WolvesYou've heard it before.

The old man tells the boy, "I have two wolves inside me. One is angry, and the other is peaceful. They are always in conflict, each pulling me its own way."

"Which one is stronger?" the boy asks.

The old man says, reflectively, "The one I feed."


Sounds wise, doesn't it?

But here's the question: have you ever known anyone who successfully starved the anger to death?

I haven't either. The analogy breaks down when you think about what these two wolves are. Each of them is you. You can kill a part of yourself, by suicide (!), but not by deciding not to think about it. How'd not thinking about it work with your appendix? Your broken leg? Your divorce?

Think of the whole system. Those wolves are in conflict. One wants to destroy the world with anger, it says; the other wants it to shut the hell up. But let Peaceful Wolf say "Go ahead," and Angry Wolf will say, "Whoa. I thought you were going to restrain me. What do I do now? We had a deal!"

Instead, give Angry Wolf what it really wants, whatever that is. What's it angry about? Honor? Then honor it. Deprivation? Care for it. A demand for order? Give it some order. In its own space. If it says, "I want to complain and bitch and moan forever," say, "You can have 10 minutes. Bitch and moan all you want." It's sort of like a child: it sees everything in huge terms.

Peaceful Wolf wants to be accepted, to have love and harmony, and its own order. Give it to him.

Bottomless pits stop being bottomless when you give them what they need.

Then Angry Wolf -- or, rather, Protector Wolf -- can rejoice when you take charge; so can Peaceful Wolf.

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Comment by Alexander Benjamin Hays on March 20, 2010 at 11:41am
I love this post Will! You seem to be one of the major thinkers on AoM! =)
Comment by Chris Hamm on December 15, 2009 at 10:48pm
Really nice. I had to slow down and turn the words over a couple times to really get to the bottom of what you were saying. I would say, however, that while you cannot completely starve one wolf it is possible to cage it, weaken it, leash it, however you like to look at it. I think this is what happens to people who bottle anger and deny themselves an outlet for their frustrations. Of course the issue there is the angry wolf will eventually get ravenous enough to chew his own foot out of the trap and unleash hell.

Likewise we all know those people who goad the angry wolf to attack first and ask questions later while keeping the peaceful one in the kennel. My uncle did this and paid the price. He died of a heart attack at 32.

The tension exists for a reason. To deny one wolf what it needs results in a very unhealthy person.
Comment by Cowboy Bob Sorensen on December 15, 2009 at 6:40pm
I see it. We need the tension or conflict within us, because each is a part of us. You cannot deny or eliminate a part of yourself, but you can get it under control, and even work with it. Excellent post.
Comment by Raj on December 15, 2009 at 4:53pm
Great post, Will. This really gives me something to think about!
Comment by Shawn Mcfarland on December 15, 2009 at 4:50pm
Well said.
Comment by Tyler Jacobs on December 15, 2009 at 3:48pm
Such good stuff, Will! Thanks for that.

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