The two Wolves story and Polyvagal Theory


A suggestion that the black wolf of the Two Wolves Story has an active Sympathetic Nervous System while the white wolf has an active Parasympathetic Nervous System and that we need to feed both

Porges (2011) proposed Polyvagal Theory to describe the workings of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), the involuntary nervous system which controls heart, lungs, stomach etc. and emotions.

According to Dana (2022 pg.14) the ANS has two major branches, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) . The PSNS has two branches, the Ventral Vagal Branch (VVB) and the Dorsal Vagal Branch, (DVB).

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)“System of Action; filled with chaotic energy, mobilized to attack, driven to escape, anxious, angry” (Dana 2022, pg. 6)
which can be viewed as being self-centered (Me me me, I want what I want and it’s especially important I get it NOW.) or ” I am in danger and need to get out NOW”
Parasympathetic Nervous System): Dorsal Vagal Branch (DVB)“System of Shutdown: just go through the motions, drained of energy, disconnect, lose hope, give up” (Dana 2022, pg. 6)
Primitive reaction of freezing to avoid predators, no action. (Like a tortoise retracting into shell.)
Parasympathetic Nervous System: Ventral Vagal Branch“System of connection: meet the demands of the day, connect and communicate, go with the flow, engage with life” (Dana 2022, pg 6)
Feelings of calm, safety, connection with and caring for others, acceptance of whatever is happening. (a place I like being in!)
The various states of the Autonomic Nervous System


The Two Wolves Story

A Cherokee elder speaks to his grandson about
life. “A battle rages inside me,” he says. “It is dangerous and it is between
two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The
other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness,
empathy, generosity, truth, and faith. The same fight goes on inside of you and
inside of everyone else as well.” The grandson pondered his words and asked,

wolf will win?”

 The old Cherokee smiled and replied, “If
you feed them right, they both win.” The story goes on. “You see, if I only
feed the white wolf, the black wolf will hide in the dark waiting for me to
falter so that it can pounce and get the attention he craves. He will always be
angry and will always be fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him,
both he and the white wolf can be satisfied, and we all win.

For the black wolf has qualities that I need and
that the white wolf lacks: tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strength of will,
and resourcefulness. The white wolf instead provides compassion, caring, heart,
and the ability to value the needs of others over my own.

 You see, the two wolves need each other.
Feeding only one and starving the other will eventually make both
uncontrollable. Caring for both allows them both to serve you, so that you can
do something greater, something good with your time on earth. Feed them both
and you will quiet their internal struggle for your attention, and, when there
is no battle inside, you can then hear the voices of deeper knowledge that will
guide you in choosing the right path in every circumstance. 

Peace, my son, is what we must all strive for in
life. He who has peace inside has everything. He who harbors a storm within his
heart and soul has nothing. How you choose to treat the opposing forces within
you will ultimately determine how you live.”



From the Chip Monk Baking Company.(2022). After reading this. I felt grate full for their message and ordered some cookies from them. 

I had recognized that my black  wolf may be my Sympathetic Nervous System and my white wolf my Parasympathetic Nervous System and I need to feed both.

What do you think?


Dana, Deb, 2022, Anchored, Sound True, Boulder, CO
Porges , S, 2011, The Polyvagal Theory, Norton, New York, N.Y

Chip Monk Baking 2022 The Real Story of the Two Wolves

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