Many Selves, One Master; Find the Balance of Light and Dark

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My current goal is to learn more about how to improve my own and others self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is defined as..

“The belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses
of action required to manage prospective situations.” (According to Dr. Albert Bandura).

In other words, it is the notion people hold in their heart and mind that can influence our performance, well-being, capabilities, or commitments. These can range from the realm of health and fitness, maintaining healthy and loving relationships, or how we determine our abilities are an asset for our professional career.

In order to help others, I must first continue to understand my own inhibitions to evaluate where I stand within myself. So far, the most important adjustment I have made is to check the ego and leave it at the door before I walk in. My college career, since it ended only one month ago, is still fresh in my brain. Each year, I would begin by being timid and unsure of where I stood within my curriculum, and even in my social life with friends new and old. However, as I got more in depth with each course I took or new person I came in contact with, I began to become more arrogant with what I knew, and what I thought I knew. It could be from a mix of excitement of when I learned something new in the classroom and had a chance to apply my knowledge, or found a new personal skill/ability that I was proud of. There is nothing wrong with expressing passion or emotion when developing greater levels of achievement. However, I found it is important to not always throw cold hard knowledge or facts into people’s faces. It can make people feel less intelligent, or potentially feel offended if you try to ‘show them up’ on the spot. Just because I enjoy the principles within the ‘biomechanical analysis of the six phases in baseball pitch delivery’ doesn’t mean my friends give two shits about it. Yes, I love when we are able to share the knowledge we learn with one another, but it still should be somewhat relevant to what they enjoy, or could possibly enjoy to help peak our interests.

I just began to indulge in Why Good People Do Bad Things, written by Debbie Ford, to learn the how we are the largest ally and opponent to living a life where we are true to our own selves. Once we are able to find the magic ratio to control our good and bad sides, we can be honest with what we want to have versus what we truly desire! Here is an excerpt near the beginning of the book that instantly sucked me in to re-read and reflect on my own two wolves….

There is an old Cherokee story about a chief of a large village. One day the chief decides that the time has come to teach his favorite grandson about life. He takes him out into the forest, sits him under an old tree, and explains, “Son, there is a fight going on within the mind and heart if every human being that is alive today. Even though I am a wise old chief, the leader of our people, this same fight is going on inside me. If you do not know that the battle is going on it will drive you crazy. You will never know what direction to go in. You will sometimes win in life, and then, without understanding why, you will suddenly find yourself lost, confused, and afraid, and may lose all that you worked so hard to gain. You will often think you are doing the right thing and then find out that you were making the wrong choices. If you do not understand the forces of good and evil, the individual life and the collective life, the true self and the false self, you will live a life always in great turmoil.

“It is as if there are two big wolves living inside of me; one is white and one is black. The white wolf is good, kind, and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all that is around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. The good wolf, grounded and strong in the understanding of who he is and what he is capable of, fights only when it is right to do so and when he must order to protect himself or his family, and even then he does it in the right way. He looks out for all the other wolves in his pack and never deviates from his nature.

“But there is a black wolf also that lives inside me, and this wolf is very different. He is loud, angry, discontent, jealous, and afraid. The littlest thing will set him off into a fit of rage. He fights with everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think clearly because his greed for more and his anger and hate are so great. But it is helpless anger, son, for his anger will change nothing. He looks for trouble wherever he goes, so he easily finds it. He trusts no one, so he has no real friends.”

The old chief sits in silence for a few minutes, letting the story of the two wolves penetrate his young grandson’s mind. Then he slowly bends down, looks deeply into his grandson’s eyes, and confesses, “Sometimes it’s hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them fight hard to dominate my spirit.”

Riveted by his elder’s account of great internal battle, the boy tugs on his grandfather’s breechcloth and anxiously asks, “Which of the wolves in Grandfather?” And with a knowing smile and a strong, firm voice, the chief says, “They both do, son. You see, if I choose to feed only the white wolf, the black wolf will be waiting around every corner looking to see when I am off balance or too busy to pay attention to one of my responsibilities, and he will attack the white wolf and cause many problems for me and our tribe. He will always be angry and fighting to get the attention he craves. But if I pay a little attention to the black wolf because I understand his nature, if I acknowledge him for his character and will use him to help me if we as a tribe are ever in big trouble, he will be happy, the white wolf will be happy, and they both win. We all win.”

