This is an Ode. Ode to the wild ones, the cartographers, way-finders, intuitives, adventurers, the “too much”, the shiny ones. You know who you are. The ones that are doing the work of re-wilding – reconnecting to instinct, inner world, and authenticity, doing the lonely, burdensome work of being ‘not normal’. Re-wilding requires courage – to listen deeply, to reclaim pieces of yourself and integrate, to leave the known and familiar, to tend to the heart. Refusing the “Why be happy, when you can be normal”?, because, really, Who wants to be normal?
I see you.
Our Wild Woman Project Circle theme for April 2019’s new moon was Re-wilding, essentially learning to listen inward to find the real you. When one decides to do this inner work of re-wilding, a path forged from a sense of not belonging, it involves shunning or splintering off parts of self and our gifts that don’t fit into our overculture’s (insert: “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, bell hooks) definition of “normal” or “valuable”. To resist vulnerability and obtain the security of false acceptance by a dangerous system bent on dominion, separation, and estrangement, we self-harm, become ill, or rebel.
From Toko-Pa Turner’s Belonging “Those qualities and abilities that are banned from inclusion in our families, churches, schools, and other social milieus don’t cease to exist because we ignore them. Rather they tend to turn on their keepers, like the bids for acknowledgment they are, taking the form of depression or illness anger or rebellion” 1
“In an attempt to safeguard ourselves against vulnerability, we send our gifts underground. Later in life this separation manifests in crisis or through lethargy and depression. A spiritual or creative depression can develop from the prolonged silencing of one’s gifts. The self-imposed exile may once have protected us, but now the energy it takes to keep quiet drains us”1
Clarissa Pinkola Estés explores this issue of lack of meaning and disconnection from inner life for women in particular:
“Most of a woman’s depression, ennuis, and wandering confusions are caused by a severely restricted soul-life in which innovation, impulse, and creation are restricted or forbidden. Women received enormous impulse to act from the creative force. We cannot overlook the fact that there is still much thieving and hamstringing of women’s talents through cultural restrictions and punishment of her natural and wildish instincts.”2
Further: “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. When a woman has gone without her cycles or creative needs for long periods of time, she begins a rampage of – you name it- alcohol, drugs, anger, spirituality, oppression of others, promiscuity, pregnancy, study, creation, control, education, orderliness, body fitness, junk food, to name a few areas of common excess. When women do this, they are compensating for the loss of regular cycles of self-expression, soul-expression, soul-satiation…..” 2
Brene Brown alludes to the harm of dismissed creativity and soul voice with her phrase: “when I say that unused creativity is not benign, I mean that it metastasizes into resentment, grief, heartbreak. People sit on that creativity or deny it and it festers.” 3
Lucy H Pearce explores how the splintering of self for cultural specifications and gender bias may be the source of bigger disease patterns, such as the rise of autoimmune disorders among women. For example: “Despite the rising rates of autoimmune diseases, depression and anxiety in women, Western medicine is not focused on what it is about women’s lives and the cultural environment that makes us sick. And it’s not really looking into why modern medication doesn’t help us to heal. Instead it’s blaming the women who are sick for being sick in the first place. Or not believing that they even are” 4
Addictions, self-harming, depression, anxiety, all from loss of the connection to the Self. Although many of the quotes above relate to women, with rising rates of suicide and toxic masculinity, men as a group aren’t doing well either. Taming Self to fit some culturally-imposed narrative causes individual AND collective trauma, for men, women, and all genders. Muzzling, even killing off, inherent parts of self are not without consequence. We are dis-eased and wounded by the weight of unlived lives and the loss of pieces of Self. We turn this harm on one another, collectively through un-belonging and othering. Cutting ourselves off from our own needs as well as each other are spiritual, psychic wounds.
Finding our way out of this mess would be nothing short of heroic. Indeed, the search for authenticity and depth of being is the path of the creative, mystic, and medicine maker. Something happened that caused you to wake up to the incongruity and abrasiveness of your circumstances – an illness, loss, or a break of some kind, providing a threshold to cross into a new way of Being, to shed the dross of restrictive culture, to become Whole. You are called to go into that unknown, liminal space to heal and reclaim some essence of you.
