The “Boiling Frog” Analogy in Reverse or How a Narcissist Perceives Stress

Boil...Boil...

Boil…Boil…

I was reading a blog the other day in which the author recounted being in an abusive relationship. She related how she was like the frog placed in water in which the temperature is slowly elevated, and the frog remains unaware because the changes are so gradual.

This is a common analogy for abuse survivors. We have been the frogs, not realizing how “bad” it is, until the water is a roiling boil. (The links are too sites which work with this analogy that inspired this post – thank you! 🙂 )

I would like to flip this analogy around, though, and use it to describe a narcissist under stress.

We all have stressful times in life. Part of being a capable adult is realizing the world is not designed to simply accommodate our every whim and need, and that life challenges, both big and small, are to be expected. As competent, caring adults, we see our job is to grow and develop, so we are able to handle the stresses and strains of life with compassion, understanding and awareness.

Place us in the boiling cauldron of life, in the most daunting circumstance, and we will work to survive in the most beautiful way we can.

None of what I have just written, of course, applies to the narcissist in your life.

Have you ever seen a narcissist under stress? Seriously, it is a sight to behold. The stressor can be the slightest in nature. Let’s say, some dry cleaning is delayed, a towel is not folded correctly, a look is not “right”.

It does not matter the severity, because any slight mishap in a narcissist’s life is viewed and responded to by the narcissist as if he or she were a frog suddenly flung into boiling water.

They metaphorically lash and trash about trying to escape their self-perceived “pain”. And by escape, I mean that they begin screaming and directing everyone else to fix the problem- NOW!

I recently have been witnessing a narcissist at work who is under some “stress”. This is not a major stress but her response is over the top, as it always is with a narcissist.

Using the boiling frog analogy, a narcissist perceives even the slightest rise in stress or temperature to be a substantial conflict. Even a life event that for most of us would fall under tepid or lukewarm, in regards to stress, is too much for the narcissist.

They are the boiling frog analogy in reverse- capable of detecting the slightest elevation in temperature and engaging in an over the top response.

Double, double toil and trouble…fire burn and cauldron bubble…
Life with a narcissist under stress.
—-
In case you are new to my blog, the figure in the pan on the stove is my representative narcissist character. She has appeared on my blog before. I draw her this way with a specific intent in mind.

Do you see her heart-shaped face and hearts on her sleeves? Narcissists always say they are about love and heart. But, then, look at her eyes- completely crossed out. Narcissists never truly see anything but their own needs.

Her face is yellow, because that is the color of the third chakra (the sense of self-will.) Narcissists have no effective way of dealing with the third chakra. Her dress is green, because this is the color of the heart chakra, another area of weakness of the narcissist.

Like any narcissist, she displays herself proudly and has not a clue as to what is going on.

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18 thoughts on “The “Boiling Frog” Analogy in Reverse or How a Narcissist Perceives Stress

  1. A really interesting perspective in this post. Inside the narcissistic mind is a pretty awful place to be! You are so right throughout this post – my narc’s meltdowns were always triggered by ‘stresses’ that I couldn’t even see. It was like he was so wired literally anything would set him off into a terrifying, utterly irrational place.

    Thank you so much for helping me understand the cause of his extreme reaction to things most people would simply shrug off. And, i love your vivid imagery of the narc.

    By the way, the frog is a fairly common analogy, but could the post you recall be ‘What’s your boiling point?’ (http://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/whats-your-boiling-point/)

    • Yes, you were one of the people I was thinking about. thank you! for providing a link to your post- I have inserted it. thanks for liking my “narc” image. Drawing the narc helps me deal with the energy. she is such a ridiculous figure- although she does not know it 🙂

  2. “They metaphorically lash and trash about trying to escape their self-perceived “pain”. And by escape, I mean that they begin screaming and directing everyone else to fix the problem- NOW!”
    I wish this were not the case. Great post.

  3. Really good post! I’d like to share my perspective with you. When I read this post, I thought, that’s ME….

    This is how I react when my PTSD triggers me. You’d think that the world was coming to an end. I do not handle stress well and go into a state of overwhelm. I’m an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) with PTSD (BAD COMBO LOL) and we tend to overreact. Mindfulness is important here, and it helps, but it doesn’t always work.

    My psychopaths reacted in RAGE. This rage was clearly out of proportion to what precipitated it. For ‘normals’ even if they react strongly, or such as myself and others like me with PTSD, it will pass and we will reflect. My pathologicals were immediately enraged, then immediately calm, as if nothing ever happened. I noticed this to be more profound than any reaction from someone with PTSD. 🙂 Thanks for such a thought provoking post!

    • You know, I really like this perspective. I, too, can be very over-reactive and had not thought of the post in relation to me this way. Most psychopaths do respond to rage with the slightest stress, and as you point out, importantly do NOT reflect. That is why I drew the narc character sitting in the pot on the stove. She COULD get out, but she won’t. she expects the world to change for her.

      • Kimberly, your post is very good and I like the frog analogy as it pertains to pathological relationships, it’s excellent.
        I felt compelled to share my perspective on this because when survivors are first out of the relationship and for a long time after, they tend to feel a lot of guilt about reacting to the psychopath. Often in the same ways as the psychopath but they are not pathological, but suffering from PTSD which is really frustrating at times.

