WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES: Dancing out of Line

Do you know a woman who already opposed as a girl the misogynist educational measures and disciplining of adults. Maybe you were even one of these non-conformist girls.

  • How did you feel?
  • Looking back, how do you see this time in your life?
  • Did you have to pay for your independence, or your break with social structures?

The fairy tale ‘The Girl with the Red Shoes’, which Clarissa Pinkola-Estés analysed in her world bestseller ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’, focuses on the topic of the non-conformist woman. The girl in her story breaks out of her cage, but channels her basic female instincts in the wrong way. She painfully has to pay for her new freedom.

THE STORY

A poor orphan girl sewed her own shoes with red rags. She is invited by a rich lady to go and live with her. Her red shoes are burnt, the girl is bathed, combed and beautifully dressed. However, from now on she has to sit still all day, she is not allowed to scamper around, and she may only speak when spoken to.

As she starts to long desperately for her red shoes, she goes out and buys a new pair secretly, and against the will of the old woman. But as soon as she puts the shoes on, they start to dance with the girl and carry her through woods and fields, over mountains and through valleys. As she dances into the churchyard, she is cursed by a spirit, “You shall dance in these red shoes until your skin hangs down your tired bones, and nothing is left of you.”

And this is what happens. The shoes keep dancing, and there is nothing she can do about it. The girl asks an executioner to cut off her shoes with her legs so that she can finally stop dancing. The man does as he is told, but the poor girl has to spend the rest of her life as regrettable servant.

THE DEEPER MEANING

With her red shoes the woman lost something precious, as they stand for her freedom and impetuosity. She thinks she can regain these by buying new shoes secretly, but forgets that the purchase is no real liberation, but only compensation for her dependency. With the new shoes and the urge to dance, she does not become happy at all. Only through the tortures of self-mutilation can the girl release herself from these compensations, but the price she has to pay is a high one.

AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Many women feel similar to a girl in a golden cage who has everything she needs, except her freedom. These are women…

  • in unhappy relationships
  • going through life with acquired inferiority complexes
  • being scared of punishment and humiliation
  • full of shame

But one day the wild feminine soul inside them might say, “I’ve had enough of oppression!” Then they should really make sure their act of deliverance does not cause permanent damage (like the girl with the red shoes).

Therefore:

  • do not escape from difficult circumstances in life in a mad rush, jumping into a new life where you feel lost and overloaded
  • learn to be careful, watch, think and distinguish at the beginning of a new life
  • deepen your practical knowledge of human nature
  • develop sensible scepticism towards other people
  • do not feel too proud to accept other women’s advice and help at the beginning of a new period in life
  • surround yourself with people who support a return to the basic female instincts.

It is worth dancing out of line every now and then, but be aware whether you are driven by plans to escape, or are acting with a clear mind! When we suffer, we are often cut off from our basic female instincts, and do not feel the threatening dangers of ‘wild’ any more.

Every radical change in a woman’s life should not happen in the heat of passion, but should be carefully thought out and done at the right time.

Women

STOP GETTING IN YOUR OWN WAY AND LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND!

10 Steps for women who finally want to fulfil their potential

A proverb by John Knittel states that you are old as soon as you have more pleasure in the past than in the future.

Are you one of those people who are in the present physically but their mind is still in the past? It is very hard, if not impossible, to discover and live your potential in this position!

You feel torn inside, wasting your resources on people and situations that have a completely different, or possibly, no role in the present.

Maybe you want to take a few minutes to reflect on the following questions:

Why you are sometimes stuck in the past?

  • Do you not get old, burdening situations, failures or wrong decisions out of your mind?
  • Do you regret missed chances and opportunities?
  • Are you incapable of forgiving yourself for something in the past?
  • Are you scared your best days might have gone?
  • Would you like to turn back the clock to take another direction at a crossroads in your life?
  • Is the future a major cause of concern to you?

How you can mentally bow out of the past

  • Take time very consciously to think about something from the past that you cannot get out of your mind. Take a regular time for this, for example 20 minutes in the evening. When the time has elapsed, deliberately turn your thoughts to something totally different. You will probably be able to stop, or at least control your thoughts from going round in circles.
  • Replace your thoughts about the past by consciously chosen positive plans. If you, for instance, continue to dwell on past quarrels or arguments, then firmly say to yourself “STOP!”, and then think of something beautiful, such as a holiday, a celebration or a relaxing day.
  • Imagine your future in the best possible way, plan the first steps, and start realizing them. This gives you no more time to think about the past.

