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Clarissa Pinkola Estés: 1943—: Writer, Psychologist

Continued To Respond In Storytelling

Estés sees herself as participating in the storyteller legacy. In her first book she related that "In my traditions there is a storyteller legacy, wherein one storyteller hands down his or her stories to a group of 'seeds.' 'Seeds' are storytellers who the master hopes will carry on the tradition as they learned it." Estés thought that stories and storytellers grow within the person. "The story is most successful if it changes the life of the teller."

Estés also saw stories as a medicine that have the power to repair or reclaim that part of the individual that has been lost to the pain of living. Estés does not abandon organized religion in favor of storytelling. Instead, she sees a compatibility of the two to co-exist, but she also is also careful to avoid controversy whenever she can. In 1997 she was the object of controversy when she was asked to speak at the Catholic Press Association national meeting. Stories about Estés' sympathy for lesbian and gay groups caught the attention of the media and a debate ensued over her suitability to speak at a Catholic function. When these questions were put to her, Estés refused to engage in any kind of theological debate, and when pressed on the issue, she told Pamela Schaeffer, a writer for the National Catholic Reporter, that, "Your faith is something you can spend lots of time debating or you can live it as best you can. That's not to demean in any way the agonies or the opinions of others. I understand faith to be a struggle, not a cake that's baked."

In spite of the controversy about her choice as speaker, no reference at the meeting was made to Estés' championing of gay and lesbian causes. Gay and lesbian issues are an important focus in her professional life. In addition to her work as an author and Jungian analyst, Estés is also the founder of the C.P. Estés Guadalupe Foundation in Colorado, which funds programs on lesbian and gay issues, in addition to its use of shortwave radio to broadcast programming to the people in oppressed countries worldwide.

Estés also found the need to respond to the issue of terrorism and the threat of psychological insecurity that terrorism created. In an essay written after the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, Estés offered some advice to help people cope with the many fears that terrorism had left in its wake and that had caused its victims to become frightened of the future and of life. She suggested that people "dwell on what strengthens you," and "refuse to dwell on what psychically depletes you of hope, contentment and ease." She also suggested such common sense approaches as eating well and getting sufficient rest. But perhaps her most important advice was that people should refuse to think that they are less able to cope than they were before the attack. Estés suggested that one way for any individual to heal is in the telling of his or her own story. She also suggested that people should remember that "each person telling their story over and over is the way to heal." This advice certainly is in keeping with Estés' function as a storyteller and her belief that storytelling is a medicine that heals the soul. Estés currently lives in northern Colorado and in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Selected writings

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Ballantine, 1992, revised edition, 1995.

The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale about What Is Enough, Ballantine, 1993.

The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale about That Which Can Never Die, Harper, 1995.

"Guadalupe: The Path of the broken Heart," published in Goddess of the Americas / La Diosa de las Americas: Writings on the Virgin of Guadalupe, edited by Ana Castillo, Riverhead, 1996, pp. 34-45.

"Healing From Terrorism Sickness," originally posted at The Shalom Center, www.shalomctr.org/html/peace57.html, 2001.



Estés, Clarissa Pinkola, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Ballantine, 1992, revised edition, 1995.


American Communications Journal, Fall 2002, pp. 1-2.

Gazette (Montreal), December 13, 1993, p. F3.

National Catholic Reporter, May 16, 1997, pp. 3, 8.

Vancouver Sun, June 23, 1993, p. C4


"Healing From Terrorism Sickness," The Shalom Center, www.shalomctr.org/html/peace57.html (May 21, 2003).

—Sheri Elaine Metzger and Ralph Zerbonia

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Trevor Edwards Biography - Accepted Wisdom from His Mother to Francisco Franco (1892–1975) BiographyClarissa Pinkola Estés: 1943—: Writer, Psychologist Biography - Childhood Embraced By Storytelling, Self Exploration Lead To Nature And Education, Career In Storytelling Emerged