by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
From "Women Who Run With Wolves"
When the personal soul-life is burnt to ashes, a woman loses the vital treasure and begins to act dry-boned as Death. In her unconscious, the desire for the red shoes, (a wild joy), not only continues, it swells and floods, and eventually staggers to its feet and takes over, ferocious and famished.
To be in a state of hambre del alma, a starved soul, is to be made relentlessly hungry. Then a woman burns with a hunger for anything that will make her feel alive again. A woman who has been captured knows no better, and will take something, anything, that seems similar to the original treasure, good or not. A woman who is starved for her real soul-life may look "cleaned up and combed" on the outside , but on the inside she is filled with dozens of pleading hands and empty mouths.
In this state, she will take any food regardless of its condition or its effect, for she is trying to make up for past losses. Yet even though this is a terrible situation, the wild Self will try over and over again to save us. It whispers, whimpers, calls, drags our fleshless carcasses around in our nightdreams until we become conscious of our condition and take steps to reclaim the treasure.
We can better understand the woman who dives into excesses - the most common being drugs, alcohol and bad love - and who is driven by soul-hunger by noting the behavior of the starved and ravening animal. Like the starved soul, the wolf has been portrayed as vicious, ravenous, preying upon the innocent and the unguarded, killing to kill, never knowing when enough is enough. As you can see, the wolf has a very bad and unearned fairy-tale and real-life reputation. In actuality, wolves are dedicated social creatures. The entire pack is instinctively organized so healthy wolves kill only what is needed for survival. Only when there is trauma to an individual wolf or to the pack does this normal pattern loosen or change.
There are two instances in which a wolf kills excessively. In both, the wolf is not well. A wolf may kill indiscriminately when it is ill with rabies and distemper. A wolf may kill excessively after a period of famine. The idea that famine can alter the behavior of creatures is quite a significant metaphor for the soul-starved woman. Nine times out of ten a woman with a spiritual/psychological problem that causes her to fall into traps and be badly hurt is a woman who has been critically soul-starved in the past.
Among wolves, famine occurs when snows are high and game is impossible to reach. Deer and caribou act as snowplows; wolves follow their paths through the high snow. When the deer are stranded by high snowfalls, no plowing occurs; then the wolves are stranded too. Famine ensues. Foe wolves, the most dangerous time for famine is winter. For woman, a famine may occur at any time, and can come from anywhere, including her own culture.
For the wolf, famine usually ends in springtime when the snows begin to melt. Following a famine, the pack may throw itself into a killing frenzy. Its members won't eat most of the game they kill, and they won't cache it. They leave it. They kill much more than they could ever eat, much more than they could ever need. A similar process occurs when a woman's been captured and starved. Suddenly free to go, to do, to be, she is in danger of going on a rampage of excesses too...and feels justified about it. There is something about famine that causes judgement to be blighted.
So when the treasure of a woman's most soulful life has been burned to ashes, instead of being driven by anticipation, a woman is possessed by voraciousness. So, for instance, if a woman wasn't permitted to sculpt, she may suddenly begin to sculpt day and night, lose sleep, deprive her innocent body of nutrition, impair her health, and who knows what else. Maybe she cannot stay awake a moment longer; ah, reach for drugs...for who knows how long she will be free.
Hambre del alma is also about starvation of the soul's attributes: creativity, sensory awareness, and other instinctual gifts. If a woman is supposed to be a lady who sits with her knees kissing only each other, if she was raised to keel over in the presence of rough language, if she was never allowed anything to drink but pasteurized milk...then when she is freed, look out! Suddenly she may not be able to get enough of those sloe-gin fizzes, she may sprawl like a drunken sailor, and her language will peel paint off the walls. After famine, there is a fear one will again be captured someday. So one gets while the getting is good.
Overkill through excesses, or excessive behaviors, is acted out by women who are famished for a life that has meaning and makes sense for them. When a woman has gone without her cycles or creative needs for long periods of time, she begins a rampage of -you name it- alcohol, drugs, anger, spirituality, oppression of others, promiscuity, study., creation, control, education, orderliness, body fitness, junk food, to name a few areas of common excess. When women do this, they are compensating for the loss of regular cycles of self-expression, soul-expression, soul-satiation.
The starving woman endures famine after famine. She may plan her escape, yet believe the cost of fleeing is too high, that it will cost her too much libido, too much energy. She may be ill prepared in other ways too, such as educationally, economically, spiritually. Unfortunately, the loss of treasure and the deep memory of famine may cause us to rationalize that excesses are desirable. And it is, of course, such a relief and a pleasure to finally be able to enjoy sensation...any sensation.
A woman newly free from famine just wants to enjoy life for a change. Her dulled perceptions about the emotional, rational, physical, spiritual, and financial boundaries required for survival endanger her instead. That is the trouble with famine. If something looks like it will fill the yearning, a woman will seize it, no questions asked.