The Tyranny of Shoulds

By OKSANA TASHAKOVA (SELF-HELP GUIDE)  13 May 2011

Our list of must-dos limit our own potential, damage our relationships with others, and cause us to unfairly judge and condemn

You should smile. You should lose weight. You should be more productive. You should be married by now. How do you feel when someone tells you that you should do something? Don’t you feel resentful? Doesn’t something shut down within you?

That’s because “shoulds” reflect objective values. They’re based on stereotypes or expectations about behaviour and qualities that come from parents, schools, religions, or society. They’re about what is considered desirable and about how far you fall from that mark.

What most of us don’t recognise is how much we beat ourselves up with unconscious “shoulds”. We’ve incorporated these other views through general exposure without ever questioning whether we truly want or believe in those values and priorities.

“Shoulds” imply that you are wrong, that you’re not enough, that you’re failing — and that kind of anxiety, frustration and self-hate lead to procrastination and hopelessness.

Psychotherapist Karen Horney named this process “the tyranny of the should.” She believed that we create a vision of the ideal self that isn’t based on our true selves or potentialities and then spend our lives trying to reach this level of perfection with a series of should and should-nots.

“Always” and “never” are also words that signify such black and white thinking. These words are signs of absolute and inflexible thinking that can have disastrous results.

Not only do such beliefs limit your own potential, they damage your relationships with others, causing you to unfairly judge and condemn.

“Shoulds” are rigid rules with no room for error and they’re often introjected rather than owned. When you own a rule it is because you have evaluated it and decided whether it makes sense for you and your life. You consciously decide to live your life by the value or judgment inherent in the “should.” An introjected rule is one you’ve passively absorbed without reviewing its merit.

“Shoulds” are often perfectionistic, unrealistic and unhealthy; “shoulds” diminish your life rather than enhance it.

The next time you feel anxious, frustrated, upset or depressed; question what’s really going on. With a little work, you’ll uncover the “should” or inflexible belief that has led to the feeling. Then you can begin to change it.

One technique that can be used to free you from a prison of “shoulds” is to change “I should” or “I must” to “I would prefer” or “I want to” or “I could.” This gives you choice and flexibility and removes condemnation and that reflexive resistance. Think about the effect and potential in changing “I should lose weight” to “I could exercise more” or “I would like to weigh less.”

Another technique involves questioning the rule and its value to you and your life. Does this “should” reflect who you might really want to become or does it limit your ability and self-esteem instead?

“Shoulds” are often difficult to displace because we’ve operated according to them for so long.

A mantra that contradicts the “should” whenever it arises can help you to slowly undo that automatic kind of thinking.

Helpful mantras include a reminder of what need was served by the “should” and why it doesn’t work.

For example: “I should never make mistakes” is a common tyrannical “should.” Every time you begin to berate yourself for a mistake, try and replace that train of thinking with something to the effect of: “My mother made me feel bad for making mistakes but mistakes lead to learning and they don’t make me a bad person.”

Identifying our “shoulds” often requires the help of a coach or therapist when they’re deeply ingrained and unconscious.

We often can’t see out of the rut of that worn way of thinking and it helps for someone else to point out when we’re inflicting absolute and inflexible rules upon ourselves. This can help you learn to recognise these “shoulds” more readily on your own and combat them in order to reach your real potential.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com 

 

(Oksana is a life coach based in Dubai who helps people work out their life purpose and plan. She’s also an expert in stress management, addictions & phobias, relationships, communication skills and emotional pain management. Visit her website for more details: www.designlifecoach.com)  


If you don’t feel a bit on edge, it’s time to find out why not.  If your roots are firmly planted, it may be time to pull up a few so you can move a bit - grow and expand.
Is your life like a sailboat without sails, or maybe no steering.  Either way, you’ll end up moving where the wind says, not you.

If you don’t feel a bit on edge, it’s time to find out why not.  If your roots are firmly planted, it may be time to pull up a few so you can move a bit - grow and expand.

