Elastics Snap

Continuing our exploration of an elastic metaphor of wellbeing from last week: when pulled too far too fast, elastics snap.

Moreover, as I was reminded by a friend last week, if they are already stretched tight, elastics are more vulnerable to stress. When stretched elastics get a nick in them, they are far more likely to break than if that same nick happens when the elastic has some give left in it.

I trust the application is clear: not only can we become brittle when understretched for too long, but we can also “break” if subjected to too much pressure too suddenly, or to extra pressure when we are already stretched.

But might there be ways to reframe this idea of being “stretched thin?” Three come to mind, revealing some positive limitations of this metaphor:

  1. Humans are better than rubber bands! We hold the possibility of learning to become stretchier over time, thereby increasing our capacity to cope with stressors rather than having a finite snapping point.
  2. We also have the ability to predict or sense our snapping point before we get there. We can pull back before reaching that crisis point.
  3. Although many materials become thinner and weaker when stretched, some materials such as polymers actually become stronger. Their molecules fall into place, becoming well-ordered under stress. It’s almost like they unfold or become less crumpled — a better version of themselves when the pressure is on. I wonder if we can do the same?

Might you need to build in a bit of extra slack right now, or stretch more slowly?

Or perhaps it’s time to re-imagine your current situation as one of uncrumpling rather than being stretched too thin?

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