the presence of buttons

No, I am not going to talk about clothing. I am talking about those invisible emotional triggers many of us have that are intrinsic to our natures.

The problem with these particular buttons is that we know we have them, but often have difficulty finding them without help. Fortunately, there are certain people and events that happen by and push them all the time to help us out. And we think “There it is!” generally the second before we react to the person or the event in unfavorable terms.

I don’t ever remember thanking anyone or blessing any event that has pushed my buttons.

But lately I’ve begun to think that perhaps I should. After all, they are just bringing me to my own attention, because the button is not about the person or what happened. The button is all about me. Me me me me me.

I would like to learn to react less and respond more. There is a very blurry boundary between the meaning of reacting and responding. Me, the slightly-battered-by-life human that I am, tends to react while my true presence, who lives, breathes, and whispers wisdom, prefers to respond.

The dictionary uses each word to define the other. Reacting means “to respond to a stimulus in a particular manner” and “to act in a reverse direction or manner” or “to act in opposition.” There is an emotional and physical component to the definition of reacting. Responding means to “reply or answer in words,” but it is also described as meaning “to exhibit some action or effect . . . react.”

Answering in words is still an emotional and physical action, and often they can be reactionary words. If I am responding to someone with reactionary actions or words, I have forgotten the process of connecting with my true presence (or speeding by it so quickly it could be defined as a slap and run). Anyway, if someone or something has pushed one of my buttons, I often find myself responding from an emotional reaction that probably has nothing to do with the person or the thing. The button, I believe, is some trigger that causes me to project qualities or meanings that belong to me and that I don’t like on to another person’s presence or actions.

I know when it is happening, too. I get this squirmy sort of annoyed irritation inside me who has a voice that says “Let’s teach this person a lesson! Let’s get them to stop doing that!” There are appropriate times when this might work well; for example, with people who are truly threatening my safety or well-being. It doesn’t work so well with people who are interacting with me on a social or professional level and largely just being who they believe themselves to be and/or are unconscious (nearly everybody qualifies for this last way of being).

I can’t always avoid the person or event that will trigger a reaction. The only control I have is over how I respond. If I take a mental and emotional step back and detach a little bit from the situation, I can observe me wanting to pitch a hissy fit, check in with my true presence, and respond in a way that takes better care of me.

It also gives me an opportunity to examine the button more closely from a less emotional place of being and find out what is really going on with me, what I need in this moment, and what I can do to heal and integrate the me whose finger is stuck on that button.

And then I will say “thank you.”

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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11 Responses to “the presence of buttons”

  1. holessence Says:

    Good morning, Barbara. Oh what a timely post you’ve written. Yesterday someone found a big red button on me that must have said “push here” and they did — repeatedly — via email. I waited a few hours to respond so that my words would be cool, calm, and collected. Fortunately, I took “the high road,” but I came very (very!) close to sliding down “the low road” with glee. Sliding down “the low road” would have been easy, and possibly even fun. But, I would have regretted it later. The climb up “the high road” was hard (hard!), but I’m oh-so-glad that I did.

    Great food for thought. We’re out the door in a few minutes for a morning ride around the lake. Have a terrific day!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I think whoever that person is showed good sense in poking at you only through e-mail, Laurie. My guess is that had they been there in person, you would not have had to say anything. You would have just given them “The Look” and they would have scurried away whimpering. I hope you enjoyed your bike ride. I am retrieving my bikes from storage this weekend.

      • ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

        I love the description of the red button! I think that is sometimes the way I feel! How does one get away fromthat big sign on thier back reading “kick me!”.

        I too have learned not to let these things hook me into a non-productive situation. This especially challenging with those that are closest to me.

        Laurie- I do not ever want to ge “the look” from you. I may have seen it, but not sure!


        • Barbara Kass Says:

          I don’t think Laurie would give you The Look, Kim. I have had the “kick me” sign on me a few times in my life. It turns out I was playing a victim or martyr role every time. Bullies like to pick on people they know can’t or won’t fight back. Once I started taking care of myself and standing up for me, the sign fell off.

