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Home » What Porcupines Teach Us About Boundaries: Henry Ammar (Transcript)

What Porcupines Teach Us About Boundaries: Henry Ammar (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Henry Ammar’s talk titled “What Porcupines Teach Us About Boundaries” at TEDxStGeorgeSalon 2022 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Porcupine Principle: A Lesson in Boundaries

One of the greatest lessons I learned about boundaries came from porcupines. It was a really, really cold winter night and these porcupines huddled together to stay warm. As they got close to each other, they started to poke each other and cause each other pain. So as soon as they experienced this, they dispersed, but being away from the group caused them to be at the mercy of the harsh, cold winter weather.

So they came back together only to redisperse and they went back and forth and back and forth until eventually they found that sweet spot. The sweet spot where they were benefiting each other in that relationship and they were protected from the elements. And also, they had enough space where they weren’t constantly hurting each other and poking each other and causing each other pain.

This story by Arthur Schopenhauer made me really think about that sweet spot in relationships. Is there a place where we can benefit from each other without constantly hurting each other? And it made me ask the question, what if boundaries weren’t just a yes or just a no?

The Sweet Spot in Relationships

What if boundaries were a how much? What if there was that sweet spot in each relationship like those porcupines? After 26 years of obsessively studying human behavior and working with thousands of people, I’ve come to discover there are two overarching types of boundaries: Fear-based boundaries and love-based boundaries.

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