Women Who Run With the Wolves

I've been slowly but surely making my way through an incredible book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. I'd especially recommend it to female-identified people, but really I'd recommend it to anyone. It is basically a collection of myths that are analyzed by a Jungian psychologist (Estes); each story is presented and an intensive case study follows. I've found that I read a story and then let it sort of marinate, then come back to the book later for another story. Each story contains a lot of info. to digest, so taking it in little-by-little helps give you time to do the  mental/emotional/spiritual work to really make it worthwhile. 

Here's a passage that I read recently that I have been sitting with: 

Exile as Boon
If you have attempted to fit whatever mold and failed to do so, you are probably lucky. You may be an exile of some sort, but you have sheltered your soul. There is an odd phenomenon that occurs when one keeps trying to fit and fails. Even though the outcast is driven away, she is at the same time driven right into the arms of her psychic and true kin, whether these be a course of study, an art form, or a group of people. It is worse to stay where one does not belong at all than to wander about lost for awhile and looking for the psychic and soulful kinship one requires. It is never a mistake to search for what one requires. Never. 

There is something useful in all this torque and tension. Something in the duckling is being tempered, being made strong by this exile. While this situation is not one we would wish on anyone for any reason, its effect is similar to pure natural carbon under pressure producing diamonds--it leads eventually to a profound magnitude and clarity of psyche. 

There is an aspect of alchemy, wherein the base substance of lead is pounded about and beaten down. While exile is not a thing to desire for the fun of it, there is an unexpected gain from it; the gifts of exile are many. It takes out weakness by the pounding. It removes whininess, enables acute insight, heightens intuition, grants the power of keen observation and perspective that the "insider" can never achieve. 

Even though there are negative aspects to it, the wild psyche can endure exile. It makes us yearn that much more to free our own true nature and causes us to long for a culture to match. Even this yearning, this longing makes a person go on. It makes a woman go on looking, and if she cannot find the culture that encourages her, then she usually decides to construct it herself. And that is good, for if she builds it, others who have been looking for a long time will mysteriously arrive one day enthusiastically proclaiming that they have been looking for this all along (198-199).