Our three year old got a handful of mid-night bloody noses this week. To get jolted out of sleep to the sight of your child covered in blood is one of the worst things one can see. (Not to mention, the American Psycho-style clean-up that it entails.) We were shaken up, but everyone is fine. Bloody noses don’t even register on the spectrum of health-related ills.
This got me thinking of the stress / consequence ratio (“S/C”). It’s clunky, but bear with me. In this example, the stress was really high, but the health consequences low — so a high S/C ratio. The “S” is high because in this example our Fight-or-Flight reflex is activated. There’s blood (survival) and kids (our flesh). And in the midst of the chaos, you could feel the cortisol and adrenaline piping through your system. I think of high S/C ratios as situations where the mental punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
What else has a high S/C ratio? Two examples came to mind. First, early in my career, I sent out a very confidential document to our entire mailing list. Next, the same bloody-nosed toddler got rejected from a private pre-school.
In both cases, you may argue (and I felt at the time) that the Consequences (the “C”) should be high. (I could’ve gotten fired in the former, and our daughter’s Hahhh-vard chances frittered away.) But even if those outcomes were true (and they mattered in the grand scheme of life), do they really deserve to activate the fight-or-flight reflex? Or just another instance of the punishment not fitting the crime?