The Boiled Frog Syndrome: Incapable of Reacting to Subtle Mistreatment

The boiled frog syndrome is about a frog who spent all of his energy adapting to the circumstances that, when the critical moment came, he had nothing left to save himself with.
Boiled Frog Syndrome

The boiled frog syndrome makes reference to the emotional fatigue created when you find yourself enclosed in a situation that you think is impossible to escape, so you continue to put up with it, until you end up burned.

You could say that you’re slowly keeping yourself in a vicious circle that deteriorates you mentally and emotionally until you end up absolutely fatigued.

Olivier Clerc, French writer and philosopher, was the one who used simple language to create this spot on and illustrative story about “boiled frog syndrome.”  Let’s take a more in-depth look at what this means, and how we can apply teachings from it.

Boiled frog syndrome: the frog that wasted his energy 

woman with wooden pidgeon at ear

This tale is based on the true physical law that states that “if the rate at which water temperature heats is slower than .02 degrees C per minute, a frog will stay still, and die once it gets too hot. At any greater speed, the frog will jump out and escape.”

So, just as Olivier Clerc explained, if you put a frog in a pot of water and start to heat it slowly, the frog simply adjusts his body temperature to it gradually.

Once the water begins to boil the frog will no longer be able to adjust his temperature, and will then try to jump out.

But sadly enough, the frog can no longer escape at that point because he has spent all of his energy adjusting his temperature, and he no longer has the strength to escape.

Consequently, the frog boils to death and will be unable to jump out to save himself.




Which begs the question: what killed the frog? Was it the boiling water, or his inability to appropriately decide when to jump out?

If you had submerged him in a pot of 50 degree C water, he would have jumped out immediately to save himself. But while he was tolerating the gradual increase of temperature, he never realized that he could, and should, get out.

woman with whitering heart

The silent deterioration that leads us to faking that we’re alright

When emotional deterioration is slow, it goes by unnoticed.  This justifies our lack of reaction, why we don’t oppose it, and end up drowning in toxic air that slowly poisons us all.

When a change takes place slow enough, it escapes our awareness.  It therefore fails to cause any sort of reaction or opposition.

In this sense, there are certain types of romantic relationships, jobs, family situations, friends, and even social situations in which it’s not uncommon to see victims of the boiled frog syndrome.

So when dependence, pride, selfishness, or demands start to manifest little by little, it’s difficult to realize just how harmful it is to be in that place.

In fact, you might even feel good that your partner needs you then, that your boss trusts you to give you certain tasks, or that a trusted friend constantly needs your attention.

But over time, these demands slowly reduce your reaction and response time.  It uses up all of your energy and ability to see that this truly isn’t a healthy relationship.

woman sitting on a cage

This silent process of adapting to discomfort will deteriorate you, and it slowly and very subtly takes control over your life.  This stops you from noticing and preparing yourself to respond in a way that truly fits your needs.

That’s why it is absolutely necessary that you make a conscious effort to keep your eyes open and to know what you want. This is the only way you can take control over what is deteriorating your senses.

The only way to grow is to feel uncomfortable for a little bit.

Because a lot of times the people around you don’t like it when you decide to follow and value your own rights. They’re already used to you conforming to them, and for them, this attitude change is uncomfortable.

Remember that sometimes saying “enough!” helps guarantee your well-being and safeguard your own self-love, dignity and interests.

So always remember the boiled frog syndrome, and avoid falling into a deep well of pain that could be prevented, if noticed in time.