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Understanding & Explaining Chronic Pain Part 3- The Wolf Theory

So, to end this week’s series on ways to explain chronic pain, I present my own theory.  I have used this metaphor to describe how living with chronic pain has changed me.  I call it “The Wolf Theory.”

Timber Wolf

From She-Wolf to Domesticated Dog: How Pain Changed Me

Approximately 35,000 years ago, the Grey Wolf was not a domesticated animal.  It had no master.  It lived off the land, found itself shelter and food.  It did not depend on humans for sustenance.  Prior to domestication, the wolf lived its own life.  It fought its own battles, it took care of itself. It had a purpose.

So what in the world does the grey wolf have to do with living with pain?  The way my twisted mind works, it’s actually quite clear to me, but let me expand on that.  Everyone has heard the phrase “what a lucky dog!”  That is because many people look at “a dog’s life” and sees an animal that (at least in my household) is cared for, gets a little exercise and then spends the remainder of the day and night laying around and sleeping.  She has the life- no worries, no.  Some look at this lifestyle and think: “I want a dog’s life.”

I have a dog’s life. I can tell you, it gets old and boring real fast.  Here me out (and please, do not get offended, this is only an analogy).  Before wolves were domesticated and became what we know of as “dogs,” they had a very different life.  They had jobs, purposes and they depended on themselves and their instincts to survive.  They had to go out and find food and water, find shelter to protect themselves from the elements.  They travelled in packs and although they had the pack to help them, essentially, it was every wolf for itself.

This is somewhat similar to the way I feel since my injuries.  Before living with chronic pain, I had a job, I had a purpose and I had goals.  I was self-reliant.  Yes, I had and still have my pack- my husband, my family and friends- and they helped me, but when it came down to it, I had to take care of myself.  I had to study, work, and help provide for myself.  For the last two years, I feel like I am a wolf that has been turned into a domesticated dog.  I no longer have a job (except the occasionally free-lance writing job), I feel I no longer have a purpose, I have few goals and I have to depend on my husband to provide for me.  See the connection?

I am grateful that I have shelter and food and that my husband protects me, but I somehow feel like less of a person since all this happened.  I feel like my dog, going out for my daily walk/exercise and then laying around, sleeping a lot and watching television.  My dog and I do this out of necessity.  If she was a farm dog, she would be herding cattle, going into the fields to help.  If I were not living in pain, I would be going to a 9-5 job and providing for a family.

My dog can’t change her circumstances, her life is that of a spoiled, and I think, happy, dog.  My life, however, can change.  Every step is difficult, but I am trying to remember how to howl at the moon.  I am making changes to go back to the she-wolf I was.  I am taking on more freelance work, writing more, going back to acting class.  It’s not easy and these are small, difficult steps, but I am trying to change my circumstances.


Photo courtesy of Art G. via Compfight

Understanding & Explaining Chronic Pain Part 3- The Wolf Theory

Tracy Rydzy MSW, LSW

My name is Tracy and I am a licensed social worker. I was working as a Social Worker, when an emergency spinal surgery 2 years ago changed my life and my career. I live with chronic pain and, as a result, I have taken my social work and writing skills, and made them into this blog. This blog is a humorous, informative, no-holds barred honest look at life with chronic pain, depression and disability.”

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APA Reference
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). Understanding & Explaining Chronic Pain Part 3- The Wolf Theory. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 May 2013
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