Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Hedgehog’s Dilemma

Imagine two hedgehogs in the middle of winter. Even though they wish to huddle together to keep warm, they must keep distance to not become stabbed by the other hedgehog. There is no way they can avoid hurting each other without keeping their distance. Although both hedgehogs badly want to be close and intimate, they cannot. Therefore, the hedgehogs sacrifice the potential warmth for their own comfort.

Human relationships are just like the hedgehogs in the allegory. If a relationship is too close, the two people have a serious danger of hurting each other in one way or another. It is crucial to find the balance between keeping distance and having enough intimacy to have a good relationship, but much like the hedgehogs, this is a very difficult task. 

Some people may have the unfortunate experience of being pricked by another hedgehog and learn that getting too close hurts too much. These people try and keep their distance from other people and rely on their internal warmth to not freeze during the winter. This phenomenon is more pronounced in introverted people and clearly seen in those suffering from social anxiety.

This is the dilemma of the hedgehogs: should one sacrifice the warmth of companionship to avoid pain? Or should one overcome the potential pain to attain the intimacy that we all seek? Figuring out where the perfect balance lies and respecting each other’s personal space is quite possibly one of the most important factors in having a healthy relationship.