What Lobsters Can Teach Us About Stress (Abraham Twerski)

A red lobster growing in response to stress
The stress experienced by lobsters enables them to grow bigger and stronger shells.

Stress kills. You’ve probably heard it 100 times. It’s a fact that stress affects people’s health, happiness, and hormones. Stress is a huge contributing factor to America’s chronic illness epidemic. Today society is more technologically advanced than ever but people are increasingly unhappy because of the pressure we collectively put on ourselves. The pressure to buy a bigger house or car, pay for a better education, get a better job, have a thick bank account for rainy days, and be successful–whatever that means. All of these things are good in and of themselves but I’ve seen how much their obsessive pursuit can rob us of happiness in the present moment. Remember, it’s about the journey as much as it is the destination. And you and I can only enjoy the journey if we take sensible measures to reduce stress. However, there’s another way of looking at stress and that is in terms of personal growth. Moderate amounts of stress can make us stronger and better equipped to handle future life challenges.

A few weeks ago, I featured Abraham Twerski on the true meaning of love. Today I’ve transcribed another short clip of his in which he talks about the constructive role that stress can play in our lives, building on an analogy of lobsters. And you know how much I love nature analogies. The message is simple—today’s stress can be tomorrow’s strength.


There’s something I want to tell you about stress and how we have to look at stress. And I think it’s an important thing because many people have told me from my lecture [this is] the one thing they remember. I was sitting in a dentist’s office and looked at an article that said “How do lobsters grow?” Well, I don’t care how lobsters grow, but I was interested, and it points out that a lobster is a soft, mushy animal that lives inside of a rigid shell. That rigid shell does not expand. Well, how can a lobster grow? As the lobster grows, that shell becomes very confining. The lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable. It goes under a rock formation to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off the shell, and produces a new one. Eventually that shell becomes very uncomfortable as it grows, back under the rocks, and the lobster repeats this numerous times. The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. Now if lobsters had doctors, they would never grow because as soon as the lobster feels uncomfortable, it goes to the doctor, gets Valium, gets a Percocet, feels fine. Never casts off its shell. So I think that we have to realize that times of stress are also times that are signals for growth. And if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity.

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