I recently read a wonderful book one of my clients told me about: Untamed by Glennon Doyle. While I found it slow-going at first, it quickly ramped up and had me on the edge of my seat screaming, “You go girl!”. It’s basically a personal transformation story of one woman’s healing from a traditional patriarchal upbringing to her eventual emergence into a wild, bold and fierce feminist warrior woman on a mission to change the world.
Three Take-Aways From Untamed
While I got a lot out of reading Untamed, there are three main take-aways I use and love which I feel can benefit us all:
#1-Fear is big but courage is bigger- WE CAN DO HARD THINGS
From page 85 of Untamed:
“We can do hard things” becomes my hourly life mantra. It is my affirmation that living life on life’s own absurd terms is hard. It isn’t hard because I am weak or flawed or because I made a wrong turn somewhere, it is hard because life is just hard for humans and I am a human who is finally doing life right. “We can do hard things” insists that I can, and should, stay in the hard because there is some kind of reward for staying. I don’t know what the reward is yet, but it feels true that there would be one, and I want to find out what it is.
This is something I remind my clients who struggle with anxiety constantly- the only way out of fear is THROUGH it. For more on this, check out this blog post: How to Become Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
How do I know that you and I CAN DO HARD THINGS? We are ten months into a global pandemic, the likes of which most of us have never experienced or even imagined, and yet we’re managing and getting through it despite our fear. Also, we are surviving incredible upheaval in the social and political systems in the West, facing horrifying violence and polarization. And yet…we are still here and still dealing with it all.
In such turbulent times, I encourage you to resist the urge to bury the tough emotions like panic, dread, confusion and anger. As an antidote to all of the stress and uncertainty, I urge you to develop a mindfulness practise (twice daily is ideal) to help you sit with the feelings you most want to escape, accept them, investigate how they affect you and what you need to do to feel better. The best practise I know of to achieve this and go from fight, flight or freeze to rest and digest is the RAIN meditation.
#2-Feelings won’t kill us: we are so much stronger than we think we are
From page 49 of Untamed:
Doyle tells a story about going to her first AA meeting and being totally honest with the group about how awful she felt and a woman came up to her after and said,
Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that’s what they’re for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones. The secret is that you’re doing it right, and that doing it right hurts sometimes.
We often forget how incredibly strong and resilient we are and that is a shame in my opinion. Recently, I was urging a client of mine in her twenties to feel her grief and she replied, “But I don’t like feeling sad.”
My answer: “I don’t think anyone likes feeling sad but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to feel the feeling of sadness and let it run its course. The fact is, most humans want to feel good all the time and we avoid unpleasant feelings at all costs. But what happens when we avoid those undesirable feelings? They go underground and fester in our minds and bodies and lead us to even worse places like addictions and self-harming behaviours or hurting other people. Sometimes we have to be brave and dig deep within ourselves and face the darker emotions we’d prefer to run away from or stuff. I know you have it within you to go to those dark places and come out the other side a more peaceful and empowered person.”
#3-What is wrong with me? Absolutely NOTHING
The final take-away for me from Untamed is this beautiful and powerful quote:
The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me
Doyle courageously shares her battle with bulimia which started before she even hit puberty, as well as her alcoholism which landed her in Alcoholics Anonymous later on. Growing up in a Catholic church-going family which adhered to traditional sex-role stereotypes, she learned to bury her own wishes, emotions, and sexuality deep down by bingeing and purging and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
She describes how being raised in this environment left her feeling like she was being ‘caged’ like a cheetah in the zoo which led to her needing to squelch her real self in order to fit into the proscribed ‘good girl’ on page 5 of Untamed:
I wanted to be a good girl, so I tried to control myself. I chose a personality, a body, faith, and a sexuality so tiny I had to hold my breath to fit inside myself. Then I promptly became very sick.
When I became a good girl, I also became a bulimic… Good girls aren’t hungry, furious, or wild…Back then, I suspected that my bulimia meant that I was crazy … I wasn’t crazy. I was the goddamn cheetah.
As a therapist, I see this all the time. As girls, we are conditioned from birth to see ourselves as somehow defective and spend the majority of our lives doubting ourselves and our inner knowing. We are told we’re not the right body size/shape/weight, we’re considered off-kilter and ‘crazy’ during PMS and menopause, and unfortunately for many of us, our very characters are torn down in abusive relationships.
All of these lies we are led to believe about ourselves are the result of misogyny stemming from patriarchy and while feminism has come a long way, we are still entrenched in these oppressive systems and need to work very diligently at freeing ourselves from the lies we’ve been told about who we are as girls and women.