Psychology and Women

"Excerpts from "Women Who Run with the Wolves" Clarissa Pinkola Estes PhD, Published by Random House, Rider, 1992, UK

"My doctorate is in ethno-clinical psychology, which is the study of both clinical psychology and ethnology, the latter emphasising the study of the psychology of groups, and tribes in particular. My post-doctoral diploma is in analytical psychology, which is what certifies me as a Jungian analyst. My life experience is that of a poet, artist and story teller." Estes, Page 14. (Estes describes "Wild Woman" as the female soul/spirit/psyche)

Over time, we have seen the feminine instinctive nature looted, driven back and overbuilt. For long periods it has been mismanaged. … For several thousand years, as soon and as often as we turn our backs, it is relegated to the poorest land in the psyche. The spiritual lands of Wild Woman have, throughout history, been plundered or burnt, dens bulldozed, and natural cycles forced into unnatural rhythms to please others.

...The understanding of our women's inner nature fades. It is not so difficult to comprehend why forests and women are viewed as not very important resources. It is not so coincidental that wolves … and bears and wildish women have similar reputations. They all share related instinctual archetypes, and as such, both are erroneously reputed to be ingracious, wholly and innately dangerous.

...The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people. … Healthy women share certain psychic characteristics: keen sensing, playful spirit and a heightened capacity for devotion. … Women are relational by nature, inquiring, possessed of great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, immensely concerned with their young, their mate and their pack. They are experienced in adapting to constantly changing circumstances; they are fiercely stalwart and very brave.

Yet she has been hounded, harassed and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are her detractors. She has been the target of those who would clean up the wilds as well as the wildish environs of the psyche, extincting the instinctual and leaving no trace of it behind. The predation of women by those who misunderstand them is striking.

The post-World War II generation grew up at a time women were infantilized and treated as property. They were kept as fallow gardens. … Though what they did was unauthorised women blazed away anyway. Women had to beg for the instruments and spaces needed for themselves. Dancing was barely tolerated so they danced where no-one could see. Self-decoration caused suspicion. Joyful body or dress increased the danger of being harmed or sexually assaulted.

It was a time when parents who abused their children were called "strict", when the spiritual lacerations of profoundly exploited women were referred to as "nervous breakdowns", when girls and women who were tightly girdled, tightly reined and tightly muzzled, were called "nice" and those other females who managed to slip the collar for a moment were branded "bad".

Those years are songs of the starved soul. Traditional psychological theory too soon runs out for the real, creative, deep, gifted woman. Traditional psychology is often spare or entirely silent about deeper issues important to women: the archetypal, the intuitive, the sexual and cyclical, and the ages of women, a woman's way, a woman's knowing and her creative fire. …

A woman cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually acceptable shape by those who claim to be the sole bearers of consciousness. … Women's true spiritual nature has become ghostly from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore.


When we lose touch with the instinctive psyche, we live in a semi-destroyed state and images and powers that are natural to the feminine are not allowed full development. When a woman is cut away from her basic source, she is sanitized, and her instincts and natural life-cycles are lost and subsumed by the culture, by the intellect or the ego – one's own or those belonging to others.


There has been little to describe the psychological lives and ways of gifted women, talented women; creative women. There is, however, much written about the weakness and foibles of humans in general and women in particular. But in the case of Wild Woman, in order to fathom her, apprehend her, utilise her offerings, we must be more interested in the thoughts, feelings, and endeavours which strengthen women and adequately counter the interior and cultural factors which weaken women.

...When woman's true nature animates and informs her deepest life, we can begin to develop in ways we never thought possible. A psychology which fails to address this innate spiritual being at the centre of feminine psychology fails their daughters and their daughter's daughters far into all future matrilineal lines.

...While in my clinical profession we do have a good Diagnostic Statistical Manual and a goodly amount of differential diagnosis, as well as psycho-analytical parameters which define psychopathy through the organisation (or lack of it) in the objective psyche and the ego-Self axis, there are yet other defining behaviours and feelings, which from a woman's frame of reference, powerfully describe what is the matter.


People may ask for evidence, for proof of the Wild Woman's existence. They are essentially asking for proof of the psyche. Since we are the psyche we are also the evidence. …


It should not be misconstrued that when an adult feels or expresses anger that this is a sure sign of unfinished business in childhood. There is much need and place for rightful and clear anger, especially when previous calls to consciousness have been made in anywhere from dulcet to moderate tones of voice and have gone unheard. Anger is the next step in the hierarchy of calling attention.

Negative environments can fuel normal anger into a seething and destructive rage; the catalyst is almost always very tiny, but responded to as though of enormous import. The battering and dissonances of childhood can positively influence what we take on as adults.


One of the most central problems of older theories about women's psychology is that the views of women's lives were limited. It was not imagined that she could be as much as she is. Classical psychology was more the study of women all folded up, rather than women trying to break free, or women stretching and reaching. The instinctual nature demands a psychology that observes women striving as well as women who are uncrinking from years of living hunched over. Woman has been persuaded that she must pleasurably tweak others in order to gain what she believes will be a forthcoming. It puts a woman in the position of trying to make the other feel good so that he'll be nice to her, support her, give her favours, not betray her and so forth. She is agreeing not to be herself, loses her shape and takes on one the other most desires. If a woman voluntarily finds reason to be in this position most of the time, she is kidding herself about something very serious and has relinquished her main source of power: speaking candidly on her own behalf.


One of the most critical cornerstones in developing a body of study of psychology is that women themselves observe and describe what takes place in their own lives. A woman's ethnic/tribal affiliations, her race, her religious practices, her values are all of a piece, and must all be taken into account for together they constitute her soul sense. Women's culture and knowing has been buried for centuries and we have only inklings of what lies under. Women must have the right to investigate without being cut off before they even set out the grid. The idea is to live a full life, according to one's own instinctive mythos.