Confused, the boy asks, “I don’t understand, Grandfather. How can both wolves win?” The chief continues: “You see, son, the black wolf has many important qualities that I might need, depending on what coms our way. He is fierce, strong-willed, and will not back down for a moment. He is smart, clever, and is capable of the most devious thoughts and strategies, which are important in a time of war. He has many sharp and heightened senses that only one who is looking through the eyes of darkness could appreciate. In the midst of an attack he could be our greatest ally.” The chief then brings out some cold steaks from his pouch and puts them down on the ground, one to his left and one to his right. He points to the steaks and says, “Over here to my left is food for the white wolf, and here to my right is food for the black wolf. If I chose to feed them both, they will no longer fight to get my attention, and I can use each of them as needed. And since there is no wat going on between the two of them, I can hear the voice of my deeper knowing and choose which one can help me best in every circumstance. If your grandmother wants food to cook for a special meal and I haven’t taken care of it like I should have, I can ask the white wolf to lend me his charms to console her black wolf, who is hungry and angry. The white wolf always knows what to say and will help me be more sensitive to her needs. You see son, if you understand that there are two main forces that exist inside you and you give them both equal respect, they will both win and there will be peace. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission– the ultimate purpose of life. A man who has peace inside has everything. A man who is pulled apart by the war inside him has nothing. You are a young man who has to hose how you will interact with the opposing forces that live inside you. What you decide will determine the quality of the rest of your life. And when one of the wolves needs special attention, which it will sometimes, you don’t have to be ashamed, you can just admit it to your elders and get the help you need. When it is out in the open, others who have struggled with this same battle can offer you their wisdom.”

This simple and poignant story explains the plight of the human experience. Each of us is engaged in a continual struggle as the forces of lightness and darkness battle for our attention and our allegiance. Both the light and dark reside inside us at the same time. Truth be told, there is a whole pack of wolves running around inside us- the loving wolf, the kindhearted wolf, the smart wolf, the sensitive wolf, the strong wolf, the selfless wolf, the openhearted wolf, and the creative wolf. Along with these positive aspects exist the dissatisfied wolf, the ungrateful wolf, the entitled wolf, the nasty wolf, the selfish wolf, the shameful wolf, the lying wolf, and the destructive wolf. Each day we have the opportunity to acknowledge all of these wolves, all these parts of ourselves, and we get to choose how we will relate to each of them. Will we stand in judgement on some and pretend some don’t exist, or are we going to take the ownership in the entire pack?

Why is it that we feel the need to deny the pack of wolves that lies within us? The answer is easy. We either think they don’t exist or they shouldn’t exist. We fear that if we admit to all of the different selves that occupy space in our psyche, we will somehow be labeled as weird, different, damaged, or psychologically fragmented. We think we should be “normal” good people who only have one person dwelling inside them. But there are many selves, and the refusal to come to terms with them is a grace error– one that will lead us to commit stupid and reckless acts of self-sabotage.

Here is the big secret; there are many selves contained within our “self,” because within each of us exists every possible quality. There is nothing that we can see, and nothing that we can judge, that we are not. We are all the light and the dark, all the saint and sinner, the lovable and unlovable. We are all kind and warm as well as coldhearted and mean. Within you and within me lies every quality known to humankind. Although we may not be consciously aware of all of the qualities we possess, they are lying dormant within us and come forth at any time, anywhere. Understanding this allows us to comprehend why all of us “good people” are capable of doing such bad things and, more important, why at times we become our own worst enemies.

Ford, D. (2008). Why good people do bad things: How to stop being your own worst enemy. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Be true to your own self, for then the ability to pursue a life of pure fulfillment will be within reach. I recommend to try and reflect on at least one thing each day you have done, either good or bad, and find reason as to why you do what you do. Live Healthy, Be Happy, Be Human! Enjoy!

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