We press our own buttons

And though the waves foam and rage ever so wildly

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Ellis writes in his book on reacting to antagonists:

People and things do not actually push our buttons. We push our own buttons. And we can learn not to push them. But before we do so, we accept that people are not actually driving us crazy, rather, we are driving ourselves crazy when they do it. And only when we take extreme ownership of our own reactions can we maintain inner calm and mobilize ourselves to survive in a hostile world.

Think back to your first job in a real office with real people. Remember how enraged you used to get when confronted with some obnoxious stimuli? Maybe it was your coworker who chewed like a mule, or your dopey boss who had the jimmy legs, or the upstairs neighbor who blasted dance music first thing all morning.

Probably made you want to strangle somebody with a cell phone cord, right?

And yet, the harder you tried to make it go away, the cleverer people would get in their response.

Proving, that while we can’t control what other people do, we can control what we think about what they do.

We can forgive them for being human. We can remind ourselves that we’re no picnic ourselves. We can accept a baseline amount of ordinary misery as part and parcel of daily life.

And in most cases, we can simply rise above and forget about it.

We don’t have to like it, we just have to ignore it.

Besides, why use other people’s little imperfections as creative inspiration for our own rage? Why grant others the satisfaction of negatively impacting our good mood?

There’s no need to have an antagonistic relationship with their behavior.

Bonhoeffer’s immortal words come to mind:

And though the waves foam and rage ever so wildly, they can no longer rob me of my peace.

Whatever you’re thinking to yourself in this situation to get so upset, accept that you might be pushing your own buttons. And stop.

Will you live a vigorous life and not be a casualty of your own efforts?

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