The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Hedgehog’s dilemma

Using hedgehogs Arthur Schopenhauer drew a metaphor on the relationship individual have with others in society.

As the hedgehogs seek warmth from another they come close until they notice how they are being hurt by the other’s sharp spines. It takes them a while to find a distance that allows them to gain as much warmth as possible and experience hurt that remains acceptable.

In a way their sharp spines protect them from one another and prevent them from becoming too close. Hedgehogs keep a learned distance.

The sharp spines correspond to our human habits to keep others away from us. People learned that others can hurt us and built ways to prevent that from happening. If people ever went without them, they would select with whom and when to become vulnerable.

As the world has been turned upside down in these last months, people found themselves without their sharp spines. They found themselves “emotionally naked”. Since they’ve been busy adapting their life to the situation, figuring out how to do things.

Doing so they’ve found themselves without their usual habits of keeping distances, staying distracted from their emotions, and thus containing their emotions.

In the process of redefining appropriate distances we can see the hedgehog dilemma at work again.

It’s a time in which it’s important to take extra care and remember that it is more difficult than usual to know in which emotional state others are.


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