“…sooner or later, no matter how cleverly we try to hide ourselves, to turn away from the truth, we are called to change. To wake up, and to see, and so to take responsibility. To reclaim our power, and to participate in the remaking of the world. Joseph Campbell named it the ‘Call to Adventure’ – but it should be so much more than merely an adventure. It is a ‘Call to Life’ – a full, authentic life. It is a Call to rise from the half-sleep of our existence, and to take up our part in the great unfolding of the world….We must answer the Call, or forever be lost to the Wasteland”5
There are words for this….for our seeking, soul-need, our desire for meaning-making, and our way out of domestication and loss. A call to adventure and life. The Hero/ine’s Journey.
This journey, by choice or by exile, involves leaving the Wasteland (discussed by TS Elliot, Joseph Campbell, Sharon Blackie, and others), or “a land where people are living inauthentic lives”6, moving the traveler from the toxic Familiar into the unknown, Otherworld, transitional, gestational.
“They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them and into the dark forest, into the world of fire of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a while new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience – that is the hero’s deed”6
This journey requires community. The Hero/ine does not do the hard labor of rewilding the Self for the self alone. They are meant to bring back revelations to their community for collective use and healing. With increased self-awareness and self-acceptance, we increase our tolerance for diversity, inclusion, ambiguity, both/and type thinking, dismantling cultural parameters of “should”s . The hero/ine shows up and is received in their authenticity, freeing others to tend their wounds and step into their own fullness of Being.
“There is a wild woman under our skin who wants nothing more than to dance until her feet are sore, sing her beautiful grief into the rafters, and offer the bottomless cup of her creativity as a way of life. And if you are able to sing from the very wound that you’ve worked so hard to hide, not only will it give meaning to your own story, but it becomes a corroborative voice for others with similar wounding” 1
“Authenticity is a form of service” (-Danielle LaPorte)
The path is not without challenges: Unpaid, unglorifed labor of daily acts of wholenss. Solitary, purgatorial, and uncharted. Losing those that cannot relate or are unable to see the Whole You. Discerning - is it Your inner voice or the Culture’s voice that you hear when listening deeply? Unknown timelimes (how long does it take to undo cultural expectations and learn your voice?) and understanding that this journey is repeated, indefinitely as you way-find, because are we ever really done?
By doing this inner Work for outer manifestation, we are antiphons to each other’s hearts, lights on the path of reclamation, and refuge of understanding. We are walking and singing each other home. We are navigating and holding capacity for the paradox of inner work for outer good, traveling with great purpose but uncertain destination (coddiwomple), being separate yet integral to community. Both/and. Whole. Wild. For the long-haul.
Our wake up calls and thresholds, our inner worlds and soul-level needs, our paths of discovery, and our redemption and purpose of return will all differ, and thankfully so. I share pieces of myself here not to provide “should” or the “right way” but for perspective and connection, yet I remain vague so not to influence your own reflection.
“I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life” (-Virginia Woolf)
My heroine’s journey to the Self is unfolding, hazy, and quixotic in every sense. Regardless of the barriers, I am machete-ing this path which contains themes of re-visioned love and relationship ethics including gender dynamics, a reconnection and belonging to “other” including nature, fiercely listening to and valuing my intuition, reclaiming the authority of knowing and being enough, boundary negotiating and mapping….Topics that keep me up at night, marching loud and unapologetically through my writing. Topics that will never have a solid answer but the goal of the quest isn’t solidity, but openness and creative adaptability. This path of love, adventure, and belonging will, with luck, be full of missteps (learning opportunities) while facilitating community by validating beings on their own journey Home.
Daily I continue to chain the depths of my gratitude for knowing others on their own bold journeys of reconstituting Self and working toward some vision of collective healing, in particular our circle of women that meet once a month, the Resiliency Institute, Free Forest School, friends and work associates, and students of mine. All deliciously wonderful, perfectly imperfect, and doing their Work. Hands at your back, wild ones, and I feel yours at mine.
“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” (-Danielle LaPorte) ……Can you?
Questions for the reader:
- How are you being called to step outside conformity and into authenticity?
- Can you sense into how practicing authenticity is beyond superficial individualism and can allow for community healing , integration of new ways of being, new relationships, new paths and maps of possibilities?
- Does your hero journey involve the earth at all? Reinstating or recreating relationship?
- How does privilege limit you or benefit you on your own hero’s journey or path to Self? What barriers are removed or remain firmly placed based on your social standing? Is it classist to assume that those with these means cannot “afford” to pursue their own path? (maybe the fact that the typical model of success per capitalist, white, patriarchal norms has failed many individuals suggests a deep need for new normatives and models and heroism)
o How is the hero journey related to gender norms? Who can better access their inner voice and awareness of their wants/needs/desires? Recognizing barriers can help us move them.
