Which wolf will you feed?

For most of my life, I have been a bitter, resentful, angry person. The story that I tell myself is that I came by it honestly. I’m a classic case of a person who suffered early childhood trauma around abandonment and rejection issues and much of my life has been spent in trying to get the people in my life now to make up for the things done by the people in my past. When this plan didn’t work [for reasons that are obvious to me now] I reacted with resentment and anger; first toward myself and then toward others…

Slowly slowly slowly through the work I have been doing in Celebrate Recovery and through the teachings of Brené Brown, Kristin Neff, and Tara Brach, I have been finding the things I need to reject shame and treat myself with compassion. As a result I have much more compassion to share with the people in my world!

Here is an excerpt from Tara Brach’s book True Refuge that typifies the kind of thinking that is helping me be more mindful and present in my own life:

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, as many people feared an ongoing and vicious spiral of retaliation and global violence, a wonderful Cherokee legend went viral on the Internet: An old grandfather is speaking to his grandson about what causes the violence and cruelty in the world. “In each human heart,” he tells the boy, “there are two wolves battling one another— one is fearful and angry, and the other is understanding and kind.” The young boy looks intently into his grandfather’s eyes and asks, “Which one will win?” His grandfather smiles and quietly says, “Whichever one we choose to feed.” It’s easy to feed the fearful, angry wolf. Especially if we’ve experienced great wounding, the anger pathway can become deeply ingrained in our nervous system. When our old sense of injury or fear is triggered, the intolerable heat and pressure of anger instantly surges through us. Our attention gets riveted on the feelings and thoughts of violation and all we want is revenge. Often before we have any sense of choice, the nasty comeback is out of our mouth, we’ve slammed a door, hit send on an ill-advised e-mail, put someone down behind his back. Yet we do have a choice. Meditations that train the heart and the mind directly deactivate the anger pathways that propel our habitual behaviors. While the limbic system acts almost instantaneously, we can develop a response from the frontal cortex— which includes the social centers involved with compassion— that interrupts and subdues the reaction. This is where cultivating mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the “remembering” that helps us pause and recognize what is happening in the present moment. Once we have paused, we can call on the higher brain centers to open new possibilities. We can soothe ourselves, we can recall another person’s difficulties and vulnerability, we can remember our own goodness and strength. No matter how painfully we are triggered by the world’s violence and insensitivity, we can direct our attention in ways that carry us home to our intrinsic sanity and good-heartedness.

Brach, Tara (2013-01-22). True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (pp. 182-183). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

If you feel like you have no choice and that the fearful and angry wolf is far too big for you to handle encourage you to start by realizing that you do have a choice and then to find the tools you need to learn how to feed the understanding and kind wolf. Questions? Feedback? Whatever I have to offer is yours…

4 thoughts on “Which wolf will you feed?

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! Please let me be clear, however, that only the first paragraph is mine and the rest is content that I curated from Tara Brach’s book…


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