Narrative Medicine and the Wild Woman Archetype

This month, I am focusing my creative energy on writing, exploring the connections between how I journal and tell my stories and the Wild Woman within me.  Last summer I bought the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I read the beginning and it fed my soul in new ways, I recall reading from it on social media. Unfortunately, it got misplaced behind other books while dove deeper into my skills labs. My friend recently played Dr. Estés reading  a story from the book: La Loba. It was so beautiful and I went home searching the house for it everywhere. When my hands finally touched it,  I decided it won’t be leaving my side for the rest of the month.

It is anchoring me to the book that’s inside of me, yearning to spill onto a page, and it is sparking in me this desire to share the importance of narrative medicine.

So this week, I want to discuss the nature of how we are being in our stories. She says:

To further our kinship with the instinctual nature, it assists greatly if we understand stories as though we are inside them, rather than as though they are outside of us. We enter into a story through the door of inner hearing. The spoken story touches the auditory nerve, which runs across the floor of the skull into brainstem just below the pons. There, auditory impulses are relayed upward to the consciousness or else, it is said, to the soul… depending on the attitude with which one listens.

Ancient Dissectionists spoke of the auditory nerve being divided into three of more pathways deep in the brain. They surmised that the ear was meant, therefore, to hear at all three different levels. One pathway is said to hear the mundane conversations of the world. A second pathway apprehended learning and art. And the third pathway existed so the soul itself might hear might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.

Listen then with the soul-hearing now, for that is the mission of the story. 

It is worth my sharing of this entire passage, because I believe she asking us to explore story on two levels. Where are we in relationship with the story and how can we understand the ways our body can hear the story?

As I reflect on what I have journaled and think about what I will write in the future, I gain the following perspective: I am not only the story teller but I am also there to witness my own story. And the way I do that will have an impact on my path.

I am given freedom, permission, connection to the Wild Woman to write out from another part of myself. The way I hear my own story from my soul or just merely as a conversation I had with myself as a woman in pain, as a confused woman.  How profound a difference might this make? It changes the outcome of understanding my health history and the the lessons I learn in order to change and grow in strength. In order to feel my way into my feminine and embrace the woman I am instead of letting the voice get lost in a sea of mundane? Instead of letting myself get swallowed up into how hard the journey was/is, I can let it led me to my strength.

She continues to tell us how this listening from the soul is a connection to the Wild Woman, a gateway:

Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered, Wild Woman comes back. She comes back through story.

I am reminded of the way I tried to write my story out for doctors I was seeking treatment and help. It was chronology based, this doctor said this, I said that… parts are missing, our perception of real events changes and is altered over time.  I compare this to my journal entries written in real time, the presence of them, filled with more fire, filled with more grace, filled with more suffering. This contrast is very useful as I set out to develop an outline for my book.

These entries are the seat of the soul, where sometimes I am reflecting on something from childhood or a journey home, those events half understood and half remembered, when surrounded with the present moment in my journal, have much more context and so many more pieces of a feminine and honest me than the ones I wrote to bring into yet another doctor. In that monologue, I am desperately trying to get every detail out correctly, to not miss a thing, to present myself as not crazy, to validate my abdominal pain instead of just accepting it, being mad at it, or letting it exist just because it does.  Instead of allowing them to dismiss it, which I always feared.

No, in my journal, no one  dismisses the pain (and therefore me), and when I listen to these pieces from my soul, I see how I started to become whole again, and I see that young girl scared and trapped inside me begin to bloom and come out and join me.  And I understand why.  So, tell me, where is your Wild Woman?

Where does it take you? How do you reflect on your writing and your own story when you imagine that you are writing for the soul? For the connection to the Wild Woman?

 

From the jacket:

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. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, 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. Estés 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.

Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Rider, 1998.

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