There is an old Native American tale – the tale of two wolves fighting. It is a tale of great insight and great meaning. An old Cherokee decided to teach his grandson a great wisdom, so he sat him down and said:
“There is a terrible fight within me, my boy. Two wolves are fighting. One is black, bad, evil – he is anger, sorrow, pain, revenge, regret, greed, arrogance, guilt, resentment, envy, manipulation, control. And the one is white, good – he is compassion, kindness, forgiveness, trust, joy, love, peace, generosity, empathy, loyalty, humility. My boy, this same fight is going on inside you, and inside everyone else.”
“Which wolf will win, grandfather?” the boy asked.
“The one you feed, my boy. And if you feed them both the right way – both will tame rather than starve and control you.”
So why is this story important?
We need to understand that we all have a shadow side, darker side within us. This is not a bad thing. Denying it or avoiding it would only suppress these emotions. And suppressed emotions eventually start controlling us completely in the most subtle of ways.
Both wolves will always be there. It is part of our survivor instinct to have that black side too – how would we discern danger if we ourselves have never been in a situation of danger before? If all we knew was pure bliss, we wouldn’t survive in this life. We all will come across negative emotions – such as anger, fear, vengeance. We all have some lower appetites as well. Very powerful ones. But if we are not conscious of them – then, they become powerful and become our master – and we become slaves to them – and we start projecting them on others.
There are no bad emotions. Each one is valuable and purposeful. What’s bad is in our reactions and use of them. There are healthy ways of expressing them and using their power for something of value instead of lashing out as they overwhelm us and becoming hurtful to other people – this is unbalanced and unhealthy.
For example, anger. Anger is a very powerful emotion. It can be our motivator and even win us a fight in the boxing ring. It can be the reason why we go to the gym. It is the spark that we can use to start something new that we were taking too long before to start. It can be the healing spark of someone who has held on to pain for too long – someone who has been abused – and now, this anger will release the pain and they’ll move on. It is however very harmful if we instead focus that energy on another person.
The only thing wrong with having intense emotions is the associated guilt for having them. Say this to yourself – they are your emotions and your feelings – and no person or force or even you may deny them or make yourself feel ashamed of feeling them. There is nothing wrong with still processing experiences of the past. Let it out whatever it is that needs to be let out – and then sit in stillness with this emptiness before looking outside to fill it in.
Red-eyed the black wolf emotions are – like fire. But fire is of dual nature – creator and destroyer. It can bring life or destruction depending on how we use it. Do we want to cook or burn the house? Learning how to control and transmute fire energy is crucial.
And let me open up a bracket: are the good only good? Is anything in life ever truly absolutely good? When does too good become bad too? At one point – it becomes self-destructive too, right? Nothing in its absolute state is healthy.
We need strong passions for our wellbeing – but we need to know how to channel them in a healthy way while still not repress or misuse them. Faith and trust are needed to tame such powerful energies. The two wolves work together.
How much faith and trust do we have in life and in ourselves – to surrender and not always push or try to control situations, peoples and outcomes?
So when a “bad” emotion arises – we need to start by first naming it. As soon as we name something we define it, like a box or a shape, and then we can walk around it and examine it – to understand it. Why did it arise, what is it trying to tell us? And then, not be judgmental, not be ashamed, but apply compassion to this aspect of ourselves and integrate it – by accepting it as a part of us.
But also remember that just because we defined it one way today doesn’t mean we can’t define it another way later on. The point is just to bring into awareness the various sides of ourselves and have compassion for them, hold space for them and integrate them in a healthy way.
By being mindful of our shadow aspects – is how we learn to temper them and learn about their purpose in our life. The black wolf teaches us important skills too – like perseverance and fearlessness – and to stand up for ourselves when people mistreat us. Each animal in nature has its own protection too – the trick is, to know how to transmute the energy so that it’s of contribution rather than destruction.
So who wins during our bad times?
It is much easier to feed the black wolf. In times of betrayals, conflict and in times of pain – when we’ve been humiliated, misused or when things just don’t go our way – is when our true nature shows – is when we see which wolf wins. It’s very hard to resist not to do as has been done to you. Very, very hard. Especially when you know exactly how you can avenge and take justice. It takes almost no effort to instinctively get back at someone, or just complain, ignore, give up or blame others for everything.
When the road gets tough – is when we see what we are made of.
The white wolf is very different – it takes a lot of effort. It takes real courage to wake up in the morning and instead of slaying dragons to remain kind hearted – especially if you’ve been hurt many times. It takes great strength not to lash out at someone who just humiliated you, betrayed you or was gossiping behind your back. It takes great courage to know which fights are worth fighting.
So the white wolf is very time-consuming; it’s challenging and harder to feed. For example, how do we continue to trust life and ourselves and others – after betrayals?
Which wolf we feed in our times of distress defines who we are. What we choose to do when we are given all the power and all the reason in the world – is what defines our character. As the saying goes, give someone power, control and money – to see who they truly are.
By conquering the temptation, the sweet seduction of the black wolf – is how to reclaim our true power.
But let’s dig in deeper.
Our eyes adjust to everything. Let’s say we’ve stayed in a black room too long – now, suddenly someone turns on the lights – that’d scare us because it’s unknown. As far as our body is concerned, any change good or bad will feel scary because it’s unknown. In fact, we can’t bond to anything outside of us unless it’s a part of us.
