The Echidna

By Adam Micallef

‘The Echidna’ is an allegory describing the experience of Social Anxiety. 

The echidna is a strange and beautiful animal.  It is solitary and isolationist in policy, and yet it is known by so many people.  Even though it is known by many, most have never encountered this strange and yet beautiful animal.

The echidna has spikes which appear very fierce but underneath this creature is as soft as any other animal.  When approached this creature will dig in [itself into a burrow].  It will dig, dig, dig, until it is safe.  This creature is shortsighted and cannot always see far ahead.  Even though something is not a threat this creature may perceive it as one.

Of the few people who ever encounter the echidna, even fewer wait around long enough for it to uncover its head and let down its defenses.  Many people just don’t have the time, and perceive the rest of the creature to be the same as its exterior.  They wait around only long enough to see the spikes which creates a two fold problem.  The observers never view the underside of the echidna and enjoy this different creature.  The echidna never has the opportunity to perceive humans as anything else than a threat.  Both groups miss out.

I have seen the echidna burrow into defensive mode, which appears to be a partly innate and partly learned response.  When this creature surfaces its careful, gentle features are exposed; the sad watery eyes, moist nose, and gentle facial features with almost a hint of an expression.  This creature appears to be twice as tender and vulnerable.  Therefore, it must have twice the defenses.  The echidna’s greatest fear is that of being turned over and exposed.  Our greatest mistake would be not to distinguish the spikes from the echidna’s self.

Echidna photo courtesy of www.giftlog.com