Hugging the Porcupine - Why We Hold Onto a Bad or Even an Abusive Relationship, Client, Employee, or Process.

Hugging A Porcupine
By Patti Wood
I watched my friend make a dinner tray to take up to his girlfriend who was under the weather. He carefully placed the dinner he made on the best dishes, folded a linen napkin, put a little flower he picked from the garden into a cup onto it and smile as took the tray upstairs. Moments later I could hear his girlfriend scream at him about all the things he had done wrong making the dinner and putting it on the tray. He came downstairs upset and beaten down. I had watched him being abused by his girlfriend for years. He had used every communication strategy to stop it. But she wasn’t going to change. He wouldn’t leave her. He said he had invested too many years in the relationship. He said he stayed, not because he still loved her, but because the investment he had made. He couldn’t let the relationship go and give himself the chance for future happiness, because he didn’t want to think of the years he invested as a waste. And for him the thought of starting a new life was daunting.
My friend was hugging a porcupine. Holding onto something that hurt him over and over again because of “sunk costs.”
In economics, a sunk cost is anything that has been paid and cannot be recovered. The problem is when a person or businesses investment has been a loss, and their own aversion to loss compels them to make further bad decisions related to the investment, such as putting more time or money towards it based on a fear of loss. In our personal lives, we may hold on to mates, friends, or even groups that are toxic or simply causing us pain.
In business, we may hold onto a client, vendor, employee, software program, or a process because of what we spent on it, and or how much we have invested in it or to avoid the pain of having to change or start something new. We may be able to see someone in an abusive relationship and ask, “Why do they stay?? But when the porcupine is ours, we may not let see as clearly and let go.
I had a coaching client who got what he thought was a great client who offered him more money than he had ever gotten from one client. He had hired new employees, to serve this Client X, purchased new insurance and more to serve client X. But client X was awful, demanding he fire people, creating insurance risks and more. Client X was a porcupine. In my coaching, I work with clients that have porcupines and help them gently let go of a bad employee or a misery-inducing client, heal themselves and their businesses from the pokes and start again with a healthier choice than a barbed porcupine!  
Many porcupine huggers are overly optimistic. They think that the next experience they have with porcupine person or process will be positive and somehow correct the previous, negative experience. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, and instead, the pain is merely prolonged.
Do you have any Porcupines in your life? Is there someone or something that is causing you pain that you need to let go?

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at