Which wolf are you feeding?


A friend of mine is going through a tough time right now.

He had a terrible car accident about two months ago. The good news is that he amazingly didn’t break any bones even though he was going about 55 mph and was T-boned by a car going about 35 mph. However, he did hit his head and was knocked unconscious causing a brain injury, concussion and whiplash.

I’ve been trying to help him through his recovery but it has been very tough. His personality has changed from kind, thoughtful, compassionate, sweet and positive to constantly complaining, argumentative, combative, mean and negative.

As I have been trying to help my friend cope with drastic changes in his life causing frustration, depression, anger, self pity and worry, I stumbled on this story of wolves that is supposed to be an old Cherokee teaching.

This is how it goes:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is Black – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is White – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

It’s easy to feel like a victim in challenging situations and circumstances in our lives. I know my friend is feeling this way and it has to be hard to not be able to think straight or talk right and not know how to fix it.

With a broken arm you put it in a cast or a sling and don’t use it for 6-8 weeks while it heals. But you can’t put your brain in a cast or a sling and how do you NOT use your brain?

We want to understand our negative thoughts, feelings and experiences, so we place blame on other people, objects, or events. We get frustrated with who or what is close to us, be it our partners or friends. We look outward to try to make sense of what’s going on inside of us because it’s our way of coping, and feeling more in control of uncontrollable situations.

But which wolf do you want to feed? It’s your choice to feed or not to feed the black wolf or the white wolf.

Do you feed the wolf who is hungry for anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego?

This black wolf is also your inner critic. The one who tells you that you are a failure, the one who says that no one will love you or understand you for who you are. This wolf is a representation of your depression, your anxiety, and your low self-esteem. Do you want to feed this wolf?

By not feeding the black wolf as much, you will be making a choice to use your energy and resources on thoughts, feelings, and emotions that serve you in healthier ways.

While you can recognize the negative emotions occurring within you, you don’t have to be attached to them or continue to give them attention. Shift your focus to that wolf that you ARE interested in feeding.

So, what about the other wolf?

Just as you do with the black wolf, it is your choice to decide to nourish the white wolf too. The wolf of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

Sometimes we look to external objects for our happiness when we should be looking within. We develop expectations that these things (a new job, a relationship, a vacation, a brand-new pair of shoes, a glass of wine, etc.) will finally make us feel the way we want to feel. And while this may bring momentary gratification, it isn’t realistic to maintain this long-term.

Happiness isn’t a conditional state. It’s a state of being. True lasting happiness comes from making an active choice to be happy, rather than depending on external things to make you happy.

The more that we seek out happiness, and look for it as if it is a treasure we will find, the less we are feeding the black wolf. Everything has its balance so don’t think you can or need to be happy all the time. That isn’t realistic either.

You already have everything you need to be happy. The feeling and experience of happiness comes from feeding the white wolf from within. As he becomes bigger and stronger, he will be better equipped to handle life’s challenges. So, when you have a challenge and need to feed the black wolf, it will be easier for you to refocus back the good things in life since the white wolf will be strong.

Remember this when you are out with your horse. When you get frustrated or your horse seems upset and anxious, allow that feeling for a short time and then refocus to something good.

Horses have bad days just like we do and sometimes need to vent, mourn a loss, or be anxious. But just as you need to refocus, work on helping your horse refocus too. After allowing your horse to have his freedom of speech, help him get happy again.

By the way, my friend agreed to go out to my horses and work on “being” with them and refocusing on the good things in life. Equine therapy can be very helpful, as we know.

One way to “rest” his brain is by relaxing around the horses out in nature. I know this will really be hard for him as he is a “type A” personality who always has to be “doing” something. But I know it will do him a world of good.

We will work on feeding his white wolf while we feed the horses.


Please Share

  • Thanks so much for this story. It helps to have a picture story to remember this. Amazing, and I hope your friend is doing well with horse therapy. It’s always about the connection between us and our horses and the bond.
    I would appreciate more information on mental health therapy to do with horses. That would be great.
    Thanks, Catherine

  • It is true and I am very familiar with that saying. It does come as though a conflict within the constant war within the mind when things go wrong. Though days when something happened where my horse was at, it took a while before they would enter into the covered area to be fed they preferred the open area. I’m sorry about your friend and I do hope he recovers it’s not easy and that is also very difficult. I at times have moments of waring and then sit to focus and replay seeing the best way to handle the situation. Thank you very much and I hope that all good comes for your friend. Thank you again for another wonderful words of wisdom.

    • Thank you Connie for your comments. I always like to look at progress with my horse on a weekly basis instead of a daily basis and that way it is always positive as I can sit back, like you mentioned, and seeing the best.

  • This is so right! I am dealing with my husband who is doing the same thing because of having open-heart surgery. This will be the direction I will take.

    • Kathy, just be patient because it’s due to the surgery and not your husband’s fault. Hopefully, it will get better soon.

      • Kathy, My friend has been using a program called Constant Therapy, an app on his iPad – CT. It is like Luminosity (brain games) but this was prescribed by his neurosurgeon. It is specifically designed to help remap the brain when there is an issue. It is working and he has shown some improvement, even in his personality. You may want to look into it. It gives you two weeks free trial to try it.

  • Melanie Bennett says:

    What a wonderful way of explaining this difficult topic, l will remember this and pass it on if necessary. I totally agree with you, l was in the presence of the black wolf for alot of my life but you need help to understand what is going on. Now l am feeding my white wolf and life is getting better. The poem l once learnt
    “What is this life if full of care
    We have no time to stand and stare……..”
    I learnt it at school and for some reason it stuck with me, now l know why, because it’s TRUE.
    Thank you, it needs someone to point out what should be obvious but in our hectic life style pushed by commercialism and people telling us we need that, we have lost the ability to stop look and listen.
    Thank you

  • Melanie Bennett says:

    I forgot to add that l hope you friend recovers when we don’t know who we are anymore we feel lost. Horses do bring us back as mine has done.
    Just a thought sitting painting or drawing can help to it makes you really look at the world, it doesn’t have to be good or inspire, it’s a way of allowing what you feel come out get put on paper and releasing it. Abstract whatever and sitting out with horses can be a double hit. Fingers crossed

    • I totally agree. Painting or drawing can bring out the creative side of us, especially when we are with the horses. I like how you added – it doesn’t have to be good. So many people are afraid to paint or draw just because they don’t feel they are “good” at it. However, the purpose isn’t to be good at it, the purpose is to bring out and release what’s inside us. Thank you for that reminder. 🙂

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