I had a very interesting discussion with a non-Quaker friend this morning.  I've long studied animal behavior, especially regarding canines (wild & domestic) and horses, but have certainly enjoyed learning about the behaviors of other creatures with whom we share the planet. 

If a young springbok is being pursued by a hungry lion, is the little antelope safer making a solo run for its life or should it head for the herd?

Are you in a prey mindset, or are you a predator?  If you are prey, what are your defense mechanisms?  You have 3 choices: fight, flight or "play possum." 

So, now you ask, "How does this apply to being a Quaker?"  

In any group of people you will have those who behave like prey (victims?) and those who behave like predators, and then often there are neutral members who are just part of the herd.  Oddly enough, depending upon the issue, individuals can change from prey to predator and vice versa. 

I believe it is the prey type who respond with flight or "playing possum" who are the most likely candidates for being Quaker Hermits. 

Personally, I don't like fighting.  I'll flee if given the option.  I really have to feel cornered to go into fight mode; it only happens when I perceive that I have no other option.  Fleeing or "playing dead" are my most comfortable responses.  Let me go hide and get away from the controversy.  Controversy makes me feel unsafe.  Ah, fleeing into the safety of being a Quaker Hermit!  

It's the reality of feeling there is no solution to the conflict.  Is it healthy to fold oneself up into an envelope and get mailed home?  Is fleeing or "playing possum" a productive way to pursue a peaceful existence.  Is impasse acceptable?   Why can't some people simply "agree to disagree," and learn to "disagree without being disagreeable?"  

Avoidance of conflict seems to be yet another purpose in becoming a Quaker Hermit.


Views: 252

Comment by Jim Wilson on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 5:26pm

Friend Betsy:

An interesting take on the Hermit personality.  I am a 'conflict avoider'.  What happens to me is that entering into a conflict, and I mean verbal conflict, leaves a psychological residue that can stay with me for days at a time.  Not always, and over the years I've become more adept in these situations, but it is my natural tendency.  What I have noticed is that there are some people who really thrive on controversy.  They like it.  You can see their complexion kind of brighten up.  Believe it or not, I'm good friends with a number of people like this, so I don't think it necessarily a bad thing, it's just not how I want to get through my day.

For me, Hermit time, time spent in silence and solitude, opens my heart to the larger context in which human life is embedded.  In the ordinary ebb and flow of life, and especially during conflicts with others, I forget about the grandeur of creation.  In such contexts my sense of vastness shrinks as my focus becomes narrower.

Hermit time refreshes me, allows me to recall that there is an unfathomably vast cosmos of which I am a part and, at times, I am able to reside in the glory of God's creation.  I can't do that when I am in the world of human interaction.  No doubt this is a flaw in my own character, but there it is.

Thy Friend Jim


Comment by Olivia on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 8:55pm

Hello Betsy,

If I may offer you a different kind of olive branch than perhaps what you are seeking....

Here's something you may want to consider -- I don't know.     What would it feel like to not be concerned with fight or flight at all?   What are your options for addressing whatever triggers you have so that you are not in a fight or flight mode at all anymore?  

This to me seems likely to be best for you and your sensitive self, but also likely to be best for the hermit calling that you feel:  so that you can choose without any regard for fight or flight, prey and predators, but may find other dimensions that you are led by.  I realize this sounds like an ideal and may not fit your reality but my thought (after years of my own forms of therapy that have helped with a lot) are that it is now possible for me to interact with people with much more conviction and peace so that I am still in my own "hermit-like" safe space while interacting with them -- or have listened to my own wisdom to walk away and interact with someone else.



Comment by Betsy Packard on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 8:57pm

Well put, Jim!  I understand entirely. 

I'd even say that when trying to deal with personal conflict, the tension  it creates for me prevents me from having room for the Light, so I want to tuck tail and run for cover.  I have a history of being a very patient person, to the point that even my kids as teens said I was patient, so I really have to be cornered to stand up to someone, but it has been known to happen. 

And I agree -- there are some folks who thrive on the adrenalin rush of conflict.  They enjoy constantly stirring the pot.  I was properly raised and taught that it is rude to say, "Shut up" to someone, but heaven knows I've had to bite my tongue to keep from "shooting from the lip" and telling someone, "Oh, for pete's sake, just SHUT UP!"  But I haven't done it yet.  But I've thought it. 

I've had to seek out my quiet places now that I'm having to be a city mouse, but they can be found!   I'm also limited at the moment sans wheels, awaiting the clean up of a very nasty insurance settlement on a car wreck from last November (the police said it was most definitely not my fault, but my car was totaled, and the other driver's insurance company sent a check to the wrong person who thought they'd hit the jackpot and they've spent the money.  <sigh>  Oh, what a mess!)   so I'm relegated to city buses, but it's amazing all the places I can go to find peace, away from the noise of traffic. 

I'm still in physical therapy twice a week from the accident, and I go into meditation mode when they put the electrodes on me and have me lie down on the hot pads.  Ahhhhh   The Beta waves really kick in, and I can tune everything else out that's going on around me. 

You know, the conflict with the mess from the car wreck is a perfect example of my flight mechanism.  The moment it started to look messy, I turned it over to an attorney I know personally.  I just didn't want to deal with it, and even though I know there's way too much litigation in our society, my friend does this for a living.  He knows who to talk to and how to get things done.  I just turned it over to him, and I'm letting him handle it.  he hollers if he needs anything from me.  I am so adverse to engaging in conflict, I'll find many ways to get around it.

Someone recently tried to engage me in conflict on a repeated basis, and I finally told this person to just, "Please leave me alone."  He wouldn't listen and kept at me.  I did finally have to take a rather rude stance (which I didn't want to have to do), and tell him that he absolutely HAD TO leave me alone.  It got so bad, I called Adult Protective Services, and they said what he was doing constituted harassment and a form of stalking.  Stalking doesn't have to be physical proximity.  It can be psychological stalking.  They advised me to file a police report, but I don't feel led in that direction.  But here's the crazy part.  I'm a short, chubby, 59 year old woman.  Don't ask me WHY this guy wouldn't leave me alone.  I don't have the answer.  All I wanted was for him to leave me alone.  All he wanted to do was pester the heck out of me.  It was not fun. 

So, Jim, I understand where you're coming from on this issue!

peace & blessings,



Betsy Packard

Lexington, KY

Comment by Betsy Packard on 4th mo. 30, 2012 at 9:08pm

Ah, Olivia, an insightful perspective.  Jim, what do you think? 

My recent experience with someone who decided he wasn't going to let me off the hook for conflict does influence my opinion at the moment.  I proposed that we "agree to disagree," but that was not acceptable to him, and he was determined to convert me to his way of thinking, though I had repeatedly told him his beliefs differed from mine.  I could respect his beliefs, but they were not my beliefs, and I expected that if I could be respectful of him, why could he not reciprocate?  

My approach after being subjected to being yelled at on several occasions was to tell this person to leave me alone.  No, he was "bound and determined" to convert me to his way of thinking, and oh, it got weird.  Not fun. 

Flight mode seemed to be survival mode. 

There are 2 situations coming up on my calendar which hold the potential for conflict.  I have decided to just not be there.  If you don't show up for the duel, nobody gets shot.  I don't attend activities for the purpose of enjoying conflict, but some people do.  If that were my desire, I'd join a debating society.  I much prefer to work things out in a civilized manner, but when you know that some attendees will be coming verbally "loaded for bear," this bear goes into hibernation!  <G>  

peace & blessings


Betsy Packard

Lexington, KY


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