Words of Wellness

January 09, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

Donít Be a Frog When Dealing with Stress

If you throw a frog into a pot of extremely hot water the frog will recognize the danger and jump out immediately.† If you put that same frog in a pot of cold water the frog will feel comfortable and start swimming around.† Now if you take that pot of cold water along with the frog and put it on a gas burner, do you know what will happen?† Because the water is warming up gradually, the frog will not notice the impending danger until it is too late.† Instead of jumping out, the frog will eventually die from the heat of the water.

†††† You and I are like the frog when it comes to dealing with stress.† Most of us would never choose to enter into an environment that was already highly stressful.† We would instead "jump" out just as soon as we could.† It's a whole different matter though with stressful situations that develop over a long period of time, especially stressful relationships.

†††† Most relationships start out in a positive manner.†† But over time, any close relationship has the capacity to gradually become heated up with stressful, unresolved tension.† If it happens gradually enough, it is all too easy to ignore and minimize what is happening.† Most times when a couple or family comes to see me for counseling they begin with some comment like "we wish we had done to do this ten years ago." There is real danger though ignoring stress and tension in a relationship when it first appears.

†††† No relationship has a crisis all of a sudden, out of no where.† A crisis comes at the end of a long period of missed opportunities to make choices to turn down the heat and lower the tension.† This is where the analogy of the frog in the water breaks down.† The frog has only two choices:† stay in the hot water or jump out.† You and I have a third choice in our relationships.† We have the choice to regulate the heat, to make changes in our relationships when we find them heating up with tension.

†††† Are you in a cycle of increasing tension in an important relationship in your life?† If so, resolve to take the third option described above and begin to address the tension.† Begin by looking at yourself and your half of the relationship.† Share with the person what you are experiencing and how committed you are to improving the relationship.† Ask for their forgiveness for the hurt you have caused them.† Lowering the heat of your own internal flame will almost always influence the other person to do the same.

†††† The bad news is that in the midst of high stress, any one of us can become as dumb as a frog, thinking only in terms of either/or choices--either we stay in a bad relationship or we get out.††† The good news is that we in fact have a third choice that is not available to the frog.† You and I can choose to work on our relationships and improve them, remembering that we always have the power to influence the temperature of our relationships.

†††† May we all remember not to act like a frog when it comes to responding to stress in our lives and in our relationships.

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