Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Hedgehog's Dilemma

This isn't a concept of my own, but it's one I think about often.

The hedgehog's dilemma, or sometimes the porcupine dilemma, is an analogy about the challenges of human intimacy. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs all seek to become close to one another in order to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp quills. Though they all share the intention of a close reciprocal relationship, this may not occur for reasons they cannot avoid. The hedgehog's dilemma suggests that despite goodwill, human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm, and what results is cautious behavior and weak relationships.'s_dilemma

Gotta Have Rings - via Chris Gerringer's series titled I Know That Feel, Bro.
I've had relationships with people who were very guarded. It was hard to draw things out from them, sometimes they worried too much about what others thought of them, or sometimes they had seen so many disappointments in life that they just were waiting for the next one. And whenever they would share something with me, I felt so elated. There was something really special about even a small glimpse of something that always seems just beyond your reach. I, too, at times have been that guarded person. It seems to make sense that we should protect ourselves. But... it's a really difficult way to live (for me at least). I felt afraid to ask for or share certain things, and really, if it's someone you really care about, you shouldn't have to be afraid.

I don't want to be afraid.

I think about it sometimes, that really, it's not possible for one human being to truly achieve perfect understanding of another. Sure, we can invest lots of time and energy in serious efforts to know someone, and we may convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but just think -- the inner workings of our minds... our hearts... turning points we reach -- it's hard at times to get a grip on our own self sometimes, much less another person. But that's also a really beautiful thing -- we can constantly grow, learn, and discover. Everyone really has an endless supply of potential at any given time.

There was a great quote by one of my favorite authors -- "I sometimes think that people's hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what's at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while."
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

It's a big step to realize that the coping mechanisms we've made for ourselves become outdated. These kinds of things take years in the making, so it's hard to have to "unlearn" them. It's definitely doable though.

What I've come to walk away from this with is that even if someone doesn't want to let me past their walls, it doesn't mean I have to react and feel like I need to put up my own. I found that there will be people in life who, regardless of what you say or what you do, won't accept you for whatever reason. And that's ok. We can't please everyone, and we shouldn't want to please everyone.

Rather than expending so much energy on other people who don't want to be part of my life, I'm more interested in focusing on myself and spending my time with people who genuinely care for me. Any person that wants to be a part of your life will make an obvious effort to do so.

Yes, we may very well hurt each other along in the process (intentionally or unintentionally), but that in itself isn't the worst thing in the world. I think that everyone makes mistakes; it's how we handle those mistakes that is just as important. Trust yourself to be the kind of person whose words match their actions and you'll find it becomes easier to trust that there are other people out there like that, too.

I'm lucky to be surrounded by a lot of really awesome people. No joke -- I have a lot of very smart, funny, talented, passionate, sincere, kind-hearted, courageous and loving people in my life and every day I'm thankful for them. :)

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