In the Pot of Boiling Water: Reflections of a Counselor

As a mental health counselor, I’ve worked with a number of people who were in my office telling me about abuse they experienced.  It was a matter of time before I heard the lamentation, “How did I not realize this was happening?”  Clients grieved years of squelched dreams, unrealistic expectations they held themselves to, lost opportunities, lost friendships, etc.

And, consequently, I have also heard others ask why a person doesn’t just leave an abusive situation?  How did he or she not know it was so bad?  On the surface, leaving an abusive relationship or situation seems black and white.  But, upon looking deeper at all the nuances of someone’s specific situation, we see how circumstances developed, how relationships changed and morphed, how one’s past can prime someone to slip into an abusive relationship along with a myriad of other variables.

One common analogy is the frog in a pot of boiling water.

It goes like this:

If you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out.  Naturally.

But, if you take a pot of tepid water and place a frog in it, the water feels just fine.  Then, you slowly begin to turn up the water, one degree at a time.  The frog begins to feel uncomfortable but adapts until the temperature has risen too high and it’s boiling.

Boiling water in a pot

I bring up this information about clients in abusive relationship and the frog analogy because I see the country as the frog in hot water.

1 degree makes a big difference

I have often wondered what it must have been like for people during WWII who were dealing with mayhem, destruction, and annihilation.  I particularly think of the Jews and other minorities who were singled out for death.  I also think of the millions of Russians killed by Stalin.  How terrible it must have been for them, I thought.  But, nevertheless, this still seemed so far away, in the past, and too awful to contemplate.  After all, people were starving, people were in the middle of conflict, people were being rounded up into extermination and concentration camps.

Then I thought about the frog in hot water.  These were all people who started out in cool water which warmed up degree by degree until they were in a boiling cauldron.


And then, I had a surreal experience when I saw that people are being rounded up and put in camps made out of wire.  I realized saw the propaganda machine of politics distorting and prostituting words and phrases to change perception to real facts.  I hear the lack of empathy for the fleeing refugees seeking shelter and that families are being ripped apart.  And then, I realized that what the people in WWII are experiencing is exactly what we’re going through right now.