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Re: regarding the word 'should' !! willie

Posted by zinya on July 24, 2003, at 11:14:07

In reply to Re: Zinya, posted by willie on July 24, 2003, at 10:35:09

hi again Willie,

Your words made me think of one of my 'mantras' of sorts -- and what a wonderful "sign" it was to me to discover that my bereavement counselor had the same mantra, and she now helps me hear it in myself too - and it's one of her golden rules for the bereavement groups that meet twice a month here: Namely, to view the word "should" as a giant red flag.

All the "shoulds" in our lives that we grew up with and keep perpetuating in ourselves ... Actually one of the college-era friends in town here who i have just had to stop seeing ... If you looked up the word "should" in the dictionary, her picture would be there as an illustration!! She's a walking "should"-er, and as much as she resents the same thing in her own sister, she does it too (both telling herself things she should do, which she then resents having done afterwards, as well as telling me and everyone else what i or they should do, notably -- alas -- her very depressed adult daughter) and it triggers the voice in me I'm already trying to UNdo. She's constantly -- well, when i was still talking with her regularly - we just e-mail for now and when she asks how i am, I've learned to ignore the question and answer a different question of hers instead, like about news or movies or something ... cuz if i even open the door to giving a remotely honest answer as to how i am, she's saying i should do this and i should do that ...

(Maybe, to clarify, i should :)) borrow a phrase that John Bradshaw uses to differentiate two types of 'shame' as well -- the kind of 'should' i'm talking about is the "toxic should" (like what he calls 'toxic shame' -- There's a healthy and necessary kind of should (or shame) which serves an important function of telling us we should, for example, tell the truth, not cheat, not kill or steal, etc. etc. ... and should follow the golden rule etc. But this is a different kind of 'should' that creeps in under the guise of being just as vital as these legitimate 'shoulds' but they are toxic cuz they really are about someone else's 'agenda' or 'formula' for us -- or society's at large. And then 'shame' us for not living up to these expectations and judgments which really are very arbitrary. And daily life is flooded with them.)

"Should" is like a laser highway into our inner anxiety straight from that octopus of a thing called Society. (sorry bout the multi-mixed metaphor) And it is fairly lethal. "Should" is ultimately suffocating. It takes the oxygen out of our own sense of who we are, what even our own instincts are - it shouts down listening to our own bodies for "advice" on what we are in the mood for. And sets us up for then resentment and/or self-doubt, frustration, and even depression. Over the years (about ten years or so of being attuned to the destructive power and symbolism of this word) I've developed a kind of radar to hear the word for what it is, which is the first step in then raising one's armor to ward it off and not start feeling guilty or inadequate or failed or whatever...

anyway, my added 2c for the moment :) Sorry if it started to sound like a soapbox or diatribe ! :)) I know i sometimes get off on a long monologue here ... I hope everyone realizes i'm not trying to preach, just sharing a view which i'd love to hear other thoughts about, including contrary views...

wishing you minimal stress today!




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