Push the button.


Something happened the other day – a throw away comment landed in my inbox – I thought about it for all of five minutes. And then wound myself up some more. And then a bit more. And then I decided that I was mad as wasps about the whole thing, and the only option was for me to take umbrage with said individual. Severe umbrage.

And it got me thinking about how best to deal with my ire. And the umbrage. Natch.

I’m no different to anyone else. There are certain situations and behaviours that really push my buttons. And we all have that *special* someone who seems to know exactly what to do or say to turn our calm demeanour into that of a raging lunatic on the inside, and sometimes even on the outside too. And I’m sure that I’m no different to anyone else in that I’ve tried different ways of dealing with those pushers of buttons – I’ve got angry. I’ve got resentful. I’ve had a word. I’ve kept quiet. And in some instances I’ve simply ignored them.

And, in the moment, some of these tactics work. However some of these strategies have made me hang onto my feelings of self-righteousness, and kept me stuck in full on mad as wasp’s mode.  Not one of them has provided any long-term feeling of satisfaction. Most important of all, none of these options stopped the other person’s behaviour, led to better communication or stronger relationships with the aforementioned pushers of buttons.

We all know the adage that if someone does something that makes you feel irritated, sad, frustrated, angry, victimised, or discounted, it is because you have handed them your emotions on a plate to do with as they see fit. The same principle applies when someone says or does something that makes us feel loved, cossetted, happy, appreciated, excited or content.

Think about it for a second – we don’t really object too much when someone says something that makes us feel good. Well I definitely don’t. Regardless of the outcome, the fact remains that in both situations we have handed control of our emotions to someone else.

When someone twangs your emotions and we react badly it is because you’ve handed over the control to that person and based the way you respond on your own personal thoughts and beliefs.

Scenario: (the names have been removed to protect the innocent etc.) You feel that someone is treating you badly as they’ve been ignoring you all week. You are suitably miffed. What have you done?! You haven’t done anything. The bare cheek! “How dare they treat me like that?!” you rant and rail at anyone that will listen. Indignation reigns supreme. Harrumph becomes the word of the day. You decide to ignore said individual – they are sent on the fast train to Coventry – after all they don’t deserve your energy / time etc. You find out later that they’ve got something going on in their personal life and they are dead stressed. They are so stressed that they can’t actually string a meaningful sentence together. Let alone think about interacting with anyone. Let alone interacting with you. And all of a sudden you come to the shuddering realisation – it’s not about you at all. It is however, totally about how you can construct something in your imagination based on your thoughts and beliefs.

It’s a daft scenario, but it does the trick. It brings it to life. If that were you, then you know that your emotions would have changed during that process. You’d realise that you were wrong. You’d blown things out of all proportion. You made it into something it wasn’t purely based on your own thoughts and beliefs. Nothing has changed about the other person’s behaviour.  Basically, the situation was still the same.  The only thing that changed was the way you thought about or perceived the other person’s behaviour.  Bet your emotions did an about turn PDQ didn’t they?

The obvious answer is to try and disconnect the buttons. Identify when the emotion is beginning to bubble up. Recognise that your initial thought – “Good grief, I’m being ignored” – will spawn other thoughts, and with that your emotions will automatically escalate. Go back to your first thought and recognise it for what it is – a thought. It’s not a fact. As a thought, it has no power and it cannot harm you.  The thought has no meaning unless you assign a meaning to it.  And remember that you don’t have to react to every random thought that pops into your head. Over time you’ll notice that whilst you cannot control which thoughts come into your head, you can decide which thoughts deserve your attention and which thoughts can be dismissed.

Buttons are there to be pressed – for sure – but there’s a choice involved as to whether we allow them to be pressed.

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