the power button

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 it. In their eyes, I imagine that this particular button is shiny bright red and pulsing with the words “Poke Me Here!” And I seem to have an innate talent for attracting that kind of behavior from even the nicest people.

What I don’t understand is why, after they insist on poking the button, they act surprised and hurt when they get the reactive typical knee-jerk (well, in my case, it is more of a verbal rocket of words as loud and as obnoxious as I can make them) response. The part that I dislike the most is that I don’t feel good responding that way and would rather select a different response that keeps me feeling good about me.

I am of the growing and affirming belief that I came here to become more of who I truly am in my total existence, not just my current human existence. I came here with issues to resolve that get in the way of my becoming. Working through this button and finding a response that supports me better would probably inactivate the button. There is that nanosecond of awareness that someone’s finger is pushing my reactive button. Within that breathless space is my chance to make the decision to stay within myself and my chosen behavior.

I just need to be a little bit quicker to recognize it. I know the advice is that when I feel this button activate, I am supposed to stop, take a few breaths, and take a step away from what I might be thinking and feeling so that I can observe myself with some detachment. I heard some advice on the radio the other day. When someone pushes a button, and we are getting all geared up to hand them their heads, before we launch the assault, we need to pause and ask the simple question: “so what?”

What really are the consequences of the other person’s behavior? Especially, what are the consequences to me?

Lots of times, they are inconsequential. For example, in tennis if someone makes a bad line call and I lose a point, I can get extremely hostile. The reality is: so what? I lost a tennis point. I might lose the game. I might even lose the entire match, but so what? I don’t lose anything material. I don’t lose money. I still get to come back and play again anytime I want. My only purpose for being there is to enjoy my playing tennis. MY playing tennis. Letting someone else determine whether or not I enjoy my playing tennis is giving up my power.

Giving up my power has far harsher consequences than losing a tennis point. And I think that is really the lesson the button is trying to teach me: own my power.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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15 Responses to “the power button”

  1. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    I thanks you for this today!

    Yes those little reactions cause that power to dwindle.

    Case in point:
    I have been home fOr a few hours and hubby comes home. I precede to give him a big hug and would appreciate at least a couple moments attention and connection. As I am hugging him, instead of acknowledging the greeting, he pulls away practically with my hands still around his neck because he has other things to attend to that are apparently more important, I let go,and then proceed to go upstairs for the rest of the evening as not to get any more buttons pushed! Fight or flight at its best. Problem is, this happens more often than not and he thinks this is ok to practically ignore any needs and opt for something else like-doing bills, reading the paper,switching loads of laundry,or whatever else his excuse might be than a few minutes of just relaxing with me and conecting after a long day or week.
    I guess its me and I should not take it personally, however the hurt is more than I can take sometimes. Evwn this week I have been busy trying o talk myself out of just up and leaving only with a suitcase for good.ugh!

    Thanks for chatting!
    Keep that tennis ball rolling.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Kim, I don’t think you are happy in your marriage. I think you are just staying married for a reason that has nothing to do with you enjoying your life. I don’t think your husband is pushing your button. I think you are pushing your button. You are expecting a certain response from him when you hug him and he is not giving it to you. You are not alone with that, by the way. I do it, too. That is how I can recognize it so well. You want to be with someone who will respond with a hug and a kiss to your affection. Your husband is not willing to do that, so the decision is yours to stay and accept him as he is, or you can talk to him and say “this is what would make me feel good,” or you can pack your suitcase and go to live Kim’s life. You may or may not find another man who will respond as you would like. Regardless, I don’t know that it is good for you to look to your husband for a response he is not willing to give.

  2. holessence Says:

    “There is that nanosecond of awareness that someone’s finger is pushing my reactive button. Within that breathless space is my chance to make the decision to stay within myself and my chosen behavior.”

