One of the words Patricia Evans talks about in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” is the word “should”. To tell someone they “should” do this, or “should” do that, is a controlling way of communicating. Shoulding is of the ways we abuse ourselves and others. Shoulding suggests shame if you don’t do what you “should” do. A less abusive way of communicating with others, or with yourself, is to say, “You might like to do this,” or “Have you considered doing that.”
This approach may sound mambsy pambsy, but in reality it is simply more respectful. To tell someone they “should” do something is implying you know better than they do and have the authority to tell them what to do.
Changing the way we communicate can be challenging. I should on myself all the time, and on other people too, and don’t realize it. My daughter Melissa, the amateur psychologist in the family, catches me doing this and calls me on it. She was visiting the other day and pointed out that not only was I shoulding on myself, I was shoulding on everyone else as well. When Melissa pointed this out, repeatedly, I began to catch myself and correct myself before she could chime in with, “You’re shoulding on yourself again.”
Shoulding is a way of putting pressure, or putting power over on someone else, or on yourself. Shoulding can kill happiness, making life a chore instead of a joy. This nerve condition I have (see My Very Spoiled Nervous System) is teaching me the evils of shoulding. I had a conversation with my husband last night and he was directing me by using sentences beginning with, “You need to . . . ” and, “You should . . . ” etc. All the things he said were valid things I “should do”, but because he was shoulding on me, I began shoulding on myself and woke up with burning skin and scrambled brain. I overloaded myself with shoulds.
Honestly, a person could think of so many things they “should” do, it would take them many lifetimes to do them.
The only cure for my burning skin and scrambled brain, aside from increasing my medication again, is to relax, stop shoulding myself, and ask myself, “What is most important to me today? What would bring me joy? What does my heart long for?”
This sounds idealistic, I know. I have a difficult time letting myself do what I want to do and not what I think I should do. It’s working for me though. Even though there is a very angry dragon inside me (see The Dragon and Guardian of Memyselfandi), I am happier than I have ever been in my life because I am learning to follow my heart.