How to React to Porcupine People in Your Life

porcupine people


Recently, I made a Confession: I am a Porcupine.  But I’m not alone.  Every person exhibits porcupine-ish characteristics at some point. We all have trigger points that cause us to get frustrated,  irritated, and perhaps lash out at others…especially those closest to us. Here are 7 Common Trigger Points that Make People Prickly.

Now that we know those trigger points, let’s talk about how you might react to those porcupines in your life…your spouse, your kids, your parents, your in-law, your friend, your co-worker…those not-so-lovable, overly defensive, sometimes irritating people at home, work, or wherever you may roam.

Here’s a scenario: On a number of occasions, I’ve come home from work and walked through the door really cranky, stamping my feet and hissing, with my prickly quills sticking up. My wife, Susan, has learned to recognize this, and when she does, she quickly thinks to herself, “Uh oh, the porcupine is home!”

At that point, she has several choices.

1. Ignore the Porcupine.

She can ignore and be indifferent to the porcupine.  That might seem like a good idea, particularly if I need some time to cool down before we can communicate well.  But the danger of ignoring the porcupine is that it can send a silent signal to me that “she doesn’t really care.” Pretending the porcupine isn’t there doesn’t make the porcupine, or the problem, disappear.

2. Prod the Porcupine.

She can prod the porcupine with her words by saying something like “What’s your problem?” But that’s not going to work very well. With that kind of response, Susan risks being on the receiving end, quickly, of some painful quills. Prodding words just make the porcupine growl more.

3. Cage the Porcupine.

Susan can try to control me by shaming me into caging up my emotions. She might say something like, “I know you had a tough day, but you really need to calm down and get yourself under control.” That just frustrates the porcupine even more and just makes the porcupine pen up his emotions.

4. Run from the Porcupine.

She can run from the porcupine, but running is rarely effective. It may remove her from the presence of the porcupine, but at the end of the day, I’m still there! The porcupine is still in the house.  It’s a bit of a denial strategy that thinks, “If I don’t want him to be a porcupine, or if I can’t see him while he’s being a porcupine, maybe he’ll just stop being one.”

5. Shoot the Porcupine.

Really, there’s another reaction some might suggest: Shoot the Porcupine! But we know that is not an option. And let’s face it, if we all try to eliminate all the porcupines, the sights will soon be set on us…and on the rest of the world. We are…all of us…porcupines on occasion.

6. Hug the Porcupine.

Susan can hug the porcupine even though she doesn’t feel like it. So she hugs me…even though I’m unlovable and even though it hurts her to hug the porcupine…because that’s what this porcupine needs. In a future post, I’ll share with you specific ways to” hug” a porcupine…with your arms, hands, words, eyes,and ears.

I can tell you, it’s easy to write about how we should love the porcupines in our lives, but it’s a lot harder to live it out. It’s really tough to  love unlovable people. But meaningful love, the kind of love that changes hearts, is love shown to those who are unlovable.  Author G.K. Chesterton once said, “To love means loving the unlovable.”  Love your spouse the most when they deserve it the least.

Who is the porcupine in your life? How do you react when their quills are up?

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