        We often do and say things we wish we had not. Another perspective I often share when survivors feel intense guilt over how they reacted is this:ANY empathic person, unaware of what they were dealing with, would react with outrage to such psychological cruelty. It lets them know that while they might have issues once the relationship is over to deal with, their reactions were actually a sign of their normality, as well as a healthy response to someone who is very, very sick.

        That seems to help a little.

        And you’re absolutely right in that psychopaths and narcissists have NO ability to intuit at all. Did you ever notice that as quickly as they are to rage, is as quick as they are to ‘recover’ as if nothing happened, even minutes after attacking their victims? This is a HUGE sign of their lack of empathy….

  4. I had a narcissistic in my life for a number of years — it was not at all necessary for me to be hardly involved — fortunately — with the narcissist. I adapt well and her drama never much impacted me. She was a whirlwind of negativity sometimes… and… wow… how she could wail and blame and chastise others.

    I know a few others — one was a boss. They none of them had much influence on me to do me any harm. My family had none of this. Self-reflection and humility were always to a degree being sought in our family.

    Growing up with a narcissist, abusive parent, an addict, or a parent with a sever mental illness — many people I meet in my work are in need of my style of teaching. I can’t provide unconditional love as they imagine what that is; however, I am the absolute example of the kindly father figure that their hearts know, somehow, even in spite of what they’ve suffered.

    The cycles of surviving must become the lessons of thriving. This will require lots of knowledge; real knowledge.

    What friends here can do is bring this awareness to greater understanding.

    I honestly didn’t know what I was doing; unable therefore to be able to explain it. I never suffered and I was not about to begin; that was one thing… and I could see the sickness and not be upset was another — because it is a sickness and mostly beyond my control, I didn’t want to fight it.

    Until there is effective treatments – behaviorally and sometimes medically, and always spiritually, the story is that its evil and we are defenseless — really, its mostly sickness and there are recoveries and spiritual progress for any that begin to form some honesty and to develop some willingness to receive help.

    I think, the problems of victims and perpetrators is rooted in them by an overwhelming sense of separateness; and there is a huge lack of compassion thereby being the experience for both the victim and the abusers.

  5. “It does not matter the severity, because any slight mishap in a narcissist’s life is viewed and responded to by the narcissist as if he or she were a frog suddenly flung into boiling water.”

    This is true; they tend to be like two distinct persons — one is mostly calm and cool until anything is upsetting and the other is a banshee until everyone is grovelling and crying and apologizing profusely.

    They are master of using anger and complaints and their network of underlings to use guilt and shame for gaining conformity and compliance with their will. Happiness at shopping, Rage at the garage door; and happiness again thirty minutes later while showing off the purchases after the victims grovel sufficiently.

    I once watched as a narcissistic flew into rage because the garage door was locked. Since she’d had her arms full with bags, she reacted in rage because no one had anticipated her needing help — screaming and stomping like a tantrum. I’ve seen a few others too… just want to also reinforce what is said in the comment above mine: “ANY empathic [empathetic] person, unaware of what they were dealing with, would react with outrage to such psychological cruelty.” Also: “Did you ever notice that as quickly as they are to rage, is as quick as they are to ‘recover’ as if nothing happened, even minutes after attacking their victims?”

  6. “Have you ever seen a narcissist under stress? Seriously, it is a sight to behold. The stressor can be the slightest in nature. Let’s say, some dry cleaning is delayed, a towel is not folded correctly, a look is not “right”.”

    Yes, indeed. The garage door incident made some vague sense compared to other situations that I’d seen; although it didn’t make any sense. I witnessed others first hand that were similar to the examples that you note. I was present when a blanket skimmed a carpeted floor and a pillow fell off the unmade bed as it was being made… all hell broke loose. Later, that time, I put in my two sense that the upset was overboard; after things had calmed down. I had been left alone in the bedroom and finished making the bed. I went downstairs. The victim (not I) was my girl friend then. She sat quietly with tears in the kitchen at the table. Her mom, the narcissistic was calm seemingly, in the kitchen but away from my girlfriend and the table area. I was between them. I said, to mom-NPD, “Oh, is all the craziness done for you both? That was really extreme. You can’t really be stewing just about a blanket and that pillow. Are you OK?” They were practiced at it. I was not.

    Mom-NPD just gave me a glare and faked a smirk-smile and I think she was biting her tongue. Then she just glared at me with a tight closed mouth. My girlfriend defended her. I don’t recall what she said because I went into quiet shock as I looked at her mommy dear.

    I still have only a vague understanding of that interaction. What I did only served to enable the pattern… since it was beyond my control and this was their normal,

    I discovered in some months to come that I wouldn’t be a fit with my girlfriend. She began to lose interest in me. She began to tell me lies about what she was doing with her time. The signs were clear that I was only being tolerated or used — for what reason I never knew really until I came upon stories in blogs and I get it now that I was in a setup that didn’t pan out. If I were to fit as is, I had to become less mentally healthy; not more mentally healthy.

    Its good to recall those days for me. I got some lessons that make better sense now many years now from those days.

    How do these stories help you Kim?

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