Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

(1943-)

Clarissa Pinkola Estes was born in Mexico to mestizo parents—Mexicans of European and Native American descent. She was adopted by Hungarian immigrants, however, and raised in the state of Michigan. Her exposure to various ethnic cultures in her upbringing played an important part in her development as a pioneering psychologist and writer.

Estes was raised in a wooded region near the Great Lakes. She lived in a diverse community that included Eastern Europeans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans. Growing up, she was greatly influenced by the stories she was told by her Hungarian aunts.

During her childhood, she also developed a love for the outdoors, in par¬ ticular wolves, which are prominent in the woods of the northern Midwest.When Estes was in her thirties, she located her natural parents. By reconnecting with her natural family, she discovered the folklore and customs of her Mexican ancestry.

This ancestry also influenced her writing, because, as she says, “people who are twice born as adoptees, espe¬cially if they are adopted into another cul¬ ture, have the special ability to bridge those groups.”In 1976, Estes received her bachelors degree in psychotherapeutics from Denver’s Loretto Heights College. In 1981, she earned her Ph.D. in ethno- clinical psychology—the psychology of ethnic groups, especially tribes—from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1984, she earned her post-doctoral diploma in analytical psychology from the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts in Zurich, Switzerland. Jungian analysis, named after the psychologist Carl Jung, uses storytelling to explore a person’s subconscious.As a specialist in cross-cultural mythology, Estes used the Jungian tech¬ nique to develop a new psychology for women.

She combines storytelling and dream analysis to help patients uncover issues in their subconscious and heal their psychologi¬ cal wounds.Estes has created audio tapes and has pub¬ lished poetry, but her most notable achieve¬ ment came in 1992, with the publication of her book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stones ofthe Wild Woman Archetype.

Based on twenty years of research, the book includes numerous stories from various ethnic groups. Through these stories, Estes establish¬ es a link between women’s natural characteris¬ tics and instincts and those of wolves. She uses the link to teach women to trust their instincts and tap into their “wild woman selves.”

The book was a huge success, appearing on the New York Times bestseller list only five weeks after it was published.Estes is a married mother of three daughters. She is an artist in residence for the state of Colorado, and she also practices psychoanalysis in Colorado and Wyoming.