Letter No 85 - How to hug a porcupine

Dear friends

Have you ever seen a porcupine?

Let me show you.

Porcupines have soft hair on their back and tail and it is mixed with sharp needles. These needles are a defensives mechanism.

They look like dangerous animals. When threatened they make a chattering sound with their teeth, raise their pointy spikes, and lash out with their tail.

But the truth is that porcupines are very gentle creatures. They only become aggressive in the face of attack. They are actually very gentle and solitary animals.

When they are scared or excited they raise their quills and make them stand. This makes them look bigger and more dangerous. Some people think that porcupines can shoot their needles at their enemy, but this is not true. What they actually do is drop their quills at will on the ground in the expectation that it will make their attacker turn away.

Isn't that interesting!

But why am I telling you about porcupines?


Do you find yourself behaving like a porcupine sometimes?

Do you find that you become all sharp and prickly and poky when you feel under attack. Obviously I am not talking about a physical attack on you. I am taking about emotional attach. You know what I mean right?

When someone doubts your intentions.

When you are ignored.

When someone points at your weakness again and again.

When someone sniggles or makes fun at you in a sensitive situation (like when you are in the company of new friends, and old friends crack an 'inside' joke on you)

When someone keeps correcting your pronunciation or spelling instead of focus on what you are trying to say.

When someone reminds you of a failure you had.

When someone is constantly trying to improve you.

Now you know what I mean. Right?

And like I say, our worst behaviour usually surfaces with people who love us the most (and who we love the most).

We become porcupines. Try to touch me, and you will hurt. Try to come close and you will be cut. Speak positive words, and you will feel a shower of spikes.



People can be as porcupines. Face to a threat or incursion we puff ourselves up to try to scare off our adversary (so called, but actually someone who cares for us). Human porcupines can be anyone. A co-worker always complaining, a defensive relative who verbally attacks you when vulnerable or a stranger having a bad day.

Maybe you've been a porcupine sometimes. And surely, you've encountered human porcupines in the people you care about.

How do you deal with them?

Here are few thoughts.

  1. Remind yourself that they are actually gentle creatures.
  2. Try to understand what they are feeling attacked about. What are they feeling weak and helpless about (trust me, people only feel angry and irritated when they are feeling weak and helpless about something. Trust me, I know)
  3. Respond to their attacks small acts of kindness. Remind yourself that you actually love them.
  4. Stay in control. Don't respond to their sharpness with your own sharpness.
  5. Try and find their 'soft spot' - something that will make them smile or feel good.
  6. Finally, do not rush to make everything ok. Keep safe distance so you don't get poked.
  7. Remember, porcupines are blind. They survive on a sharp sense of hearing. So if you approach slowly and gently, you will get to them.

Do you know anyone who is good at approaching porcupines? Someone do this so naturally and graciously. I know some people who have been dealing with my porcupine behaviour so elegantly. I'm sure you do to. Go ask them how they do it. They may have some fantastic tips. If you find something, please do share it with me too!


Finally, what about the times when you are behaving like a porcupine? When you are feeling ruffled up, angry, irritated, or pissed off? How to handle people who may not be the direct cause of your emotions, but actually are trying to support you? How to not take out all your frustration on them and hurt them?

Here are some thoughts to remind yourself of if you are being a porcupine.

  1. Is there something you need to say or do? Something you need to express, or something you need to refuse, or change? Try and write down what is troubling, and find the best way to deal with it
  2. Remember, angry or frustrated people are only that way because they are feeling weak or helpless about something. Ask yourself what you are feeling weak about. What can you do about it? Who can help you?
  3. Find a healthy way to release some of the pent up energy inside you. It could be sport, exercise, dance, music, a walk in the open, a good meal, good music, something that will take away that edginess. Do it.

The most important thing is to recognise and become that you are behaving like a porcupine. You are feeling attacked. And remind yourself, that you are actually a gentle and very powerful being, capable of immense love and creativity. We become porcupines when our self love is down. Do something to increase your self love. This may require working harder, getting help, finding a coach or mentor, taking some hard decisions, starting a habit, whatever it takes. Once you start taking some actions, self love immediately increases, and porcupine-ness stops. You will become the gentle, loving and creative being you are, once again.


I came across this brilliant book / video called "How to hug a porcupine". So smart it is. Im sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.


Felt like a porcupine recently? Do share with me, how you felt and overcame it :-) I love reading your responses.


With fratitude (In friendship and with gratitude)