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    Thread: Two wolves

    1. #1
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      Two wolves

      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."

      An old Cherokee legend.


      We have quite wide array of different emotions. A common way to separate our feelings is to split them into negative and positive emotions, but sometimes it is not clear to see what emotion is good for you. Emotions also serve as motivators and we can harness their power to get through life. In modern psychology it is often adviced that we should be able to use all emotions in a healthy way, which means we should also be able to convert negative emotions to positive energy. It is often hard to see beforehand are we in control of our negative feelings or are we dwelling in them and feeding the wolf.

      We all know examples in real life, probably also in our own lives, when emotions can take over. Usually, when our lives are changed dramatically and quickly, our emotional card deck becomes all mixed up. Death of a close friend or relative, massive material losses, accidents, relationship problems etc. are most likely going to shock us. But also little things that cumulate over time can have serious impact on our mind. Everytime you make a choice you "feed" some emotion. You can start to make choices that favor certain reasons and emotions and they can begin to stack. In time, they might become a heavy burden or consume us so we don't even notice what we have stumbled knee-deep into.

      For example, after death of a parent siblings might choose a different routes to process the loss. One might close in completely, taken by the sorrow and sadness. That is the normally accepted form of griefing. Another one might start to fuss over funerals with burst of energy and trying to process feelings that way. Both might carry a danger, but somehow the first one carries a greater risk, in my opinion. In that case feelings are not used, rather they are stored inside. In time they can start to corrupt the mind and twist opinions and actions. Not that it happens always, but it happens too often. Same could be said for a man who loses his job. He might be taken over by self-pity, inferiority or even guilt and become passive, maybe resort to drinking or crime. Or he might, in his anger and disappointment, start to study for another career. Even if that sounds good, he might still be doing a bad choice, as led by the wolf.

      I'd like to hear what thoughts this little story arises in you. For me, the biggest question is : how and how long can we use our emotions before they start to use us? Positive emotions can overtake as well and start to cloud our eyes. Love is sometimes blind, as we know.
      Jujutsu is the gentle art. It's the art where a small man is going to prove to you, no matter how strong you are, no matter how mad you get, that you're going to have to accept defeat. That's what jujutsu is.

    2. #2
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      When I was much younger, I would get very angry some times. I know when you get very upset, it becomes easy to get even more upset, even over small things. Eventually you get out of control and you are screaming or throwing stuff. When I was much younger I would get into fights with my brother a lot because of stuff like that too.

      Now I am a very mellow kind of person and I have been for a long time. I some times get upset, but it is only over the big issues and not the little stuff, and even then the anger doesn't last long and it is always easily controllable. I don't think emotions have the power to take over, I think you need to give up control to them. So you can use or enjoy any emotion all you want, and they will never take over and use you, unless you give in to them.

      The way I see to control emotions is with rational thought. As long as you are clear headed and thinking, emotions will be second and rational thought will rule. It is only when you stop thinking and act on instinct that your emotions may take over. For human beings we have great pride in our large advanced brains, though it is for a very good reason. It is because we can think things through, and be rational.

      Using the analogy of wolves, wolves were tamed into domestic dogs, over ten thousand years ago by man. There is two wolves fighting inside you, and it is your job to put them in their place.
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    3. #3
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      Thank you for your input.

      I should have maybe written it a bit differently. I agree that emotions won't easily take over unless you don't give them the reins. But what I see as problem is that when they do, you rarely are clear headed. I am not necessarily talking about anger, because anger is often not very subtle emotion. Emotions like despair, fear, hopelesness or confusion are the ones that can make your mind falter, making room for emotions like anger or inferioirity and such. It is like a citadel that is hard to conquer, but after a lengthy siege it is vulnerable and ripe for assault. I tend to think that I am rational being, but there are situations where your rational mind can fail you. For example, how much constant hardship and misfortune can you take before you give in to despair? How long can you tell your brain to think rationally before you start to work under influence of our emotions or instincts? Maybe the real question is how to not break and give power to them. In normal life, we rarely encounter situations where we cannot keep our cool, but life can be very cruel. So cruel that your mind can just break in two and leave you vulnerable. I used to trust my ability to keep my cool always, but I have noticed that there are grave situations where primal emotions surge to take over. Now, I am experienced on those things, but back then I was surprised. It is easy to convince your brain now, but when situations arise then your mind is truly tested. Maybe it is all about experience, how to adapt in situation so you won't lose your cool.

