Women Who Run With the Wolves
By Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This chapter changed my rating for Women Who Run from four stars to five.
No wisdom has been more profound this year than my revelation that I can break the cycle. That my best, happiest, most fulfilled and loving life begins on the other side of the rage—and I am powerful enough to see it, feel it, and release it for myself and on behalf of everyone else who came before me.
Marking Territory: The Boundaries of Rage and Forgiveness
"Even raw and messy emotions can be understood as a form of light, crackling and bursting with energy. We can use the light of rage in a positive way, in order to see into places we cannot usually see. A negative use of rage concentrates destructively in one tiny spot until, like acid creating an ulcer, it burns a black hole right through all the delicate layers of the psyche.
But there is another way. All emotion, even rage, carries knowledge, insight, what some call enlightenment. Our rage can, for a time, become teacher...a thing not to be rid of so fast, but rather something to climb the mountain for, something to personify via various images in order to learn from, deal with internally, then shape into something useful in the world as a result, or else let it go back down to dust. In a cohesive life, rage is not a stand-alone item. It is a substance waiting for our transformative efforts. The cycle of rage is like any other cycle; it rises, falls, dies, and is released as new energy. Attention to the matter of rage begins the process of transformation."
"We want to use anger as a creative force. We want to use it to change, develop, and protect. So, whether a woman is dealing with the aggravation of the moment with an offspring, or some sort of a searing lengthy burn, the perspective of the healer is the same: When there is calm, there can be learning, there can be creative solutions, but where there is firestorm, inside or out, it burns hot and leaves nothing but ash. We want to be able to look back on our actions with honor. We want something useful to show for feeling angry."
"On the mountain we find additional clues about how to transform the hurt, negativism, and grudge-holding aspects of rage, all usually felt and often warranted initially. One is the phrase "Arigato zaisho,"
which the woman sings to thank the trees and the mountains for allowing her to pass. Figuratively translated, the phrase means "Thank you, Illusion." In Japanese, zaisho
, means a clear way of looking at matters that interfere with deeper understandings of ourselves and the world."
"So, we have seen that we wish to make rage into a fire that cooks things rather than into a fire of conflagration. We have seen that the work on rage cannot be completed without the ritual of forgiveness. We have spoken about women's rage often deriving from the situation in her family of origin, from the surrounding culture, and sometimes from adult trauma. But regardless of the source of the rage, something has to happen to recognize it, bless it, contain it, and release it...
In that respect a woman who has lived a torturous life and delved deeply into it definitely has inestimable depth. Though she came to it through pain, if she has done the hard work of clinging to consciousness, she will have a deep and thriving soul-life and a fierce belief in herself regardless of occasional ego-waverings...
A body who has lived a long time accumulates debris. It cannot be avoided. But if a woman will return to the instinctual nature instead of sinking into bitterness, she will be revivified, reborn."
"To make descansos
means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chiquitas,
and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas
, have taken place...
We mark where there were roads not taken, paths that were cut off, ambushes, betrayals, and deaths. I put a little cross along the time-line at the places that should have been mourned, or still need to be mourned. And then I write in the background "forgotten" for those things that the woman senses but which have not yet surfaced. I also write "forgiven" over those things the woman has for the most part released...
Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos,
the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos
mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don't follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest."
"A woman who can work up a good 95 percent of forgiveness of someone or something tragic and damaging almost qualifies for beatification, if not sainthood. If she is 75 percent forgiving and 25 percent "I don't know if I ever can forgive fully, and I don't even know if I want to," that is more the norm. But 60 percent forgiveness accompanied by 40 percent "I don't know, and I'm not sure, and I'm still working on it," is definitely fine. A level of 50 percent or less forgiveness qualifies for work-in-progress status. Less than 10 percent? You've either just begun or you're not really trying yet."
"To truly heal, however, we must say our truth, and not only our regret and pain but also what harm was caused, what anger, what disgust, and also what desire for self-punishment or vengeance was evoked in us. The old healer of the psyche understands human nature with all its foibles and gives pardon based on the telling of the naked truth. She not only gives second chances, she most often gives many chances."
"Forgiveness is the culmination of all foregoing, forebearing, and forgetting. It does not mean giving up one's protection, but one's coldness."
"Forgiveness is an act of creation. You can choose from many time-honored ways to do it. You can forgive for now, forgive till then, forgive till the next time, forgive but give no more chances—it's a whole new game if there's another incident. You can give one more chance, give several more chances, give many chances, give chances only if. You can forgive part, all, or half of an offense. You can devise a blanket forgiveness. You decide.
How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to remember to say about it at all. You understand the suffering that drove the offense to begin with. You prefer to remain outside the milieu. You are not waiting for anything. You are not wanting anything. There is no lariat snare around your ankle stretching from way back there to here. You are free to go. It may not have turned out to be happily ever after
, but most certainly there is now a fresh Once upon a time
waiting for you from this day forward."