When a butterfly flaps its wings in America, does a hurricane happen in Japan?
You may have heard this example before. It’s known as the butterfly effect and is used to reveal how small changes can ultimately result in large effects.
Your stress level suffers from the butterfly effect.
Think about it. When you’re able to take a step back from a stressful situation and gain a clearer and less subjective perspective on the situation or relationship, how often is what you’re stressed about what you’re really stressed about?
Like I wrote last week in “The Main Source of Your Stress,” more often than not your stressors aren’t actual situations, but rather how you think the people in those situations are going to respond.
But even when you’re able to pinpoint the person who may be currently causing stress in your life, your other stressful relationships may be adding to that stress without you even realizing it. In The Stories We Tell Ourselves I wrote, “Sometimes, our anxiety has a way of spilling over into other parts of our lives and damaging other relationships.”
So when you finally blow up at your spouse or kids and quickly realize that your volume was much louder than you intended, it’s likely that the dozens of butterflies of stress in your life have resulted in a hurricane of frustration that’s suddenly raining down on those closest to you.
Which causes more stress.
So how do we break free of that cycle?
How do we stop the butterfly effect from affecting our relationships?
Before getting to that, we need a better understanding of why our relationships cause us stress.