Which Wolf Will You Feed?
Life is so fucking short, you know? I just found out tonight that a dear friend may have cancer. And it started me thinking about how life is so fucking short.
And how we waste our time worrying about nonsense. Worrying about things completely out of our control. Worrying about things that may never even happen. Putting all of this energy into something that says “this is my greatest fear, this is the big giant monster that I am terrified of ….. here, LET ME FEED IT”.
When it comes to your thinking, to your habits, to your emotions, to your relationships:
- What you feed expands.
- What you starve contracts.
When you spend your days and nights worrying about what might happen. About the possible big bad scary things out there in the world. You end up feeding the wrong wolf.
There’s a Cherokee story about two wolves. A grandfather tells his grandson “there’s a war going on inside of me between two wolves. One wolf is evil – filled with greed, worry, envy, self-pity, pride, superiority, regret. The other wolf is good – he is love, peace, joy, ecstasy, happiness, contentment, connection, generosity, empathy, and faith. The same fight is going on in every single one of us.” The grandson turned and asked his grandfather “which one will win” and the grandfather responded, “whichever wolf you feed”.
Those Worries Are A Bitch (Oh snap – the shame spiral)
We each have these raging powers inside of us that try to demand our precious time, energy, and attention. That tells us, “If you don’t worry more about that conversation that you just had, the world’s going to end!!”. That intense pressure inside of you that says that you must stay awake a while longer and think through all the possible negative outcomes that might happen if you send your kid to camp this year, or if you spend time with your parents over Christmas, or whether that ache in your side is a bowel obstruction.
Every single one of us has this war going on inside. The war that rages for our attention.
Many people with anxiety believe, falsely, that those who aren’t crippled with anxiety cruise through life without this storm thrashing and smashing against the sides of their ribs. And that’s the myth that keeps them stuck in a spiral of guilt and shame about feeling anxious. About feeling afraid. About being worried.
They feel that “something must be wrong with me” if I’m spinning in these feelings. Because look around me, no one else is obsessing about whether I won’t be able to work next year. Or whether that guy I’m interested in will ever call.
Everyone has some degree of this simmering angst going on inside. The trick isn’t to say “you must be free of anxiety, of fear, of worry” The trick is teaching you how to manage it so that it’s no longer a prison of your own creation.
You see, the real prison isn’t the anxiety. The real prison is the shame about anxiety. Because when you feel ashamed of it you never allow it to come out in appropriate ways. So, it sits inside.
Imagine that you have gas and that you never let yourself fart. What would happen? Your stomach would get bigger and bigger. You’d blow up like a balloon. Your stomach would hurt. You’d feel like you were going to burst. All from holding it in.
The same is true of anxiety. You need to know how to healthily let it out, express it, allow it to be useful rather than feeling it as a cold pressed prison where you have nowhere left to turn. Otherwise, like the gas bubble in your stomach, you’re going to feel like you’re going to explode. All because you didn’t allow yourself the freedom to do what was natural.
Feel your anxieties without shame.
Emotions are Like a Water Balloon
I have this theory I call the “Water balloon hypothesis”.
Have you ever taken a water balloon between both hands and sort of tried to squish it?
I don’t know why, but this seems to be a universal experience. Everyone has squished a water balloon between their hands.
Well, the more and more you squish that water balloon, the more likely it is to spring a leak in some random place.
The same holds true of anxiety, worry, and fear.
When you ignore them, when you suppress them, when you shove them deep inside, they are more and more likely to come out in some other uncontrollable way that makes a mess out of everything.
Free Floating Anxiety
The other important factor when it comes to anxiety is taking the time to identify where it’s really coming from.
When you stuff down anxiety, when you numb it with wine, being busy, or even with work it’s going to come up and spew all over something.
So, then you’re sort of in a jam. Because you’re left with the bag wondering “what’s THIS about?” wondering why on earth you’re feeling almost like having a panic attack because the pizza is late.
This is why really deeply and profoundly understanding what your anxiety is about is one of the most important steps to overcoming anxiety. Because when you deeply understand what your anxiety is about you can look at it seriously and establish whether or not it’s worthy of your concern and fear or whether it’s something that can be dismissed and allowed to flow through you.
