Identifying the Straw that Broke the Camel�s Back There is a limit to everything. Sometimes we reach our limit of endurance and mentally break down due to what may appear to some people as a minor event. When conditions are stressful, minor events cause our lives to fall apart and our lives come crashing down on us.
The clich�, �The straw that broke the camel�s back,� or the earlier version, �The feather that broke the horse�s back,� may serve to shed some light on why these minor events can yield such devastating results. In the mid-1800s English idiom about the camel, the animal had a load of straw to carry, and one straw too many caused the camel to be overloaded.
Has your world come crashing down on you? Mine has, literally. Four years ago I was crushed by a 3 � ton tree while riding my bicycle on a trail. I was left with a broken back and paralyzed from the waist down.
What causes a tree to fall? Typically storms, lightning, high winds and earthquakes take their toll on the stability of trees. Disease will rot a tree over time and make it more susceptible and unstable. An unhealthy tree won�t be able to sustain a load and will fall. In the extreme case of an unhealthy tree, a minor weight can be the factor that makes all the difference.
An animal can carry only so much weight and a tree can tolerate only so much stress. An unstable tree can topple due to the weight of a bumble bee or bird landing on a branch, rain drops, or new leaf growth. The delicate balance of stability can be upset quickly and without warning.
In our lives, we experience setbacks, annoyances, challenges, disappointments, and crises. On their own, none of the negative situations has much importance, but when they all accumulate, we feel there is a huge load on our backs. Oftentimes we carry this load for awhile, and then just a minor stress sets things in motion. We perceive the load as being too heavy. We can�t tolerate the strain and crack under pressure. When the effect of the stress is felt, we lose patience, get angry and frustrated. We can�t take it anymore! Our perception of the problem overwhelms us. This leads to a sense of hopelessness and depression.
Under other situations, the event would not have had such a devastating effect. A combination of factors can lead to an overload that is too much to bear. We carry the weight of our everyday stresses without being aware of the weight. Then one day, we feel the weight all at once and buckle under the burden.
We should not wait until the �last straw.� We need to be more conscious of our daily burdens and reduce our load before the next event becomes the �last straw.� Everyone has their breaking point. We need not let ourselves get to this breaking point, but rather intervene earlier to lighten our load and strengthen our reserve.
� Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. would like to read your comments about her column and the impact it has made on your life. She also encourages your ideas for future columns.