During the December holiday, we spend a lot of time lazing in different rock pools around Port Elizabeth.  On one of these glorious days, my son, Eduard, found a tiny puffer fish. this one was different than the others we have seen, because it had no spikes.

Now you can just picture this:  he gently holds the fish in his hand under the water,  and then starts to tickle the puffer fish!  Quickly, it puffed up twice its size!  It looked like it’s eyes were about to pop out!  After a very long while, it returned to it’s normal size.

  (before and after)

Puffer fish will “puff up” as a defense mechanism if they are threatened. A shape that is more than double its original size, round and sometimes covered in spines is much more difficult to bite and isn’t very appetizing to a predator.  These fish lack some ribs and have no pelvis, allowing them to become ball-shaped without breaking any bones. Their skin is also adapted for stretching and the dermis layer contains lots of collagen fibres that allow it to expand by 40%. When the fish expands, these become hard and the fish becomes a stiff, tight sphere. 

So here is the reason for my story:  The minute Eduard started to tickle the puffer fish, it puffed up. It only took a few seconds for this to happen.

We get taught in life, when something makes you angry, to breathe first before responding.  But do we do this?  Some people just cannot help but respond immediately,  causing themselves to become upset, usually hurting others around them. (the spikes on the puffer fish)  But all in all, they are doing damage to themselves.

The puffer fish forces its body to puff by unhinging its jaw to widen its mouth. While unhinging the jaw, the fish gulps large amounts of water, quickly expanding its entire body. This expansion makes the puffer fish look much more intimidating than usual, with the goal of scaring off predators.  As you can imagine, gulping lots of water stretches out the fish’s stomach as well as its skin. Swimming becomes very difficult for puffer fish when they’re blown up to three times their normal size. Already not the most streamlined swimmers — which is why they have this defensive tactic in the first place —the puffed-up fish has lost even more mobility. A puffed-up puffer will basically drift along until it returns to normal size.

The puffer fish expels water from its stomach the way it entered, but at a much slower rate. Studies have shown that it can take an average of 5.6 hours before the fish returns to a typical metabolic level. During this time, the fish is vulnerable because of its size and immobility. The puffer fish is also typically exhausted from the exertion of puffing up.

I have a few people in my life who behaves just like a puffer fish.  They are fast to respond in anger and slow to forgive.  If they took a deep breath first, waited before they responded, the results would have been much more acceptable and their lives would be different.  And the effect on their hearts would be less damaging.

Most of us are not like this, hey?  We don’t get angry if the toothpaste cap is not replaced after use….. or hubby’s tone is little higher today…. or things are not done just how we like it to be.  We might not show that we are “puffing up”, but inside we feel twice our size, feeling like we could explode!  And usually this is when we remember all those times the toothpaste caps were not placed back….

My hubby, Andre, has this saying (and he uses it often..*smiley face*):  “It’s like when you drink the poison, and expect the other person should die of it.”  (you see, I am also guilty of this “puffing up” business….)  And usually when we “puff up”, it is to protect against exposing ourselves, from showing that we too are vulnerable.  And the more we “puff up”, the easier it becomes to repeat the action, hurting those we love and more importantly, doing damage to ourselves.

So just breathe.  Never react immediately, remove yourself even if it need be.  There is no need to protect yourself.  Respect yourself enough not to react.  Tell the other person to give you space if you need to.  I often find, when calmed down, I see the situation in a different light, I can respond better, even forgive and ask for forgiveness.  I don’t think living like a puffed up fish all the time can be pretty, or healthy or respectfully acceptable in life.   Who wants to look like their eyes are popping out the whole time…. *smiley face*