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September 14, 2017

Buttons.
Life is easier without them.
Not the ones that hold your shirts together and not the ones you find in elevators or on keypads. I’m not writing about zippers and Siri.
It’s the ones I’ve stitched onto myself, the threads shallow beneath the skin, and the bright, shiny ones that surface in my skin, wires running down into bone marrow and even deeper into my psyche, rooted in something forgotten. These ones especially, like gross, shiny, flat-topped pimples located on the edge of awareness and trailing inside to something unknown – these ones I can do without.
Both sorts can set me off – fury, weeping, cold withdrawal, panic et al sweeping away rationality.
Think of a fear you might have – heights, spiders, strangers, dogs, enclosed spaces. One of mine was heights. I’d feel it in my gut first, then the panic would spread, paralyzing me. I could talk my way, white-knuckled, through some situations, but walking out on a glass floor in a skyscraper, or leaning over a lookout’s railing – no way! There was no rational way around or through that fear. No amount of encouragement, admonishment, rationalising or self-talk could diminish it.
It’s the same with the irritation-anger-rage spectrum. Being thought a fool, being called Stupid, invoked blinding rage, a red mist like a smoke bomb.

Everyone has buttons. My Chemistry teacher arranged his chalk precisely on a cloth in the colours of the rainbow. Granny Reid abhorred familiarity in servants and workers.
Children discover them early in their parents and teachers. They learn to calculate how hard to push for a given effect. Curiosity, entertainment, pleasure – all at the press of a button. So people learn to camouflage and protect their buttons from the antagonistic and malicious. To love is to expose them and caress them.

I see them clearly in others. Illegal drugs, gun laws, piles of washing-up, weeds, grubby nails, swearing, see-through fabrics, hijabs, alcohol, white skin, nudity, sex, a certain person’s name, a statue – anything can be a button.

I learned that not everyone shared my buttons. I had to learn to find them in myself by tracking back irrational eruptions.
Buttons short the circuit of consciousness, going straight to a visceral response. It can seem that there can be no control over them until each is grappled in therapy. I have tried this over multiple sessions with mixed success.

I now have a different tool to employ.

I don’t know how it works, but it does. It takes but a second or three, doesn’t require a facilitator, or notebooks or recounts with anyone else, and it has ramifications beyond what I expected.
For instance, that fear-of-heights button. Invited to go for a walk along a cliff-face in the Blue Mountains where, 35 years previously, I had been utterly terrified, I chose – from this different space – to go for the walk. It was lovely. I even looked over the edge and delighted in the view. Imagine my surprise when, some weeks later, I was up in the elm tree pruning its excess growth and realised, suddenly, I was not afraid. Then when I was leaning over the roof’s edge to reach some outlying branches, I thought ‘I couldn’t have done this before.’ I haven’t gone bungie-jumping yet and I won’t be balancing on parapets, but the button has gone. In taking on one instance of the fear, one button, it is as though this choosing has followed the wire deep down to its most basic attachment, and released it. With it has gone everything else that was connected up to it.
The power that button had over me has gone.

7Second – it is worth the look.