      I have to ponder a bit more, I hope there will be more thoughts about this issue.
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      Jujutsu is the gentle art. It's the art where a small man is going to prove to you, no matter how strong you are, no matter how mad you get, that you're going to have to accept defeat. That's what jujutsu is.

    4. #4
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      Wow, how did I miss this yesterday??!!

      Amazing thread Unelias. I really like the Cherokee legend you posted... saved to Documents folder.

      I used to be pretty volatile emotionally in my twenties, but grew out of it, and then back into it when I started lifting weights in my 30's (extra testosterone... wasn't taking anything, just from lifting). But now once again I'm stable and in control.

      But I see exactly what you're saying. Even in the example that we domesticated wolves into dogs... some breeds are pretty vicious! It's important how you train one... how you treat it. That's probably a good way to look at it in fact... your emotional life is like a dog inside you... do you raise it to be mean and attack strangers if they make a sudden move, or to be friendly and loyal?

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      It is really a very good story. Something I think on this is that it doesn't matter what you do or say as much as why you do or say things. The inner motivations can be very mixed and difficult to decipher.

      "Man now thyself!" - I think this is advice a from an ancient Greek Oracle.

    6. #6
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      ^^^^^Know?^^^^^

      I would think it wise not to use emotion at all. Experience it and learn from it. Then use what you learn and act based on that. It seems to me if you are using it after the immediate moment(which isn't really using it, but experiencing it in my opinion) you are controlled by it. In most cases running towards or away from it, trying to force yourself to feel something or not to feel something. And this is caused by reacting to it in the immediate and not experiencing it fully(which is usually caused by acting the similarly in the past, which is initially cause by trauma do to the forceful nature of our culture(that last parts just a hypothesis though)).

      It strikes me that the notion of using one's emotions is rather dualistic. If an emotion is fully experienced you are one with the emotion, you can't stand back from it and say,"I'm going to use it like this to do that". The emotion makes you want to act a certain way, you can only decide whether or not you want to act that way, whether or not you want to feed it.

      Good story.
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    7. #7
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      Hmm.. Yes I think it is like you say StonedApe, in the sense that emotion triggers the need or yearning to do the action. But emotions can fuel us up without us being aware of it. Of course, one could say that it is all about self-knowledge : to recognize and separate our moods and emotions and motives... I doubt we all can sharpen our ears and become Spock, since not using emotions at all is basically declaring war against your own body. And frankly, quite impossible without changing your brain structure.

      The dog example is maybe a bit better for our time. Although tamed, dog can still bite and reclaim some of its ancestral traits. That is a good one. Although, people are mostly sensible and rational beings, they still fall to temptations and to feelings.

      A one question regarding to emotion control could be : how do you calm yourself? Many people have different ways to cope with stress, anger, disappointment etc. Some ways can be really peculiar. I know a girl who has a certain song she humms when she is stressed. It seems to calm her down. Another friend of mine goes always to fishing. When he is fishing, I know something is wrong. He isn't avid fisher otherwise, but he does that when he has to clear his head.

      Most of those actions are so called "socially acceptable" ways to cope with your feelings. But what interests me is that when people go astray with their coping and do things that are not so acceptable. People mug and rob people to get money to pay bills. People violate property, break windows, kick lamp posts to relief anger. People lie to avoid feeling inferior or embarass themselves. Things like that.

