A gender study examines the “wild woman” archetype in the context of female sexuality and relationships.
Not a workbook, this debut volume is a meditation and guide incorporating poems, Jungian psychology, and Shelby’s own experiences and dreams. A clinical depth psychotherapist, the author criticizes the “self-help” movement as reinforcing the dominant paradigm of self-improvement, leading to detrimental practices (“Our addiction to the unreality of perfection is part of our culture’s current obsession with self-help strategies that are actually more harmful than helpful”). She argues instead for balancing the masculine and the feminine. She draws on polytheism and strives to capture the slippery and contradictory human and natural relationships—exploring daily necessities and sexuality in all of its expressions (including homosexuality and asexuality). Her sensitive probing of the wild woman archetype reveals it to be outside of the culture and the current ethos of women’s liberation. In Shelby’s view, the liberation movement comprises outspoken, aggressive women who employ the patriarchal caricature of strength (the hero myth) to compensate for earlier female passivity and helplessness. According to the author, such women may need to explore their vulnerabilities and “abdicate” their thrones. Since what is projected onto the outsider is a fascination found within oneself, this leads to an intriguing look at the anima-animus duality of the unconscious and the struggle to individualize and articulate sexuality and relationships. All of these elements cannot be fully grasped by the mind because this journey is “downward, incarnating into the body, the being, and into life.” Shelby masterfully draws on the current literature to inform her narrative and imagine the truly natural woman (or man) beyond the unspoken rules of power and the trends and buzzwords of resistance. While some may find some of the author’s assertions controversial, there are many “aha!” moments here for readers already on the path to individuation and steeped in Jungian symbols and Greek mythology. This is not a book for novices. In addition, there is no one path or method advocated here. The author’s prose at times approaches poetry yet acknowledges the daily challenges of work, children, and boredom.
A mature, expansive contemplation of wholeness and a highly satisfying read.