How you make peace with the past

  • Learn to recognise facts from feelings! Emotions can be agonizing, take much space, suck energies, and often do not have anything to do with reality. Sometimes you might be carried away by fantasy. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Appreciate the experiences you have made in difficult situations in the past. Totally accept them. It is no use struggling with the past, so therefore, learn your lessons gratefully.
  • Change your view of the past! If this is hard for you, imagine yourself as a neutral observer, and realize that it is mainly your emotions that do not let you rest. Try to pay attention to the facts, not the feelings, that connect you with the event in the past.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy the present and look ahead. Even if you have lost someone very close to you, and must now live without them, it is important to learn to enjoy your life to the full again.

 

Women Women&Consciousness

STRESS MANAGEMENT: MEN ARE DIFFERENT, WE WOMEN TOO

Scientists have noticed that the female body reduces stress more quickly and efficiently than the male one. The women in the study produced less cortisol (stress hormones) and less adrenaline than the men undergoing the same test. Also heart frequency and blood pressure rose less strongly in comparison.

Nature has ordained that the male body produces more testosterone then the female one. In stress situations it tells the neuro-receptors to drop everything, and react to a threatening or emotionally escalating situation rapidly. Whereas this was a lifesaver for cavemen, this boost of testosterone often results in a stress reaction, or even aggression, nowadays. Therefore, men are more at risk of a heart attack than women.

MEN ARE ON EMOTIONAL RETREAT

When men feel under pressure, they shut themselves off. They usually try to deal with their stress and their feelings themselves. They resist asking others for help and tend to blame others for their stress/their situation.

WOMEN OPEN UP EMOTIONALLY

When women are under stress, they usually go towards others (other women) and want to speak about their feelings. They react emotionally and find help on the outside. This may be support from friend, but also therapists. And women are more likely to blame themselves for a problem or a stressful situation. But they are also more vulnerable to depression. According to studies, twice as often as men.

“AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY…”

As soon as we understand that due to hormones men react to emotional or stressful burdens differently to women, we can more easily understand and accept that they do not speak about their problems, handle them on their own, and do not want to seek professional help. However, it needs our female sensitivity and empathy to find out if and how we can detect what burdens our loved one.

A blog series for us women which can help to see men with different eyes and to understand them (even better).

Women

WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES: Struck with Blindness

Many women are very sensitive, and when dealing with men they feel what is good for themselves or not. But nevertheless, they sometimes act against their own feelings, or cannot resist the temptation to take a risk. Maybe because they are curious, careless, adventurous, protesting, or they have simply learnt to be nice and submit to the wishes of others. The story does not always have a happy ending, as we see in the story of Bluebeard.

IT WON’T BE SO BAD AFTER ALL…

The psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés collected stories, myths and fairy tales about the primeval nature of women through the years. She published them in her world bestseller ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype’.

The second story in her book is about Bluebeard who managed to seduce a young woman who had not learnt in her childhood to look behind other people’s facades to recognize their real character.

THE STORY

Bluebeard, a clever magician and follower of black magic, is a womanizer. With the help of his stories and his wealth he tries to impress three sisters together with their mother. Yes, he even succeeds in marrying the younger sister. One day he goes on a trip. He gives his wife a bunch of keys, forbidding her to use the smallest one. However, she invites her sisters, and they open all the doors of the castle and find enormous treasures.

When they unlock the last room with the smallest key, they discover female bodies. When Bluebeard notices her disobedience after his return, he becomes so furious that he wants to kill his wife. Then the sisters call their brothers, who destroy Bluebeard just in time.

THE DEEPER MEANING

Bluebeard’s wife represents all the women of the world who should have learnt in their childhood that…

… there are predators one can fall victim to

… there are people whose tricks are hard to detect

… there are people of weak character who simply cannot / do not want to change

… they have to reach a certain level of awareness not to be blinded by others, not even by their wealth or power.

WHAT DO YOU RESPOND TO?

  • What sort of man do you feel most strongly attracted to and why?
  • What model was your mother concerning the choice of your partner?
  • Were you brought up to be nice? Or did your mother teach you to also say NO, and live with the consequences?
  • Were you prepared for a ‘life in the wild’, or were you (over)protected?
  • Do you love adventure and risk, or are you more cautious?
  • Are you tempted by the forbidden?

AN HONEST LOOK BEHIND THE FACADES

Pinkola-Estés says that quite a few women have experienced the Bluebeard story themselves. They marry without knowing anything about the tricks of the robber. They look for a partner who manipulates them first, dominates them, and finally attacks them physically and mentally.

Of course they see it as their holy duty to heal this poor, sick man with their love. In the meantime they spend loads of time persuading themselves that his scary blue beard looks almost elegant under favourable lighting.

It requires a certain level of awareness to say NO, which often means leaving one’s comfort zone. Even if the promises of a person might sound very tempting, or the advantages of a relationship seem to be irresistible: the price could be far too high, and change our whole life for the worse!

