Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best-selling book called The Tipping Point. In this book he discusses different products or ideas that have come up in history that at some point caught on to the masses. While it seems like crime may drop out of no-where in the mid-1990’s in certain cities or that Sesame Street just hit it big, a lot of little things happened to get to a tipping point where things catch on like wildfire.
This can be a great metaphor for how many different stresses can arise in daily life to lead us into states of depression, anxiety, panic or addictive behavior. A variety of different interactions are at play between our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors during any mood shift and an awareness of them can give us the ability to intervene before we reach the tipping point.
The scenario: Maybe you woke up in the morning feeling tired; your brain associated that with a past depressive state, so you start to feel a bit down. As you’re taking a shower, your mind begins to swim with all the responsibilities there are to do at work and home and by the time you get out of the shower your heart is racing a bit and your breath is slightly shallower.
On your way out of the house you forget to say goodbye to your partner leading to feelings of disconnection and a memory of a recent argument bringing up feelings of frustration with the relationship. Moving through a barrage of traffic, subtle feelings of anxiousness are at play about being late, while thoughts swirl around about how you wish you would wake up earlier. By the time you arrive at work you feel overwhelmed and at the tipping point, ready to explode or implode. The thought comes, “I hate my job, things are never going to get better.”
The interplay among all the various elements subtly build upon one another without our awareness. In practicing mindfulness we become more intimate with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions by learning to approach them and watch them with an attitude of curiosity or beginner’s mind. We become more aware of the nuances that build on one another that lead to that state of exploding or imploding.
With this awareness we can begin to intervene and choose a different approach that might be more effective in the moment (e.g., doing a mindfulness practice, taking a breath, relaxing our shoulders). While mindfulness teachers often recommend engaging in formal practices that you set time aside for, listen to and be guided by, you can also choose to engage in brief ones like the S.T.O.P, walking and checking in with how you’re feeling, breathing, or a R.A.I.N practice for 1 to 3 minutes a few times a day. These will help you become grounded and practice awareness of the present moment more often.
Give it a try, treat it as an experiment with no agenda and see what arises. As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
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Last reviewed: 13 Jul 2009