The Two Wolves

Once upon a time, or so the Cherokee legend goes, a young Indian boy received a beautiful drum as a gift. When his best friend saw it, he asked if he could play with it, but the boy felt torn. He didn’t want to share his new present, so he angrily told his friend, “No!”

His friend ran away, and the boy sat down on a rock by the stream to contemplate his dilemma. He hated the fact that he had hurt his friend’s feelings, but the drum was too precious to share. In his quandary, he went to his grandfather for advice.

The elder listened quietly and then replied. “I often feel as though there are two wolves fighting inside me. One is mean and greedy and full or arrogance and pride, but the other is peaceful and generous. All the time they are struggling, and you, my boy, have those same two wolves inside you.”

“Which one will win?”, asked the boy.

The elder smiled and said “The one you feed.”

This story, told in How God changes your Brain, by Newburg and Waldman (neurotheology), is a wonderful example of the power of therapeutic story-telling. Stories can help us see ourselves more clearly. They give us visual metaphors to describe intangible feelings inside us, along with new strategies for managing our challenges. Continue reading

Anger – Neuroscience and the Aura

I love exploring emotions from both a neurological perspective and a philosophical¬†one. Here’s some fantastic writing from Newberg and Waldman (How God Changes your Brain), about anger:

“Anger makes people indiscriminately punitive, blameful, pessimistic and unilaterally careless in their logic and reasoning skills. Furthermore, anger encourages your brain to defend your beliefs- be they right or wrong- and when this happens, you’ll be more likely to feel prejudice towards others. You’ll inaccurately perceive anger in other people’s faces, and this will increase your own distrust and fear. It’s an insidious process that feeds on itself, and it can influence your behaviour for very long periods of time, Eventually, it will even damage important structures in our brain.

Nor is it good for your heart. Regardless of your age, gender or ethnicity – anger, cynicism, hostility, and defensiveness will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular problems. What makes anger particularly dangerous is that it blinds you to the fact that you are even angry; thus it gives you a false sense of certainty, confidence and optimism,”

This inspires so many thoughts for me!

The last point in particular, about anger making us feel certain, confident and optimistic might sound strange, but I have noticed that people use anger to protect themselves from depression, sadness and feelings of disempowerment. As a therapist, I’m often working towards helping people lift up their anger and take a look underneath, because it’s usually an offensive¬†defence used to shield feelings of vulnerability.¬† Continue reading