The old Cherokee story goes:
A young man was struggling and ran home to speak with his grandfather.
‘A terrible fight is going on inside me,’ he said. ‘Like two wolves inside me.’
‘Tell me,’ the grandfather said, as kindly as he could, encouraging the boy to speak.
‘One is evil: he is filled with anger, envy, sorry, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment and all over dark things like my insecurity, and false pride.’
‘That’s when you feel superior, is it not?’
‘Yes, yes!’ the boy cried. ‘But even if I think I am better, I don’t feel very good.’
‘And the other?’ the grandfather asked. ‘What is the other wolf like?’
‘Well,’ said the boy, beginning to calm down, even considering this other wolf began to change his mood. ‘The other is good, he is filled with joy, peace, love, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth and compassion. When that other wolf fills me, I feel faith and hope.’
The grandfather swooped the young boy into his arms. ‘This same fight is going on inside of everyone.’ The grandson thought about this for a moment and then asked his grandfather which wolf will win?
‘Ah,’ the old Cherokee laughed, ‘the one you feed.’
I love this story, and like most of us, even knowing this story isn’t a guarantee that I will forget and will need reminding. It isn’t always easy to just choose the more loving of these wolves, these sides of us, even if it will ultimately make us happier and healthier. How easy to get stuck in the other loop! Important to remember that negativity shouts seven times louder and stronger than the positive, whether in feeling, action or thought. Or in another’s reaction to us, that in turn can trigger and ‘feed’ the wolf we’d planned to starve. And at times it sure can feel better to be that first wolf, the more aggressive wolf. That side may seem more exciting, more sexy, jazzy and thrilling.
I wonder now, if at times we need to be that other wolf – but maybe away from other people, in nature, in movement, in sound and in dancing. To give voice to the darker sides, to vent our sorrow – a more active form of ‘feeling sorry for ourselves, is to feel our sorrow. To give time to these shadier, gloomier aspects. I love this story and its simple message and yet challenging this further, it does seem in my experience – and in my work with Alexander Technique in combination with therapy in working with trauma and the source of anxiety – that tapping into both of our wolves is crucial. We have both wolves inside us. Indeed, we can learn to ‘feed’ one more than the other, but perhaps a sense of giving time to listen, to be attentive to both sides in us, especially if one is less active or scarier (with the help of a professional to give guidance and support), a lot can be learned. Growth and recovery, healing and learning have many shades in-between black and white.