Have you ever had thoughts, feelings or acted in ways that were unacceptable to yourself but felt powerless to control? The purpose of this post is to help you find ways to manage your mind so that you can live your life more in accordance with what your own judgment says is best for you.
As we grow up, we gradually become aware of the many things in the external world which are largely beyond our ability to control. These include other people in general and most events in our lives. Initially this is difficult to accept, but a more shocking realization is that there are many things about ourselves that we seem powerless to control.
Some of these are our own thoughts, feelings, and actions which unfortunately can be the source of much distress. It may be thoughts such as “I cannot stop hating my boss for passing me over for a promotion.” It may involve an emotion e.g. “My girl friend left me and I cannot stop feeling sad, lonely and unloved.” It can also be in the form of a behavior such as the inability to control one's craving for food such as sweet deserts or constant snacking. “
But are we indeed really powerless to control our own maladaptive thoughts, feelings and actions? The following is an old Cherokee Indian story that I find enlightening and I hope you will find helpful as well.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all"
"It is a terrible fight and it is 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." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed".
This story was sent to me by a dear old friend in Canada who despite medical difficulties, routinely sends me positive messages. The Cherokee are an aboriginal native group found in the Southeastern United States. As is common with oral historical narratives, there are various versions of this story.
The grandfather’s answer "The one you feed" is deceivingly simple. The results of psychological research indicate that there are at least four important concepts or ideas implied by the answer:
These four ideas give rise to a number of questions, some of which I have listed below. You might want to write down your answers in your own private journal or computer file protected by a password. The important thing is to take a quiet time to reflect on the questions and answer them as best you can. I hope that by taking time to do this, you will learn to better manage your mind, feelings, and actions and consciously feeding the good wolf in your.
I will discuss these points in future posts but if you have any immediate questions please send them to me in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them.
I love this story, and the lesson it presents.
February 22, 2012 01:11:58
Hello Dave: Thanks very much for your kind comments. I myself was touched when a dear old friend from university days pointed me to it. So I am just passing on the wisdom. Again thanks.
February 23, 2012 06:12:29
The Taxi Dog says:
Before I retired, I was a leader in the mental health counseling profession. In my blog, I'm enjoying my reading and writing. I came across your story when was looking for graphics.
My two grandfathers were "the darkness" and "the light". A theme I will ponder.
April 14, 2012 01:50:18
Vincent Fede says:
I need "tools" to help me feed the "good" wolf. Can you provide?
May 6, 2012 12:12:33
Hello Vincent: There are a vast number of ways to "feed the good wold"! I suggest you get some psychological assistance if the bad wolf is causing very significant problems in your life. For milder problems some common approaches are relaxation strategies such as yoga, exercise or a stress management program. Cognitive behavioral self help books such as:
Mind Over Mood” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, Guillford Press 1995 and
Feeling Good and/or the Feeling Good Handbook, by David D. Burns.
I hope you find these suggestions useful but remember there are many other effective strategies.
May 6, 2012 09:49:12
I came across the The Two Wolves hanging on a door of one of the men in a treatment program for Adult Sex offenders where I work. What a wonderful thing to have read today!! I battle constantly with adapting, and comment endless about the war inside my head, and had never heard this before......All I can say is we never know when something is going to spark a learning nerve in us.......thank you, I wish I could find a plaque of this some where to hang on my wall, and to give to a friend? Do you know where I might find one? Thanks again, and have a good day.
May 27, 2012 06:30:09
I've never herd this before but I love it. You just changed my life thank you. Im going to feed the good wolf as much as I can. You reallly did help me thank you again.
July 14, 2012 11:06:24
Dr. Brian Scott says:
Hello Sam: Thank you very much for your comment. As I said in that article I got the story from an old friend in Canada who has since passed away. I did however have the chance to thank her for her generous sharing of this great story with me.
I am so glad you are going to feed that good wolf.
July 15, 2012 07:15:37
You should post the image on Zazzle.com (or any number of websites where images can be printed on posters, etc. for people to buy). As long as it is your own image creation...then we can all get copies!
August 23, 2012 01:58:16
I tell this story to almost all my clients. Angry men have a default...that they must feed the evil wolf or they'll be eaten up by the world. The idea that there are good wolves out there is so far removed that it isn't worth considering.
January 3, 2013 07:16:04
Very excellent , I would say thank you for your post, please update me if anything is there
April 7, 2013 07:56:19
Thank you Zakir for your positive comments about this post. I am working on a related post about how we feed our anxious wolf and how to better nurture our "calm serene" wolf.
April 8, 2013 01:21:41