Untamed had me hook line and sinker from the Prologue. This book seems to be read from a woman’s point of view, for women. However, I think the takeaways from the book are beyond that of gender – as the author, Glennon Doyle, later discusses the exact topic of gender via the lens of “girls being girls” and “boys being boys” - whatever that means now.
Regardless, the Prologue of the book paints a beautiful metaphor of societal conditioning. Glennon and one of her children go to the zoo where they witness the “Cheetah Run.” A wild animal, the cheetah, chases a pick-up truck with a stuffed animal tied to the tail end as people watch in awe. Glennon’s child inquires how a wild animal could be trained as such. To which the author set’s the stage for the book. “The cheetah is tamed.” Hence the title, untamed -- untangling our conditioning.
Being a psychotherapist, this directly spoke to the work I do on the daily – untangling conditioned behavior and limiting beliefs set by our parents, friends and society at large. I loved the metaphor and could relatedly instantly.
Glennon’s book has equal parts insight and hilarity amongst of sea of relatability. The book is segmented into three parts: CAGED, KEYS and FREE.
CAGED dissects Glennon’s own conditioning, which we all can relate to. She processes roles she has been assigned over years, from her child hood, to her career, to wife and mother. She gives great imagery and stories (many from the interactions with her children – which add a sense of playfulness to the heavier subject matter). CAGED is an opportunity for the reader to ponder their own conditioned role (maybe some they over or under identify with, to encourage them to peel away the expectations of others and find one’s True, Capital S Self). It is not at all means to live a narcissistic self-centered life, but one that is lived with you in the driver’s seat. A takeaway line for me was a convo.
Glennon had with her daughter where Glennon departs some sage advice:
“When you have the choice between disappointing yourself and disappointing others, NEVER disappoint yourself.” To which her daughter replies, “Even you, Mommy?” Glennon’s response, “Especially me.”
After setting the stage in Part One, Glennon invites you, with your capital S self in hand to begin processing the KEYS to living a more self-actualized life, abandoning the ability to escape life via drugs and alcohol, food, over-exercise, or whatever your poison is in an attempt to alter your reality. She reminds you the value of the KEYS but also, the weight they carry. The KEYS are FEELINGS, THE KNOWING, IMAGINATION and TRANSFORMATION. This chapter was so so wonderful, and easily related to the KEYS you receive once you’ve chosen a life of recovery.
She lets you in on a big secret, once you choose to feel you feel EVERYTHING.
Often, I have patients who wants JUST the Yellow Crayon (“happiness”) in the box of 56 crayons. I remind them quickly that yellow is only 1 of the 56 crayons and when you choose to feel you feel them all (which is part of life – life is hard, and as Glennon reminds us, “We can do hard things.”).
The Knowing speaks to your intuition and trusting your gut. This one is a harder sell, because we often have to restructure limiting beliefs, traumas and conditioned behavior before ALL of us can get to the point where we are thinking rationality and with clarity. I always encouraged trusting your gut BUT bouncing it off of a neutral party – i.e. a therapist, spiritual leader, or mentor. We only can only truly view experience from our experience. Imagination translated to me as living live with curiosity, instead of being fearful of what is coming (i.e. changes in life) be curious about them. And then finally, transformation. Her take away here is that we are born and die multiple times in our lives – you WILL have difficult times. There may not be reasons WHY, but figuring out how to transform in the fires of challenge is essential to living life. If we stay stuck in painful experiences we stay stuck, like quick sand. There’s no time limited on healing, but be willing to resurrect once burned.
At this point in the book we continue into Part Three: Free. Free continues the narrative of establishing identity, trusting self, deconstructing more society roles and limiting beliefs. This is where the book’s narrative went a bit off the rails for me. The book felt very much like a self-discovery book, but disconnected a bit from it’s central meaning, after Glennon n ow brings in larger more “hot topic” issues such as racial inequality, religion and immigration. All of which are super important, pertinent and relevant current issues, but felt like they strayed from the narrative of the book. I so wanted more of the stuff that the first two parts birth. She makes some good points, of course, but the subjective matter felt a bit disconnected from the take away message.
Overall, I would highly recommend the book as there are so many gems within it that I jotted down. It allowed me to look at self-discovery in applicable relatable ways.
I will definitely remember, when faced with hard times, that “I can do hard things.”