“To move toward that more wild feminine nature within the culture, and within our own psyches, and within the world…that wild feminine, it is so paradoxical and so confusing and it doesn’t want to be pursuing clarity and definition, it represents the opposite of that. It’s not an easy movement toward anything that represents that more lunar or feminine consciousness because it does mean a movement toward the uncertain and the unknown. It takes courage, a lot of courage.”
For the 100th episode of Women In Depth, we’ve returned to our roots in a discussion with Dr. Stacey Shelby about the wild woman archetype and her bewildering and beautiful manifestation in our lives.
Dr. Stacey Shelby is an author, speaker, educator and depth psychotherapist. She holds a Masters and Ph.D. in Depth Psychology with a specialization in Jungian and Archetypal Studies. She teaches the psychology of romantic love at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California. Dr. Shelby works with adults in various stages of personal transformation online and in person out of a thriving clinical practice in Squamish, British Columbia. She specializes in the symbolic language of the soul and aims to honor the soul as it presents itself in the lived experience of daily life.
To Keep up with Dr. Shelby:
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Tracking the Wild Woman Archetype: A Guide to Becoming a Whole, In-divisible Woman by Stacey Shelby, Ph.D
The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man by Marie-Louise von Fronz
In this podcast, Dr. Viado and Dr. Shelby discuss:
- The manifestation of the wild woman archetype
- Recovering what feels lost
- Navigating confusing changes in relationships and sexuality
- Marrying opposite archetypes within our psyche in pursuit of balance
1:30 – The origin of Women In-Depth
6:10 – Stacey’s soul path to writing about the wild woman archetype
9:40 – What is the wild woman archetype?
13:19 – How do we lose the wild woman within us?
16:30 – Cultural messaging we receive on sexuality
20:35 – Realizing we’ve lost something
22:39 – Individuation and the connection to the wild woman wrchetype
26:58 – The wild woman in relationships and sexuality
32:40 – The role of suffering
9:40 “[The wild woman archetype] is just one of these things that doesn’t necessarily want to be defined in a fixed and rigid role that we can hang a definition off of in a really clear way and that is part of the nature of the wild woman archetype. It just defies containment…the soul itself is just so wild and expansive, it doesn’t want to be caged in by a fixed definition. Nevertheless, we have to talk about these things and we have language and art and poetry in order to do that. So in the most simplistic form where I’ve kind of landed, it is representative of the human soul that is embodied. So different than say psyche, the Greek word for soul, it stays with the body, where psyche, in the tale of Eros and Psyche, she goes off with her wings to Olympus and Eros and she doesn’t stay in her human form, she becomes a goddess. The wild woman stays in her human form, she stays with her body. So it’s more connected to the instinctual realm and to the embodiment and the lived reality of the here and now…”
13:35 “Socialization or domestication or enculturation, all these different words that I’m using to describe the same thing – We’re born into a particular societal context that has a particular set of rules and moral code and hierarchy associated with it. We live in a patriarchal culture, which we can talk more about but that is the system that, in the West, we are born into. So certainly moving into the societal rules, right from birth, that really disembodies us. We’re taught from a very young age to not trust our instincts, to not trust our intuition, and we’re brought up in a culture that is very thinking based and for those of that are dominantly irrational psychological functioning types, as I am, intuitive and feeling, we get disconnected from that way of knowing which is, in fact, our more accurate way of knowing and perceiving and responding to the world. So just being born into a culture that has certain expectations or rules of females is one way we lose touch with that wild woman archetype and it’s an unavoidable way. The other way is through certainly trauma, and there are so many ways to experience trauma – I often say ‘trauma’ and people go ‘Oh no, I had a great childhood.’ That’s not true for any of us, it’s just not. There are so many unfortunate ways that we experience trauma, whether it’s through literal abuse or neglect or loss and grief and sorrow and betrayal. The human condition means that we go through things that are just hard and they’re hard on us. Part of how our immature egos cope with that is we go into those primordial flight or fight or freeze responses and those become learned responses until we get a strong enough ego and enough maturity to stay with ourselves, to stay with the vastness of experiences and emotions, to stay with our bodies and not leave.”
