Monday, June 27, 2011

Exile and the Ugly Duckling Syndrome

When we feel exiled from the world, from our families -- just can't seem to find our "tribe", the people who accept us as we are, it leads to exile and what Estes calls The Ugly Duckling Syndrome. I have a feeling many of my readers will relate in some way to this excerpt. 
Bad Company 
The ugly duckling goes from pillar to post trying to find a place to be at rest. While the instinct about exactly where to go may not be fully developed, the instinct to rove until one finds what one needs is well intact. Yet there is a kind of pathology sometimes in the ugly duckling syndrome. One keeps knocking at the wrong doors even after one knows better. It is hard to imagine how a person is supposed to know which doors are right doors if one has never known a right door to begin with. However, the wrong doors are those that cause you to feel the outcast all over again. 
This is the "looking for love in all the wrong places" response to exile. When a woman turns to repetitive compulsive behavior--repeating over and over again a behavior that is not fulfilling, that causes decline instead of sustained vitality--in order to salve her exile, she is actually causing more damage because the original wounded state is not being attended to and she incurs new wounding with each foray. 
The solutions to these bad choices are severalfold. If the woman were able to sit herself down and peer into her own heart, she would see there a need to have her talents, her gifts, and her limitations respectfully acknowledged and accepted. So, to begin healing, stop kidding yourself that a little feel-good of the wrong sort will take care of a broken leg. Tell the truth about your wound, and then you will get a truthful picture of the remedy to apply to it. Don't pack whatever is easiest or most available into the emptiness. Hold out for the right medicine. You will recognize it because it makes your life stronger rather than weaker. ~Women Who Run With the Wolves 


  1. This really did hit home.

    "One keeps knocking at the wrong doors even after one knows better."

    Perhaps the familiar feeling of anxiety and "excitement" for being kept completely off balance is mistaken for something else? Maybe its replacing one pain with another? In any case, after two situations that caused me so much pain I think I've become more aware of the pitfalls and how to avoid them in the future. I've learned a lot about myself in the process and the fact that all people are really not created equally. That's one of those aphorisms that doesn't always ring true, IMO. Assuming that others are always on the up and up is what has gotten me into trouble.

    However, its so difficult to extricate oneself when one is in the middle of it all... It feels so confusing and hopeless, but I have since discovered, that if I'm spending hour after hour in tears of misery, that is a sign that things need to change and fast. Real love isn't painful; its rejuvenating!

    I hope that you're having a beautiful day!



  2. Lexie, I like how she says, "it is hard to imagine how a person is supposed to know which doors are right doors if one has never known a right door to begin with.", which I think is what you mean when you say we might be mistaking one thing for something else. If we've never been through certain doors, it can be tough to know what we're looking at.

    This is further complicated by being told that what we are receiving IS love or concern or care or "good for us". Estes emphasizes through-out the book how important it is for women to be in touch with their deeper instincts and that applies here too. I started to get bad feelings about Roi before I knew about everything. Started having bad dreams about him, but on the surface of things all looked like I should be completely in love so I ignored my own instincts. Even if I voiced them, I pushed down again.

  3. Briar- to piggyback onto what you were saying about your bad feelings in the beginning about Roi-

    I had signs in the beginning about Jermaine, but I was so shut down and desperate for any type of attention that I refused to listen to Jermaine. Jermaine was trying to leave me and didn't want to be with me, at the very beginning, and I forced 'us' upon him.

    I feel, very much, without a tribe. But the weirdest part is, I've felt this way forever. I guess it just comes from coming from a family of humans (humans being flawed in their own right). Holding out for the right medicine is hard, though. I've likened it to being without a car in Texas. I can either choose to walk or I can choose a junker. At least the junker will work sometimes. That's what I've done in all of my relationships. I guess I think that at some point, what I'm getting will eventually be enough for me. That I will develop a tolerance for not enough, but that never happens.

    I'm so grateful you keep posting from this book. I can't express it enough. If I knew you well enough and you were here in the flesh (and you allowed me to do so) I would probably give you a big, big, breath squeezing hug.

  4. Estes talks about that, the feeling of exile from childhood within our own families, and that is generally what leads to this syndrome.

    You may get a few more feet in a junker, but you also end up with a towing bill and stuck next to a broken down car. I think what she's saying is that whatever little we gain from being with the wrong tribe is quickly undone and causes more damage in the end. The solitary journey may seem tiresome, but we must keep on passing by what is not right for us and have faith that we'll eventually come upon it, but only if we keep seeking it.

  5. P.S. I would hug you right back. :)