Topic Progress:

What it looks like | If you have ever beaten yourself up for failing at something, you are guilty of  an expression of stress referred to as the whipping post. Your self-induced whipping can be emotional or it can even be physical, such as withholding food or pushing yourself to damaging extremes. On a subliminal level, when you take yourself out to the emotional whipping post, beating yourself mercilessly, you do so thinking that this will teach yourself a lesson to get it right the next time.

The whipping post expression of stress is inward and aggressive, mostly damaging the individual, though loved ones can suffer in the wake of the self-induced torture, not as a result of aggression toward them, but merely as empathetic spectators. This expression is filled with self-blame.


Answer the questions below and share insights with your spouse or trusted friend.

  • Here’s a great way to determine if you’re guilty of this expression of stress. Answer this question: If you treated others the way you treat yourself, would they like you? If you answered “No,” explore why you treat yourself this way.
  • This kind of expression could be in response to perceived stress, where you have a certain perception of what people think of you. Does it help knowing that other folks rarely think of you? That they have enough of their own stress? Explain your answer.
  • In the past month, which of the four expressions of stress (Exploding, Somatizing, Underhandedness, Whipping Post) had you encountered?
  • Having identified some sources of stress and preliminary strategies for dealing with those, have you seen a change in your stress levels?
  • What strategies have you found particularly helpful in helping address whipping post behavior in others?

Up next | A deeper look at how to manage stress