  2. jeffstroud Says:


    Good morning! Those darn buttons! I think I will put zippers in everything or snaps!
    At first the message comes loud and clear, yet then gets lost in my own interperation and egos need to defend! “Who me, react, Not even!” Than I recalled my experience living in community, where everyday one had the opportunity to see who they really are, or not. By the constant boundary push me pull me of living close together. Of course a woman who wrote a book about community living and building communities, shares a story from a friends who says that living in community is like being in a rock tumbler, one is always rubbing up against everyone and everything to be polished, to eventually shine as a gem! Hmm? Not easy, but once one learns to respond rather then react the relationships get clearer and more peaceful.

    Also I came upon this just after reading your blog;Rob Brezsny’s Astrology and writings from his book “Pronioia is the antidote for paranoia.” Rob writes:

    According to Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, Judas was actually a
    more exalted hero than Jesus. He unselfishly volunteered to perform the
    all_important villain’s role in the resurrection saga, knowing he’d be reviled
    forever. It was a dirty job that only a supremely egoless saint could have
    done. Jesus suffered, true, but enjoyed glory and adoration as a result.

    Let’s apply this way of thinking to the task of understanding the role
    that seemingly bad people play in pronoia.

    Interesting narratives play an essential role in the universal conspiracy to
    give us exactly what we need. All of us crave drama. We love to be
    beguiled by twists of fate that unfold the stories of our lives in
    unpredictable ways. Just as Judas played a key role in advancing the tale
    of Christ’s quest, villains and con men and clowns may be crucial to the
    entertainment value of our personal journeys.

    Try this:_Imagine the people you fear and dislike as pivotal characters
    in a fascinating and ultimately redemptive plot that will take years or even
    lifetimes for the Divine Wow to elaborate.


    There is another reason to love our enemies: They force us to become
    smarter. The riddles they thrust in front of us sharpen our wits and sculpt
    our souls.

    Try this: Act as if your adversaries are great teachers. Thank them for
    how crucial they’ve been in your education.


    Consider one more possibility: that the people who seem to slow us down
    and hold us back are actually preventing things from happening too fast.

    Imagine that the evolution of your life or our culture is like a pregnancy: It
    needs to reach its full term. Just as a child isn’t ready to be born after
    five months of gestation, the New Earth we’re creating has to ripen in its
    own time. The recalcitrant reactionaries who resist the inevitable birth are
    simply making sure that the far-seeing revolutionaries don’t conjure the
    future too suddenly. They serve the greater good.

  3. Barbara Kass Says:

    Jeff, this was great! I wish I’d thought of it! When I stop to think about it, it is so very true. Everything will happen in its own good time. I am slowly learning to just let other people be, and if it directly impacts me and I don’t like it, well then, I either need to open up a negotiation or go my own way. Mostly, though, another person’s way of being does not directly impact upon my way of being, unless I make it so. Thanks for sharing Brezsny’s words. I may have to go and get a copy for myself.

  4. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    Jeff I love the comparison to the tumbled, stones or gems….Thanks for sharing


  5. sandiwhite Says:

    Oh, my word, you are all so good! When someone yanks my chain, it connects to my knee-jerk reaction lever and of course the knee jerks in the direction of their emotional genitals. You know, “Cut me, will you!?! How do you like my machete now?” Or my all time favorite, “You know, I’ve never had anyone rude enough to ask me that before.” Or sometimes that lukewarm look that asks, ”…again?” I do try on occasion to be my better self and sometimes I am. I am still learning to use my pause button.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      God, Sandi — you have me laughing so hard! I absolutely must copy your line about never having anyone rude enough to ask me some of the questions or make some of the comments that they do. I’ll bet you and Laurie are experts on “The Look.” I seem to have that dumbfounded stare on my face most of the time so no one takes me seriously.

  6. holessence Says:

    Barbara – Len likes to take me fishing because my “look” can take the scales right off a fish — no effort/knife required.

    Sandi’s comment has me laughing too! I’m heading to bed. Have a great evening.

    Oh … Sandi told me that you’re heat is gonna b e 103 degrees tomorrow. YIKES! That’s sounds just plain nasty.

  7. the power button « Eternal Presence Says:

    […] Barbara Kass I let what other people do and say take me outside of myself. It is the largest of my buttons and evidently so ginormously attractive that some people simply cannot resist taking a big swipe at […]

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