Which Wolf Do You Feed? | When Love and Ego Collide

There are days when life gets the better of us and although we want to jump out of bed and seize the day with positive energy and vibrancy that every day should be greeted with, we find ourselves instead wishing that we could just sink into our beds and escape in hopes for a better tomorrow.

Unfortunately, we know that escape is not possible. When we avoid the things that are bothering us, they compound and build in a way that could end up out of control. We might say the wrong things to our loved ones, we might write a snappy email to a colleague or even our boss or even use the wrong body language to convey the exact opposite of what we are feeling.

We have to work at resolving any type of conflict, whether it’s with ourselves or someone else. Avoiding it doesn’t work in the long run.

Love should always win…but it doesn’t
When we are at odds with someone close to us and we’re angry, we might think “My husband isn’t talking to me and he can go f**k himself!” or “My wife says I’m negative all the time – she can go f**k herself!” Certainly there is no room for resolution when our thinking is in this alignment.

I’m reading “I Hope I Screw this Up” by Kyle Cease and he suggests that when you’re going through something difficult, you really look into your heart and find the answer. The other suggestion he has is to take the negatives that are happening and end them with “and I love that.”

How do we have a disagreement with our spouse and try that last exercise above? “My husband isn’t talking to me…and I love that.” or “My wife says I am negative all the time, and I love that.” When you read the two sentences, it’s obvious the “and I love that” just doesn’t work. When you dig down deeper into this, one can see that love and ego are colliding and each one wants to come out unscathed.

In these moments, if we take a step back to fully grasp what is happening, let love in for just a few minutes, perhaps we see that there are two emotionally disconnected people who love each other but can’t seem to find the path to resolution because ego is choking love.

I’ve spent more time lately learning and focusing on ego versus love. I’ve discovered that ego sneaks in when I least expect it and I wonder why we cling to ego and are afraid to let it go. Why don’t we cling to love with such ferocity? Why are we so ready to let love go in favor of our bad mood, a small misunderstanding or hurtful words? In these moments, I find that the ego is the champion and love becomes wounded, even broken.

What do you choose?

I am trying to learn how to live through love first and let the ego exist but not control what I’m living or doing in order to welcome more happiness into my world.

When reading the teachings of the Dalai Lama one thing he says is “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” When I think about that, I realize that sometimes our actions (and words) are not the best and when we put the negative foot forward (ego), the response is usually negative. It takes a very strong heart to put the positive in someone else’s negative.

The ego exists, it’s there and if you can openly admit it – it’s not going anywhere. I think the key is how to balance love and ego in order to lead a more loving and kind life. Have you ever read the old Cherokee story about which wolf to feed?

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

There is another ending to this where the boy is encouraged to keep both “fed” in order to keep love and ego balanced:

The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win.” 

“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.

“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing.

“How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”

–Cherokee Story

Balance Ego and Love
The ego (or go f**k yourself attitude) with our loved ones can be destructive. In conflict, because our emotions are negatively heightened, our ego needs recognition, assurance and has to voice everything the mind is throwing out there like daggers thrown at a target in quick succession.

Based on this teaching, I can circle back to Kyle Cease’s exercise to end negatives with “and I love that,” to create a different ending to the emotionally conflicting times in any relationship. I realize that it’s also ok to say  “My husband isn’t talking to me…and I will work on that.” or “My wife says I am negative all the time, and I will work on that.” When we put our ego to the side and breathe through the hurt we’re feeling, maybe we can also try to find quiet resolution.

Instead of reverting to the pattern you’ve executed perfectly over the years of barely listening but completely responding (like an asshole), why not try letting the other person say everything that’s on their mind? Give them the floor while you take a break to relax and let love in. Don’t listen to respond with your ego. Accept what the other person is saying with the mindset “They are communicating and I appreciate that” attitude.

Perhaps when it’s your opportunity to respond, you can speak from your heart to work on a resolution – this is where we find patience through love.  


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