Is your life like a sailboat without sails, or maybe no steering.  Either way, you’ll end up moving where the wind says, not you.

(via gowhereeveryoulike)

I’m not a girl.  I’ve been called, a number of times in my life, a “man’s man”.  Since there’s no behavior manual for this persona, I’ll make one up…
I will do my absolute best to help, protect and defend females of all ages against anyone causing pain or suffering to a woman.  

I’m not a girl.  I’ve been called, a number of times in my life, a “man’s man”.  Since there’s no behavior manual for this persona, I’ll make one up…

I will do my absolute best to help, protect and defend females of all ages against anyone causing pain or suffering to a woman.  

(via xearthbalancex)

Dr. Wayne Dyer, on the cover of his 1976 book “Your Erroneous Zones”.  This book introduced me to the concept of metacognition, thinking about thinking, which led  to changing some less than favorable habits.  His words were instrumental in helping me to begrudgingly discover enough of my own errors in judgement to take drastic action.  I hind sight, this was clearly a case of divine intervention.
If I ever meet him I’ll probably be like a 14 yr old seeing their idol, all nervous, talking a mile a minute, and shaking his hand way beyond the “this is becoming awkward” stage. Probably shed a tear or two because of the deep gratitude I have for him and his gifts to all of us.
PS:  Photo supplied by the seller of the book (non-affiliate)

Dr. Wayne Dyer, on the cover of his 1976 book “Your Erroneous Zones”.  This book introduced me to the concept of metacognition, thinking about thinking, which led  to changing some less than favorable habits.  His words were instrumental in helping me to begrudgingly discover enough of my own errors in judgement to take drastic action.  I hind sight, this was clearly a case of divine intervention.

If I ever meet him I’ll probably be like a 14 yr old seeing their idol, all nervous, talking a mile a minute, and shaking his hand way beyond the “this is becoming awkward” stage. Probably shed a tear or two because of the deep gratitude I have for him and his gifts to all of us.

PS:  Photo supplied by the seller of the book (non-affiliate)

Social psychologist, Jon Haidt, asks the Dalai Lama some questions.  Listen very carefully - you may be surprised at what you hear.  I was.

12 plays

 by Abdominals & The Obliques from http://chass.ucr.edu/faculty_book/lyubomirsky/

The How of Happiness song from the book written by (click on title above for book & song)

SONJA LYUBOMIRSKY, PhD

The How Of Happiness Song is a song, by  companion to Sonja Lyubomirsky’s bestselling book, The How of Happiness. **World debut of the ‘Book Tune’ concept - song companions for books that use the proven power of song as mnemonic/memory aid, to help readers better remember what they’ve read.**

Listen daily or a few times a week so you can stay on track building a happier life for yourself, by consistently implementing the 12 proven, scientifically validated happiness boosting strategies she recommends in her book, and which are summarized in this companion song. By using this song reminder tool regularly you’ll be able to more effectively integrate her recommendations into your daily life on an on-going basis. If permanently boosting your happiness level is important to you, check out the song.

How a Smiling Mind will change your life

a Smiling Mind will;

  • put spring in your step
  • help to build relationships easier
  • make you wave at people who honk
  • give encouragement to a young adult
  • realize we are all one - from the same source
  • hold the door for who ever is behind you
  • make positive thought, and help squash the negative
  • help you to see the sun behind the clouds
  • realize the animal you own is counting on you for its life
  • enhance the now so much the past and future just fade
  • be creative instead of thinking
  • think of others - of the greater good
  • want to give, give, give, then take
  • enjoy doing “small goods”
  • jump at the chance of being an ambassador for your cause
  • resist temptation for just today
  • want to know how the other person is doing - really doing
  • assist in mindfulness and the ability to listen instead of tell
  • realize we all have troubles and burdens, so be kind

Have more ideas?  What works for you?

Changing the world...1 smile at a time