Women

SOPHIE SLATER. WHEN YOUNG WOMEN CHANGE THE WORLD

She is a (small) rebellion and this is a good thing. I am talking about the British woman Sophie Slater. She started to study History at Manchester, and became dedicated to women’s rights. One day she had had enough of the way the fashion business treated women. She thought: can fashion be feminist? Are women’s rights considered in the production of clothes? There have been good intentions for years, initiatives for better working conditions in textile factories, campaigns against unnaturally thin models and sexist advertisements. But this has taken much too long for Sophie.

THE IMAGE OF WOMEN IN THE FASHION SCENE IS SHOCKINGLY ONE-SIDED

Therefore, the British student founded the company Birdsong with two colleagues in 2014: an internet shop, selling clothes and accessories only made by women in aid projects all over the world. Clothes and style have always fascinated Sophie. As a child she liked to dress up in front of the mirror. During her school-time in the north-east of England, she worked as a shop assistant and model for the American company ‘American Apparel’. Although they claimed not to have their clothes produced by exploitation, the company’s founder Dov Charney had a shockingly one-sided image of women, the young woman remembers. “During my work I was constantly surrounded by posters, showing women’s bottoms.” As it became known that Charney had sexually harassed employees for years, she was sure: the view of women in many fashion companies was still not right.

INTERNET SHOP FOR LONDON WOMEN’S PROJECTS

Sophie worked for an emergency hotline for rape victims, and cared for homeless women. She could see how hard it was for women’s projects when grants were cut back. During a postgraduate programme in London she met Sarah Beckett and Ruba Huleihel, two young women with similar interests. They soon agreed on a study project: they developed an internet shop, offering self-made fashion from several London women’s projects. They took photos of the clothes in parks, and a friend acted as a model. When they went online, they had about 30 products in the shop. After one day they were almost sold out.

Today Birdsong cooperates with 16 women’s projects. Amongst these are six organisations in England, a sewing group of Israeli and Palestinian women, a social enterprise in South Africa, producing necklaces and rings from recycled magazines, and former prostitutes from Thailand, earning their money with self-made jewellery.

NO SWEATSHOPS –  NO PHOTOSHOPS!

About 80% of the proceeds go back to the producers. But the idea of Birdsong goes beyond sales. “We want to remove the male view from fashion”, says Sophie. Therefore, the motto on the website is “No sweatshops, no photoshops” – no exploiting companies and no digitally modified models. The young woman only employs women photographers, and the models have the most different cultural backgrounds. Some women do not shave their underarm hair, some are 86 or transwomen.

THERE IS STILL A BIT OF SEXISM

Birdsong does still not make a profit. The company is supported by private investors and government funding. Therefore, besides her work at Birdsong, Sophie needs three more jobs to pay for her rent: at a school, at a women’s advice centre for rape victims, and as a journalist. But this does not deter her. After all, when she talks with potential investors, she can see how chauvinist not only the fashion business is, but also the scene of social enterprises. She is often seen as a trainee. “There is always some sexism. Only a few investors have the confidence in a young woman to found a company. But every single dress we sell will help to make a change.”

Personal details: Sophie Slater, British and 25 years old, is co-founder of Birdsong (birdsong.london), an internet platform for fashion, produced and sold according to feminist guidelines. She was born in Sheffield, the daughter of a teacher and an administrative officer in the royal household. Besides her job at Birdsong, she gives feminism workshops at schools, works at a social information centre and as a journalist. Here you find an interview with Sophie Slater.

I discovered this article by Sarah Levy in the magazine BRIGITTE 18/2016. I liked this article so much that I copied a large part of it. I assume this is okay for the author and the publisher’s, as I never received a reply to my request for permission to print.

Women

No longer get in your own way but learn from your mistakes!

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing  (John Powell)

When were you last annoyed about a mistake? And, what did it bring? Be honest: nothing! So why do mistakes make you feel so awkward? Why do you feel caught, as if you had done something bad? I wonder why?

I don’t know how you experienced your childhood and school time. But I guess you had a lot of fun learning to ride a bike, for instance. You kept trying and practising until you could do it. You would not have dreamt of feeling bad after falling. You got up again, you might have picked a few small stones out of your wound, and got back on the bike.

Why do you feel so awkward when you make a mistake?

Maybe because, as a child, as the result of a mistake,

  • you messed up something important,
  • you had to repeat something until you could do it perfectly,
  • you were made to feel stupid in front of others,
  • you questioned your intelligence,
  • or an opportunity was missed?

The Americans’ trial-&-error philosophy

If we in Middle Europe start planning something, we look at the whole project from all the different angles in the preparatory phase, to make sure not to make any mistakes. We work according to the failure-exclusion-method.

The typical American way to approach something new is the trial-&-error-method. This means trying until a solution has been found. Failures are accepted without criticism, as they promote development and bring us closer to a result. The only problem is making the same mistake again and again without learning from it.

