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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings


Photo credit, Lucasfilm LTD., The Walt Disney Company, fair use


I recall seeing Star Wars films in theaters when I was a child. The main antagonist in the original trilogy (OT), Darth Vader, fascinated me. Initially, I wanted to know what made him so evil, why he breathed as he did, and what he looked like beneath his helmet.


Later in the franchise, the answers to my questions were revealed. However, there was one remaining query that was never answered in the original canon. What was the function of Vader’s switches and buttons which were located on the chest area of his outfit?


Subsequent explanations from fans and others suggest various possibilities. Still, my young mind didn’t have access to these sources for many years. As such, I was left to draw my own conclusions.


When I learned the idiomatic expression related to pushing one’s buttons—to do or say something just to make someone angry or upset—Vader is who came to mind. I used to imagine that the villain was so hostile, because someone literally pushed his buttons.


Although some fans of the OT disagree about whether or not Darth Vader was calm and collected or highly emotional, I tend to agree with what one source proposes:


A cold (in the sense of “emotionless”, not cold-hearted) person wouldn’t care if someone’s insulting them or something they care about, because they have no emotions. They’re detached. They’d shrug it off like nothing. But not Vader. Does choking a guy sound detached to you?


I don’t view Darth Vader in relation to the outdated terms “sociopath” (detached, emotionless, and remorseless) or “psychopath” (lack of empathy, impulsive, and taking pleasure in the act of harming others). Even in the OT, Vader displayed anger.


Further, I argue that in order to be angry about something, Darth Vader would first need to value or care about an issue (e.g., desire for more power). When choking others during rageful fits of anger, could it have been that people were pushing the villain’s metaphorical buttons to make him behave in such a way?


No. Viewing the antagonist through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I posit that no one pushed Vader’s buttons to make him angry, because he was personally responsible and accountable for the consequences of his own self-disturbing beliefs.


Regarding this matter, page 20 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to remind clients that nobody actually presses buttons in order to make others experience fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, or other unpleasant emotions. We don’t actually have buttons on our chests like Darth Vader did in the OT.


If you become angry (emotion), experience an elevated heartrate (body sensation), and choke another person (behavior), you likely care enough about an issue to maintain an irrational belief about it. As an example, you may believe, “People must not disrespect me!”


Perhaps it’s important to you (i.e., you care about the issue) that people not disregard your ideas, wishes, or advisements. However, when people inevitably violate your rigid rule—and they most likely will disrespect your inflexible guideline at some point—it’s your belief that leads to an unpleasant consequence.


This is known as the belief-consequence connection. Someone disregards the assumption about which you care so much and then you experience emotional, bodily sensation, and behavioral outcomes in association with this unhelpful connection.


I suppose that if you walked around with literal buttons on your chest like Darth Vader, aside from those fastening together your shirt or blouse, it would make sense to suggest the likelihood of an action-consequence connection. In this case, someone violates your rule and then you become upset.


Take a moment to look at your chest or use your hand to feel for buttons. Do you have a control panel like Vader? No? This is because nobody is upsetting you by pushing your nonexistent buttons. Therefore, take personal ownership over your life and you can stop disturbing yourself, unless you’re into that sort of thing.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

G&G-Fan. (2020, December 25). Darth Vader isn’t calm in the original trilogy; he has always been very emotional. Original Trilogy. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 7). Personal ownership. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, January 4). Rigid vs. rigorous. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, December 23). The A-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, December 25). The B-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Darth Vader. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Star Wars. Retrieved from

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