Often I hear someone say, “I didn’t really mean to react the way I did, but that person really pushes my buttons”.
What an interesting turn of phrase this “push my buttons” is! It is worth taking a moment to look at some of the assumptions that lie behind it.
Firstly, if someone can indeed “push your buttons” then you really are not responsible for your own reactions. When I push a button to turn on my computer, my computer does not have much choice as to how it is going to react. It cannot decide, “Hmmmm, I think Ted has been surfing the Internet too much lately, I’m going to just ignore him, no matter how much he pushes my button, until he gives up”.
The other thing that happens when someone “pushes your buttons” is that you become powerless in the face of the mighty button pusher. Indeed, what authority does the little button have? Does it have the power to freeze up and defy the mighty finger? Other than in the case of a rare malfunction, the button gives all its power away to the being who is pushing it.
I try to remember, with mixed results, that nobody can really push my buttons; all they can do is trigger me to push my own buttons. Now if somebody hits me over the head with a board and I scream, I admit that screaming was not really much of “a choice”. But in the vast majority of cases I find myself in, it is we who push our own buttons. Indeed, there are some wonderful teachers who help us to learn that when we push our own buttons, we are not necessarily doing the thing that makes us happy. But they are not that powerful…and we are not controlled by buttons.