From tipping point to trigger point


Despite it’s extremely “pop” nature, I liked Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. He is a fellow social psychologist. Yah! I have seen academic psychologists sneer at his type of writing but we all know that it is just deep-seated jealousy. For my dissertation, my co-chair is a pretty well-known psychologists outside of academia and her book has been printed in over 30 languages. The academic trolls would make fun of her non-academic rigor. I would just shake my head knowing they would probably be in the same department twenty years later still either mining the same data set or studying the same left eye while holding the same petty arguments and discussions. Pettiness like that is just not attractive or desirable in a colleague. Which is why I have decided to use my skills in a different environment. However, it ain’t easy either being in the non-profit field. What workplace these days is easy?  And please do not say Google.  That onsite gym, dry cleaners and Foosball table have a psychological price to them as well.

Now, let me get back to Gladwell. Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” Its what tips over an idea or a product onto a movement or wide use or major overhaul. Hush puppies went from blah to cool. NYC went from high crime rates to being a huge (huge) city that has a lower crime rate than the national average. Which by the way, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people state how dangerous NYC is. No, it is not. Time to accept that. The New Yorker in me can not let such statements stands. Anyway, these major changes we have seen were preceded by enthusiastic supporters spreading the word, ideas catching on like fire. Sometimes in the middle of advocacy efforts, we stop for a second and wonder what will be the final tipping point. In the HIV field, what has been the tipping point to bringing down the AIDS death rates?  Wide availability of medication?  Television shows speaking openly about HIV? When you are in the middle of it all it may be hard to pinpoint that tipping point.

Now, how about trigger point? Physically speaking, a trigger point  is a tight area within muscle tissue that causes pain in other parts of the body. Psychologically, speaking, to me, a trigger point, is that which finally causes us to engage in some action that is needed. Tipping points boil over. However, a trigger point clicks in your mind.

I have learned to start listening to that trigger point? Or rather listen to my body. Our bodies know, and they in turn let us know, when things need to change. However, how open are you to acting on it? I for one left my place of employment that I had been at for ten years after a massive trigger point. My friend and colleague, some might say, died because of work.  I was in shock, then I got angry, and then I changed the course of my life. I could have ignored it but my body didn’t want to.

Now this past week I received another such wake up call.  There are people out there that like to heap praise and do it with such grand style and finesse.  So much finesse that you come to believe that hype. Then they try to deflate you, knock you back down and you are like a stunned boxer in the middle of the ring whose body is wondering whether it will fall or hold up. Here is the thing. I am confident enough in myself to not be knocked out. I took the metaphorical hit and will come back stronger next round. Why? Because I don’t have to wait another ten years for something to trigger me out of a mental suspension. I have now taught myself that something like this is an immediate trigger point and onwards I will move on. It’s a mindset and a defense mechanism that more and more people need to learn and engage in order to not be swallowed up by the nutty world we live and breathe in.  We need not be stuck in the NYC of the 70s and 80s. Things change. One improves. One demands respect.


4 replies »

  1. I always find it interesting how our feelings about what we think we should do (our programming, I suppose) override our feelings (our instincts, actually) about what we really should do. So often this is further compacted by partners, family and friends. It’s any wonder anyone gets out of a job that damages them. So well done to you for doing so! Have you written about how you escaped? The steps involved and the factors that almost stopped you?


  2. I absolutely love Malcolm Gladwell’s books and appreciate his insights. Knowing that it took something like 10,000 hours of practice to become a concert violinist made a huge impact on me a few years back and helped me persevere through that first year of learning the violin. It was going to take time and it wasn’t just a matter of whether you have talent or not
    That said, I have some disability issues and it will take much longer to get there and writing and photography are my priorities.
    I remember how you lost colleages in the MH17 crash. I recently received a handful of sunflower seeds which were germinated from those taking from the crash site in the Ukraine. It’s a long story but I am currently talking to the local high school about growing most of the seeds there.
    Here is a link to the posts:
    and a poem I wrote:
    I’ll let you know how the seeds grow and I would be happy to send you some seeds if we end up with stock xx Rowena


  3. I need to listen to my body more. It seems to have s lot to say. It is telling me there is much that needs to change. Perhaps if I wasn’t so stubborn…..

    Gladwell is brillant and you are wise. The nonprofit arena will be far more rewarding than dealing with academic elitists, stuck in an Ivory tower of snobbery. I’m a proponent of higher education. Knowledge truly is power. Power that should benefit society and humanity. Change happens when we climb down from the Ivory tower and see the world as it is.

    Sorry to drone on. I truly enjoy your musings. It’s always a pleasure to drop by your blog. Have a lovely weekend.


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