Burning bomb

I was discussing some New Year’s resolutions with a friend when we got on the topic of  “threshold behavior”. There are lots of ways to describe this behavior: “Blowing your cork”; “Up against the Wall”; “Standing on the ledge”; “At the end of your rope”. You get the idea. Psychologically, the person is pressed to the breaking point and ready to unleash pent-up feelings.

We talked about the invisible line in the sand that marks the “Enter at your own risk” zone when a behavioral threshold is met. How do reasonable people lose their minds when a seemingly innocuous event trips an explosion of epic proportions? What’s going on and why?

Setting Up Boundaries

Well stated boundaries can and do help with threshold behavior containment. For example, if you don’t like the way the toilet paper is feeding from the roll, speak up the first time. By the hundredth time, some emotion has crept into the situation. By the thousandth time, resentment has settled in like a terrier with your favorite slippers. Make your wishes known.

I’m guilty. Sometimes I just don’t think the issue is important enough and just let it ride. But, almost always, I kick myself for being so amiable. For example, I don’t like flavored coffee … ever. When people out of kindness bring me a mocha latte with a shot of vanilla, I cringe inside.  If I don’t know them well, I might suck it up. But if you have known me for years and you still bring me flavored coffee, I feel as if I am standing at the brink of mayhem.

Recommendation: Save emotional reserves for a big event like divorce, starting a family, or selecting that red MGB GT. Be specific and vocal… always. Make your preferences known no matter how trivial.

Don’t Lie

Yeah, don’t lie to yourself. It matters to  you, really. You didn’t get to this point in your life in a shroud of darkness without a guide. Choice was holding hands with you all along the way. Be honest with yourself and then others.

Recommendation: Examine the circumstances of your threshold behavior. What role do you play in the deception of indifference until it matters? What did you gain by the behavior? In an odd way, control is sometimes lurking under the covers.


If you have true accountability to yourself, threshold behavior doesn’t fit into that model. Why? Being provoked into a behavior means that you haven’t established ownership of your behavior.

If you find yourself allowing external forces to regulate your behavior, there is something askew within you.  Look inward first.

Recommendation: What prevents you from speaking up for yourself and establishing your wants and desires before reaching that invisible line of pique? What if the drama evaporated from situations where you felt powerless? How might you change when the dynamics of the threshold change? What would you lose?

Think about those instances when you spoke up and the feelings that resulted for you.

The Positive Benefits

Whether out of politeness, accommodation, or fear of the unknown, threshold behavior doesn’t serve anyone. You don’t get what you want and the other person is dumbfounded by your outburst. Sounds like a lose/lose proposition for everyone.

Get positive. Speak your truth.

Next in the threshold behavior series:

Not taking action until a threshold is met. Sound familiar? For example, exercise … how many people leap into exercise only after some medical issue. Doing something after a serious warning has wrestled our attention changes the impact of our actions.