What does the Opossum Spirit Animal Totem Mean? Sideways Tactics

Opossum Spirit Animal Totem

When is it useful to address a situation directly, and when would a direct approach cause more problems?  To discover the best strategy for every unique situation you may encounter, the Opposum Spirit Animal Totem suggests you take note of how much fear is involved in your decision-making process.

When we are afraid we will most likely retreat and hide.  But that retreat does not mean we will stop trying to get what we want.  We will simply try to get what we want indirectly, i.e. vaguely or secretly.  The challenge occurs when we are actually not fully aware that we are in fact afraid and that fear propels secretive indirect behavior.  Reactions based on fear can often be so subtle a person can be shocked to discover someone feels begrudged.

The primary survival skill taught by the Opossum Spirit Animal Totem is to play dead.  His skill is NOT the ability to die and come back to life.  That skill is taught by the Bat Spirit Animal Totem.  Bat medicine and Opossum medicine teachings have much in common but it is important to note their differences.  When we observe these animals in the wild, we see that both enjoy hanging upside down.  This means that these medicines are frequently and easily out of balance but also just as easy to put back into balance.  If we remember from our introduction to Spirit Animal Teachings, when a Power Animal is somehow out of balance, it means there is too much or not enough of its teaching in your life.  When a specific animal spends lots of time upside down, this can mean that they are strong teachers of finding skills to balance that which has fallen out of balance.   They help us practice getting back up, dusting off, and continuing on.  Some Spirit Animal Guides are not so easy to put back into balance, (see Elephant) while others need just a bit of attention to set them right.  Bat and Opossum Medicines enjoy the conversation with balance and out of balance and can teach us how to right ourselves and be resilient when things go awry.

Bat Medicine is a rite of passage into a new phase of life.  But Opossum Medicine teaches us about the art of seeming.  Bat is a journey into a death of a previous identity, either physical or emotional, where we emerge truly changed.  But Opossum doesn’t really die.  His skill set lies in the ability to seem as though he’s died and thus persuade a threatening situation to lose interest in him.  More specifically, he persuades a potential attacker that he would be harmful to eat.  His musk suggests a certain spoiled quality that would surely make the pursuer sick.

possum power animal, possum meaning, meaning of possum, possum totem, opossum totemThis brilliant performance has its consequences.  To do it right, Opossum may align so closely with the conditions of being dead that for a time he may actually believe he is dead.  Then he has to find his way out of his self-made illusion and self-made intoxication.  His vanishing act may fool everyone around him, but he can not ever vanish from himself.  If you have convinced yourself you are not involved in a situation you are actually a part of, you may experience confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, or a going blank sensation.  When such sensations arise, it may be helpful to realize you have a protector within who feels threatened and is trying to keep you safe by removing you from the situation in the best way it knows how.  

Becoming uninteresting to those who might impose or cause us harm is an excellent tactic when we are in potentially real danger.  But the trick to navigating this complex Medicine is to stay very vigilant about if you are in danger or if you are avoiding a discomfort that would otherwise lead to expansion and self improvement.

When would the tactic of playing dead be useful and when would it cause more problems to employ?

The Opossum Spirit Animal Medicine is very useful when dealing with overwhelming odds or when you are outnumbered.  It is not at all useful when dealing with one-on-one dynamics where both parties are evenly matched.  If you are struggling to face a single opponent, it may be time to shift your perspective into a larger more powerful Spirit Animal Guide.  Keep in mind, these Medicines are like spices in a spice cabinet.  We use each one in combination with others based on what we are trying to navigate or “cook.”  Opossum Spirit Medicine could easily fall into feeling stuck because to pull of this skill you have to convince yourself you are gone.  

In the great outdoors, Opossum uses this tactic in literal life-or-death circumstances against threats that are much larger than him and he recommends you do the same. This Medicine is useful for people navigating overt oppression who need to get out of actual danger.  Examples: Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, North Korea, high school…   In overtly oppressive environments where you are outnumbered, and where the leadership is unapproachable it would be a bad decision to address the situation directly.  When powers are stacked against you, a head-on approach will likely result in harm. That would be when sideways tactics are the way to go.

Because we do not currently live in a war zone, most encounters in our culture are of a psychological threat, not a physical one. Our brains will never stop being on the lookout for mortal danger.  Our brains are the most amazing, relentless, and loyal watchdogs we could ever ask for.  We don’t want our brains to decrease vigilance.  But we do want to also develop the more complex ability to determine when perceived danger is a mortal one or just a threat to our psychological understanding of life. Getting shut down by psychological threats can limit our life and hamper our ability to enjoy achieving goals.

Using Opossum tactics for psychological challenges can quickly lead to an imbalanced Medicine.  Because this Medicine involves such a specific and unique behavior of retreat which is in most cases unnecessary- (most situations we encounter are not life-threatening) it may be helpful to view this living symbol as a reminder to be more direct.

