Realising the two Wolves inside us

Are we missing something?

From the very moment we, the humans began our existence in this world, we faced so many issues. While on the one hand, we are remarkably intelligent and we evolved far better than other species in this planet, the animal nature existing in ourselves, despite so much progressive development is hard to comprehend.

Looking at human history, episodes of savage killings, sufferings, warfare, domination, oppression etc., are plenty. While nature and other external factors were responsible for the survival of species, for humans, however, the ironical situation was (and is) that our species was responsible for controlling our population. What is more ironic is that unlike other less intelligent species, we, the “intelligent” species are fighting among ourselves in manners that are sometimes more vicious, cruel and cold-blooded than what other species do. On paper, one would argue that intelligent species would live in harmony, with fewer quarrels. With this failing dramatically, it is evident that apparently, something else drives us deep down.

The Human Mind and its conflicts.

Several people share the view that we humans are complex creatures emotionally. We all have wants and drives. One simplified way of looking at human behaviour is to understand that every human has an inner conflict. When the battle to deal with is simple, rationality, logic and emotions are well within control, and it is easy to make choices. It is when we deal with more significant, more complicated and convoluted conflicts, is when we realise that in such cases, the conflict and its connection with morality is weak; in such situation, the conflict is not about right or wrong, but rather what people feel it is right or wrong in their Point of View (POV), however right or wrong their POV might be.

For instance, with all conditions ideal, the act of stealing is considered immoral. If one wants something or wants to achieve something, the ideal way to do is to earn the way through: work hard, work smart, plan well and reach the goal. This is a hard way no doubt. And the sincere efforts put by one in this process makes it a noble attempt, regardless of the outcome it can fetch. Another way to do is stealing. Although there are many ways, given these two options, why do some people chose to cheat, while some prefer the hard way? It is the consequence and the aftermaths and the compromises/sacrifices one has to make along the way. Added to that, *what drives even harder is the tenacity to deal with the consequences and aftermaths to be followed. It should not be surprising that the options we have, the alternatives we can, the price to be paid, the uncertainty, and how emotionally healthy we are all critical*.

One Example:

To explain this clearly, let narrate an episode in the US TV series called as House MD (House (TV Series 2004–2012)) Although this entire episode revolves around honesty and its virtue, it narrates the essence of the conflicting nature of our human mind, the choices we make, what we think is right/wrong in our POV, the consequences/aftermath one can face/will face, the price/sacrifice one has to make etc.,

In one episode, a lady is brought to the hospital after a car accident. She was having some form of involuntary jerks in her hands and legs which caused the accident. At the end of the episode, it was found that the involuntary jerks that almost killed her, were a symptom of a more significant health issue that gradually developed due to her medications and habits. She was undergoing a steady physical and mental degradation.

It turns out she was suffering from Ritalin abuse and hepatocellular adenoma.

Although her disease is not the prime concern here, what is important is how she acquired it.

She has a five-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. She divorced and married another person. With her new husband, she was a full-time housewife and a very active one. She had a lot of energy to take care of the house and do so many extra activities altogether that kept her thoroughly busy. The couple were loving each other truly, and they settle any issue they have peacefully. The guy was understanding and caring, and he treated and loved her daughter as his own.

Sounds like a happy story so far right? Here comes the twist.

The lady’s husband wants to have a biological child with her. (The guy is her husband, and so this is not wrong right?).

So what did she do? She agreed to his request. And, since they were in their 30’s, they decided to take fertility treatments to increase the chances of conception. And, behind his back and intentionally, she was taking contraceptives to avoid conception at any cost.

These polar opposite actions took a toll on her physically, and the guilt was wearing her mentally. To keep herself preoccupied so that she does not think about this, she became a Ritalin abuser. That gave her the energy to do so much stuff and kept her problems at bay. However, the combined actions of all three medications caused her physical and mental degradation and the hepatocellular adenoma.

The doctors finally figured out all of this after so many painstaking efforts. When the doctors confronted her in person, she honestly confessed her emotions. Honestly, she was not willing to have another child at all!

She was so happy to be married to her new husband. He was perfect, caring, understanding and a great guy. But, she was very firm and stern not to have any children with him or anyone else. She wanted that for her reason and also believed that having a biological child with him would make him care more for the new baby (since it will be his blood) and care less about her already existing daughter.

But, she did not want to confront him and tell the truth. She feared that if she says so, then,

  • They might fight, and the marriage might break apart
  • He will not at all be happy and will never forgive her
  • He might divorce her.

She did not want to lose him, and at the same time, she did not want him to have another child. Hence, she agreed to his request to have another child and still intentionally did not grant him that wish.

When the doctors asked her as to how long she intended to play along like this, she said that for a few more years till they both reach their 40’s.

Her rationalisation is as follows: Since they are in their thirties, they would try to get pregnant until they reach about forties. Beyond that, their fertility would drop gradually with age to the point that the fertility treatments would be of no use. Besides, she will reach menopause, and beyond that, it is of no use. She was willing to bet on the fact that, with the years of continuous failure to get pregnant would gradually put him down, curb his enthusiasm and eventually, he will accept the fact that they can’t have babies and stop trying altogether. And, in this process, the guilt of not having a child of his own would make him accept her daughter as his own more firmly because he was a great guy.

