How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons

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Do any of the following statements apply to you? People and things should turn out the way I want them to; It is easier to avoid difficult situations and responsibilities rather than face them; If I worry about something, things will actually turn out better; I worry too much about what people think of me; If bad things happen, I always blame somebody else. If any of these are true, you may be letting people and/or things push your buttons according to Albert Ellis, Ph.D., and Arthur Lange, Ed.D., the authors of How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons.

We all face the pressures and stress of life everyday. The job, the family, other individuals, emergencies, even "things" drive us crazy or "push our buttons" at times. We try to rationalize and keep our cool, but most of the time it is just a cover up and short term solutions to the problems.

Reacting is important but how you react can determine how well you handle difficult situations.

The authors point out that awfulizing, shoulding, and rationalizing are three ways in which we allow other people and things to push our buttons to the point where we don't handle difficult situations as effectively as we could. An example of these irrational ways of thinking could be a failure to get a promotion. Awfulizing: "Maybe I'm making to many mistakes. Maybe they are planning to get rid of me." Shoulding: "They never liked me. They should have given me the chance. I do all my work and they give the promotion to someone with poor work habits." Rationalizing: "Well, I guess I could have done better on the Murphy account. Maybe they will reconsider. I am sure they will come to their senses." - You can see how these irrational ways of thinking can "push your buttons".

Mr. Ellis and Mr. Lange suggest four steps to change your irrational thinking. First, by asking yourself, "How am I inappropriately feeling and acting in this situation?" Look for excessive anxiety, anger, depression, guilt, defensiveness, frustration, intimidation, hostility, and the like. Next, ask yourself, "What am I irrationally thinking about myself, the others, in this situation, or the situation in general, to make myself upset?" Here you should look for the awlfulizing, shoulding, or rationalizing. In step three, you ask yourself, "How can I challenge and dispute my irrational thinking in Step 1?" Accepting the valid aspects of a situation can help you recognize what you are exaggerating, how you are doing that and how you can dispute it. The last step you ask yourself, "What realistic preferences can I substitute for my irrational thinking in Step 1?" By staying with preferences and avoiding awfulizing, shoulding, and rationalizing, you can minimize making yourself excessively anxious, angry, defensive, depressed, and guilty. In summation, steps 1 and 2 identify specifically how you are upsetting yourself and letting people and circumstances push you buttons. Steps 3 and 4 are where you challenge and attack your irrational beliefs and substitute more accurate, rational thoughts and preferences that will keep you from overreacting and making yourself miserable.

Dr. Ellis is the creator of rational-emotive behavior therapy. He discovered that self-blaming and overgeneralizied explanations of bad events are an integral part of the vicious cycle of depression. Our text, Exploring Psychology, states that the more people change their negative thinking styles, the more their depression lifts (Seligman, 1989). Cognitive therapists often combine the reversal of self-defeating thinking with efforts to modify behavior. Cognitive behavior therapy aims to make people aware of their irrational negative thinking, to replace it with new ways of thinking and talking, and to practice the more positive approach in everyday settings.

In the past month or so, I have practiced the methods preached by Dr. Ellis and Dr. Lange. I have used them at work, while driving, with my family, and even while writing this paper. For example, while thinking of this book report, I awfulized myself by thinking: "What if I do a terrible job? What if Cindy thinks I am stupid?" Then the shoulding came into play: "I should be able to write an "A" paper. If I can't do this, I don't deserve to be here." So I began to practice what I had been reading and substituted some realistic preferences such as; "I'd like to get an "A". If I don't, that is unfortunate but it is not awful unless I let it be so. I want to do a good thorough job, and I will put much effort into it, but if I don't, that won't be terrible or awful. I will regret it and be disappointed but also very concerned in discovering how to improve upon it. Having done this exercise, I felt more confident, self-assured, and proud of myself for changing the way I think. I know that this issue was a relatively small hurdle, but I feel that with practice, the more difficult situations can be dealt with in a productive manner.

We all run into tons of day-to-day situations that we can let push our buttons. We can make ourselves greatly upset over the many decisions we have to make, like buying a house, changing careers, or which college courses to take next. We can awfulize, should, and rationalize over everyone of these life decisions and/or the people we have to deal with making them. Very often our own crazy thinking plays a major role in the decisions that ultimately affect our entire lives (Myers 1996).

It is really how you think about these things that determine how upset you make yourself. The goal of thinking realistic preferences are to make decisions based on reality, logic, preferences, and other factors that you think are in your best interest. And the keys to improvement are; 1) Be willing to admit that you are overreacting; 2) Take responsibility for changing that reaction and; 3) Practice, practice, practice the four steps for changing form awfulizing, shoulding, and rationalizing to realistic preferences. As you should know by now, people and things don't push our buttons, rather we push our own buttons"¦ BIOGRAPHIES Dr. Albert Ellis is the originator of the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and founder of the Institute for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, which as affiliated centers throughout the world. He was born in Pittsburgh and raised in New York City. Dr. Ellis holds a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Columbia University. He has published over 600 articles in many different journals and has authored or edited more than 50 books.

Arthur Lange received his doctorate from the American University and completed a postdoctoral internship at Southern Illinois University. He has given over 5000 presentations using the concepts of How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons. He is a licensed psychologist and has contributed to 12 professional films and videos.

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