Lolly Daskal

The Quest for Meaning

Say "Thank You" To Those Who Push Our Buttons

Say "thank you" to those who push our buttons? Really?

Posted Jul 15, 2014

We have all had our buttons pushed one time or another. The relationship we thought would last forever, but it didn't. The friendship we thought we could trust, but we couldn’t. The boss we thought would communicate but wouldn’t.  

All of us have been there, but for some of us, we have been there more times then we would like to admit.

When our buttons are pushed, we feel irritated, angered, frustrated, and disappointed. Those feelings, in turn, make us feel all sorts of emotions, like rejection, abandonment, and loss— these sentiments are usually based upon unhealed emotions from the past.

Our emotions are like barometers; they give us instant feedback about whether our environment or companion is good or bad, safe or unsafe, to be engaged or to be avoided. But they also operate within the context of our past experiences.

When our buttons are pushed, we get triggered, and then we react—and when those reactions are strong, we feel out of control.

The seat of our emotions lives in a part of our brain called the limbic system. A key component of the limbic system is the amygdala, an almond-sized structure that acts as our emotional watchdog. When we feel unsafe, our amygdala responds instantaneously, before we are even able to think.

So when your buttons are pushed and your unhealed emotions get stirred up, what’s basically happening is that your amygdala is being emotionally hijacked.

You usually can’t keep it from happening, but you can control how you respond. You can give voice to your anger, disappointment, and annoyance. Or you can be accepting, and even thankful, that you have a chance to recognize your unhealed emotions and work on them.

So how can we respond instead of react?

Recognize the past in the present: A triggering experience draws you back into your past of old unhealed feelings. If you take some time to reflect on those past events from your current perspective, it can help you understand what was happening then and why it may still be affecting you now.

Tune in: Become familiar with your emotional triggers and your body’s physical responses. It could be a faster heart rhythm, tense muscles, or an upset stomach. Staying tuned in—knowing what’s happening will help you feel in control.

Have a choice: As we’ve discussed, our brains are wired to respond immediately, but we still have choices. Whether and how to engage is entirely up to you, with practice, you can teach yourself to slow down your reaction time, giving yourself more room to make the best decision.

Remember that life Is a test: We are constantly being tested by trying circumstances and difficult people and problems not necessarily of our own making. Our mission is to work on forgiving ourselves and others, because life has a way of constantly testing us, teaching us, encouraging us to evolve and develop.

We all experience circumstances that push our buttons and trigger our feelings. But if we can turn those events into opportunities for growth and development, they can actually be helpful to us.

Life gives us all the kinds of opportunity to be better, know better, and think better. Our toughest challenges are also our greatest opportunities, so lets look beyond our immediate feelings and learn to be thankful to those who push our buttons, because they are handing us an opportunity for improvement.

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Photo by:  Lynn Koenig

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