Well, at this point, both the viewers and doctors were taken aback by her reasoning.

The story for that episode ends with the lady persisting to her initial ideas despite the agony she suffered and pledging honestly to the doctors that she will not let her health degrade like this. The husband, on the other hand, is kept in the dark about the deception.

Such is the complexity of some conflicts that runs in ourselves sometimes.

*Honesty is, sometimes, a bitter pill to swallow.*

Dissecting the example:

If you look at the point of view of the lady in the story, she is partly right and partly wrong. The price she and her husband have to pay is a lot. Had she taken a leap of faith and confessed her true intentions, then yes, there is a chance that things would go bad as she feared. But then there is at least a probability that he would understand. Or, there was a chance that they could have a baby, and still, everything can end happily.

On her part, she might feel that being dishonest is the best thing to do to keep the marriage safe. But, if she has to be dishonest to have the marriage stay strong, then she is not in a stable marriage in the first place.

I felt sympathy for the character. By not confronting the situation (however bitter or sweet it might turn out to be), and following up with the deception, she is merely refusing to face reality. Her insecurity of her child may not be having a loving father genuinely out weighted an alternate reality wherein her husband would understand her. I felt that she should have opened the box to see if the Schrödinger's cat is alive or not instead of letting her insecurity overwhelm her to believe that the cat is dead.

The power of negative emotions:

Luke: Come with me. Leave everything behind.

Darth Vader: Obi-Wan once thought as you do. You don't know the power of the Dark Side. I must obey my master.

-- Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

We all have tough decisions to make in various stages of life. Negative drives such as fear of rejection/losing/embarrassment, have great convincing powers over our decisions. They tend to force, cheat, trick or manipulate you to do something as if the price one pays for it is nothing. They comfort us, feeds our insecurity, do gets us what we want sometimes. But in the process, it makes us unfit for the things we aimed. The things we get through these emotions do not last long. There is a strong irony with this. You get what you want, but you become unfit to have it. You get it, but you lose so many things knowingly or unknowingly in the long run. You get it, and you later might throw that away because you missed the importance, You might get the short-term benefit, but the long-term benefit is gone. It gives so many material things to you, but takes away your soul. By the time you realise the price you paid is too much, things would be way out of hand to turn back.

The power of positive emotions:

The value of honesty, in contrast to the above, is that it respects your free will and makes you aware that one is accountable. It makes you stronger by letting you face your fears, pushing you out of your comfort zone by telling you the issues on your face and making you strive for those despite that. It gives you courage. There is no manipulation, just plain facts. It is not a significant driving force, but honesty is a quality that makes one appreciates his/her limits and capacities. It grows trust, compassion and reliability and makes strong connections within yourself and with the people around you. It helps you to eliminate bad influences and bad people. Most importantly, the most critical value of honesty is that it enables you to see the reality as it is, free from fantasies and delusions.

That leads to another important concept: honesty alone is never sufficient. Honesty provides a foundation of trust and reliability. Aided by truth and other good qualities and strong positive motivation, life will be peaceful, no matter what happens in your life.

The two wolves:

This will concur with the teachings told throughout the world such as the Yin and Yang, The Teachings of Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism, etc.,

The Two Wolves is a Cherokee legend which goes as below,

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 – It 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.”

Here, clearly “We” are the “Feeders” of the wolves.

Why we need it more than ever?

Delving deeper into these lines and looking at all the worldly problems we face, all of them are because we feed the evil wolf among us.

Unlike the world several years ago, the world is more connected and accessible today, and it will continue to be more of it in the future years. While this is good, it comes with a price. It has become more sensitive.

A long time ago, the power vested in us humans is limited. Hence, when we had a massive flood or an outbreak of disease etc., we had nothing in our means to fight against them or do anything. All we could do is accept it as a bitter fact of life and move on.

Now, with our every growing power, more and more of the constraints we faced earlier are vanishing. The authority and freedom vested in us is so large these days that it is near impossibility for humans several centuries ago. While the removal of constraints is good, it also causes significant ramifications because this can lead to the misuse of freedom and power if there is no moral support. Also, due to such a stance, having the power and yet not using it properly (or worse making a mistake) can be even more costly.

As a consequence, in contrast to the past, it is easier to wage war, easier to offend, easier to get cheated etc., While the ever-growing powers make us comfortable and civilised, removing that makes many of us more barbaric and uncivilised in greater proportions than before due to the lack of morality.

Who can forget the amount of destruction caused by World War II - the most expensive war (by the human lives lost, countries involved, money invested) of the human kind? Is it not much easier to form major terrorist groups in this era than before? Global warming could not be possible a long time ago, and now it is real!

While the future is wide open with so many exciting possibilities and challenges, one can find it easy to imagine the lives of so many people can change for the worse at the press of a button. This is scary — terrifying, and it is sending chills down the spine.

Let us all feed the good wolf inside us!