As a thirty year old woman on the path towards wholeness, images, words, sounds, dreams, symbols, and archetypes of the process of individuation (including initiation) have found little pockets, settling in to my psyche. I’ve often used my own indignation towards family as entrance points in my own initiation process, catalyzing the continuous unfolding of my psychic development.
In Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves:Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, a diverse bundle of cross-cultural stories are revealed and unpacked using academic rigor. Embedded with healing potential, these stories are nothing short of inspiring. Chapter three, “Vasalisa the Wise,” is the story of the archetypal initiation into womanhood: the initiation of intuition.
I’ve often wondered why modern contemporary adults do not seem interested in initiation, change and/or transformation and appear all too capable of shrugging this deeper part of human experience off, pushing it out of their lives as it it were unimportant, not a natural and necessary part of human existence. I’ve become aware that adults in contemporary society falsely enter adulthood as adult bodies, but not adult souls. Dr. Estes states, “The arresting of a woman’s initiation process occurs for various reasons, such as when there has been too much psychological hardship early in one’s life–especially when there has been no consistent ‘good-enough’ mother in the early years. The initiation may also be stalled or uncompleted because there is not enough tension in the psyche.” (p. 85). The latter claim proves my intuitive concern.
About two years ago, my brother climbed the Tetons in Wyoming. He went with a guide, a few friends, and a bit of training ahead of time. After his climb, he passionately relayed the event to me: the fear at the beginning, the pain in the middle, and the rush at the end. I thought it would change him. To me it sounded like a genuine initiation experience–the threefold process of separation, initiation, return. However, almost two years later, from my perspective it didn’t seem to change him very much, nor affect him deeply. He would say it did (affect him deeply), but I’ve seen no behavior changes, signs of greater empowerment, practical steps taken to integrate his peak experience into his daily life, or even simply–being kinder to those around.
Dr. Estes states, “Sometimes a woman is so bound up in being the too-good mother to other adults that they have latched onto her tetas, teats, and are not about to let her leave them.” (p. 87). I couldn’t help but notice the etymological similarity of Tetons and tetas, as well as visual structure of the two–two mounds.
In translation, one can fake their own psyche into believing they’ve achieved something, crossed a mark of initiation. But this initiation into adulthood is as old as time and will never be fooled.
“..[S]ince the dreaming psyche compensates for, among other things, that which the ego will not or cannot acknowledge, a woman’s dreams during such a struggle will be filled, compensatorily, with chases, dead ends, cars that will not start, incomplete pregnancies, and other symbols which image life not going forward.” (p.87). My own dream life is punctuated with these images for some time now. I’ve been questioning my family structure and dynamics, my past, and back at the “woman” I used to be. I’ve been holding on, pleading to myself that for me the path is different. These rules do not apply and I do not have to sever ties or jump. I do not know how to look ahead, to look to the unknown and jump into the Woman I am becoming.
I’ve tried to latch onto these images–my brother was an idol who has reached initiated adulthood even though deep down I know that my own initiation involves something completely different–a severance, something that involves jumping into the unknown when it is truly unknown and learn to stand not knowing what happens next. The psyche can trick the psyche’s psyche. But there is nothing that can fool the Psyche.