16:36 “The messages we get around our sexuality and our bodies – We’re very often taught to exploit that for power or to hide that for shame…We want to own that stuff. And not misuse it and just be allowed to explore it and be curious about what our own sexuality means for us. And also not to deprive ourselves of pleasure but also taking care of ourselves so…we’re being careful of that more Freudian pleasure principle, we don’t want to get unconsciously pulled toward that but we also want to be conscious of how we’re experiencing our sexuality, which is truly unique for every woman and unique at many stages in life. It’s, again, another fluid thing that just doesn’t want to be fixed and like ‘I am only this one thing for however many years of my life’ – it has some monogamous, heterosexual paradigm. You might be that for part of your life and then it might change and then it gets confusing.”
18:44 “We live in a very solar conscious world and culture and our egos represent solar consciousness and it likes clarity and certainty and comfort – of course, we all do, who doesn’t? And yet, to move toward that more wild feminine nature within the culture, and within our own psyches, and within the world…that wild feminine, it is so paradoxical and so confusing and it doesn’t want to be pursuing clarity and definition, it represents the opposite of that. It’s not an easy movement toward anything that represents that more lunar or feminine consciousness because it does mean a movement toward the uncertain and the unknown. It takes courage, a lot of courage.”
21:27 “It’s so much about paradox and grounding, again that beautiful metaphor and it’s a really Hillmanian, James Hillman concept as well, about the need to grow downward and down into our roots rather than reaching our branches upward and heavenward and skyward which we really start to move into spiritual bypassing by that point but really to move downward and into the roots and the earthiness of our bodies and our being and our human experience because the deeper our roots go, of course, then the higher our branches can go, if that’s important to us at the point, which it seems to be less important the more I focus on growing downward and yet probably it does become more spiritual at the same time.”
22:39 “Individuation is one of these core tenets of depth psychology that Carl Jung brought forward and he gifted the world so much in his vast and prolific career in recognizing things that have become really commonplace understanding now like animus and projection and psychological types and all these various things holding the tension of the opposites and such…I tend to lean into his definition of it as a reconciliation of opposites, so moving into those paradoxical ways that seem like they will never be unified and finding a way to hold them both and as that integration occurs, we are then able to hold two opposites that no longer trigger complexes in the same way and thus move toward a greater sense of wholeness and as we reconcile those complexes and become more whole with those opposing forces, we then become indivisible. So I like the word individuation as it stems from indivisible. So it’s this movement toward becoming a more whole, authentic version of ourselves, our individual self, reconciling these various opposing forces that go on in the human psyche…”
27:25 “It’s the challenge with relationships and sexuality, where things no longer feel easy and congruent for us for whatever variety of reasons within our romantic paradigms that causes us to begin those horrible struggles…It’s through that struggle that we actually recover our connection with the wild woman so we do eventually get to a state of what the woman who has integrated the wild woman look like but most of us are actually starting from the place of – relationships just are really hard and dissatisfying and what’s not working and that is what causes the relationship to the wild woman to become alive and active and integrated…It’s like she’s hanging out on the forest edge and she’s like ‘Oh, I see you, you’re just ripe and juicy, I’m coming for ya, you think you’re content.’”
30:09 “It can even show up as boredom, very frequently, you know, in long term relationships where people know each other so well, they’re just bored and they’re then like ‘What do I do with this boredom? I’ve got another, hopefully, forty years left. I can’t be bored for forty more years,’ so then they’re trying to figure that out or an infidelity or an attraction to somebody else will present and then we have that triangulation or the longing for love that can’t be fulfilled in all these different ways that love presents. I was just reading a quote from Marie Louise von Franz in The Golden Ass the other day and she says ‘Individuation cannot occur without the complexities of Eros and the pain of soulful love development,’ which I thought was quite a profound statement…The struggles of relationship, maybe because we’re innately and instinctually wired to want to connect and need to connect and have that relatedness, they are the things where we can really lean into that as a vessel for our own transformation process. It’s a beautiful tool, it’s just not an easy process.”
32:02 “Love and soul go together so to live a soulful life with that personified feminine nature within us, love is an inherent ingredient, they just go together. And in that tale, she literally has to go to hell and back, like it’s four impossible tasks and the last one is to Hades and back, it’s a hard journey, for sure.”
33:33 “Because the ego has to be strong enough as a container, as a vessel, a vase of the conscious personality, to be able to withstand the suffering and to be with it and to be with the pain and the sorrow, all of it. Otherwise, we move toward addiction and anesthetization in all various forms that mean we don’t have to feel and if we don’t feel, we’re not really here. We’re not really doing it. We’re not living, is what I’m saying…It is such a sad, missed opportunity of life if we’re not really engaging in it.”