Excerpted from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Chapter 13, Battle Scars: Membership in the Scar Clan pgs. 374-7.
Tears are a river that take you somewhere. Weeping creates a river around the boat that carries your soul-life. Tears lift your boar off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace new, someplace better.
There are oceans of tears women have never cried, for they have been trained to carry mother’s and father’s secrets, men’s secrets, society’ secrets, and their own secrets, to the grave. A woman’s crying has been considered quite dangerous, for it loosens the locks and blots on the secrets she bears. But in truth, for the sake of a woman’s wild soul. It is better to cry. For women, tears are the beginning of initiation into the Scar Clan, that timeless tribe of women of all colors, all nations, all languages, who down through the ages have lived through a great something, and yet who stood proud.
All women have personal stories as vast in scope and as powerful as the numen in fairy tales. But there is one kind of story in particular, which has to do with a woman’s secrets, especially those associated with shame; these contain some of the most important stories a woman can give her time to unraveling. For most women, these secret stories are embedded, not like jewels in a crown, but like black gravel under the skin of the soul.
Secrets as Slayers
Over my twenty-year practice, I’ve listened to thousands of “secret stories,” stories that, in the main, were kept hidden for many years, sometimes for almost a lifetime. Whether a woman’s secret is shrouded in self-imposed silence, or whether she has been threatened by someone more powerful than she is, she deeply fears disenfranchisement, being considered an undesirable person, disruption of relationships that are important to her, and sometimes even physical harm if she reveals her secret…. [Most} women’s secrets revolve around having violated some social or moral code of their culture, religion, or personal value system. Some of these acts, events, and choices, particularly those related to women’s freedom in any and all arenas of life, were often held out by the culture as being shamefully wrong for women, but not for men.
The problem of secret stories surrendered by shame is that they cut a woman off from her instinctive nature, which is in the main, joyous and free. When there is a black secret in the psyche, a woman can go nowhere near it, and in fact protects herself from coming into contact with anything that will remind her of it or cause her already chronic pain to crest to an even more intense level.
This defensive maneuver is common, and, as in the aftereffects of trauma, secretly influences women’s choices in what she will or will not undertake in the outer world: which books, films, or events she will or will not involve herself with; what she will or won’t laugh about; and what interests she gives herself to. In this sense, there is entrapment of the wild nature, which should be free to do, be, look into whatever it likes.
Generally, secrets follow the same themes found in high drama. These are some of the themes of secrets: betrayal; forbidden love; unsanctioned curiosity; desperate acts; forced acts; unrequited love; jealousy and rejection; retribution and rage; cruelty to self or others; disapproved desires, wishes, and dreams; disapproved sexual interests and lifestyles; unplanned pregnancies; hatred and aggression; accidental death or injury; broken promises; loss of courage; loss of temper; incompletion of something; inability to do something; behind-the-scenes intervention and manipulation; neglect; abuse; and the list goes on, most of the themes falling under the category of the sorrowful error….
Any person who has kept a secret to her own detriment has been buried by shame. …Typically, she is powerless to aright the sad condition. She is in some way sworn or shamed into secrecy. She complies for fear of loss of love, loss of regard, loss of basic sustenance. …
The Dead Zone
The keeping of secrets cuts a woman off from those who would give her love, succor, and protection. It causes her to carry the burden of grief and fear all by herself, and sometimes for an entire group, whether family or culture. Further, as Jung said, keeping secrets cuts us off from the unconscious. When there is a shaming secret, there is always a dead zone in the woman’s psyche, a place that does not feel or respond properly to her own continuing emotional life events or to the emotional life events of others….