Finding (and using) your “P.O.S.” Button

Contributed by Jody McVittie

Last week I listened to an interesting talk by Hal Runkel ( about the importance of self-regulation. He talked about our “pause” buttons. The challenge is, that when we have “flipped our lids” that “pause button” is in the part of our brain that is “flipped” and hard to access. With practice we can begin to get better at maintaining a thread of our sanity – and pull ourselves back together. Sometimes it is easier for me to do that when I have clear and easy steps.
 I’m playing with the acronym P.O.S. (which I like because it reminds me that I can be positive when I’m feeling better).

P: Pause. That is it. Just for a moment. Pausing sounds easier than stopping when your whole brain isn’t working. Put the thing on hold!

O: Observe. Notice what is happening.
• Start with your own body. Notice your stomach, or your shoulders. Or is it your forehead that does contortions? Take two deep breaths and let each one out slowly.
• Try “going vertical.” Sit or stand a bit taller; imagine that the top of your head is reaching for something 1/4 inch above your hair. Unscrunch those shoulders and see if you can imagine just a little more space between your ribs in the front.

• Next, notice your emotions. Angry? Frustrated? Betrayed? Worried? Is there fear under there somewhere? Does this remind you of another time when you had these same feelings?

• Then begin to notice your thoughts. If you can catch them. They are probably moving pretty quickly. Can you move from those thoughts to curiosity? What could you wonder about? What might be going on with the other person that they are not showing up as their best self? 
This will probably take more than 10 milliseconds… so if it feels awkward pausing in front of the other person – ask for a break for a minute.

• Now, breathe again. See if you have been able to see the situation a little differently. Did a “new” observer come forward?

S: Start over. If you have found your “full” self again this can be embarrassing. First you didn’t show up like you wanted to – and you are back where you started. Here are some one-liners that might help.
I’d like to pretend that that scene gets cut out of the movie, can I try “take 2?”
I don’t think that was so skilled, let me try again.
Use humor: use a hand signal to indicate you are putting on a new face – and starting over.
Can I get back to you on this, after I re-gather?

Can you even imagine what it might have been like if your parents had been able to model this for you?

Jody McVittie, MD is a Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer and an ICF certified Coach. She can be reached at