Emotions Serve a Purpose
You see, anxiety, fear, and worry can serve a purpose.This is another reason we don’t just want to shove them off the table and say “Nope. Not feeling that anymore”. Because then you’re cutting yourself off from some potentially important pieces of information.
Yes, some anxiety is fruitless and baseless and serves no purpose.
But other anxieties? They indicate things that you need to pay attention to. Things you need to tune into in order to live your life in the best way possible.
Perhaps you’re feeling anxiety after eating cheeseburgers every day for a year? Maybe that’s an anxiety that’s trying to tell you that there are some changes that need to be made there.
You see, all of your emotions serve a purpose.
You’ve been sold a lie that you’re supposed to be a super positive ultra-happy person all the time. This is one of the great lies in personal development and self-help. That you must be positive and happy all the time. But this is like saying “you must be pain-free all the time” physically. Physical pain serves a purpose just like emotional pain and discomfort serve a purpose. When you allow yourself to feel physical and emotional pain you give yourself access to extra information that will fill out holes in your perception. You see, when you ignore data that you’re receiving it’s just as bad as shoving that anxiety down, numbing it, or avoiding it through those good excuses like “I’m too busy hustling to be anxious!”
Unless we are 100% aware all of the time there will be things in our lives that we are saying “yes” to that are not fulfilling us. That are not making us happy. That don’t fit or feel right.
In those times, you’re going to feel anxiety and fear and worry and sadness and general angst. And not know why.
This is like a blinking emergency light on an airplane that’s saying “Hey! You! Pay attention to me! We’ve got something important to tell you!!” When you ignore it, the entire engine may blow out of the plane. Just like when you ignore those internal nudges which are trying to tell you something is out of alignment, your entire insides may blow out of a hole in your heart. A hole where all of these uncomfortable emotions end up squeezing out somewhere you don’t mean them to.
How a Toxic Childhood Can Create This
Anxiety, and pushing down emotions in general, is an issue that pretty much everyone in our society deals with. However, it’s a really big issue for those who come from a toxic childhood.
When you come from a toxic childhood you grow up with the feeling that it’s your job to keep everyone else around you happy, especially at the expense of yourself. So, you will inevitably push down your uncomfortable emotions in order to make everyone else around you happy. In order to take care of everyone else around first. It doesn’t matter if you feel depressed, or like your head is about to blow because of a panic attack – you’ll hide it and feel afraid and ashamed of those emotions because it owning up to them would put the focus on you. Because you fear that to acknowledge those emotions would mean you were being “selfish”. Even though this isn’t true.
And so, you push yourself down, your anxieties, and pretty much all of your emotions down in order to prioritize everyone else’s stability and happiness.
Being Hyper-Aware of Others
When you come from a toxic childhood you begin to become what psychologists call “hypervigilant”. This means that you’re constantly on the lookout for other people being upset. For any potential tilt in their moods. For any shift in the way other people are approaching you. Any subtle change that could indicate that there might be a possible explosion because mom or dad is stressed, drunk, or in a “mood”. So that constant observation of everyone around makes you super aware of any and all possible reasons to get anxious. You walk into a room and look for reasons to be afraid. You go out on a date and look for reasons to worry.
This was adaptive when you were growing up and saved you many times. But it’s no longer working for you. Now it just makes everything that doesn’t go exactly according to plan feel like an extreme source of anxiety. When you were growing up, there were valid things to fear around you all the time. Possible explosions or abuse. Possible put-downs or criticism.
So, you squished yourself down and you observed. But the problem has persisted into adulthood. And you still see threats everywhere. You still feel as though the world could cave in if something small happens, if something is out of your control, if the people you’re around have a mood change, or if you’re suddenly surprised by an unexpected challenge.
When you come from a toxic childhood, you are more likely to experience feelings like worry, fear, and anxiety because of this pattern.
It Doesn’t Have To Stay That Way
Just because this was your past, doesn’t mean it has to be your future.
Next week, I’m going to be releasing the most valuable free resource I’ve ever given out. In this resource, you’re going to learn how to manage your emotions, learn to cope with feelings like anxiety and worry, and how to understand what’s really going on inside of you. All while creating a happier, more satisfied, and joyful life.
Join the list to get THE NO BULLSHIT GUIDE TO LIFE right when I release it next week. You don’t want to miss this!!