"The Black Wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great."
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
I was thinking today about misery. I had been reading studies about how misery cannot be exhausted. We like to think there is a vent where we can release all our pent-up frustrations and start again at zero. This is symbolically easy to understand, but what actually happens is, the more we try to release misery, the more we feed misery. We are focusing all our attention and energy on it, and convincing ourselves that if we do this, we will somehow forget about it. Keep reminding yourself of the thing you wish to forget. In that context, it loses its logic.
There is an old Chinese proverb that states:
It summarized around ten hours of reading I had just done. I was overcomplicating things. I wanted to explain the dangers of pent-up rage and the misguided desire to release negative emotions on to others. If we get bad service, we don't tell the business how we feel. We tell our friends. We aren't looking to make improvements, we want to spread our pain.
I wrote and deleted several drafts, trying to figure out how I wanted to express all the data I had accumulated. Facts and figures are impressive for a day, but fleeting. After a while, no one remembers. Story is built into our DNA. We can recall most fables and parables that we've heard, even if they are from our early youth. Better than anything I could write is an old Cherokee parable. Like many stories, its clarity and timelessness comes from the use of animal symbology. It has served me well over the years.
The Legend of the Two Wolves
The Black Wolf is misery. We can feed it, or we can acknowledge it and move on. As much as the Black Wolf is unpleasant, it is just as vital to our health as the White Wolf. To ignore it is like ignoring an itch, all our attention will shift to it. It will always remain a part of us, if not, we would not be human. Separated, they are partial — together, they create a whole. With both, we can see reality and face all its obstacles. These two wolves will always exist within us, which is why this story will always have a place.
Since this was originally a story from the oral tradition, for full impact, I would suggest listening to the audio version, as read by Marty Morgan.