I saw a really interesting film recently – Tomorrow Land starring George Clooney. One of the thoughts they used throughout the film was based on an old Cherokee story:
One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside usis Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’
How important is it to feed yourself with positive thoughts and feelings? Sometimes on this adoption journey, or in any area of life actually, things can seem bad and it’s easy to drown in the overwhelming sense of hopelessness. I read a post on The Adoption Social this week from a prospective adopter asking whether all adopted children are destructive. When all you are surrounded with is the negative, more challenging adoption stories it can be hard to see any positives or have any hope that things could be different.
Of course, we must be realistic too. I don’t think this story of the wolves means you bury you head in the sand and pretend everything is ok when it’s not. I do know that when you dwell on the negative side of life that is all you can see. It’s like when you buy a new car, which you thought was unique, and then all of a sudden you see them everywhere on the road. You never noticed them before because you were not aware of them and the system in your brain that looks for what you seek wasn’t switched onto that car.
There are many times in my every day life when the decision of what to feed myself with comes up. Not actual food (but of course we make decisions there too that impact us long term) but the thoughts and feelings I dwell on and let develop in my mind, in fact I encourage them to grow by worrying and allowing my time to be spent on thoughts that don’t help.
So however you’re feeling today consider which wolf you are feeding – the one full of darkness and despair, or the one full of light and hope. In the long run whichever we do feed will be the one that wins when we’re really struggling. Just sitting here in Starbucks I’m thinking about what things I can do that will feed the right wolf – they may be different for us all but it might help to hear some ideas:
- Surround yourself with positive, real, encouraging and empathetic people. I have many friends who I consider in this category – they will listen to my concerns but won’t let me wallow in self-pity and despair. They encourage me to feed the light and hope so that I can deal with whatever needs to be dealt with.
- Take time away from others. Before I had children I enjoyed being with people most of the time – now however I need more time to recharge and to be quiet. I know how much time that is often and when I’m pulling back too much into solitary confinement the friends above know to pull me out. It’s hard to get the balance sometimes but for me I know I need regular time away from the children and from life’s pressures in order to ground myself.
- Listen to what is going on in your head. Many times we are our own worse enemy – we convince ourselves that all will fall apart and that we can’t do this. When I hear myself saying these things I stop and evaluate what those things are saying. Yes I may have failed at that moment but I’m not a failure. Yes I may not be able to cope right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t cope ever. Our minds can convince us of all sorts of things but it’s not helping and often it’s not true.
- Be in the present. I know I say this often but worrying about the past or the future does not feed the right wolf now. Take those moments of calm and happiness to breath in and to savour those moments. When I live in the now, with my children especially, I can really experience what they are going through – whether good or bad.
- Finally one of the biggies for me – regularly evaluate what goes into your brain. Not just who you surround yourself with but also what you watch on TV, what you read, what goes into your brain that is feeding your thoughts and feelings. When you watch unrealistic romantic films for example it can make you unsettled about the real relationship you have at home. Social media is a place for me where I have to consider the impact of watching other peoples lives sometimes – other peoples relationships, children, jobs, friends, holidays – it can all seem so perfect and when yours isn’t that can start to cause problems. I regularly reflect on the influence these things have on me – are they feeding the right wolf? Are they helping me to live my life the best I can – not someone elses?
Today maybe you need to take a look at which wolf you are feeding in your life, and find the best ways you can to feed the wolf that brings life, light and hope.