Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone. Many people have visited relatives, eaten good food, and thanked the universe for all the bounty that they have. It is easy to feel happy during the holidays.
At the same time, it is also easy to feel sad. It is easy to feel alone in a crowd or table of people when you feel you have nothing in common with the other individuals there. An individual’s emotional state can really go either way. You can go from perfectly content one moment to feeling sad the next moment. Emotions are complex, and we don’t always know why we feel the way we feel, or be clearly able to identify the root cause of our dissatisfaction.
At times, I find myself feeling isolated from others. I find myself feeling angry at certain individuals for taking advantage of me & treating me poorly in the past. I was initially going to write a really angry post about how much I hate it when people feel entitled to continually ask me for my help or advice in an obnoxious and/or entitled way. Upon further reflection, I don’t think this is the best course of action. It’s rather passive aggressive, and could only make me more upset.
I tend to think about negative events repeatedly. I find that I fixate on certain situations because they really bother me. This makes me relive negative feelings associated with those instances over & over again. This habit is good in terms of analyzing what I could do differently to make sure similar upsetting situations don’t occur in the future, but not so good for my emotional state.
I think that a certain infamous parable will be able to make my point in a more succinct way:
An old Cherokee chief was 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, self-doubt, and ego.”
“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
“This 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 chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”
I like this parable because it’s short, and illustrates an important point in a creative way. I heard it from somebody else quite a while ago, and it popped up in my mind when I was trying to definitively decide what to write for this week. I think showcasing this story is better than my originally planned post.
Emotional regulation may be difficult, but only you can tame the emotional beast within. Other people may say or do upsetting things. Your environment may throw you a few curveballs. Sometimes, things can royally suck. You may even have to do things you don’t enjoy.
At the end of the day, though, you can only control your own thoughts & actions. You only have so much emotional time & energy going around, so try not to spoil it by feeling unnecessarily pessimistic.
I should know. I’ve been there, & I’m still learning to regulate my emotions. I think too much, and I fixate on certain things, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t change. I will try to find a little bit of joy in every day, and feel thankful for the good things in my life. Hopefully I’ll get better at doing this on an everyday basis, and maybe some people who relate to this post will too.
Stay safe & emotionally healthy this holiday season. Remember to temper the wolves inside of you, and to have hope during dark days.
About Anna Dinissuk
Anna Dinissuk graduated from York University in June 2016 with a BA Honours in Psychology. She's now pursuing an MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education at OISE/the University of Toronto. Anna enjoys writing poetry, going on walks, snuggling with her cat, and playing Candy Crush Saga.