It is true that people can be hurtful and it is important to acknowledge when we are feeling that way. Denying our emotions will only make things worse, not better. But did someone really “make me angry” or are we feeling the anger in us getting kicked up in response to the way someone behaved towards us? The difference between the two is in who the responsible party is for the way we feel. If we blame others for our feelings we will eventually feel justified at whatever our retaliation may be, and we will rationalize that it was their fault, not ours. “They were driving me nuts!”
When we blame others for the way we feel we have in effect given power to others for the state of our emotional wellbeing. The truth is, no one controls our feelings but us. If we are finding that people in our lives really know how to “push our buttons” then we are not doing a good enough job at protecting our “buttons.” We are the ones leaving our buttons out in the open so that other people can “push them.” Ultimately, the trigger switch for our buttons are inside us – not on the outside.
While there are some things in life that are clearly out of our control, like the weather or a flight that’s two hours late, how we act and respond to other people’s behavior is not one of them. Our responses to others are well within our control. Remember that no one can push our buttons. The trigger switches are on the inside of us.
If someone is “making us” so mad, for example, that we rage, we are not doing enough to learn about what drives our anger and how to properly cope with it. Our suggestion is to put some thorough work into taking an inventory of the past. An inventory can show you how much of your past experiences influence your feeling reactions in the current moment.
As human beings with past experiences, we are constantly time traveling with our feeling memories back to those times in our past when others have treated us in similar ways – or we are re-experiencing other times in our lives when we have felt this way before. When we finally realize that so much of our present feelings and reactions are driven from within ourselves and our own past experiences, we will be ready to make the changes in our lives that will better secure our buttons so that they are no longer left out in public for everyone to push at whim.
If you are a member of a 12 Step program, now would be a good time to complete a comprehensive 4th step inventory. If you have already finished your fourth step, a review of your work will assist you in highlighting the ways in which you continue to walk down the same old button-bushing paths …while expecting different results!
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples.”
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Last reviewed: 27 Aug 2014