There is a story, often attributed to Native Americans, about people having two wolves inside them. In some ways, it is now a cliche to talk about them, but I still find people who have missed the tale, and I feel it is worth a look.
The story is told between a grandfather and his grandson.
“I have a fight going on in me,” the old man said. “It’s taking place between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
The grandfather looked at the grandson and went on. “The other embodies positive emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. The same fight is happening inside you and every other person, too.”
The grandson took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man gave a simple reply. “The one you feed.”
We can see in this story situations that we all face daily. Our minds will always bring us positive and negative thoughts about the situation we are currently going through. It is up to us how we respond.
What should we do?
Our first take of this parable is that it tells us we are in control of our happiness. It takes us to the mindfulness idea that our thoughts flow through our minds. We can acknowledge negative thoughts, but we shouldn’t dwell on them.
In mindfulness, we’ll dam our stream of consciousness and allow the dark to take over. In the two wolves story, we feed the negative wolf, making him much stronger and harder to defeat. We are becoming a darker person.
This tale’s second part tells us to foster our good thoughts. By being joyful of these thoughts, we will allow them to grow. We will then expand to become the positive wolf.
How do I feel about this tale?
I feel that a balance has to be struck. Being solely positive may also have issues. As the negative wolf will be sitting waiting. I’m going to go to a BMX idea here.
You want to drop in for the first time. You are standing at the top of a ramp, and suddenly you’ll find your mind a swirling ball of emotions. People will be telling you it is easy, it is, but at this moment, you can’t quite see that.
It would be best if you listened to both of the wolves here. The positive one will tell you that you can do it. The negative wolf will tell you that you can’t but contained in what it says will be the knowledge you need to do it safely.
Listen to the negative wolf but don’t feed it. Try the mindfulness trick of acknowledging what it says. Give the positive wolf a little reinforcement, and you’ll be dropping in before you know it.
The other ending
There is another ending, that is less talked about it and I feel it is the correct answer. The old man at the end replies.
“If you feed them right, they both win.”
We need the negative wolf as much as we need the positive one. As we alluded to before, the negative wolf will be hiding and ready to jump out if we ignore it. If we acknowledge it, we will keep it satisfied and at bay.
The positive wolf has compassion, is caring, and is joyous. We need these emotions at times. The negative wolf, though, has tenacity and courage. We need those traits at times as well.
Listen to both wolves and you’ll find yourself in balance.