      I don't know if I were able to write this post very intelligently, but let see if it ignites any other thoughts.
      Jujutsu is the gentle art. It's the art where a small man is going to prove to you, no matter how strong you are, no matter how mad you get, that you're going to have to accept defeat. That's what jujutsu is.

    8. #8
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      I don't have much to add but I like this discussion and agree with all the points in different ways.

      People who use these socially acceptable ways to cope are just changing their emotions.
      Humming a song for example, probably reminds that girl of a time when she heard that song and was very calm.
      It's repetition that is making her calm. Her brain is making an association.

      But the other people just succumb to their emotions. Let their emotions control them. Or taking stonedape's view, being those emotions, instead of changing the emotion they are.
      They have no way to get rid of their emotions, and have no way to change them, so they do irrational things. Like the recent riots in the UK.

      Emotions change the way we think, so in that sense we become the emotions. You will make different choices if you are angry than when you are happy.
      So you will also find it hard to separate yourself from these emotions. If not impossible.
      Because you would have to separate from yourself. Which is dissociation, and usually happens involuntarily. It's a strange experience.

      So yes I think that one must experience the emotion, and not dwell on it. Don't even dwell on happiness. Don't keep thinking about the thing that made you happy, because that is just the emotion making you want to keep it alive; keep experiencing it, keep being it.

      You should be aware of the moment all the time. Emotions really don't stick around for very long. And when it is gone, then you can think rationally again.
      But trying to control the emotions is useless in the long run. Or at least it won't teach you anything. And you can realise a lot more from just letting the emotions come and leave.
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      I say feed them both so they won't be bored or lonely... do not be overly wicked, nor overly righteous... finding the balance is the key.

      It's okay to be angry, but do not sin.

    10. #10
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      Any 'emotion vs reason' discussion doesn't make much sense to me, since, as far as I can tell, the only reason we might ever have for doing anything is to fulfill some emotion, instinct or other type of desire. To bring ourselves into some desired state or prevent some undesired state. One might decide to control his anger, but that isn't a domination of reason over emotion, it's the domination of one emotion (positive mental states gained from lack of anger) over another (anger). When people say they're defeating emotion with reason, they usually mean they're using reason to see the longer-term consequences of the unwanted emotion. I'm not arguing against the main point of the thread, I just noticed 'reason vs emotion' was brought up a few times. I may extend this later.

    11. #11
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      I hope you do.

      I see where you're coming from, but not sure I can agree. Mindfulness meditation is basically proof that we can separate the inner observer from emotions and simply observe them without reacting from them. Not everyone can... only those who make the effort and learn how. Most people are attached to their emotions and react to them unthinkingly. But the ego is not the self, and when a person realizes that it's possible to step aside from ego concerns and let them slide by without allowing them to direct our lives. We can still feel them of course, but without letting them be in control.

      Deciding not to be controlled by negative emotions is not the same as being controlled by their opposite. While I agree that it's still succumbing to a desire, that desire itself comes from reason, not emotion.

    12. #12
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      I agree that we can use reason to stop feeling negative emotion. But our motivation to be rid of the negative emotion comes from the desire to be free of it. With meditation, both positive and negative emotion are lessened. We are able to think more clearly, so in a way we are lessening our desire. But why meditate in the first place? I think it's because it feels good, in a sense, to be in that calm analytical emotionless state that meditation puts one in. Even though this type of positive feeling feels a lot different from the chaotic emotional type of positive feeling, they're still both feelings that come from the brain. I'm not saying that both feelings are on the same level. There are reasons to strive for the calm, analytical feeling.

    13. #13
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      Huh. Ok, you do make a good point. I'll have to meditate on it.

      In the final analysis though, I think why you're feeding the wolf is less important than which wolf you feed. Of course, what you said is still totally relevant. Yeah, I need to meditate on it.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 08-28-2011 at 09:57 AM.

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