The Wolves You Feed

I always tell people that the only difference between me and a person with multiple personality disorder, is that all my personalities communicate and are all named Colleen.   It’s just unfortunate that we all get punished when one of the Colleens does something stupid – but it’s great when we all get to benefit from one of us doing something kind, brilliant or wise.

It reminds me of the native american legend/parable about “the wolf you feed:


One winter’s evening whilst gathered round a blazing camp fire, an old Sioux Indian chief told his grandson about the inner struggle that goes on inside people.

“You see” said the old man, “this inner struggle is like two wolves fighting each other. One is evil, full of anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, deceit, false pride, superiority, and ego”.

“The other one,” he continued, poking the fire with a stick so that the fire crackled, sending the flames clawing at the night sky, “is good, full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith”.

The grandson pondered his grandfather’s words and then asked, “So which wolf wins, grandfather?”

“Well”, said the wise old chief, “The one you feed!”


I’d like to think that if I have a totem animal it would be the wolf (although it’s probably a fat golden retriever), but regardless…

I have to be conscious of which wolf (or which Colleen) I’m feeding, and how I’m feeding her (them), and not just symbolically but literally.  Do I want to feed Colleen (literal and mataphoric) crap and make sick Colleen sicker, or do I want to make healthy and strong Colleen healthier and stronger (physically and metaphorically).

Apathy and other negative states makes it easier too feed on junk.  Not just junk food for the body, but junk food for the mind.  Creating a negative mental/emotional environment by bitching, whining, and all-around pessimisim is so much easier (it often seems) than creating a positive environment with creativity, industriousness, and optimism.  The “default” setting can easily become a slowly (or not so slowly) descending spiral of negativity.

But we do have the power to change the direction of the spiral, and it doesn’t take a dramatic conversion experience.  We don’t have to become a different person, or change our outlook entirely, a small change can make dramatic change.

If pessimism is your natural state, you wil not become an optimist overnight (and possible never), but you do have to start with a glimmer of hope.  “There’s a chance that life doesn’t have to suck entirely as much as it does now,” may be as far as you can push yourself in the positive direction.   It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a start.  And afterall, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.





3 Responses to “The Wolves You Feed”

  1. Screaming Fat Girl Says:

    I think that the analogy that we have two opposing sides serves to illustrate a point, but in real life, it’s all so much more subtle than that. That makes it more insidious and difficult to deal with. I’ve always felt that changing who you are is a matter of making a million little switches in choices and behavior. You can flip off the “eat now” switch for now. And every time it nags at you to turn it on, you can switch it off. Eventually, the nagging mellows out. This applies to everything. It’s a form of self-conditioning.

    That being said, I think that being too optimistic can be harmful. I think expecting too many good things is as bad as expecting the worst all of the time since it’s tied to hopes which are easily dashed when life doesn’t take the road you expect. I think that, in terms of weight loss, this is why people tend to regain. They think all problems will be solved once they get thin. When things don’t change, and they find they’re tied to factors other than weight, they go back to eating for comfort since not doing so didn’t solve anything.

    I like to just be balanced, and consider the possible positive and negative outcomes with an eye toward the probability of one or the other. Having a spouse to talk things over with helps because you get a better perspective. The bottom line though is that Buddha was right, “existence is suffering.” It’s expecting anything else that makes life depressing.

  2. kaplods Says:

    I agree, for the most part. I don’t have two wolves, I have dozens (the multiple Colleen’s is a better analogy), but it is a choice as to which I feed. Do I choose to wallow, or do I choose to work.

    Blind optimism, is as destructive as blind pessimism – both are independent of reality. If you’re always a “happy camper” even under the most tragic circumstances, that’s not a normal or healthy style of coping.

    Optimism doesn’t mean expecting good things, it doesn’t necessarily mean expecting ANYTHING. It’s not about expecting good things and then being distraught at not getting them (that’s not really optimism). It’s about feeling fairly confident that one has the strength to cope with whatever comes.

    I don’t think optimism means expecting no suffering (that’s naivety) nor does it mean expecting to have good things fall in your lap without having to work for them (that’s stupidity).

    Existence IS suffering, but it is also joy – and the joy isn/t really something that just happens to you, it’s something you have to be open for, and more often than not something you have to create.

  3. Screaming Fat Girl Says:

    I think people are socialized and religiously oriented to believe that doing everything right, being good, etc. will lead to happiness. When they are good people, and very bad things happen, that is when they are in for a shock. Societies that are largely Christian think that is God gives them enough merits in the “good” column, life will be good. It’s not so much naivete as programming.

    I don’t see joy so much as something I can manufacture, so much as something I can find by discarding the unimportant and understanding that life isn’t what I was told it was going to be when I was growing up. It’s what it is now that I’m grown up.

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