I was reading Andy Fisher’s 2nd Edition of Radical Ecopsychology, which encouraged people to experience self as part of the natural world- to see life as a sense-making journey within the community of life. Fisher referenced Paul Shepard quite prevalently in his text and I recalled my attraction to Shepard’s suggestions for cultural practices that encouraged a more eco-centric way of being by deepening humanity’s relationship to nature. I was exploring Native American experiential pedagogies and recognizing how Native American symbols, rites and rituals followed the patterns of nature. I also found a resonance between Fisher’s views and the Jungian interpretations of archetypal stories found in Pinkola- Estes’ publication Women Who Run with the Wolves. Even though her book related most directly to women’s experience, it encourages people to reconnect with their intuitive, creative selves rooted in experience, awareness and one’s natural, wild self.
It seemed to me that there is a commonality to all humans that goes beyond culture and that perhaps culture itself may actually conceal and even impede expression of this human commonality. Culture has domesticated us and has tamed natural behaviors and reactions. The urbanization of so many in the Western, industrialized world has allowed disconnection from the natural patterns that guide sane, mature interactions within communities. Mainstream influences keep people focused on external comforts and conveniences through consumption, while an inner voice pulls us toward growth and self-awareness through meaningful purpose. The wild inner aspect is key to self-awareness and growth.
Themes related to the discourse of the concept of wild are: the symbolic language of the wild self, the empowerment of wild psyche, spiritual aspects of being wild, indigenous perspectives and freedom/domestication. Awareness and acknowledgement of the wild psyche is awareness and acknowledgment that there are aspects of consciousness outside the material world. The wild psyche is a pathway to authenticity, being faithful to internal, phenomenological wisdoms rather than objective interpretations of experience. Connecting with the wild within allows consciousness to sense its relationship with natural systems and its place in the greater cosmos. In ecopsychology, disconnect from nature is prevalent in the literature and is viewed as the root of anthropogenic environmental degradation. Focusing on external, materialistic values and behaviors contributes to natural resource exploitation. Examination of wild is an inner exploration that has implications for healthy psychological growth, increased awareness, dissonance with the status quo and perhaps, a more sustainable world.
Dynamic evolution is a constant pattern in nature and mirrors in the human psyche as development or growth (Wilber, 2001). The disordering principle of wild could be the dynamic part of the psyche that disrupts mental constructs and behavior patterns that do not serve growth or maturation (Campbell, 2010). Roszak claimed the ecological unconsciousness is the pathway to transformation and awakening to an expansive self-concept (Stanley & Loy, 2012). The wild within is a mirror for self-discovery, transformative growth and psychic healing. The nature of the cosmos is an unfolding evolution, a dynamic state of flux and change which reflects the processes of personal unfolding. Transformation is a creative process that belongs to the realm of wild because this state of being supports the dynamic unfolding of life. If people do not self-reflect and challenge static behavior patterns, they remain fixed in ideology, dogma and rationalizations. Reframing our understanding of the wild within allows for embracing creative conflict and understanding the necessity of the polarities of yin/yang, waxing/waning, light/darkness, breathing in and breathing out. The interpretation of wildness proposed is a process of becoming more authentic and empowered by reconnecting to our wild psyche and to the natural rhythms or patterns of life. While many yearn to be wild, fear of the wild traps one into accepting the inertia of domesticated, yet secure lives. This paradox creates tension between cultural expectations and the tug of the wild within.
The disordering nature of being wild may be a catalyst for transition and overthrowing static paradigms. Stories tell us how to break free from non-productive behavior patterns for more holistically healthy lives. As Estes (1992) exclaims, “Stories are medicine.” Delving into the wild psyche is as foundational to holistic development and healing as our bones are to our bodies. Estes (1992) recounts and interprets the story of La Loba, a bone collector who gathers the bones of a wolf and sings the wolf back to flesh, back to life. This story speaks to the resurrection of the ancient and vital deep soul psyche. There is an immense psychic wealth missing from modern life that is the source of yearning for mystical states and seeking to fill an existential emptiness. The devaluing of sacred dimension of psyche experiences leads to insatiable hunger for external, material satisfaction, which is destabilizing our life support system. Ignoring the spiritual/sacred dimension of nature extinguishes the spiritual/sacred dimension within people. Humans seem to have an innate need for meaning and belonging- ancient wisdom traditions provided a process toward these needs. Retrieving our embodiment is part of the process of overcoming our alienation from nature, from our wild selves (Fisher 2002). La Loba teaches us that this wild self can be revived when we sing with our soul voice and reclaim the sacred underpinnings of the intuitive psyche. She teaches that symbolic power and the call of the wild brings forth personal empowerment.