This is an Old Native American Story, or so I am told. Various tribes would gather and they would pass down knowledge from one generation to the next about Sport Psychology.
I admit it. I stole this story off a Facebook post. I have heard the story of course many times before. The tribe, it seems often changes, depending on who tells the story. I am sure its origins come from my tribe, but we will leave that for future tales.
So it goes like this:
"One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people."My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, inferiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, gratitude, truth, and compassion." The grandson thought for a minute and then asked "Grandfather, Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
- Is there a beast needing to be fed inside you?
So Freud studied native culture I guess. In working with athletes, I hear about their real and perceived issues. One critical thing we work on is not necessarily just the issue itself, but how much food they are nourishing on the issue. Their focus is on what is wrong with their performance. They can have a great game or practice and still feed the one mistake they made all game. This is no different than what most of us do in life.
I was talking with a young man via Facebook this week. He is a soccer player from Ghana (that's in Africa, not to be confused with Guyana in South America). Not sure why I have made so many interesting friends around the world via FB that want to talk sports and sport psychology, but it has happened. I am asked at least once a month when will I come to Africa. I say as soon as I'm asked. I had to rephrase that immediately because I was asked, but they weren't sending a ticket. Anyway, this young man scored the winning goal in his game, but all he could focus on was an earlier mistake. He was feeding the wrong wolf. Or maybe as it is Africa, a Lion.
We all do this to one extent or another. Some people can use this to insure that they prepare properly for competition. After all, if you didn't notice the things you didn't do right, you might not work on them to make them better. You might want to give this beast enough food so you maintain balance, but not enough so that you are in constant battle.
I of course am the exception. I am always positive and starve my wolf (actually a grizzly bear). OK so all of my friends and my sons just fell down laughing. I too tend to heed the wrong bear. The difference to some extent is that I recognize I am doing it. So after letting the two bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) fight for a while,
- Mike's Beast
I hit the evil one with a tranquilizer (relaxation skills, cognitive behavioral techniques and some guided imagery) and move forward taking positive actions. Would it be better if I were not negative at all. Of course. But then I would be someone else. I work all the time at keeping the wolf (bear) at bay, feeding him less each month and year. It is a work in progress. Those that think they can go cold turkey (turkeys don't stand a chance by the way against bears, wolves and lions) are setting themselves up for failure. We take small steps in the beginning. It is what we call growth. Depending on how much you have fed your animal over time, will depend on how long it takes to get them under control. Why do you think mine is a grizzly bear? They were once cute little bunny rabbits, they just grew into the fiercest, most deadly animal in North America.
My menagerie as I said is mostly under control. How's yours? There are skill sets you can learn to help accelerate the process. If you are someone wanting to find The Athlete within You, then come join me and learn to control the beast within. Feed and nurture the one that will make you strong and happy. Many of the skills I teach will assist you in taming your savage beast. Keep in mind that as an athlete, there are times, more often than not where it is necessary to unleash the beast as we talked about in previous posts. Don't discount stories like this. We learn through story and metaphor much more effectively than being simply told not to be negative.