- Women are socialized to put their needs and wants secondary to Other, to serve instead of be seen. So do women, in general, have a more challenging time accessing the right to a journey to selfhood and self-actualization, particulary when roles such as parenting and caregiving are undervalued, underpaid, and gender-biased?
- Conversely, do men struggle with the hero’s journey? Mythologically, the hero is typically male (or those are the stories that dominate the narrative). However, journey to the self and to wholeness involves connection to interiority and feeling, which men have been conditioned to ignore. Self work is not monetized or glorified in capitalist/production-oriented type way, so the challenge to men here is the unlearning of culturally imposed thought forms that feelings are not important, should be stuffed down.silenced.ignored
- What about people outside the gender binary? Do they have an easier time navigating Hero/ine journeys secondary to their selves as already occupying non-traditional identity spaces?
- The hero/ine’s journey to Self, to Home, to Belonging never ends. There is likely always something to mine the depths for, reclaim, and return to community. Does this essence of continuity inspire or exhaust you?
- Can you sense how the Hero/ine’s journey is also political? In what way?
o This one, I will add my own thoughts, because this is a deeply important issue to me. The journey inward and the return challenges existing hierarchal/patriarchal structures because people start to recognize how culturally-preferred ways of being are inauthentic, not fulfilling, even harmful. Once people live more genuine, connected, whole lives, systems of power-over will have to reorient to systems of power-with.
- The relearning/rewilding of the self, the hero/ine’s journey, has political implications (above) as well as very personal implications. For instance, in regards to pleasure (sexual and non-sexual) and desire (sexual and nonsexual) – how do you know what you really want and enjoy? When you tap into that inner Voice – whose voice is it? Yours or the Overcultures?
o A great example of this is explored in Riane Eisler’s book Sacred Pleasure regarding issues of sex work and BDSM in systems of dominance/power-over/patriarchy. That what seems like free choice is often not, secondary to unlevel playing fields across identities.
- Can you sense how you assuming your own Hero’s journey is a responsibility to Other and community? In what way?
- The Hero/ine’s Journey works with several themes across cultures: birth, life, resurrection cycles; shamanic traditions (and the wounded healer); cave, cauldrons, wombs, pregnancy; purgatory; the Unknown; adventure; creativity; fringe and edges (ecological and psychic); etc. In what ways do these themes show up in your life?
“One of the greatest sins is the unlived life. We are sent into the world to live to the full everything that awakens within us and everything that comes toward us…..We have but one life, and it is a shame to limit it by fear and false barriers…..The secret heart of time is change and growth. Each new experience that awakens in you adds to your soul and deepens your memory. The person is always a nomad, journeying from threshold to threshold, into ever different experiences. In each new experience, another dimension of the soul unfolds. It is no wonder that from ancient times the human has been understood as a wanderer” (John O’Donohue, Anam Ċara)
- Turner, T. Belonging.
- Estés, CP. Women Who Run With the Wolves.
- Brown, B. Interview from http://reimagineart.com/i-dont-do-a-r-t-because-i-have-a-j-o-b-brene-brown-on-creativity/
- Pearce, LH. Medicine Woman: Reclaiming the Soul of Healing
- Blackie, S. If Women Rose Rooted.
- Campbell, J. The Power of Myth
Additional resources to help with your own re-wilding
Estés, CP. Other works, including the Dangerous Old Woman series
Pearce, LH. The Burning Woman.
Brown, AM. Pleasure Activism
Eisler, R. Sacred Pleasure
That Thing Called Love: http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/that-thing-called-love/
The Subtle Art of Seeing (and Belonging): http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/the-subtle-art-of-seeing/
Reimagine Creativity: http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/reimagine-creativity/
(Re)Wilding our Mend: http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/rewilding-our-men/
The Selkie Myth: http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/the-selkie-myth/ (alludes to my wake up call)
What does Wild mean? http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/what_does_wild_mean/
What is shamanic practice? http://wildwomaninthesuburbs.com/what-is-shamanic-practice/
More information about the standard Hero’s Journey:
Campbell, J. The Hero’s Journey
Also consider exploring works about shamanism. Suggested authors are Sandra Ingerman, Michael Harner, and Joan Halifax
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT). Written material is copyright protected, please cite accordingly. Picture is from Pexels.
For more information or to contact Allison, email firstname.lastname@example.org