Brief error management

Here are a few tips, in case you keep falling into the same trap:

  1. Keep your nerve. If you have made a mistake, keep calm and carry on! A reckless and hasty reaction to try and repair the damage can cause the opposite.
  2. Analyse the situation.Consider what effects your failure might have (on others) and what should be done immediately. In most cases, your errors will not end in a serious threat to you and others (of course, excluding doctors, pilots, or people in similar jobs).
  3. Consider the next step.It is no use being like the rabbit in front of the snake. Think what could be the most sensible step to get out of trouble.
  4. Be honest to yourself and others.Mistakes are unpleasant, but attempts to hide or distract from them are even more unpleasant and embarrassing. Take responsibility for your error, and nobody will condemn you.
  5. Stop moaning and look for solutions!Making mistakes and then moaning is a no go. You might feel sorry for yourself, and others, because of the unpleasant situation you have caused. But moaning is simply a waste of energy, and this is certainly what you need the least.
  6. Take responsibility.If your mistake has caused damage, take responsibility. Try to compensate for it, or, at least offer some sort of favour in return. This doesn’t always mean you have to pay in real terms for the damage you’ve caused, because compensation can also take the form of helping the victim in some practical way.

Living involves making mistakes. He who makes no mistakes, is no longer alive.

Women

WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES: Losing their Soul

Even if living against our real nature for some time is just so tiring, the ‚wild woman‘ inside us cannot be destroyed. This is the way Clarissa Pinkola Estés describes the denial of our female soul and its basic needs in her world bestseller ‚Women Who Run With the Wolves‘.

She says that we know we cannot breathe any longer if we are occupied by others. We know that there are times we have to cut ourselves off from everything for some time. But she says, however, when the call for returning home can be heard, the parts of our psyche which have been (secretly or not) preparing for the jump, scream out, „Let’s go for it!“

I am sure you all know the feeling of being stuck in a dead-end-road. Who has never had the feeling of having lost, or having voluntarily given up their soul?

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote down an old story on this topic, called ‘Sealskin, Soulskin’. It is one of my favourite stories. It goes like this:

THE STORY

A lonely man, living in the snowy landscape of the Far North, is hunting for seals. He is watching a group of naked female beings who are dancing in the moonlight. They have taken off their sealskins, leaving them on a rock. As the man has lived on his own for a long time, he takes away one of the skins, to bind one of these women to him. When she wants to go back into the water together with the others, she cannot find her skin any more. So she has to stay behind. The man promises to give the skin back to her after seven summers, if she remains his wife during these seven years.

After some time the seal woman gives birth to a son, who they call Ooruk. The years go by and the human skin of the woman becomes more and more scaly and brittle, until it eventually hangs down her body like rags. Her white skin becomes hollow and grey, she loses her hair, and her once expressive eyes do not reflect her soul any more. But the man does not return the sealskin after seven years, as he is scared of losing her forever.

One day the seal woman finds her skin under a rock, slips it on, takes her child, and dives back into her old home – a glittering town in the water. Although her original beauty slowly returns, and she is happy, she recognizes that her son has to go back into the human world. She takes Ooruk back to the beach, promising him to remain connected with him forever.

Years go by, and Ooruk turns into a splendid and respectable man. Sometimes he can be seen kneeling on a rock, talking to a seal with particularly wise, wild and soulful eyes. Despite trying very hard people cannot catch the seal.

THE DEEPER MEANING

The key message of this fairy tale is the fact that many young women are completely unprepared for the fact that their soulskin might be stolen one day. However, the loss of their emotional and physical freedom, for instance in a restrictive or unhappy partnership, the following difficulties and the consequent attempt to break free can result in a strong (spiritual) development boost.

This is what happens:

  • The women become aware of what should be the main priorities in their lives.
  • Then they decide to regain something lost (for instance, their freedom, their strength, their intuition, etc.).
  • Then they notice that they have to do something for their own freedom.
  • And finally – after they have decided to free themselves and put it into practice – they undergo an enormous inner transformation process which allows them to develop their hidden powers and medial abilities.

WHAT DO YOU CORRESPOND WITH?

Read through my questions and consider the feelings they awake. Maybe you would like to write down your thoughts:

_ Have you ever noticed that you had false expectations of life as a young woman?

_ Have you ever given up your freedom, more or less voluntarily, because of naivety, inexperience or credulity?

_ Have you ever been / are you in a situation where you feared / fear to dry out because your sealskin had been taken / is taken away?

_ What would have been / would be the price for regaining your sealskin?

_ Did you enter a deep inner process as a result of the loss / giving up your freedom? What did it induce? What changed in and for you?

_ Are you ready and able to defend your sealskin?

THE LOSS OF THE SOUL AS INITIATION

Only if we women dive deep down into our soul, are we able to consciously make contact with our spirituality. There are numerous ways back home, even when the opening which we used to dive down seems closed on the next day. We just have to find a different one.

Women