On the Prowl

The Nature of a Lone Wolf

People tend to treat lone wolves like wandering lions. The confusion is understandable, up to a point. We’ve come to let these beasts symbolize things beyond their normal behavior, such as ferocity and wildness. We conflate their animal nature with our base instincts, which vary greatly based on our metacognitive abilities.

With lions, males must leave the pride or they’ll kill the cubs to weed out the genetic competition. They’re not the only large, predatory mammals to do so, either. Take bears and other big cats as examples. The males need to leave for the future of the whole pride, once they reach their point of maturity.

For wolves, it’s not only the male who goes “lone wolf,” but the female, too. I was surprised to learn this, but mature females are expected to leave and form new packs. This creates genetic diversity and prevents inbreeding in the original pack.

Lone wolves are fiercer and more cautious when without a pack. They have a higher risk of starvation, as the big game wolves hunt in packs is too risky to hunt alone. They might also be attacked by any packs they come across who view them as a territorial threat. When female lone wolves encounter new potential mates, they must first receive permission from the alpha female or wolf mother. They don’t actually initiate a new pairing but seek a group to cleave to.

At Your Throat

I don’t know how long I can prowl around, even with my current pack. I’m not a lone wolf because I’ve found a group in which I’ve found a family. Even with their love and support, I still feel like a lone wolf in my head. I have to remind myself that the “lone wolf” mentality only isolates me from the pack.

I’m not good at trusting new groups, in fear of their inconstancy. Although I’ve found some solid comrades over the years, I have not had the best of luck with friend groups. I certainly haven’t had one I felt I belonged in since high school, at least. Ironically, my fear of losing friends tends to push them away. I and my bared fangs or unwarranted, defensive nipping are those very things which have kept me alone.

The upside of being a wolf is nature’s process of partner selection. Of course, these beasts are subject to their natures, unlike humanity. We get the benefit of choosing to rise above animal instincts, which means a constant struggle between conflicting aspects of ourselves. I wonder how much of this struggle means overcoming our natures versus learning to productively channel them.

Take my “lone wolf” feelings and corresponding defensiveness. I know that indulging this aspect of my nature is wrong. It’s simply easier to indulge, rather than challenge, the beast of my fear. I’m more likely to blame external forces for my beastliness than take the responsibility and rein it in. This is what leaves me prowling for sustenance. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve had a pack of this caliber. I’ve always been blessed with at least one person who “gets it.” College provided individual friends like this. I tried and failed, to join social groups. So, I developed my lone wolf mentality.

It didn’t really exist before college. Prior to young adulthood, it was easier to trust and I was fierce. I’ve always been defensive, but my walls were shorter during blissfully ignorant youth. Eventually, I learned that bared fangs were a necessity as a woman. Unfortunately, I began manifesting this hostility elsewhere. My teeth were at the throats of those who weren’t a threat.

Howlin’ For You

Naturally, I’m at fault for my biting attitude. I can claim responsibility for my reactions to the extreme violation of my trust. I’m not at fault for having my trust broken, nor am I to blame for the mistreatment I experienced. I’ve learned since then that it’s what we do when we’re hurting and alone that shows how far we have to grow. Hindsight has a way of clarifying things. I used to embrace my loneliness as a shield. I’d keep good people at arms’ length to avoid intimacy. Like a wild animal in a trap, I feared further pain and lashed out in response. I blindly assumed that any others I trusted would hurt me. I was wrong.

Thank God for pulling me out of that trap. I’m no longer on the prowl for a pack. I’m surrounded by loving, loyal people who help me be my best self. I can only hope that my reciprocity does the same for them. I hope that my ferocious intolerance of self-pity keeps my fellow wolves believing in their power. I hope my wild nature inspires them to let loose a good howl. I hope my love reminds them of the power of the pack (i.e. friendship and fellowship).

The only thing I’m on the prowl for now is the same reason mature female wolves leave their packs. The thing is, I’m metaphorically wolfish. As a woman, it’s my job to stay loyal to my faith, loved ones, and values before base instinct. Instead of hunting for an equal, I will bide my time with the pack. I’ll celebrate, support, and grow, learning to tame the impatient beast within. I’ll the trust the process God’s set for me.

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