Which Dog Are You Going to Feed?

On Sunday, Walt and I got the brilliant idea that we’d kayak over to Horse Island and have ourselves a little picnic to celebrate our anniversary.

Horse Island is this little deserted hunk of cliff and bush with an old stone tower on one end that lies ten minutes off shore.  Farmers used to graze their horses out there, thus the name.

Can you imagine convincing one horse, let alone a whole herd of them, to sit still in a boat?


Leave it to the Irish. There’s a reason they survived the Potato Famine.

Anyway, there we were on Horse Island looking for a spot to spread our towels and set out the wine and cheese. There’s a perfectly reasonable beach on which to dine, but, being stupid adventurers, we set out towards the Norman tower instead. God forbid we take the easy way out. Up the rocky embankment, through the impenetrable, shoulder-high ferns we went, basket in hand.

It didn’t take me very long to recognize that we’d made a bad decision.  I could barely see Walt’s head through the growth; brambles tore at my legs despite the Wellington boots, and the footing was unpredictable in more than a few places. Hallmarks of trouble abounded, but, being Ann, I kept pushing forward. I mean, if I can forge through twelve feet of snow for hours on end at altitude, I can make it to a rinky-dink castle.


Thirty minutes in, I stumbled into a ditch and sprained my ankle. Which struck me as rather unfortunate because I had no idea how I was going to get the fuck off that island.

Which immediately got me to thinking about the book I’ve been reading, The Way of the SEAL, by Mark Divine. I had lots of time to think because it was taking Walt awhile to find me, seeing as I’d landed in the fucking Grand Canyon.

Anyway, The Way of the SEAL is written by an ex-Navy SEAL Commander, and in it he reveals exercises, meditations, and focusing techniques to train your mind for mental toughness, emotional resilience, and uncanny intuition.  I quote.  Which was sort of what I needed so I wouldn’t freak the hell out.

In particular, I remembered this bit on attention control, and the ability to stay cool under pressure by feeding the right dog.

The Native American legend “The Wolves Within” tells of an evil wolf and a good wolf that live inside us, constantly battling for control.  Other versions describe the two opposing forces as Fear Dog and Courage Dog, which is what we use at SEALFIT.  The lesson is that whichever dog you feed will win the fight.  We can’t kill Fear Dog because he’s a part of us—remember, fear is natural and sometimes even useful—but we can weaken his power.  Negative thoughts and energy feed Fear Dog, weakening us, leading us to performance degradation and poor health.  We can lock Fear Dog up and redirect his energy into assertiveness and discipline.  Meanwhile, we need to feed Courage DogPositive thoughts and energy feed Courage Dog, strengthening the mind, body, and spirit.  Feeding Courage Dog makes us more kind, patient, tolerant, powerful, and present.  We’ll avoid conflict and become better leaders.  We won’t hesitate to lean into the hard tasks; fear won’t control us.

Whenever you find yourself in a bad situation—your husband announces he wants a divorce, your kid gets arrested for a DUI, that sort of thing—you need to start asking yourself, “What dog am I feeding?”  Feed the Fear Dog, and you’ll stay mired in the shit showFeed the Courage Dog, and you bring awareness to the moment and the ability to stay positive and problem solve.


And yes, I made it home in one piece.  I mean, if an Irish farmer can get a herd of horses on and off that ridiculous island, how hard can it be to extricate one woman?

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