porcupine2

Ellen…

One day when I took a walk with my friend Karen and told her about My Mother, My Daughter, My Friend, she blurted “Boy, my daughter and I certainly struggle with our relationship!” What a surprise that was. I assumed that because she was a psychotherapist, she would have all the answers and would have an easy relationship with her daughter. After all, her frequent and loving Facebook posts with her daughter certainly supported that assumption. I should have known better: That perfect mother-daughter bond just doesn’t exist.

As we walked through the woods, Karen and I talked about the push-pull we’ve both experienced with our daughters. One moment they adore you and freely share their feelings. And in the next, you can’t do anything right and they answer your questions with tight-lipped, one-word answers.

Karen described to me a psychology theory that she learned in college many years ago, and I loved it – had to share.

There are two porcupines on a very cold night…if they get too close to each other, they prick each other with their quills….if they move too far apart, they get too cold…such is the delicate, emotional balance between a mother and a daughter.

While mothers and daughters share the intention of a close reciprocal relationship, this may not occur for reasons they can’t avoid.

I later found out online that this phenomenon is called the “hedgehog’s dilemma” or “porcupine problem.” Yes, for mothers and daughters, finding that fine balance between closeness and independence is critical. The next time Jenna puts up a wall during a phone conversation, I’m going to playfully call her “porcupine” just as Karen does with her daughter!

(If you’re intrigued and want to learn more, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of

the book Eat, Pray, Love) TED talk: EG’s TED talk)