I should …

THE TYRANNY OF THE “SHOULDS”

How do you burn instructions in someone’s mind?  You repeat them… and you keep repeating them, over and over and over. You tell them what they “should” be doing, how they “should” be thinking and how they “should” be feeling about things. You tell them again and again and AGAIN… a few dozen/hundreds/thousands of times.

Then… your words are hardwired in their brain. They will remain there for ever… unless the person learns to delete and reboot his/her own brain.

Sound familiar?   It should !   That’s what our parents, our teachers and the media have done to us all our lives. In some cases the process left a positive impression in our mind… in other cases we are carrying a great deal of damaging (and/or inhibiting) mental baggage. Whilst a lot of the things we learned from all of the sources, as we were growing up, were fairly basic and practical… there were also things that were not. Some were fairly obvious…others not so obvious.  Its amazing how many of our currently held views were “learned” from our parents, peers, teachers and the media. Most of these are of course held on an unconscious level… so they automatically creep into our daily decision making and socialising.

The effect that this conditioning can have on our lives can be considerable. The internal dialogue we experience relating to negative beliefs can be debilitating. Parental and societal expectations are often echoing in our minds whenever we try to make a decision and the “shoulds” that have been “burned” in our brains act as invisible barriers to free and uninhibited thinking.

The distinguished psychoanalyst  Karen (Horney) Danielsen called this “The tyranny of the shoulds”. We “should” be successful, we “should” be educated, we “should” have certain possessions, we “should” aim for security over risk, we “should” act in a way that is “acceptable” to others. There are probably thousands of “shoulds” that are embedded in our brains as a result of social conditioning. Some of these act as common sense guides… that make our decisions easier based on experience. A lot of these shoulds however… can often manifest in all kinds of fears and anxieties. They can result in guilt and other beliefs that have a very negative impact in the way we see the world around us.

My belief is that we need to do an audit…a review if you will… of our personal belief system on occasion. Challenge our own thinking and try to figure out “why we believe the things we believe”. Ask ourselves where our beliefs stem from and whether in the clear light of day these beliefs are valid or simply the result of long term conditioning.

Who says we need a 9-5 job? Who says we need to be rich/wealthy to have any chance at being reasonably happy? Who says we have to live in a big house…or have three cars in our garage before we can feel good about ourselves? Who says that “financial security and wealth accumulation are our main priorities” is good advice? Who says “forget dreams… just get a decent job and a roof over your head” is advice that will ensure our happiness in life?

We have all been told that we should work hard and make lots of money. This will make us happy. But I think we all know thats not really valid or true. The question is… what else do we tell ourselves we “should” be doing…that is also no longer valid or true?

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2 responses to “I should …

  1. ah yes the tyranny of the “should”…when i quit my job as a well paid translator to start making handmade cards and books my parents thought i seriously went nuts ! years after, when my work was featured in French decoration magazines, and i could actually live off my designs they reckoned my path wasn’t that crazy after all. Sometimes, the pressure of the “should” gives you the drive and power to go your own way.
    Great post, dear Michael !

  2. This is so true. Amazing post! Have you read the book “The Four Agreements” ? Talks about human domestication, all the rules and values that family and society imposed on us since we were born. What we should do, or should be.

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