An Allegory of Negative Attachment
By Janice Maddox
The problem with the desire to prove ourselves through negative attachments is it doesn’t work. It’s like the story of the alligator who offered to give the frog a ride across a wide river. The frog wanted to cross the river but had no means for crossing. The alligator offered the frog a ride. The frog said, “There’s no way I’m going to ride across the river on your back. You’re an alligator. You’ll eat me alive.” The alligator looked very hurt at this and appealed to the frog’s sense of fairness, “Frog, we’ve known each other for years now. I deserve a chance.”
What Frog didn’t realize is Alligator’s offer appealed very much to a desire Frog had to prove himself to those who normally couldn’t care about a frog. Alligator was a perfect stand-in for Frog’s rejecting mother, who had never wanted to be tied down with children and left Frog all alone at a very young age. Frog wanted to be special enough to make his mother want to stick around and care for him, but that didn’t happen.
But, here was Alligator willing to give Frog a ride. A frog cared for by an alligator would be a very special frog, indeed. Throughout the course of their relationship, the more Alligator rejected Frog, the more Frog tried to prove to Alligator he was worthy. “Now” frog thought, “All my efforts have paid off, for here is Alligator offering me a ride across the river.” Frog thought Alligator finally saw that he was worthy and if everybody saw him being ferried across the river by Alligator, the whole village would recognize his worthiness.
In the traditional version of this story, the alligator eats the frog halfway across the river, and just before he swallows, frog musters one last breath and says, “Why, why are you doing this?” Alligator responds, “Because I’m an alligator.”
In real life, Alligator says “Because you made me eat you by not being good enough.” If Frog survived, he would try harder and harder to prove himself by throwing himself over and over in Alligator’s path, hoping to get a different outcome.
At around the age of fifty, Frog may realize he can leave Alligator to his opinions, that it really was about Alligator and not Frog all along, and that there is nothing to be gained by hanging out with alligators.