Dr. Estés is a psychoanalyst;
Member Hispanic Journalists;
Post-trauma specialist, Columbine High School and community,
since massacre, 1999-2003;
Board member: Author's Guild, New York.
To read more of her articles and learn about her appearances visit her web pages.
Letter To A Young
Activist During Troubled Times
By Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.
I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are
concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. It is true, one has
to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for "good"
in our culture today. Abject disregard of what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable
and the corruption of principled ideals have become, in some large societal arenas,
"the new normal," the grotesquerie of the week. It is hard to say which
one of the current egregious matters has rocked people's worlds and beliefs more.
Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage
over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
…You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while
endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the
unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet ... I urge you, ask you, gentle you,
to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially
do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is — we were made for these
times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and
just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough
that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been
raised since childhood for this time precisely.
…I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding
awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are
right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one
another as never before in the history of humankind. I would like to take your hands
for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your
stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now,
or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you
are not alone. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls
on the waters with you. In your deepest bones, you have always known this is so.
Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure
you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest.
That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold
its own, and to advance, regardless.
…We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented
to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled
and left for dead in so many ways over and over – brought down by naiveté,
by lack of love, by suddenly realizing one deadly thing or another, by not realizing
something else soon enough, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and
personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember
this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.
Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled,
lost, or foundered – can be restored to life again. This is as true and sturdy a
prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us as it was for our own once mortally
…Though we are not invulnerable, our risibility supports us to laugh in the face
of cynics who say "fat chance," and "management before mercy,"
and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been
to Hell and back on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for
certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are. Even if your puny little
ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul, that smaller self can never for long
subordinate the larger Self. In matters of death and rebirth, you have surpassed
the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past testings
and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! (And no adverbs
like "barely" are allowed here). If you are still standing, ragged flags
or no, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.
…In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong
or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm.
There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside
your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind
without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we
meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide
us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't
you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't
you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater? You have all
the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough.
…In the language of aviators and sailors, ours is to sail forward now, all balls
out. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see
that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm
means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it, by whatever countervailing means, to
swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner, far less volatile
core – till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth,
lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help
calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion
or despair — thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is
not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend
the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul
can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world,
will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause
the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change
is an accumulation of acts — adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know
that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but
only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or
…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy
world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.
The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ...
causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times
like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both – are acts of immense
bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who
are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this
is one of the strongest things you can do.
…There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner,
but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair
many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it.
It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones
I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember
why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say
and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who
brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a
great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that
is not what great ships are built for.
…This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why
you came to this beautiful, needful Earth,
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
©2003 C.P. Estés, All rights reserved.
Books by Clarissa Pinkola Estés:
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories
of the Wild Woman Archetype
Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale about That
which Can Never Die
The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale about What
Audio CDs and Tapes by Clarissa Pinkola Estés:
The Beginner's Guide to Dream Interpretation
How to Love a Woman: On Intimacy and the Erotic Life
Warming the Stone Child: Myths and Stories of Abandonment
and the Unmothered Child
The Creative Fire: Myths and Stories about the Cycles
Clarissa Pinkola Estes Live: Theater of the Imagination
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of
the Wild Woman Archetype
The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale about What is Enough
In the House of the Riddle Mother: Common Archetypal
Motifs in Women’s Dreams
Radiant Coat: Myths and Stories about the Crossing Between
Life and Death
The Red Shoes: On Torment and the Recovery of the Soul
Bedtime Stories: A Unique Relaxation Program for Falling
Asleep and Entering the World of Dreams