Hinge Moments

For me, hinge moments are the testing field of all the preparation that has gone before. It is here that we prove our mettle.

I started using the term ‘hinge moments’ after reading the first chapter of Francisco Varela’s book Ethical Know-How (1992). Varela tells the story of a man walking comfortably and automatically to the shops to buy a newspaper. Suddenly he realises that he does not have his wallet with him! At this moment, a whole range of possibilities open up for him – some from the field of action, others with an emotional charge.

These ‘hinge moments’ of possibility can happen on their own or, more usually, be followed up in rapid succession. They may seem very minor at the time but can have all sorts of consequences, depending on how you handle them. They can happen anywhere, but for some reason seem to happen more frequently to me when I travel as I have described in these two blogs: This Being Human is a Guest House – Chris Breen and GUEST HOUSE REVISITED: Hinge Moments and Other Stories – Chris Breen

Once triggered at a hinge moment, we usually react unconsciously in an instant in a very familiar way that is known as an amygdala highjacking. We are likely to over- or under-react in line with our fight, flight or freeze preference. Our main concern is to absolve ourselves from any blame and to decide whose fault it is as we travel on the Judgment Path.

Brene Brown tells of such an incident in the following video.

The challenge that we face is to learn how to avoid an automatic reaction and instead become sufficiently aware to be able to STOP and make a choice as to how to respond (rather than react). It’s very useful to have the ability to extend one’s awareness to one’s body: your body will almost always react in a particular way to the perceived threat that causes the trigger.

It’s not certain who came up with the following insightful quote, which is frequently attributed to both Viktor Frankl and Steven Covey:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response… In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

If we can just learn to catch the hinge moment more frequently, we can discover this freedom that lies in our chosen response.

Perhaps that 90 second pause is the ideal time to convene an internal Healthy Leadership Council and seek good advice?