Contributed by Anne Barton.
When I think of the animal opossum, for some reason I think of my mother. She seemed fond of the expression ‘playing opossum,’ but for the life of me, I can’t remember why. However, I also often recall that I’d learned at a young age to avoid my brother’s tormenting by ignoring him, and consequently, he moved on to torment my sister, who screamed and cried and gave him just what he wanted! So apparently the message of Opossum subtly got through, informing me of an effective strategy! And perhaps my mother knew just what she was doing when she used that age-old expression…
Key Concepts when Opposum is Present:
- Use strategy! The best strategy may be no defense.
- Rely upon instincts, use your brain, your sense of drama and surprise to leap over a barrier to progress.
- Play opossum . . . Pretend if you have to!
One of the fascinating things about studying the messages of animals is recognizing all of the creative defense mechanisms they have developed. A skunk is one of the smallest, most avoided and even feared animals in the forest for reasons we are all well aware of. Opossum’s greatest form of protection is to play dead – essentially adopting the defense of ‘no defense.’ The success of this method comes from confusing predators just long enough to get away. If a predator believes that the game is over, in those few seconds the predator takes to walk away, Opossum has the perfect opportunity to escape. I have this sort of cartoon image of a predator looking around in confusion wondering, ‘Is this for real? Did I just scare this creature to death?’
Opossum uses a great deal of strategy. It’s not that he can’t fight – his claws and teeth are perfectly suited for fighting back – but he chooses to retreat instead. The strategy of diversion is employed when things get a little too hard to handle. “Opossum has developed an act that would receive an Academy Award in the animal kingdom. The musk of the death scent is excreted at will, adding to the master play that sends enemies on many trails of confusion… Victory is sweet when the strategy is one of mental as well as physical prowess” (Sams).
If Opossum crosses your path, the message could be to use your brain, or even a little drama, to get through a tight spot. The message could also be the reverse. Is your dramatic reaction or behavior covering up a deeper understanding of what is really going on? Are you playing the victim to avoid the truth? Or are you creating excuses to avoid just saying ‘no’ because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
We all have the right to be who we are, and we don’t need to make excuses for that. We owe no one a reason or explanation either. ‘No’ is a complete sentence! When adopting the viewpoint of no defense, you are choosing to be who and what you are, without playing games. The proper use of diversion is to know when not to use diversion at all.
Works Cited & Resources
Sams, Jamie, and David Carson. Medicine Cards. New York: St. Martin’s
Press, 1988, 1999. Print.
To learn more about Animal Guide readings, as well as other readings I provide, visit http://tiny.cc/AnneBartonReadings.