The Opossum Spirit Animal Totem is the master in the art of being indirect.  When we are indirect too often, we develop a passive-aggressive approach to problem-solving.  It may seem problems “go away” when we adopt passive behavior, but the more accurate truth is- the problem has not gone away… we have.  Removing oneself from a problem is not the same as traveling through it and resolving it.

Passive-aggressive behavior can become quite cruel when a person is not aware of how their actions (or lack of action) is actually causing more pain and tension.  Have you ever gotten stuck behind someone driving slow on the highway? Sometimes we can get caught in generalized false beliefs which may provide us with psychological comfort but which are in fact dangerous.  The belief that driving slowly is always safe is one example.  Sometimes driving slowly is quite dangerous.

The reason we might settle on a generalized false belief about life is because we are tired of uncertainty or because the strain of constant evaluation has become too much for our nervous systems and we just need a break.  To give us that break, our brains create platforms of beliefs for us to rest and walk around on for a while.  But like scaffolding, those thoughts are just a temporary tool in the greater construction of understanding life.

Don’t always believe what you think.

Your thoughts are not correct just because you happen to think them.  For a more accurate understanding of reality, we want to question the contents of our thoughts.

It is our thoughts which cause us anxiety and depression.  That makes sense, right?  Since anxiety, anger, frustration, and depression are all mental experiences and the mind deals with thoughts it is only logical to conclude that if we want to dissolve anger or anxiety, the best place to start would be to have a look at what we are thinking.

Very likely you are thinking something irrational and unfounded.  Something like…

If I don’t respond it will go away.


If I act nice the other person will be compelled to like me.

Not true.

Another teaching of the Opossum Spirit Totem can be found in the modern social practice of “ghosting.”  A very painful trend has arisen in our culture today due to how easy it is to unfriend someone on Social Media.  Blocking people from having access to our social networks is quite easy to do and can feel like we are setting a boundary.  But often times when we ghost someone, or we get ghosted, we are not able to escape thoughts about them.  It is an illusion and a lie to suggest that if I remove all traces of a person I used to be friends with that my feelings will also completely change towards them just as quickly.  It is not possible to block our feelings or memories as easily as it is to block social accounts.  And in this way, the people we ghost can end up “haunting” our thoughts in small, covert ways.  

If you really want to get someone out of your life who you feel is no longer supportive of your path, performing a sudden, unexpected withdrawal can actually cause them to take more of an interest in you.  To really navigate out of a dynamic with another person we will want to honor that doing so will take a bit of time and can not happen as quickly as clicking “block” or “unfollow.”  Usually, it takes at least three separate efforts to communicate our clear need to make a change in a relationship.  Call on Ant Medicine for the patience to keep showing up for that process.  Otherwise, the other person will feel there is some sort of misunderstanding or miscommunication in any sudden silence between you.  If you are thinking about ghosting someone as a form of revenge, talk with Crow Medicine first!  How you treat others is how you treat yourself.  If you do not want to be ignored, practice respecting people’s feelings and honoring that they let you into their heart and will need your patience and compassion if you now wish to lead them out of your personal space.  Be kind but firm and if after three clear expressions of your wish, they are not listening to you, it may then be time to cut off all communication, knowing you did your best to treat their feelings with respect.

Being ghosted by someone is one of the most painful social acts we can endure.  Being shut out activates urgent, emergency-mode impulses that often lure us into behaving in a crazy, desperate manner.  Recovering from such overwhelming sorrow and abuse can be quite challenging.  But there are ways to heal from such injuries and regain our personal dignity.  If you are suffering from being ghosted, it is important to not isolate yourself.  Find some way to engage in other social arenas, preferably in-person events.  Do not ignore the sorrow, but do not let it overpower you.  Let yourself feel the heartache, and ride it out without judging yourself as weak for being so hurt-able.  The truth is, it is very easy to hurt another person.  The seeming “victory” the person who ghosted you has seemingly gained, is no real victory it is a seeming, an illusion.  And rest assured, you have not been deleted from their thoughts.  They are on a path of learning how to walk with real power, which is actually founded in compassion, not disregard.

Opossum Spirit Animal Positive Affirmations:

  • I matter.  I can not be removed from existence. I am a major part of my environment and my conduct affects others even if they do not acknowledge it.
  • I do not have to be interesting to everyone.  I can learn to not attract certain people’s attention.
  • I may feel invisible, but my existence is affecting every situation I am in.  
Opossum Spirit Animal Totem
bat medicine, meaning of bat, spirit animal meanings
Opossum Spirit Animal Totem
About the author

About the author

Hi, I’m Jess.  I study and practice nature-based healing methods.  I offer healing arts workshops and life guidance in Los Angeles, California. Learn more about Jess…

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