Regulate Your Hot Buttons



Greetings friends!

Who really pisses you off? What frustrates you to the point where you want to complain or criticize? When does the mere mention of something, or the thought of something, make your gut twist and your head steam? Where do you seem to lose your cool throughout the day, whether others see it or not? Why is this allowed to happen? Have you ever considered how your little hot buttons steal your happiness?

Merriam-Webster defines hot button as “an issue that causes people to feel strong emotions (such as anger)…” or as “an emotionally and usually controversial issue or concern that triggers immediate intense reaction.”

My son, Andrew, recently reminded me just how important (and hard) it is to for us to Regulate Our Hot Buttons. See, he’s just a little guy and is going through “The Terrible Two’s.” Now Andrew is a sweet boy and very easy to be around, but at his age he is still mainly driven by strong emotions of “Want!” and “Don’t want!”—which can occasionally make him irritable.

So, the other day Andrew woke up from a nap with a major case of the ass. He was not happy at all. He didn’t want his diaper changed; nor did he want to put his pants on. Talking softly was also out of the question. Answering questions like, “What’s wrong?” was out of the question. Eventually I got him downstairs in his t-shirt and diaper, still upset, thinking the different room would change his mood. (Not so fast, Dad.) When we arrived in the living room he hit what I call “Level 10.”

Andrew immediately stepped away from me—about eight feet. He wouldn’t come close. The more I coaxed him or talked to him the more upset he became. I noticed he had locked his vision on the pants and fresh diaper I was hiding behind my back. Then he started to stammer his feet and scream “No pants! No Pants! I want waffle! Applesauce! Purple couch! iPad!” over and over again.

We calmed him down with some hugs and a slower “wake up and get dressed” pace. It helped when I put the pants and diaper down and remembered that Andrew, like all preschoolers, needs to be transitioned and eased into things. He’s yet to experience the Marine Corps conditioning I have that allowed me to pop up from under the sheets and start running, or polishing, or saluting something. Silly daddy!

Why am I telling you this? Because many of us adults also experience “Level 10” and lose our cool—especially in our thoughts about someone or something. Perhaps we don’t lose it over putting on our pants after a nap, but let’s be honest with the list of stressors we allow: money, politics, religion, traffic, holidays, family, co-workers, crowds, isolation, etc. We may not stammer our feet and scream out loud; most of us stuff the strong negative emotions our hot buttons summon and often times we hide what we’re really feeling and thinking.

However, unlike two-year-old kids we have the ability to reason our way out of emotionally charged moments…if we choose to. The problem is that most of us don’t choose to or we don’t know how to properly “reason our emotions.” So, we let our hot buttons get the better of us. We get pissed off. We get bitter. We get disappointed. We may criticize, judge, or complain. Perhaps we get sad or depressed. Are you seeing the problem here? When we do this we are everything BUT happiness and joy!

Like I’ve said before “Being unhappy is a feeling—it’s an emotional state that is manufactured by a series of triggers and emotional patterns that are in you. So, your hot buttons act like emotional landmines. Learn where your landmines are and then you can easily step around them instead of blowing yourself up as you walk through your day. (By the way, if you believe that emotions happen randomly, this is your first limitation and so “last century thinking!”).

To Regulate Your Hot Buttons you need to understand how emotional states are manifested, materialized, and changed. Lucky for us, there’s only three (3) components. They are:

  1. Our words.
  2. Our attention.
  3. Our body position.

“Stick with me, kid!” Next we’ll define and explain this simple yet effective Trio. In the meantime, pay close attention to your hot buttons and write them down. Start by making a master list of what gets under your skin or into your head. This will put you ahead of the game by leaps and bounds.

Until next time!

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