Friday, September 20, 2013

Feeding the Wolf

I love the story of feeding the wolf, but what made it real for me what this little tidbit of information (articulated well here): 

In Jill Bolte Taylor's book 'My Stroke of Insight,' she points to scientific evidence showing that the life span of any particular emotion is only one and a half minutes. After that we have to revive the emotions and get it going again. 
Our usual process is that we automatically do revive it by feeding it with an internal conversation about how another person is the source of our discomfort. Maybe we strike out at them or at someone else--all because we don't want to go near the unpleasantness of what we're feeling.

In other words, that internal marching band of self-pity when we're passed over for a promotion; that white-hot rage at an ill-timed comment from a partner that you know stems from years of them actually hating you rather than having your back; that steady rap of guilt from not performing perfectly at school; those emotions typically last 90 seconds until you give them a story.

And we get to choose the story.

That self pity you feel? Maybe choose to see that everything happens for a reason. That anger? Cultivate some compassion. That guilt? Let go of perfection in favor of progress.

Cue the response: "Easier said than done."

It's true. But think again about the wolves – which one do you want to feed? Imbibing in the negative emotions will give strength to the evil wolf. The good wolf will eventually have no room to exist at all. The practice of feeding the good wolf will make it easier over time, and your default will be choosing to see the positive.

The next time a turbulent emotion strikes, try pausing. Live in it for 90 seconds, acknowledge its reality, and then choose which story you give it.

And let me know how it goes, I'm still working on it.


  1. This is fantastic. I grew up with my parents telling me over and over to "think happy thoughts". I thought that was ridiculous, because how in the world was I supposed to control what I was thinking?

    Over time I've learned to be the conductor on my own train of thought, and it's a goddamn fight every time. I have to wrestle the controls away from negativity. But connecting to what you've said, changing your thought patterns is the only way to change the emotional path you're on. At least, that's the way I think of it.

    Thank you for stating this so well. I wish you (and all of us) the best of luck!

    1. I think of it as forming a new groove. Sing a new song, and the new groove in the record will set.