Feeding Your Inner Wolves: A “Traditional” Cherokee Tale

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves that are inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The Grandson thought about this and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

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

I like and agree with the gist of this tale, that what we pay attention to ends up ruling our lives. (It’s the psychic analogue of the idea that we are what we eat.)

That said, are we really to believe an old Cherokee rattled off this suspiciously modern (not to mention progressive!) list of virtues and vices? Hardly. Rather, I suspect the particular values we’re being fed here were cooked up by the academic psychologist who provided this unattributed “traditional Cherokee story” at the beginning of his textbook discussion of positive psychology. No doubt it’s a fitting introduction to positive psychology, but I’d love to hear how the original tale was told.

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