Women Who Run with the Wolves (article by Ken Milling)

In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves Jungian psychoanalyst and award winning poet, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, focuses on the challenges faced by women in asserting themselves in their work and private lives.

The aim of the Integral Development assertiveness workshop is to move beyond the social level of interaction to further develop instinctual self-confidence that can enrich feminine power. One of the essential areas of focus in the workshop is aggression and one of the first steps is to investigate and recognise how each participant manages the aggression of themselves and others. A key question that participants are encouraged to answer in the workshop is “Are you able to facilitate constructive workplace outcomes when conflict is manifest either covertly or overtly and particularly when the conflict is aggressive?”

I first developed an interest in this area when over ten years I taught self-defence to females and noted a broad range of reaction to a number of physical exercises, such as the striking of focus mitts with as much aggression as possible. I also noted that this was an easier task for some than others, but that the vast majority of females reported feeling enlivened and empowered by the exercises. This led to an essential recognition that aggression is not the exclusive domain of males.

It is not unusual for aggression to be perceived as negative or undesirable, thereby repressing aggressive impulses, which leads to increased internal emotional tension. We are then much more likely to fall victim to our own deeper psychological states and suffer discomfort from our feelings and thoughts. This in turn can trigger an emotional/behavioural reaction. And with emotional/behavioural reaction the outcome will often be destructive as we override rationale.

I prefer to perceive feeling states not as positive or negative, but as a source of energy to potentially fuel constructive action. The key to greater personal choice in constructive action resides in an increased sense of consciousness of our personal psychological processes and our ability to access the energy source that is inextricably linked to feeling states. When we consciously harness that energy we can potentially facilitate a process of psychological transformation.

Many women can over-identify with the care giving role and disavow deeper feelings that might conflict with this. I believe that conscious engagement with aggressive drives can be used to fuel constructive action and open the path to a sense of personal empowerment.

Ken Milling
Executive Coach

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