“Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with Wolves.)
Take a moment and see this creature. Name her. Envision this wild woman or women amongst you and within you. Witness her glory. Despite the obvious bias, I sincerely believe that there is a wild woman in all of us. I have witnessed this creature in the women who have nurtured me in my youth, who have led me on my journey and who have befriended me in difficult moments. I continue to acknowledge this creature in the women I now lead, support and love on their own journeys. This wild woman is fierce and free, imbued with great strength. What magic!
Now take another moment and imagine this wild and powerful creature captured, maimed, helpless, stripped of her glory. This now endangered species hides, riddled with shame, overwhelmed, paralyzed with fear, silenced, anxious, deadened on the inside. This image may be too familiar for women who have experienced years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse or mothers who have lost the fruit of their womb; kidnapped, missing, never found, no one held accountable. These experiences of trauma impact the bodies and souls of women (and men) in very deep ways that without the right support, safe spaces and opportunities to heal and thrive, can leave life-long or sometimes irreparable damage.
Trauma changes the way we think, what we think and the very capacity to think. It directly affects parts of the brain that control our thoughts, judgements, decision-making, language and self-awareness. It can squander one’s ability to cope, to bounce back, to survive. It even manages to disconnect us from our bodies in ways that hinder self-love, connection with others and feeling fully alive. So, what is left, after trauma? Maybe there are remnants of this wild woman longing for wholeness, calling, yearning from deep within, for freedom, healing and new possibilities. How can she live again?
Art in its many forms affords us opportunities to create and re-create new possibilities in our lives. The creative and performing arts teach us new ways of being that engage the imagination and strengthen resilience. The creative process engages the body and mind in a way that suspends reality for a moment and allows the wild woman to find her voice, her sway, her strength and experience healing. Pinkola Estes describes this suspended reality as a ‘world within worlds’. The wild woman “…arrives there by deeply creative acts, through intentional solitude and by the practice of any of the arts.” While trauma shocks the functioning of the left brain, the creative process stimulates the right brain that is responsible for things like intuition, emotional thought, insight, sensation, survival and meaning making.
A creative arts therapist is responsible for supporting and guiding this healing process. In these safe spaces, the wild woman can take her time to acknowledge her reality and re-create new ways of being through deep meditation, dance, writing, painting, prayer-making, singing, drumming, drama or performance. Pinkola Estes writes, “…these are the tangible ways to soften old scar tissue, balm old wounds and envision anew, thereby restoring the old skills that make the soul visible in down to earth ways.”
Take this last moment, think about the wounded wild woman in you. Let her know that healing is possible after trauma, pain and loss. She can breathe again with the intentional use of the creative arts in a safe space. These practices also become maps for the wild woman creatures who follow after us.
Karline Brathwaite is a young professional in the fields of Mental Health and the Performing Arts. Trained as a Drama Therapist at the New York University, Karline uses the performative and therapeutic elements of drama to bring about change and healing in communities. She also works assiduously in Mental Health Policy at the Ministry of Health to bring about reform and continued development to the Mental Health System in Trinidad and Tobago. Her areas of focus are Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Care, Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Psychological First Aid. As a professional Dancer for over 10 years in Trinidad and New York, Karline recently represented Trinidad and Tobago in Los Angeles and received the Judges’ pick commendation for the casting of the NBC’s World of Dance TV series.
She has graced several stages within the region and around the world such as New York, Philadelphia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii, Uganda and St Vincent to name a few. As member of the IBIS T&T Performers, Karline takes pride in the unique style of dance theatre produced by this company successfully representing south Trinidad. Now, as she continues to develop as a performer, Karline hopes to use her experience and love for the Arts to nurture a culture of wellness and healing in the lives of others.