NOTE: This entry is republished from a previous blog on a site that is now under control by entity or entities unknown and untrusted. It is here for archival purposes, but thread necromancy is welcome as long as you keep it germane to the topic of the post.
So being a good upstanding and moral person is good right?
Obeying all the “shoulds” in our lives is what keeps us on the straight and narrow, right?
Obeying the “shouldn’ts” should have the same effect, right?
But what if your shoulds get out of hand and you start using the word “should” as the only thing that keeps you going because you really don’t feel like doing ANYTHING, but you SHOULD do homework, laundry, dishes, murder, etc….
ummmm… strike that last one.
In any case, my point is that using this technique, one soon enters a phase where every should is felt as a pinch on free will and gets resented. Not a big pinch… kind of like being nibbled on by a duck. Not severe, just surprisinly acute and …well…. PINCHY!
Now imagine being run through your day by a whole flock of ducks that JUST WON’T STOP!
That is what it is like to try using “should” as a coping tool for the immobilization that depression brings.
One ends up going through the day grumpy and resentful, but not sure who or what to resent because the things one SHOULD do are perfectly reasonable, right?
It is not the tasks that need to be resented, but the attitude of “should” that pervades the psyche.
When my therapist recently pointed out that I use should a WHOLE LOT, I was confused…. I really hadn’t noticed it. She suggested that I might try to be more aware of when that word passes through my mind just so that I can be aware of the process that it kicks off emotionally.
I did it….
I noticed them.
When I mentioned it to my graduate advisor, she mentioned that some people could get rid of 9/10ths of their “shoulds” and would still be operational within normal limits of society. The hard part is figuring out which ten percent to keep.
From these thoughts came two epiphanies:
1) That I can replace “I should….” with “I want to …. because….”.
This simple substitution allows me to analyze whether I really want anything associated with the action or its dependent causalities.
If I really want nothing to do with it, I can get rid of it and not take the action.
If it is a disagreeable task, but the outcome is highly desirable, then I can still be ok with doing the task because I DO want the outcome.
If it is an agreeable task, I don’t even need a “because” clause. I can do it because I just want to do something fun.
2) There ARE some things that we should do because they provide a greater beneficence, even if we don’t directly experience the benefit immediately. These are harder to sort out, but are usually moral in nature and generally get assimilated at the level of values, so we tend to resent them more deeply if they conflict with our current value systems, or we resent infringements upon them and attacks on their validity more deeply if they agree with our values.
What are YOUR thoughts on “shoulds”?
Or “shouldn’ts”? They can be pretty compelling as well.