• Greg James

Which Wolf do you Feed?

There are two wolves, and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair, and the other is light and hope. Which one wins? The answer is: The one you feed. It's a powerful image that is inspiring if you're in the right frame of mind. To be honest, in the context of mental health and the way I see therapy this is not always the best way to look at life if taken in isolation. As with most things, it is best to take a little from many approaches; pulling the levers until you find what works for you. However, the power of this question, and its' answer, is it's simplicity and its' truth. We do tend to feed the wolf that has the biggest teeth and the loudest growl. It is, in a way, built into us to feed the darkness and there can be many reasons for this. It could be that feeding the light leaves us vulnerable to and unprepared for potential attack. It could be that the light is so unfamiliar as to appear threatening, or it could be that the last time you experienced the light, the darkness was quick to follow, making it tempting to stay in the dark rather than hope for the light. However it manifests for you, it is difficult to change who you feed and society is not set up to encourage feeding the wolf of light and hope.

That's not to say it isn't worth trying and positive psychology is enormously effective in helping people to change their perspective and patterns of behaviour in their lives especially when guided and supported by a therapist. The problem with this quote is that, if you are in a difficult frame of mind, it can put all the emphasis, all the responsibility, and you could say blame for your situation on you; your tendency to feed the wrong or right wolf. This is similar to how the NHS has approached mental health in the last few decades and it's getting worse as therapists are replaced by online courses of form-filling therapy just at the point at which they are most in need of human connection. Instead of acknowledging that people's circumstances or experiential life history has a role to play in their current mental health status, the current system suggests that you are simply feeding the wrong wolf and if you just started to think more positively and feed the right wolf, then all would be well. If you aren't able to feel better after six weeks of CBT, or 12 weeks of online DBT, then it's hard for vulnerable people to not think of themselves as failures that not even the juggernaut NHS system can help.


Rather than thinking of it as simply feeding the wrong wolf and berating yourself for doing so, start to ask yourself why the wolf is demanding food. Why does the wolf exist and what do you get from feeding it? What patterns of behaviour that you rely on are being fuelled by it? Once you can identify those things, acknowledge and understand them, you're in a much better position to make a conscious decision to move the food over to the other wolf.

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