That’s ‘should-ing’, in case you were wondering…
Sometimes we’re so hard on ourselves aren’t we? We tell ourselves we shouldn’t have said that, we should be better at something, we shouldn’t have eaten that, we should have been kinder to someone, we should have understood something that we didn’t – our list of ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves is endless.
'Should-ing' on ourselves
What happens when you listen to that voice that tells you should or should not have said or done something? I’m betting that you do one of the following:
- Start justifying in your head why you did / didn’t do or say it
- Have an argument with yourself
- Beat yourself up
- Declare to yourself you will never do such a thing from this day henceforth (until you do, then you repeat 1-3)
Productive, eh? Super unhelpful too!
This is what happens when we believe that something should or should not have happened e.g. we get fired, someone we care for gets sick, a rail crash occurs, we didn't get the pay rise we were expecting etc.
What typically happens when we believe that something should or should not have happened is that we feel bad. It can feel like our day (week / month / year / life) has been ruined because of this external thing. But is this really true? Can we know for certain that this isn't exactly what was meant to happen? That in fact something good may come out of this situation if we search for it?
The thing is, when we 'should' about it, it doesn't make the situation any better and it doesn't make us feel any better, yet we still allow these 'shoulds and 'should nots' to go unquestioned in our minds, leaving us feeling like a victim of our circumstances.
'Should-ing' on them
You might be okay with should-ing all over yourself, or about external events, but what ‘shoulds / should nots’ do you hold about other people?
A commonly held should is that “people shouldn’t lie” or “people should always be honest”. What happens when someone doesn’t live up to this should statement and they do lie or they are not 100% honest with us? Well, it’s likely that we will judge them, feel disappointed by them and may end up in conflict with them.
Whilst it may feel good to know that we'd never do something like that (unless of course we have one rule for us and another for them, I mean sometimes our circumstances were such that it would have been impossible not to, right....?), if we leave our sh****ing ways unquestioned, we may be inviting the very thing from people that we say we hate.
Just take a look at our FREE Spiral of Disempowerment Tool™ if you would like to see how this can play out in our relationships.
The truth about 'should-ing'
Our shoulds come from our beliefs, which are filled with some common misconceptions:
- Our beliefs are the truth
- The truth is obvious
- Our beliefs are based on factual data
- The data we select are the true facts
The reality is very different, as shown in Peter Senge’s Ladder of Inference:
So the things that we believe to be 'facts' and the ‘rights and wrongs’ of life have actually been developed through our lenses of culture and experience, which have resulting in us making assumptions and drawing conclusions that we believe to be true. The more times we climb the ladder, the more entrenched this belief becomes and the more factual and real it seems to us, as the reflexive loop means that we are unconsciously searching for evidence that we are right.
Knowing this can help us to question some of the ‘shoulds’ and 'should nots' that are no longer serving us.
How to overcome your unhelpful 'should-ing' ways
Spend some time this week noticing the times you ‘should’ on yourself or others and:
1. Ask yourself, who made up this 'should / should not' rule and is it serving me?
If it is one of your own and it’s working for you, well great! Just notice the times that it doesn’t serve you in your relationship with yourself or with others.
So, for example, if you notice yourself in conflict with someone, it is likely that they have said or done something that you think they shouldn’t have and it’s worth seeing whether applying your ‘should’ belief to someone else works as well as it does in its application to you e.g. it could be that someone learned to lie from an early age because they learned that truth telling had violent consequences. Perhaps for them, telling lies was the only way to survive and it is still serving them in some way that we don’t know about.
2. Ask yourself - is this ‘should or should not’ really true?
Imagine some occasions when it would be better if they had, for example, lied. If this is one of your shoulds and you hold onto it very tightly, it maybe that it would be very difficult to ever surprise you (e.g. with a party or the perfect gift) or it maybe that no-one will ever want their children to be near you around Christmastime for fear you may tell them the ‘truth’ about Santa.
3. If your shoulds are not working for you, then make up a belief that does!
Spend some time making up the beliefs that do work for you. We say ‘making up’ because, as we know from the Ladder of Inference, all the beliefs from which our shoulds and should nots derive are made up, so we may as well choose the ones that work well for us.
One of our favourites beliefs at Halcyon Global for when things don't go the way we planned them to is: “It’s as meant”. We don’t know if this is true or not, but the whole time we believe that anything should be different to how it is, it causes us distress. We have no more evidence of the 'should's' validity than this new 'it's as meant' belief, so go on, make it up and see what is available to you when you believe it.
Do you know someone who could benefit from War to Peace®?
If you know someone who would benefit from learning how to feel better about their relationships with their family, colleagues and friends, we are running our next open-access War to Peace® workshop in London on 13 October. To book a space, click here. Please note, we have just 8 spaces left.
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