Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Should-ing All Over Yourself

Do you use the word "should" very often? In the conversations you have with yourself or others, do you frequently say things like, "I should really finish my homework"? Or, "I should call her back"? Or, "I should eat more vegetables". If you're like most, you have some awareness of using this word but, no idea of how often. I think we have integrated this word, like so many others, so fully into our discourse that we don't even recognize our use of it or the affect it has on our experience. This isn't just semantics. Language affects the way we think, feel, and act. And, hearing certain words more frequently than others perpetuates thoughts, feelings, and actions of a certain kind. Language can motivate (think cheerleaders), stimulate (academic lectures), and, unfortunately, denigrate (undeserved criticism). So, for anyone interested in personal growth and reclaiming their experience of authenticity, it would be a useful exercise to examine the automaticity of using this particular word and how it affects your mood and attitude.

Our choice of words and specifically using the word should, can indicate how we think of ourselves in relationship to the world around us. Reflecting on your use of this particular word, you may see it expresses an obligation and contributes to your stress. As if we do not already have enough of either. Using Should expresses a need, even when want may be a more appropriate word to use.

"I should really return his phone call".  "I should take advantage of this opportunity". "I should tell her how I feel".
       But, do you want to?
"I don't know".

This is a fairly common exchange which occurs between myself and my client in session. This exchange also reveals something fairly common yet unconscious for most of us. And, that is that we are more familiar with what we should do than what we want. And yet, given a choice, I think it's fair to say that most of us would prefer to do more of what we want than what we should. We just don't realize we actually have a choice. We can all live our lives more consistent with what we want. It's just that without knowing how to distinguish between shoulds and wants we are not able to be true to ourselves.

If you spend more time invested in thinking about what you should do than about what you want, you should all over yourself!

Look at the frequency and context in which you use the word, should. Explore using the word, want, in it's place. Practice replacing should with want. Consider using want in conversation at least to the same degree as you use the word, should. Notice and, if possible, write down your thoughts and feelings about the exchange of words.

In my experience, when we use the word, should, and imply a need to do something, it is not always possible to justify it as such. "I should do..." this or that? Is your life dependent on it? Is someone holding a gun to your head? Threatening to pull the trigger if you don't comply? Of course not. I believe that we use the word, should, to perpetuate a familiar, though not necessarily flattering Self concept. This Self concept holds our worth and value as a person captive to an achievement not yet accomplished. Therefore, our acceptability is conditional.  It is dependent on doing something more, less, or different than we currently are. That we are not yet unconditionally acceptable. Want implies just the opposite. When we use want, rather than should, we more often consider ourselves to be complete, unconditionally acceptable, even deserving, exactly as we are. This may be a difficult, even uncomfortable, concept to buy into. But, if you are interested in your personal growth and developing a stronger sense of Self and Self esteem, why not give this exchange of words some consideration and see what happens?