Exploring Our Buttons

Considering a different perspective on button-pushers

Oct 09, 2018

Self-Improvement Personal Growth Spirituality
woman behind bars outside

Photo by Christopher Windus

Been thinking a lot about buttons lately. Not the kind on clothes, the kind in us that get pushed. I started listening to this podcast called “Break Up With Your BS” (genius title btw), and on this particular episode (#3) the two hosts were discussing this topic of having our buttons pushed. It was an interesting spiritual dialogue with the message being that we need to stop blaming the person that is pushing our buttons and instead change the focus to ourselves and inquire into what those buttons are about and why we even have them. It shifts our mindset from one of blame to one of taking personal responsibility instead. They say:

The root of the button is where you have to begin the exploration. Because the root of the button is where we’re being called into healing… that person in that moment [pushing your button] is your best teacher.

That idea of the button pusher being our best teacher stood out to me. That is definitely not how I think of those that push my buttons. But if I don’t want that button to begin with, I need to work on whatever it is that is driving it, which begins with me.

In the spirit of authenticity, I’ll share one of my buttons with you. This is a big one for me. When I am talking to someone and they look at their phone during our conversation for longer than a few seconds, I get all kinds of upset. I know this has (unfortunately) become part of our culture, but it rubs me the wrong way nonetheless. It pushes my “I don’t have anything interesting to say” button, as well as my “I’m being disrespected” and “They don’t care” buttons. True? Not necessarily. But buttons don’t make much sense on the surface anyway. We have to dig deeper.

The problem with buttons is a lack of space. There is no space for a pause, a reflection, before responding. It’s a sudden, knee-jerk response that is not thought out but rather habitual, reactive, and mostly unconscious. After a while we don’t even realize it’s a button or even how it began. Worse yet, we come to a place of just accepting them as part of who we are. “Don’t push my buttons.” “You know that’s my button.” “I can’t help it, it’s a button for me.”

Over time, our buttons become a prison of our own making, confining us to a limited space from which to live this life and express ourselves. There is no cage more binding than the thought “I can’t change.”

What if, instead, we see our buttons as an invitation to delve deeper into who we truly are? To dig in the mud of our work-in-progress-selves and find the seed of the lotus? What if the saner version of ourselves lies just behind the mechanism of those buttons? Isn’t it worth exploring?

In that sense, our button-pushers truly do become our best teachers. As frustrating as that can be. If I’m working on becoming more patient, and someone pushes my “impatience” button, doesn’t that give me an opportunity to practice patience? If I’m working on speaking up more, and someone bullies me at work, are they not opening the space for me to rise up to the challenge and practice what I know I need in order to grow? The universe, perhaps, in its infinite wisdom and concern for our expansion, places these button-pushers in our life on purpose, establishing the perfect recipe for our spiritual maturation.

None of us were born with buttons, they are learned and incorporated. This means we can unlearn them, and unhook ourselves from their constricting grip. But it all begins with us taking responsibility for our unkind reactions when — as the hosts of the podcast shared — we become “activated.” Next time, let that activation be a clear sign that you have more growing to do, as do we all.

This is the work, my lovelies. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy. It will demand our bravest selves. But it’s part of why we’re here. And it’s worth it.

Practice Pillar: I’m going to start introducing these short segments that I’m calling Practice Pillars at the end of posts that would benefit from them, where I share with you a practice you can begin today that takes what is in the post and applies it to your life. For this post, I want you to make a list of the top 2–3 people in your life that tend to push your buttons the most, or the most piercingly. Then spend some time on each individual, thanking them for what they are teaching you, either by writing it down or verbally saying it out loud. Try to be specific in what you think they could teach you as button-pushers. This will take all the compassion you can muster, I know, but be gentle with yourself.