A friend of mine is going through a tough time right now.
He had a terrible car accident about two months ago. The good news is that he amazingly didn’t break any bones even though he was going about 55 mph and was T-boned by a car going about 35 mph. However, he did hit his head and was knocked unconscious causing a brain injury, concussion and whiplash.
I’ve been trying to help him through his recovery but it has been very tough. His personality has changed from kind, thoughtful, compassionate, sweet and positive to constantly complaining, argumentative, combative, mean and negative.
As I have been trying to help my friend cope with drastic changes in his life causing frustration, depression, anger, self pity and worry, I stumbled on this story of wolves that is supposed to be an old Cherokee teaching.
This is how it goes:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is Black – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is White – 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.”
It’s easy to feel like a victim in challenging situations and circumstances in our lives. I know my friend is feeling this way and it has to be hard to not be able to think straight or talk right and not know how to fix it.
With a broken arm you put it in a cast or a sling and don’t use it for 6-8 weeks while it heals. But you can’t put your brain in a cast or a sling and how do you NOT use your brain?
We want to understand our negative thoughts, feelings and experiences, so we place blame on other people, objects, or events. We get frustrated with who or what is close to us, be it our partners or friends. We look outward to try to make sense of what’s going on inside of us because it’s our way of coping, and feeling more in control of uncontrollable situations.
But which wolf do you want to feed? It’s your choice to feed or not to feed the black wolf or the white wolf.
Do you feed the wolf who is hungry for anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego?
This black wolf is also your inner critic. The one who tells you that you are a failure, the one who says that no one will love you or understand you for who you are. This wolf is a representation of your depression, your anxiety, and your low self-esteem. Do you want to feed this wolf?
By not feeding the black wolf as much, you will be making a choice to use your energy and resources on thoughts, feelings, and emotions that serve you in healthier ways.
While you can recognize the negative emotions occurring within you, you don’t have to be attached to them or continue to give them attention. Shift your focus to that wolf that you ARE interested in feeding.
So, what about the other wolf?
Just as you do with the black wolf, it is your choice to decide to nourish the white wolf too. The wolf of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
Sometimes we look to external objects for our happiness when we should be looking within. We develop expectations that these things (a new job, a relationship, a vacation, a brand-new pair of shoes, a glass of wine, etc.) will finally make us feel the way we want to feel. And while this may bring momentary gratification, it isn’t realistic to maintain this long-term.
Happiness isn’t a conditional state. It’s a state of being. True lasting happiness comes from making an active choice to be happy, rather than depending on external things to make you happy.
The more that we seek out happiness, and look for it as if it is a treasure we will find, the less we are feeding the black wolf. Everything has its balance so don’t think you can or need to be happy all the time. That isn’t realistic either.
You already have everything you need to be happy. The feeling and experience of happiness comes from feeding the white wolf from within. As he becomes bigger and stronger, he will be better equipped to handle life’s challenges. So, when you have a challenge and need to feed the black wolf, it will be easier for you to refocus back the good things in life since the white wolf will be strong.
Remember this when you are out with your horse. When you get frustrated or your horse seems upset and anxious, allow that feeling for a short time and then refocus to something good.
Horses have bad days just like we do and sometimes need to vent, mourn a loss, or be anxious. But just as you need to refocus, work on helping your horse refocus too. After allowing your horse to have his freedom of speech, help him get happy again.
By the way, my friend agreed to go out to my horses and work on “being” with them and refocusing on the good things in life. Equine therapy can be very helpful, as we know.
One way to “rest” his brain is by relaxing around the horses out in nature. I know this will really be hard for him as he is a “type A” personality who always has to be “doing” something. But I know it will do him a world of good.
We will work on feeding his white wolf while we feed the horses.