What to do when your buttons get pushed

June 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Don't react, respond. Learn what to do when your buttons are pushed. Relationship expert Susan Campbell explains.

What are buttons?
Buttons (or triggers) are like sensitive spots on your ego that make you hyper-vigilant to things like criticism, control, neglect, rejection. When someone pushes one of your buttons, you react automatically rather than from conscious choice.

Why is it important to be aware of your buttons?
So you can handle those situations where you get triggered more consciously and responsibly vs. shutting down, blaming, defending, or running away.

Some signs that you've gotten a button pushed:
If you notice yourself experiencing any of these things in reaction to something someone does or says to you, you have probably gotten a button pushed.

-You find yourself judging the other person, as in "he shouldn't be that way!"

-You have a "deer in the headlights" reaction

-You feel like you've been "punched in the gut" or "stabbed in the heart"

-You shut down your feelings, so you feel cold or numb

-You act strong and unperturbed, but you're stiff and unconvincing.

-You feel a flare-up of defensive anger, as in "You can't treat me this way!"

What to do when your button gets pushed:

1. Recognize your reaction as a button, so it helps to be aware of what your buttons are.

2. Notice what you are feeling in your body; even if you're feeling numb, it brings you more present when you notice this.

3. If you're in a safe place, stay with this feeling and comfort yourself. Then, you might say: "I notice I'm getting triggered" or "Can we push pause? I just got a button pushed."

4. If you're not in a safe place, say "I need some time to sort out my response to this." Then, when you do get some time to be with yourself, feel your feelings and give yourself some tenderness or soothing words.

5. Don't make any important decisions from a triggered state. (e.g. don't say "I quit" or "I want a divorce." You are not "yourself" when you're triggered, and it could take as long as a day or more to get back to normal)

About Susan Campbell:
Dr. Susan Campbell has authored nine books on relationships and conflict resolution, has delivered hundreds of seminars and workshop internationally, and has counseled thousands of individuals and couples. In demand with the press, radio and TV to help interpret the status of contemporary human work and love relations, she has appeared on CNN's NewsNight and Good Morning America and Dr. Dean Edell.

Accomplished in the business world, Susan has directed a think tank, run non-profit organizations, consulted to Fortune 500 companies, and guest lectured at the Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA business schools.

An avid adventurer and proponent of "living your life out loud," she has made millions, lost millions, lived in other cultures, and spent two years sailing her 47-foot sailboat halfway around the world.

Some of her more well-known book titles are: The Couples Journey, Beyond the Power Struggle, and Getting Real.

Her most recent research and writing has focused on dating - a scene widely regarded as fraught with tension and lacking in directness-and she proposes an exciting new model for dating and relating in her book, Truth in Dating: Find Love by Getting Real. Susan is gratified by the feedback from her publisher that in bookstores this book is "flying off the shelves..."

For more information, visit www.susancampbell.com


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