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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How You Become the Wolf You Feed

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 21st 2010

In Taking the Leap, Pema Chodron tells an old Native American Story of a grandfather who has two wolves in his heart, one was vengeful and the other kind. One day his grandson came up to him and asked him which wolf wins in a fight, to which the elder replied, “Whichever one I feed.”

When it comes to everyday life you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue with the statement that we are our own worst critics. Some people may point to their parents or a recent boss, but at the end of the day, we internalize those voices too and they just become our voice.

The voices that we entertain with more thoughts and actions are the ones we feed. Soon we start looking like one wolf or the other.

The fact is, life is simple but our minds are complex.

Deep down we know that if we were kinder and more compassionate to ourselves we would live in this world with greater ease and likely be happier.

So why do we get caught in the trap of feeding the vengeful or hurtful wolf so often? Maybe a better question is what made that wolf so vengeful and hurtful to begin with and what does that wolf really need to feel at peace?

We are wired for survival, so it makes sense that a part of us serves as a protector. Maybe that wolf is trying to protect us from some perceived danger. If it tells us of our worthlessness then we don’t have to take up a challenge that may lead to disappointment. If it numbs us out with depression, maybe we don’t have to feel the pain that is underneath.

Because we spend much of our time on auto-pilot, we may not be realizing how often we are feeding the hurtful wolf.

Perhaps today we might consider an intentional practice toward feeding the kind wolf by practicing be kind to ourselves and others. Is there something you’ve been putting off that you wanted to do for yourself or another? If you’re used to overdoing it at work, is there a way to ease up on yourself and remember that your “in basket” will never be empty.  

To begin “being the change you want to see in the world” it has to be an intentional practice, otherwise, the auto-pilot will lead us down the path of least resistance.

The fact is there is no other time than now and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Take a breath; it’s time to get started on a new chapter…

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Life is simple. - Mark Adams - Oct 22nd 2010

I wouldn't say life is simple.  If it were so simple the debate over when life begins wouldn't be dividing so many Americans.  Try telling anyone who studies ecosystems that life is simple.

Even living life is not simple.  There are still so many things beyond our own contro,l and perhaps many may think that they are so god-like that they can control them all.  Try telling a starving child in a war-torn country that life is simple.  That their difficult circumstances is all in their control.  Maybe their perception to those circumstances are in their control, but that still doesn't feed a hungry belly.    This why I get so frustrated by those who say that happiness is a choice.  Maybe we are responsible for our own emotions but I believe instinct can often be at the heart of many emotions and instinct can't be controlled.

Happier times ahead - Dennis - Oct 22nd 2010

It became apparent to me through the type of reflection described here that I was living in a constant state of fear - mostly the fear of financial insecurity/business failure.  I'm financial comfortable - always have been and in all likelihood always will be.  Despite this, for as long as I can remember, I think and plan constantly about how much money I have and how much money I'm likely to have next year, in five years, ten years, at retirement and beyond.  This may not sound so bad - but the constant (and I mean CONSTANT) need to reassure myself that I'm financial secure and that my business will stay afloat has made me a pretty unhappy person for a long time.  I've lived in a virtualy constant state of anxiety bordering on terror about something thats not terribly likely to occur - and even if it did occur I've become confinced that I could be happy anyway.  I'm optimistic that happier time lie ahead.  Thanks Dr. Goldstein - you're blog is great.

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