My inspiration is taken from a 19th Century German Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer had a theory about human relationships, using Porcupines as a metaphor for human feeling, interaction, intimacy and boundaries. The fable goes something like this:
A group of Porcupines are out on a cold winters day. In order to keep from freezing, they move closer together. By getting too close, they poke each other with their quills and so begin to retreat and isolate. However, the cold begins to bite and the need to huddle for warmth and safety becomes too strong only to find that once again the quills become too painful. And so the dance between entanglement and distance continues.
What this fable shows us is that we all need to relate be that with spouses, partners, family, friends, co-workers, and in society. But to avoid the same fate as the fabled Porcupines and to avoid repeating destructive patterns of behaviour we not only need to be able to be with others, but also generate our own sense of self, our own ‘warmth’.
It is this sense of self that often becomes absorbed into the organisation or is absent, lost or neglected. By learning to maintain that critical space and self containment which can be achieved through reflection and self awareness, employees may benefit from a sense of contentment and fulfilment in the workplace and beyond.