What does “wild” and, more specifically, “wild woman” mean?
A wild, rewilding, or an untamed woman is not a woman that has come undone or a commodified/appropriated/hyper-sexualized individual (a la Girls Gone Wild), rather a woman who utilizes intuition and soulfulness, creativity and invention, courage and healing to become her whole self.
Rewilding is a fluid process, not an end state, of becoming; an ongoing reconciliation and reclamation of one’s fullness of humanity, excavated from under limiting societal and familial norms, pressures and expectations, that cause a severance and/or suppression of self. These norms are the cages we lock people in; they are the “should”s; they are the acting we do to pass or for acceptance; they are the mass-produced, saccharin normalcy; they are the gender scripts from our imbalanced patriarchal society; they are indoctrination – inoculated since birth – implicit and subtle that subjugate and disempower (meanwhile, keeping other systems in power); they cause and contribute to imposter syndrome/sexism/racism/ageism/marginalization and are a source of shame and stigma, even taboo around anything that doesn’t fit the accepted template of what we should (there’s that word) be/do/look like (body size, race, ability, age, sexuality, gender presentation, etc).
“It is difficult for a woman to be healthy in a culture that is so very sick” (Glennon Doyle)
Ultimately, they, that is, the unquestioned and assumed norms , are burden – heavy, cumbersome, and stressful to live, even breathe, under.
The wild woman is an archetype – a pattern and gestalt, familiar through its implicitness and our inheritance. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’book Women Who Run With the Wolves, brought this archetype to the masses. Estes explains and expands, in depth, the Wild Woman, correlative with the Wise Woman archetype (from The Dangerous Old Woman series).
“It means to establish territory, to find one’s pack, to be in one’s body with certainty and pride regardless of the body’s gifts and limitations, to speak and act in one’s behalf, to be aware, alert, to draw on the innate feminine powers of intuition and sensing, to come into one’s cycles, to find what one belongs to, to rise with dignity, to retain as much consciousness as possible”
Most simply, the wild woman is a becoming – Finding self, soul, and tribe.
(Re)wilding is gender-less
I am embodied as a cis-gender female, and therefore live, work, and write from that experience. However, I recognize the significant harm from perpetuating the socialized gender binary – a colonial concept that is deeply patriarchal. Everyone – women, men, and individuals that do not fit the binary have similar experiences regarding dismissal of their full, authentic selves secondary to cultural or familial imposed expectations. Rewilding, untaming, reclamation and finding authenticity are needed for all of humanity, regardless of gender.
“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who to be?” (-Danielle LaPorte).
(Re)wilding is community care
Shedding the exhaustion from pretending, we become resilient, adaptable, accepting, empathetic, and loving, and in doing so, we become safe space and foster community for all humans. By allowing space for expansiveness and new ways of being, we free up others to be themselves.
“Authenticity is a form of service” (-Danielle LaPorte)
Rewilding individuals understand that it is a both/and existence – we are solitary beings, responsible for our own dreams and integrity, but we also operate within community, realize the fullest expression of self in that community, and are (ideally) held and healed in community space. This relationship creates a feedback loop of individuals recreating and rewilding community from repressive and restrictive to receptive and accepting spaces.
That learned and idolized ultra-independence and lone wolf mentality that is so familiar and American?, it keeps people small and isolated and is in opposition to our humanity – we are hard-wired for relationships, love, altruism, and community. Recognition of relationship and community as medicine may be a part of your own (un)learning.
Your Wild will look different from mine
Everyone’s fullness and wholeness will be a unique expression specific to the unique individual. If living in our fullness were expected to look the same across all, we are back to where we started – restricting one another and containing each other in cages.
The door to the Wild self
“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” (-Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
How do you find or get to know your authentic self? It is in deep listening to inner voice and wisdom, going beyond the superficial sediment from socialization, learned normatives, voices and expectations of others. This isn’t consumeristic self-care – your authentic self won’t be summoned by new shoes or discovered at the bottom of a bottle of wine. Temporary distractions, even addictions, keep you numb and work to anesthetize you against the discomfort of living a life that doesn’t quite fit. That is not to dismiss balms or pleasures (reclaiming of pleasure in a sex-negative and body-negative culture can be part of the process) – the point is to go deep, beyond the quick fix, and only you can determine if something is quick fix or depth work. Get quiet, find solitude, stay with discomfort to learn from it (what is it trying to teach you?).
My tools for accessing my inner self will be different from yours, but I offer them as starting points for you: meditation, shamanic practice, time in nature, rest, quiet/solitude, rhythmic movement/exercise, writing/journaling, spending collaborative space community. Worth noting – these are my spiritual practices as well as tools to access my deep knowing. Perhaps the wild self is also the divine self…….
“Practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice; ask questions; be curious; see what you see; hear what you hear; and then act upon what you know to be true. These intuitive powers were given to your soul at birth” (-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves)
(Re)wilding as purpose and meaning
Part of re-wilding is understanding that there is no map or expiration date. The journey is continuous, unfolding, and uniquely yours contained within your circumstances and community. And it is the long game – this is not a 30 day transformation, this is the work of life and the existential questions of “who am I?’, “what am I supposed to do? And how?”, “what do I really want?”. Rewilding is answering the questions that life asks of us, rather than what we ask of life.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is question by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Further, self actualization is not a closed system. We impact and are impacted by one another. “…being human always points, and is directed , to something or someone, other than oneself – be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.” (-Viktor E. Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning)
The existential questions are the questions worth living. “…..have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.” (-Rainer Marie Rilke)
Wishing you all safety, acceptance, love, and community on your journeys to becoming.
“You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you” (-Isadora Duncan)
Questions for the reader
- What was the gateway to your wild self? How do you keep the cultivation of your wild self and community as a part of your regular practice? And what has your journey been like?
- How do you show up more fully and authentically to make room for others to do the same?
- How do interlocking systems of oppression (ex. patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism) keep you from your full, authentic self?
- Does your rewilding journey mirror your spiritual practice and/0r existential questions? In what ways?
- How is your community involved in the co-creation of your wild self?
Recommended reading and group work:
- Many authors explore the archetype and themes of self-determination and reclamation, directly or indirectly, including Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run with the Wolves; see also the correlative Wise Woman in The Dangerous Old Woman series), Tami Lynn Kent (Wild Feminine and Wild Creative), Danielle LaPorte, Lisa Lister, Sonya Renee Taylor, adrienne maree brown (Pleasure Activism), Nikita Gill, Lucy H. Pearce, Brene Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Emily Nagoski (Come As You Are and Burnout), Abby Wambach (Wolfpack), bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Glennon Doyle (Untamed)
- My blogs (2 in particular, though rewilding is a consistent theme in others):
- Explore sacred circles – spaces of becoming. Ex:
- The Wild Woman Project (http://thewildwomanproject.com/, for whom I facilitate circles).
- Global Sisterhood
- Divine Feminine App
- See also men’s and co-gendered healing circles. from @ExploreYourZen (https://www.facebook.com/ExploreYourZen/events/?ref=page_internal)
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT 500, CHEK practitioner, reiki master, and shamanic practitioner. All writing is copyright protected, please cite accordingly.
Please note that this blog was originally posted in 11/2017 with major revisions 9/2020.
For questions, please email Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo is from Pexels.