MEMO: Theory of Modes PT II

“Two Wolves”: A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is 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, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good –he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The 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 Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Similar to the above Cherokee anecdote of the two wolves, our mission with our withdrawn, severely mentally ill individuals is to negotiate a transition from the self-centered negative (egocentric) mode to the positive, outer-directed (allocentric) mode. How do we accomplish this? In terms of the theory of modes, we first have to facilitate a transition from the egocentric mode to the adaptive mode.

The adaptive mode is a superordinate mode in which the individual is able to draw on all components of the personality. The individual is able to communicate realistically with the staff and collaborate with them, making choices and decisions. Moreover, the individual is generally able to distance himself from the maladaptive egocentric mode (such as the negative mode). When in the adaptive mode, the individual is able to select and activate subordinate modes such as the positive mode (problem-solving, arriving at aspirations, making plans for the future, etc.).

How do we make connections between the negative maladaptive mode to the adaptive mode? While in the negative maladaptive mode, the individual perceives the past, present, and future as totally negative and is deprived of a motivation to move into what the individual perceives as an unfriendly environment. According to the original cognitive theory, we would accomplish this by changing the negative perception to positive perception and the positive behavior would follow. When dealing with SMI individuals, it requires a good deal of ingenuity on the part of the clinical staff to provide a picture of the present and future environment as friendly and collaborative. We initially attempted to find a sweet spot or hook by which we can attract the individual’s interest. We then capitalize on this by exposing the individual to an increasing positivity. This positivity, in turn, helps to activate the adaptive mode. Once the individual is in the adaptive mode, he or she is then able to activate the positive mode.

-ATB