    Barbara, you’re right, that “nanosecond of awareness” is only as big as a gnat’s whisker, but it’s there. When it’s presented to me, I try to dive through that window of opportunity. Sometimes I make through safely, sometimes I don’t. But I’m getting faster and more flexible as time goes by 🙂

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      You are better than I am, Laurie! Sometimes I only see the tail end of the nanosecond as it waves goodbye! But, at least I am aware that there is that moment which certainly beats the heck out of not knowing it.

  3. jeffstroud Says:


    I think you hit the spot right on the Button!
    How does it feel to know you have given up your power?
    In Recovery rooms the phrase is usually “how important is it?”
    another way is in that Nanosecond to Breathe, breathe deeply, and the reaction usually has time to pass into a creative healthy response.
    Yet sometimes I think our ego just likes a good old hissy fit!
    I think you really are on to it the move healthy choice!

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I love a good hissy fit, Jeff (sigh) — I just want to be more selective about when and where and how and to whom I throw it. I think that rotten feeling I have after I have launched my verbal rockets before thinking about it is all about giving up my power. And that is how it feels: rotten. I prefer feeling good.

  4. ntexas99 Says:

    I imagine that this particular button is shiny bright red and pulsing with the words “Poke Me Here!”. I loved how you described this. The visual I got was a bright red button that becomes so very tempting to push, just calling out for activation, insistent on someone taking a swipe at it. Which made me stop a second and wonder if I don’t sometimes throw a “push me here” button smack dab between someone’s words and my ears.

    I really appreciate what you said about giving up our power. It can be tough enough to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of human existence, but to envision doing so without keeping our innate power intact, seems contrary to our own self-preservation. Why ever would we want to give any outside influence (whether a person or a situation) the power to alter our experience in this world?

    For me, it seems to be that recognizing and exercising control of my own power is a decision. When I see it as a decision, rather than a reaction, it brings the power back into my court. You’re absolutely right, you know.

    So what?

    Let it go, and in doing so, feel your own power expand. Well stated!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy! soo good to see you; you have such wisdom in that sentence “why every would we want to give any outside influence the power to alter our experience in this world?” Oh, my. That is exactly what I have been doing — allowing what is happening on the outside to create my inner experience. Thank you very much for this insight.

      • ntexas99 Says:

        barbara – If only my actions matched my insights! All too often I find myself reacting, rather than thoughtfully choosing a response. Your post helps me have an increased incentive for pausing to consider how I’m going to choose to respond to external influences — will I choose to give away my power, or will I choose, instead, to expand my power?

        This puts me in mind of the subject of forgiveness, (which is another whole chapter and verse altogether), but the shortest version is the old adage about drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.

        Giving away our power is a bit like that … we may get the short term release and expend a bit of negative energy to voice our verbal unhappiness or dissatisfaction, but in the end, if it winds up making us feel terrible in the process, then we’ve basically attempted to deflect the pain or anger or hurt onto someone else, and have only, instead, wound up hurting ourselves further. Since we already started out somehow already feeling slighted or damaged or attacked in some way, we’ve only exacerbated the wound, rather than take action towards healing the wound.

        Thanks for this timely reminder to make the choices that will help me heal, and will help me live a life that more accurately reflects where I want to be, and how I want to exist in this life I’m living. Thought-provoking, as always.

        • Barbara Kass Says:

          Thank you, too, Nancy. You pointed out something I had not thought of — how responding in a manner that we did not choose out of love for ourselves hurts us more.

  5. sandiwhite Says:

    Hi, Barbara, I have often smiled and even laughed at people who have asked unbelievably rude or intrusive questions and when pressed replied,”Gee, I don’t know…I’ve never had anybody ask me such a rude question before.” Or sometimes the cold stare will find it’s mark. it is not up to me to re-educate such dunder-heads on manners and sometimes I will take the bait, swallow it and lash back. Such a no win situation! Your way of hitting the pause button seems a good way to de-fuse the situation without leaving bruises all around.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      If only I am quicker than my mouth . . . what scares me is that I don’t really say what I want to say (totally insulting) because I am aware that I am talking to another human being. But you are right . . . we are not here to teach anyone anything except ourselves.

  6. Zachery Says:

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  7. Says:

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