Let’s Talk About “Boiling Frog Syndrome”

· January 22, 2017

Sometimes we tolerate harmful situations and people for far too long, just because we follow the tacit command “if there is no other solution, you have to tolerate it” way of thinking, just like the frog in our story.

And we certainly cannot ignore the fact that many of us subjugate our emotional well being to other things. It often happens, too, that we must not just keep thinking about our well being, but that there are other people who depend on us in some way.

We can also put up with a breaking-point situation for a very long time due to emotional dependence, a destructive relationship, or maybe because we lack the emotional intelligence to know what is normal and what is not.

Maybe you tolerate situations until you burn up, without ever having become aware of the need to jump ship in time to save yourself. This is the reason why we want you to learn about the syndrome of the frog who did not know that he was boiling, an idea first explained by Olivier Clerc.

Boiling frog syndrome

Put a frog in a pot full of water and start heating the water. As the water temperature increases, the frog adjusts its body temperature as a result. The frog maintains itself by adjusting its body temperature along with the increase in the water temperature.

Just when the water is about to reach its boiling point, the frog can no longer adjust itself. At this point, the frog decides to jump. It tries to jump, but it is incapable of doing so, as it has used up all of its strength adjusting its body temperature. Very soon, the frog dies.

What killed the frog? Think about it! I know that many are going to say the boiling water did. But the truth is that what killed the frog was his own inability to decide when to jump.


We all have to adjust to both people and situations, but we have to be sure about when we need to adjust and when we need to keep moving forward. There are moments when we need to face up to the situation and take the appropriate action.

If we allow people to make us blow up physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, or mentally, they will keep doing it.
Let us decide when to jump! We are going to jump while we still have the strength.

Green Frog

What this metaphor tells us about ourselves

This metaphor has many implications for different situations in our lives, for our relationships, work, personality, health management, etc. People who are wrapped up in a relationship that does not bring them anything good constantly adjust to their partner’s desires, opinions, and reproaches so as not to rock the boat; they believe that they can tolerate it or that they do not have any other option but to do that.

However, in general, tolerating things in this way for too long does not lead to anything but problems or breaking-point situations. When we least expect it, we will end up in an extreme situation, we will not be able to tolerate it anymore, and we will need to jump, flee, or at least come up with our plan of escape from that situation or relationship, but maybe we will already be badly wounded.

Maybe we no longer have the strength to face up to that final breaking-point situation that has presented itself because we do not have the energy, we do not have a way out, we have not thought about it at all before, or we are already too hurt or wounded to leave that situation for another that could be even worse.

Sometimes our ability to tolerate things goes quite far, but our strength and hope burn up little by little along the way.

A question of daily stress and acute stress

Richard Lazarus pointed out the different ways of facing stress and also that there were two kinds of stress: chronic daily stress and acute stressful life events.

Normally we are told that stressful life situations like divorces, deaths of people we know, loss of a house, or work are going to affect us greatly, and maybe this is true. But faced with this kind of event with large negative and threatening impacts on us, we must prepare ourselves and face the situation: “jump in time.”

However, daily stressful situations are the ones (even more so if they go on for a long time) that we must worry about on a larger scale. Some of these events do not show themselves as negative for a long time. This is the case of domestic abuse, because sometimes we receive positive treatment, other times negative, other times tolerable. In this way, the discomfort remains ever-present; it just keeps adjusting itself until the situation becomes insupportable.

bird whispering to woman

The best way to face this fact is to recognize it, that is to say, not to boycott our own feelings, telling ourselves that maybe that is normal. If you feel bad about the same situation or the same person for a very long time, something is wrong.

You have to jump. It is not about fleeing, but about jumping ship, facing the situation, and figuring out what possible solutions there are. Remember that he who tolerates too long rarely has enough strength in the end to try to change the situation. The damage may already be done and internalized.