When something or someone pushes our hot buttons, we can easily get triggered into the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ roles of Victim, Rescuer or Persecutor.   The work is about how to recognize these triggers, bring ourselves present to the moment and build our capacity to choose the more resourceful TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach.

Our so-called “hot buttons” are emotional markers that usually are created from childhood experiences in which we learned to recognize difficult or even dangerous situations.   As human beings, our emotions are an asset.    They help us judge a situation as dangerous, and triggers our nervous system to mobilize in response to the threat.

This triggering mechanism has been designed to help protect us.  That’s the good news.  The not-so-good news is that, when we inaccurately judge a situation and reactive emotions well up, we create an ongoing story reinforcing the mistaken perception.   In other situations, we may suppress whatever feelings we have and not be aware of the hot-button-triggering cycle that is going on inside of us.

Whether in the work setting or at home, the hot-button-trigger cycle can create real consequences.  For example:

  • A particular emotion can overwhelm us so that we are unable to access our creativity or skills that would be helpful at that moment.
  • Our listening becomes biased.   When our hot buttons get triggered, our brain collects information to justify our emotion and position and shuts down different or new perspectives.
  • Our defense strategies kick in.  Because we have judged the situation as unsafe to our self-esteem or survival, our primary focus is on us and our pain.  The result is we have diminished our capacity to feel compassion or understanding for others.
  • When we cannot feel compassion for the other, our ability to reach common ground is almost impossible.
  • Stress hormones, such as cortisol, pour into our system.  The lasting effect of cortisol can take many hours or even days to subside.  We may feel upset or uneasy long after the brief hot-button episode.

Once our hot buttons are triggered, our human operating system is designed to affirm our perspective as true and complete.

The challenge is for us is to increase our self-awareness and observe the way we are interpreting the situation.  Recognizing the situation more accurately, we can help expand the moment, reduce our reactive emotional response, and choose a more resourceful TED* response.