The Wilderness


As a trauma survivor in recovery, I have spent a long time in the wilderness. It isn’t an actual wilderness. I am not a fan of the outdoors. Nature and my dissociative defense mechanism are not compatible. I am speaking of the wilderness that is often the subject of the spiritual texts. It seems that before most protagonists find their mission or purpose, there is some period of waiting. There is some period of preparing, of letting go of the old.  And it makes sense to me. I don’t see another way. If the foundation is shaky, it cannot be built upon.

But I hate it.

I carry a large amount of masculine energy with me. I rejected that which was feminine many years ago in my attempts to avoid the loathing that my parents spewed upon their little girls. I figured that if the feminine was so easily abused and disliked, I would not be that. I learned over the years to be about action, to be about the willful accomplishment of goals. In my early adulthood, it seemed to work for a while. It worked until the children were born. But children don’t respond to the unbalanced masculine unless the goal is to rid them of any individuality. They must be raised with both. So I have worked hard to resurrect my feminine aspects. I have even found some balance. But I still favor action.

And so, I sit in an uncomfortable place. The wilderness is not about will. It is not about action. It is about waiting. It is about emptiness. It is about grieving what is gone. It is about a searching, not on the outside, but the inside. And most of all, it is about not knowing … anything.

The wilderness goes against everything society encourages us to become as human beings. We are taught to fight for what we want. We are told to work hard and we will achieve anything. We are persuaded to conquer the outer world and to ignore the inner world. Feelings are not to be faced. They are to be masked with achievements, prescription drugs and accumulated possessions.

So, what happens when we choose the path of the wilderness? I find myself going so deep in to the shadows of my soul that I am not sure if there is a way out. I find myself wondering if there is an end to the waiting, or if the waiting is real at all. I long for an impossible mission that I can achieve. I need the success. I need to feel accomplished.

And yet the answer is not that. The answer is to rest with the question. Lie with the uncertainty. Allow the clarity to come when it is ready. Ignore the impatience in my ego self, which can only feel comfort in accomplishment.

The guidance is to rest.

But I need to take action.

So there is a war within me as I travel this journey. It is a war between the self that believes in what has always “worked” for me and the self that knows I must have faith, trust in a greater purpose. Of course, only one self is warring. The other doesn’t need to war.

So, as we celebrate those who have accomplished so much and acquired so many things in this modern world, I am coming to understand that is not the hard stuff. I am beginning to see that the masculine qualities we strive to master will only get us so far. I am finally realizing that my greatest challenge is in doing nothing, waiting, sitting without a semblance of an answer. My greatest challenge is allowing myself to be and knowing that the wilderness ends. It is in knowing that I cannot know. And it is trusting anyway.


12 thoughts on “The Wilderness

  1. Yes Elisabeth, I can relate to being action oriented and growing up learning to value masculine qualities. Sitting still, waiting, & trusting are difficult. However, when I practice them, I see positive outcomes. I don’t need to control everything. I can wait for clarity like you mentioned and allow my wise inner self to guide me instead of taking charge and forcing outcomes.

    Thank you for reminding me of the wisdom in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. My healing process strips all that I thought I knew away and I have to surrender everything I was conditioned to believe. It is encouraging to know that this is the shared path us survivors are on and that it is okay to let things fall away. It’s encouraging to know I’m not alone with the struggles and the grief and the not knowing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane, I have yet to meet another survivor with as many similarities in their recovery process as you have to mine. Even when we don’t talk for a while, I am comforted to know there is another out there. It is so helpful.


  3. ” I am finally realizing that my greatest challenge is in doing nothing, waiting, sitting without a semblance of an answer. My greatest challenge is allowing myself to be and knowing that the wilderness ends. It is in knowing that I cannot know. And it is trusting anyway.”

    This is what I have come to realize myself as I go through my healing process. I have developed a nasty habit of working too much, too long, too hard in order to keep my mind busy as a way to suppress what I know I have to eventually deal with. I have always been very action-oriented growing up, I can’t stand being stagnant and having nothing to do. So, this post sort of confronted that habit of mine today and reminded me that I must balance this and find ways to rest (I still don’t exactly know what that is for me) and look to the inside rather than the outside.

    Thank you, Elisabeth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I tend to see that desire for purpose and order as terribly feminine, maybe because girls develop those skills so much earlier. Boys are busy flicking each other’s ears while girls are setting goals and pursuing them. It’s why more young women attend college than young men now. They can decide they want to get somewhere and then go there. Girls are very often natural organizers, while boys spend a long time chasing whatever distraction crosses their paths.

    But your point still stands. Uncertainty is especially hard on traumatized people, because the unknown has so often been really, really bad and also because sometimes the present is so difficult. You want to at least have a timeline, an endpoint, so that you know the difficulty won’t go on forever.

    The anxiety it creates can’t just be ignored–that’s dissociating again. It has to be attended to. One has to be nice and see if it can be soothed. And it has to be soothed again and again because the uncertainty goes on for a long time. Take care. It’s hard and it takes a new approach: It requires compassion for oneself instead of impatience.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on the tao of jaklumen and commented:
    Please read. A subtext of the Hero’s Journey is Jungian archetypes and reconnecting with the true feminine and masculine. Robert Bly (Iron John: A Book about Men), Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine), Marion Woodman (The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine, with Robert Bly) and many others have written about this.

    Elisabeth writes about taking the Path of the Wilderness, and resurrecting the inner feminine that she had rejected in the face of childhood abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s