Denying Your Wounds: Reflections on Wild

Denying Your Wounds: Reflections on Wild

I must be the last person in the Universe to do so – but I finally got around to watching Wild, the movie based on Cheryl Strayed’s book of the same name.


(For the uninitiated: Cheryl’s mother passes away from cancer rather suddenly, which launches Cheryl into a downward spiral, culminating in a very serious bout of heavy drug use, and pretty intense promiscuity, effectively ending her marriage. After her divorce, she heads to walk the Pacific Crest Trail by herself to regroup and find healing.)

I had my reservations. Firstly, because it involved Hollywood; secondly, because I’ve never quite recovered from the epidemic that arose from ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (I love you Elizabeth Gilbert, but the aliens that later spawned in your good name and overran every ashram between Kalamazoo and Timbuktu are not my fave’s).

I was wrong.

Wild is a beautiful film, and I dare say, one of the few films in memory that actually captures the reality of going through a spiritual crisis and coming out the other end. Essentially, it was a ‘dark night of the soul’ experience, captured on film. It really spares you nothing of the misery Cheryl feels physically, emotionally and spiritually, including a very uncomfortable scene involving a toenail (I’ll spare you and say nothing more).

There would be so much to say on the themes it brings up about mothers and daughters, but I’ll leave it at this: suffice it to say that it’s extremely touching for anyone that has had a less than idyllic relationship with their own mother. It honestly brought up a few things for me to review: one of which is my irritation at my mother’s relentless and decisiveness positivity, something that has always driven me cat-shit crazy. I don’t know if women of my generation ever really appreciate enough just how much our own mothers have gone through, and simultaneously, how little we appreciate what we ourselves have gone through. There are wounds to heal on both sides.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was hearing bits of the poems and books Cheryl read while on the trail.

Specifically, an excerpt from this poem really struck me:


Living in the earth-deposits of our history
Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Curie
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil
She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power

-Adrienne Rich

I was familiar with Adrienne Rich, but have to admit I probably hadn’t had her name cross my mind in at least 10 years or so since leaving University. I love that this poem is titled Power, and the beauty of that8a1c553d106c351561d145496f19b8ec last line is unbelievable – “Denying her wounds came from the same source as her power”. Just stunning.

And isn’t it true? Our wounds are always connected to our greatest power. Whatever we perceive to be the most shameful side of ourselves is the very thing that we have the power to heal, and to bring back into the light to others as wisdom. I know this to be true not only for myself, but for many other people in the healing space. We have to embrace that duality – that goodness alone doesn’t equate to value. We are all still worthy of love, irregardless of what pit stops we’ve made along the way.

So embrace that wound of yours – love it with everything you’ve got.

Bring it back into the light.

We need you.

Do you see a connection between what you consider your wounding and your powers or strengths? Tell me and the rest of the crew about it in the comments below.

Image as seen in The Telegraph