Our eyes will start to see even ourselves as dark in the mirror because we are used to seeing that outside of us. So how can we ever look into the eyes of light in someone else and expect to bond? We can’t. Their light will at some point trigger in ourselves the unknown and will subconsciously trigger our insecurity and threaten our sense of “stability” – our very existence of who we are.
Destroy to save. So to save ourselves – we may continue to hold the dark within us subconsciously – because we are comfortable with it, because it’s known. This is the self-destruction instinct – it’s not conscious, it’s deeply rooted; an impulse. It externalizes emotions such as aggression – because they are not made conscious within us; they are not integrated within our Self. This is why we will see people who will sabotage perfectly happy healthy friendships and relationships – because light hurts the eyes of those who have adjusted to the black room. This is why we will see people start a fight with us for no significant reason – although they’ll think they have all the reasons in the world.
To destroy themselves is to continue to feed such self-hatred behaviours secretly – to continue to replay their old wounds and fight their inner conflicts through us. They are comfortable with suffering because that gives them an excuse for even more suffering – for less responsibility for their happiness and compassion; for their white wolf who is time-consuming and demands much strength and self-awareness. This is the fear of intimacy too – because that means that people have to face who they are – their constraints, possibilities, fears, shadow sides and unknowing.
Once our eyes adjust to something “bad” or “dark”, then we start to see everything like that. So if someone is used to the dark side of themselves, then even if you treat them kindly, one day they will mistreat you or at the least start a fight you with.
So that they bring out a darker side of you – to provoke you to show your dark side because only that’s familiar to them and they want to bond with you – so that they bond with you, again; so that they feel you familiar to their own inner nature.
Never underestimate the subtle tricks of the mind. When you stand in front of a predator – you need to look into their eyes like a predator – so that they bond with you. The question is: what do we choose to look at and why?
Too much of anything will be destructive. Eating too much salad is also not good for us. There needs to be balance.
Applying that to the story of what’s within us – if we want that unconscious side of us to have less control over us, we need to look it in the eyes and familiarize ourselves with that unknown, uncomfortable aspect – before it becomes too powerful and starts acting out from the hidden corners of our mind. Anything we repress will eventually become our master and control our behaviour in the most subtle of ways.
The only way to become masters of our mind and behavioural patterns is to truly see all our sides and shadows; accept them as a part of us – so that we are aware when it kicks in. If the self-desctruction instinct is based on self-hatred – then the only way to deal with it is to self-love.
Denying a part of ourselves is essentially denying ourselves – and not loving ourselves as we are, in our complete Self.
Trust with Wolf and let it guide you inside yourself.
Become your own predator and go after your own dark sides – find them. What are your own sense of betrayals, fears and powerlessness? See them, catch them, hold them, forgive them – this is freeing. It uncovers a kind of wisdom and then you step into a new power and beauty.
Self-awareness is the key to everything.
We can only Trust ourselves – if we know ourselves; our instincts, motivations, drives, shadows, weaknesses and capabilities. And this is how we reclaim our power too.
Feed both wolves the right way
Here is the thing. If you know about predators – like wolves – you’d know that they do not like starving. As we already know – both wolves are always, eternally within us – so if one is not fed, it doesn’t disappear. It will starve and it will become ferocious and it will destroy us – also, destroying everyone else around us.
When one is not fed, it will hide in the shadows, waiting until we become weak or distracted and come out fiercely for the attention it craves! And he’ll be very angry and he’ll do anything to survive his existence. But if we acknowledge him – he’ll be happy and tamed.
The black wolf is not bad or evil – he has the potential to give us the qualities of passion, tenacity, fearlessness and perseverance. He complements the white wolf. The white wolf can’t survive in this world by itself. And vice versa. The white wolf is the caring, strong and compassionate force of nature that the black wolf needs to survive.
They both need each other.
To feed them both means that you yourself are feeding yourself the right way. When we care for all of our aspects – we care for ourselves rather than denying parts of ourselves which then become uncontrollable and dominate us.
Learn your dark aspects and be mindful of your own destructive patterns. Then, and only then – can we find inner peace and walk the path of wolf for our freedom.
Peace is the Cherokee mission in life.
When we have peace inside of us – we have everything. When there is a war inside of us – we have nothing.
How we choose to feed them – determines our life. Starve one or the other – or feed them both the right way.
That’s a choice we make for ourselves. But whatever you choose to do – do it with truth, do it with awareness.
Save the Wolves
I’ve had the enormous pleasure to have had close hands-on contact with Arctic Wolves. They are glorious beautiful animals; emotional and lovable. They demand respect and they share the land we live on. They teach us about family, dedication, intelligence, instinct, freedom and passion. They need our support and we need to save them – because unfortunately we live in a world that has mistreated them greatly. They way we treat nature and our animals is a direct reflection of our relationship to ourselves.
If you’d want to support them too – The Wolf Conservation Center is an amazing organization caring greatly for their work and their wolves.
Animals protect us – we should stand up and protect them too. They need our love. They need us now more than ever.
Much love & peace
Cover Art by Susan Seddon Boulet