Wolves are highly social animals, yet can be fiercely independent, and this dichotomy resonates with me. I myself have always felt this tension between needing to feel a sense of belonging yet desiring to strike out on my own when I feel unsupported.
There are many benefits to life in the pack. Together, wolves can more effectively take down large prey, raise families, defend their territory—and the chances of survival are much higher. Pups are fed and raised, old wolves are cared for, the sick and injured are nurtured back to health, and special emotional bonds form the foundation for cooperative living. Wolves are complicated, intelligent animals who are caring, playful, and above all, devoted to community—traits few other species exhibit so clearly. Each wolf in a pack plays a unique and important role that contributes to the success of the collective. But as you and I know, group dynamics aren’t always idyllic.
Yes the bonds within the pack are incredibly strong, but this does not keep in-fighting and the weight of complex social hierarchy out of play. Yet leaving the pack may be even more difficult than enduring the challenges a wolf may find within one.
What happens when a wolf goes it alone?
There are many reasons a wolf might decide to leave its pack: there’s too much competition, there’s a shortage of food, it’s fed up with being a subordinate, or for love—it may catch the scent of a wolf from another pack that’s ready to mate. No matter the impetus, a lone wolf is a wolf that is searching for something—a mate, other wolves of like-mind, or even for themselves.
Leaving one’s pack is nothing to take lightly. There is surely much stress and trepidation involved in the journey alone, but there is also the potential for great fulfillment. Either way, doing so requires an incredible amount of strength, courage, and independence. Studies show that lone wolves make up less than 15% of the world’s wolf population, and this is because leaving (or “dispersal,” as this process is termed) is a great risk for a wolf. If a wolf doesn’t join a new pack or find a mate and create its own, it will more than likely meet its demise. Doing so sacrifices many securities: protection, support in hunting prey, and help contending with other packs. Despite the great challenge that going it alone may pose, the dispersal of brave, lone wolves allows for diversity in packs and for the formation of new ones—which is a good thing. And just because a wolf leaves its home doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. In true prodigal son fashion, it can always return home to its natal pack in case the wilderness proves to be too daunting.
What can we learn from the wolf?
1. Release unhealthy relationships and attachments.
2. Get in touch with your wildness and liberate your intuition.
3. Find your path and mark your territory.
1. Write a letter to a person that hurt you or mistreated you in some way. Tell them you forgive them. Write a letter to someone you have hurt or mistreated. Ask them for their forgiveness. Rip up the letters and recycle them so that they can transform into something else. Or, dispose of them in some other sustainable way.
2. Search for a song that embodies the wolf’s spirit for you. Listen to it when you feel insecure, afraid, stuck or stagnant (My song: “I’ve Gotta Be Me” by Sammy Davis Jr.)
4. Reflect on what you were passionate about as a child or some years ago. Think about how you can bring at least one of those things back. Plan an activity to do related to one of your passions.