Which Wolf Will I Feed?

So, I came across this lovely parable during my counselling training, and it has really stuck with me.

‘An Elder of a Native American tribe is sitting round the fire with one of the youngest members of the tribe. The Elder tells the child a story about the great battle, that happens in each of us, between the Blue Wolf and the Red Wolf.

The Red Wolf holds all our anger, pain, hatred, doubt and possibly every other difficult emotion we have. The Blue Wolf holds our love, peace, joy, compassion and possibly every other pleasant emotion we have. The child is entranced by the story and after a while he asks “which wolf wins the battle?” to which the Elder replies “the wolf we feed”.

This felt so simple yet so profound all at the same time. Maybe it’s because I view Native American culture and history with some reverence. Had this been a conversation between two drunks at a bus stop, I like to think I still would have appreciated the wisdom but the Native American slant certainly lends it some gravitas! My other issue became feeling sorry for the Red Wolf. I’m a huge animal lover and the though of not feeding any animal makes me anxious. I suppose, in counselling terms, my empathy for the Red Wolf makes sense. Whilst I agree to not feeding him, he needs to stretch. Maybe he needs to be heard?

The story makes a good point, but… what happens to the Red Wolf? What are we meant to do? Do we ignore him? Hope that he wastes away and dies? That feels monstrous to me as well as unlikely to succeed! These uncomfortable and aggressive emotions won’t just go away. We may not want to feed them but we have to be aware of them.

Maybe the Red Wolf deserves an outlet, a voice or at the very least acknowledgement. He may be a defender of us, a bodyguard or mind/heart shield of sorts. Figuring out his purpose or job might be a good starting place to understanding or accepting the wild beast within us all! Maybe we can learn to accept him, placate him, manage him and even have a fondness for him. He may have had a much harder life than the Blue Wolf. By all means, try not to feed him but we can learn to calm him and let him rest.

Self-compassion is something that many of us struggle with. By looking at the parts of yourself that you do not cherish and spend much time with, could be a journey of self-discovery. Your Blue Wolf may get stronger and your Red Wolf may become a more easily managed ‘pink cub’ that we have an affection for!

If you and your Red Wolf are having a difficult time, come and see me. I am wolf friendly regardless of colour!


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