In the 19 century, a few experiments were aimed at observing frogs’ reactions to slowly heated water.
They found that frogs tend to not jump out of the pan if the water was heated slowly but steady.
The frogs will get used to the water’s temperature. As soon as they do, the temperature increases slightly (and almost in a subtle way). When it increases, they get used to the new temperature…
…Until the water reaches the boiling point. That’s when the shit breaks loose!
The frog realizes that the water is no longer tolerable. The water’s temperature is too damn hot for him to stay in. What’s worse, he’s going to die if he stays more than that.
But it’s already too late. The damage has been done.
He doesn’t have enough energy to jump out of there, let alone that the water has already started to kill him.
He’s dying. And very fast. He could have jumped when the water wasn’t too hot. But he didn’t. He got himself killed.
The original experiments were to locate where the soul is or something like that. So, they’ve done a lot of shitty things to frogs while doing that. One of them is removing their brains.
The above-described behavior was noticed on the frogs which brains were removed. But it was also noticed on the frogs that got their brains on if the temperature was increased in a specific way (slowly, usually).
But what’s sadder is that it’s not about frogs (or brainless frogs) alone.
We, humans, do act the same way sometimes. More often than not, we’re those brainless frogs. The water is our relationships. The boiling and the heating are the abuse and the consummation.
And when I say, “relationships”, I don’t only mean romantic or non-romantic relationships. I actually like the way of looking at relationships as everything that you have a relationship and an interaction with, including your work and your body and yourself. This concept of looking at “relationships” broadly was introduced by Mark Manson on this article.
Let’s examine how we may become brainless frogs and get our relationships to kill us. At least at the psychological level.
Abusive relationships don’t usually come with a warning sign. They don’t even sound bad or ‘abusive’ at the first glance.
The destruction of these relationships is psychological. You are not going to physically die like that frog but you will suffer psychologically.
This psychological damage can come in all forms and shapes. Anything from trust issues, self-hatred, shame, and even depression.
That was the final result. What led to this final result was the gradual boiling in the case of the frog. In human’s cases, it’s the gradual abuse.
And by ‘abuse’, in the real world, I mean a lot of things.
I can’t define it because there’s no one size that fits all solutions. It’s a pattern rather than a specific behavior.
But generally, it hurts. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. But here is the thing.
If it hurts, why do some people can’t seem to see that they are being hurt and getting their rights taken away? Why didn’t that damn frog realize that the water was slowly hurting him?
Was it because the abuse was subtle and gradual?
That could be a reason, but it’s not the whole answer.
The real answer is: self-respect. And in the case of the frogs: the brain (or the awareness).
The more self-respect you have, the better you will be able at recognizing the abuse (and walk away, of course). And vice versa.
People with little to no self-respect will usually end up in abusive relationships. What’s surprising is that the abusers themselves are often suffering the same way in terms of self-esteem. They compensate only in a different way. (Read: How to Handle People who make you feel insecure)
So, there was an abusing relationship between the frog and the water. Frogs normally live in water and it’s not a problem at all. However, in our case, it didn’t end up well.
There was an abuse in the form of water being boiled. The frog started to feel that the environment is getting a bit uncomfortable. But it adapted.
It adapted to the abuse. So, the abuse persisted. No, not only persisted but even increased. And it was all just a matter of time before the frog had died.
Metaphorically, we can say that the lack of the brain in the frogs was equivalent to having low self-respect. But just being a frog, perhaps, is equivalent to that.
Had the frog had any brains, it would have jumped the minute things started to feel hot and painful. Had there been enough self-respect, there would have been more “walk away” than “give’em another chance”.
Don’t wait until it’s the boiling point. Don’t adapt to the hurt and to the abuse. It works this way -gradual and slow abuse that will, in the end, destroy all the parties that are involved. Especially the one who adapted to the hot water (a.k.a. The bad treatment).
What about abusive relationships with your own self?
This is critical and dangerous.
It will result in all kinds of psychological destruction, including the one that will make you have less self-respect.
Before we explain that, let’s look at how emotions, especially the negative ones, work.
Emotions are like feedback. When you’re doing good, your mind will tell you that you are doing good by positive emotions and good moods.
For instance, when you have to pay your bills in 3 days and you have no money because you’ve spent all of it on drinks and fast food, you’ll feel bad. You’ll feel guilty and you’ll feel fear and frustration.
Let’s bring the frog here and see how can abusive relationships can happen here as well. I’m starting to like this frog because it’s such a good “abuse-meter”.
You, and your behaviors and actions, are the water. Your mind is the frog.
Your behaviors and actions get a little bit nasty and out of control. In other words, the water gets a little bit hotter for the frog.
So, your brain notices your shitty behaviors. It starts annoying you with the negative emotions. But you don’t give a whoop! You tell it to adapt. And it adapts, just like the frog. (Notice that you are the 3 elements here: the frog, the water, and the heating, so you get to play the 3 roles at once).
No sooner had it adapted than your nasty behaviors got even nastier. The water got hotter. And you did the same again. You tried to forget about everything by adapting to the new level of nastiness.
Your nasty and shitty behaviors create serious problems in your life. Your brain doesn’t like that. So, it conveys its dissatisfaction through the negative emotions. It’s like a frog that starts fidgeting as soon as the water gets hotter.
But you make it adapt. When your behaviors create bigger problems (and a hotter water), you adapt to this the new level of dysfunctionality…
…Until it reaches an intolerable point. The boiling point.
The point of break down. The point of deep and painful depression and sorrow. The point of extreme and indescribable dissatisfaction. The point of feeling that you are empty and that the world is meaningless.
Just like the frog who was killed by the temperature which was building up, and to which it was adapting, you’ll be attacked by all the negative emotions which were building up, and which you have been trying to bury and ignore and adapt to.
If that doesn’t make a dysfunctional and an abusing relationship, I don’t know what will.
This mess will undoubtedly create a circle of low self-esteem and low self-respect. Which will create more dysfunctional and abusing relationships like the ones above.
You break this cycle by refusing to adapt to the hot water and by jumping out of it. You jump out of it because you care enough about yourself to protect it.
So, should you always be jumping out of water?
Use this frog example as an “abuse-meter” It works well.
Jump before that boiling point. And realize that just like evil people only look evil in movies, abusive relationships don’t have to be ugly from the beginning.
And remember: 1) the relationships can include anything from your friends to your work. 2) the relationship that you have with yourself counts as the most important relationship. And , unfortunately, it can get abusive and dysfunctional.
Last but not least, I don’t want you to jump as soon as the water gets hot. I don’t want you to be on the watch instead of enjoying your relationships.
What you should do is look at the water and see if there is a pattern of increasing the temperature. Only the existence of a pattern should make you jump. But even then, you should look objectively. Don’t deceive yourself because you want to stay in that relationship.
Relationships are a sensitive topic. They have a great impact on our self-esteem and our happiness. So, weeding out the abusive and dysfunctional ones is important. And, of course, the relationship that you have with yourself is the most important one because it greatly affects the quality of the rest relationships. Don’t take that lightly.
Want More Power?
Check my course, Teach The Assholes a Lesson, in which you will learn more about toxic people (bullies and alike) and the toxic relationships they create. And, of course, how to become too charismatic to be bullied and too charismatic to be resisted.