor families on both east and west coasts.

Estes served as Governor's appointee to the Colorado State Grievance Board 1993-2006. She currently is a board member of Authors Guild, New York; an advisory board member for The National Writers Union, N.Y.; an advisory board member of The Coalition Against Censorship, NY; and as a board member of the Maya Angelou Minority Health Foundation at Wake Forest Medical School. She is an advisor to El Museo de las Americas, Colorado; a contributing editor to The Bloomsbury Review; and a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Estes, a former hard-scrabble welfare mother, is the recipient of numerous awards including the first Joseph Campbell Keeper of the Lore Award for her work as la cantadora; and for her written work, the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis; and The Catholic Press Association award for her writing. She received the Las Primeras Award, "the first of her kind" from the Mexican American Women's foundation, Washington D.C. She is a 2006 inductee to the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. (From Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
Updated with new material by the author, Women Who Run With the Wolves isn't just another book. It is a gift of profound insight, wisdom, and love. An oracle from one who knows.
Alice Walker

Stands out from the pack.... A joy and sparkle in [the] prose.... This book will become a bible for women interested in doing deep work.... It is a road map of all the pitfalls, those familiar and those horrifically unexpected, that a woman encounters on the way back to her instinctual self. Wolves.... is a gift.
Los Angeles Times


Folklore, fairy tales and dream symbols are called on to help restore women's neglected intuitive and instinctive abilities in this earthy first book by a Jungian analyst. According to Estes, wolves and women share a psychic bond in their fierceness, grace and devotion to mate and community. This comparison defines the archetype of the Wild Woman, a female in touch with her primitive side and able to rely on gut feelings to make choices. The tales here, from various cultures, are not necessarily about wolves; instead, they illuminate fresh perspectives on relationships, self-image, even addiction. An African tale of twins who baffle a man represents the dual nature of woman; from the Middle East, a story about a threadbare but secretly magic carpet shows society's failure to look beyond appearances. Three brief, ribald stories advocate a playful, open sexuality; other examples suggest ways to deal with anger and jealousy. At times, Estes's commentary—in which she urges readers to draw upon and enjoy their Wild Woman aspects—is hyperbolic, but overall her widely researched study offers usable advice for modern women.
Publishers Weekly


A feminist counterpart to Iron John—or, how "a healthy woman is much like a wolf.'' Estes, a Jungian analyst, believes that a woman's wholeness depends on her returning to the sources of her repressed instinctual nature. To illustrate the ways of the "wild woman,'' the author draws on myths, legends, and fairy tales from a vast and eclectic range of traditions. This collection of stories may well be the most valuable element of the book, which otherwise reads like unedited transcripts of the workshops Estes leads to encourage women to return to their "feral'' roots. Each story demonstrates a particular aspect of woman's experience—relationship, creativity, anger, spirituality, etc. Estes finds evidence in the most diverse tales of the necessity for women to reclaim their wildness. The precise nature of this wildness is difficult to fathom, but, at best, it seems to include a genuine capacity to access feelings and to accept one's contradictions, while, at worst, it appears to amount to the kind of self-indulgence that prevailed during the "me'' generation. Estes claims that her book is for every woman, whether you be spicy or somber, regal or roughshod''; but her underlying assumption that every woman is free to abandon what holds her back seems ignorant of social and economic realities. The author provides few concrete examples that might help women understand what she expects them to do, and her prose abounds in generalizations and oddities ("the ambitious woman...who is heartfelt toward her accomplishments'') that further undermine her credibility and her considerable scholarship. Hortatory, ecstatic, and, ultimately, irritating.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Women Who Run with the Wolves:

• As you read, think about which particular folktale resonates with you. During the meeting, each member can discuss the one that has the most personal significance.

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