Did you know that if you boil a pot of water and throw in a live frog that that frog will hop right out, saving his life to croak again another day (ha, ha)? If, on the other hand, you place a frog in a pot of cold water and turn the heat up slowly, that frog will stay in the pot. He will not jump out but slowly acclimate to the increasingly hot water until it boils to death. Truth or urban legend? To prove it I’d have to cook a live frog and that’s not going to happen. It sounds true and so should be because of what it teaches us.
A women comes to see me for help. She tells me her story, sighs, and then says, “Really, it’s not that bad.” Oh, yes, it is! She’s sitting in a pot of very hot water. If she had been dropped into her intolerable situation all of a sudden she’d be saying, “Holy Cow! Get me outta here!”
This happened to me when my mother and father came to live with us. My mother was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer at Roswell Park Cancer Center. It wasn’t like I was alone, but at the time I had a full time job, two small kids and my brothers and sisters were hundreds of miles away. All four of my siblings would check in often and I’d tell them, “Really, it’s not that bad.”
One day my younger brother flew in for a visit. It didn’t take him long to sit me down and say firmly, “You’re about to drop dead and you don’t even know it. We need to talk about maybe taking a leave of absence from your job and setting up a schedule so one of us is with you from now on.” I didn’t see what he could see clearly. He was the frog that just dropped in the pot that I had been in for a while.
If you are chronically tired, stressed, anxious or feeling low, you may be a slowly cooking frog. If you think you are, talk to friends, family, a counselor. Reach out, get a reality check, ask for help as the woman who came to my office did. There’s no virtue in being a martyr frog. All you get is cooked.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Apr 2009
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Aletta, E. (2009). The Frog In The Pot: How Stress Creeps Up On Us. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/04/21/frog-in-the-pot-how-stress-creeps-up-on-us/