If you haven’t heard the story about the 2 wolves, here it is: It’s an ancient Cherokee legend.
A boy comes to his grandfather for advice because he’s raging inside over a fight he had with his friend. His grandfather tells him there are two wolves inside him. One is good and is joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion – all the things that give our lives joy; the other is evil and is anger, envy, regret, greed, guilt, resentment, doubt, false pride – all the things that make us miserable.
The boy thought for a minute, and then asks his grandfather which wolf would win.
Grandfather replies: The one you feed.
Which is good and which is evil isn’t always so easy to figure out. Here’s another, more modern, story (you may be familiar with some version of it):
A woman – Jane, let’s say – is faced with a choice, and can’t decide which is the better one. She’s just been offered the promotion she’s coveted for over a year, but it would mean relocating. That’s OK for her, but not so OK for her son and husband, who like where they are and friends, colleagues and great prospects that they’d lose if they moved. She would feel great. They would feel terrible. What should she do?
She might talk herself into one choice or the other, without ever really being clear about what motivated her. After all, if I were to be offered the job of my dreams, I’d be pretty hard-pressed to turn it down, and might rationalize my way into going, only to discover my mistake when it was too late. Or, she might avoid that mistake by imagining that it had already happened – both alternatives.
Alternative 1 – moving with her husband and son. Imagine a typical day living in her new place – being honest with herself, how she’d feel getting up, how it would be between herself and her family walking through the whole day like that.
Alternative 2 – turning the job down and staying put. Imagine this typical day in the same way as she’s imagined the first alternative.
Which feels good? Which doesn’t feel good? Which choice gives her peace and joy, and which doesn’t? Martha Beck refers to something like this in her book Steering by Starlight. She calls it “Find the Feeling”.
Sometimes knowing which wolf we’re feeding takes some effort, but the pay-off is worth it.
Peace of mind.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .