We’ve all heard the old fable about the two wolves that live inside us, right? I listen to a really good podcast that’s actually called “The One You Feed”. It has some good information but in the spirit of everything I am trying to do at present with self-development, I find myself trying to dig into the truth of everything. I have always been fairly sceptical about most things, even in light of some of the almost magical events and synchronicities I’ve seen play out in my life, so it’s second nature for me to want to find the truth behind even the most common sayings and well-known fables.
So the story goes like this…
I have seen a few articles around the web that dispute that this is Native American wisdom, one stating that it was actually created by evangelist Billy Graham for one of his books. Cultural appropriation at it’s most brazen.
Further, in my research, I found a few authors suggesting that true Native American wisdom would recommend finding a balance. Feeding the ‘good’ emotions within us is a great idea, the good wolf wins and all is dandy. Regardless of the source of the fable, the truths contained within are undeniable.
What do we do about the starving ‘bad wolf’?
Life hands us all kinds of experiences and depending on our general approach to life, we can, as a result, ‘suffer’ from all kinds of emotions. Most of us have no idea what to do with those so-called negative emotions especially when life side-swipes us. Can you say you have the techniques to process the anger you feel at missing out on the promotion you thought you would get? For struggling with depression? For desperately wanting something that seems to fall in the laps of other people?
It’s not enough to starve the bad wolf, because ignoring negative emotions is an ineffective tool when it comes to dealing with the loss of something we desperately wanted. It’s okay in theory for the Buddhists to tell us that suffering comes when we pursue something not meant for us. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is an option and all that… For most people, the pain of losing a pregnancy, or a partner, or even a dream job is not optional. I’ve been through all those things and it’s a whole shit show of negative emotions from anger to grief to envy and guilt that I certainly didn’t feel was optional at the time.
Life happens, and at times we can all experience anger, jealousy, fear, regret, guilt, etc. If we don’t process those emotions at the moment of the experience, they are destined to come back to haunt us later.
We can’t do this by sheer force of will; we need to learn tools and techniques to process our emotions because society has taught us over a couple of thousand years to put on a brave face, stuff down the anger, keep calm and carry on…but all we get from that is more unhappiness down the track, with drug and alcohol abuse, destructive behaviour and even illness according to a growing body of evidence.
So, how do we deal with our negs in a productive way? Lots of people will find a coach or therapist that can help, but there are things we can do instead or along-side assisted therapies or for when we need emotional peace or clarity on an issue. **An interesting note here, a study to compare the efficacy of various therapies showed that the common denominator for successful treatment was an empathetic therapist.
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I am a HUGE fan of journaling and writing in general. In his landmark book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Dr Deepak Chopra provides a list of feelings that we can journal about.
The idea is to run through the list and journal on the last time we felt the emotion. It gets tough around certain concepts like Revelation or Merging, but that should urge us on to find these within our lives. For me, Revelation and Merging show up regularly in meditation and journaling now and I can think of a couple of Transcendent moments in the last few months. I am very happy to say that while I still ponder their existence, the emotions on the right-hand side don’t feature in my life terribly often.
For times when we are suffering, I have always loved using the Emotional Guidance Scale from Abraham/Hicks. It got me out of many an emotionally crappy hole. The technique is to work through the list from the point we find ourselves, writing a sentence describing how we feel for each emotion until we finally get to a point where we can say we genuinely feel joy. I have to admit, there have been times when I was feeling so low that I struggled to get to the Joy category, but I would at least be feeling, say Hopefulness or Positive Expectation, instead of Anger, Hatred or Powerlessness!
This can be particularly helpful when dealing with a creative block.