I became aware that I was beating myself up with “shoulds.” I should be doing this, I should have done that—endlessly in the loop of the mind chatter. I was so used to it that I didn’t even really hear it until recently. It came to my attention that life just wasn’t fun.
“Should statements can be impacting your struggle with panic, anxiety, and depression,” said Katharina Star, PhD at Verywell.com. No wonder depression and anxiety are feelings that I have struggled with all my life. I have been thinking those should statements all along. How does this new consciousness take me to the next level of understanding?
What brought this up was being awakened in the night thinking—not about any spiritual subject, but writing about my new C-PAP machine for sleep apnea. I thought my experience might be helpful to someone. That I should record my experience. I should get up and write. For a change, I didn’t throw up my usual resistance and go back to sleep.
When I got to the computer, I acknowledged that I “should not say should,” and that I had promised myself I would replace that word and the energy behind it with phrases like: it’s my pleasure and privilege to—I wish to—or best of all, it is my joy to. It is my joy to write and the sooner I get into the feeling place of that the better off I will be. (Does that sound like another should? Yikes!)
The word “should” automatically brings up resistance that really holds me back. I feel a stubborn resistance to doing it. It’s true for me and apparently for many other people as well. I don’t like being told what to do even by my own mind. The recordings of judgments about what I should or should not do, shout out in my brain too much! Always those judgments pushing and pulling at me. Do you suffer from this malady as well?
Soul Wisdom Therapy has this to say: “The “inner critic” forms a belief based on how the world “should” be, how you and others “should” behave. But what standards exist to measure the “should”? Who created those standards? And most important: judgment does not serve any useful purpose.
A closed mind, one which forms firm opinions like this, creates an internal war: the judge and the rebel. The judge “shoulds” while the rebel resists. The result? Frustration, dissatisfaction, depression, anger. Worse yet, these strong emotions create more internal strife as you try to resist them.”
Exactly. Sounds too familiar. But how to release the judgment…?
I found this clue to the answer in Psychology Today, “Whenever we’ve become addicted to judging and mistrusting ourselves, any sincere gesture of care to the wounded places can bring about radical transformation. Our suffering then becomes a gateway to the compassion that can free our heart. When we become the holder of our own sorrows, our old roles as judge, adversary, or victim are no longer being fueled. In their place, we find not a new role, but a courageous openness, and a capacity for genuine tenderness—not only for ourselves, but for others as well.”
Care to the wounded places means self-acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion. It means self-love. Self-love is necessary for compassion for others as well. This is a great place to shine the light of Consciousness into our lives and to make choices to live a more joy filled life. So, Live Life Consciously.
Here are the how-to steps to drop this destructive habit of judgment:
- Become consciously aware of your “shoulds,” “oughts,” and “must” statements and try to replace them with more encouraging thoughts, such as: it is my pleasure, opportunity, joy or wish.
- Notice how many should statements you use throughout your day and start replacing them right now.
- Write the should statements down whenever possible when you find yourself experiencing this judging of yourself and others. If it’s not convenient to write, mentally decide a reason why you want to do the job that is in front of you. If you can’t be willing to do something, don’t do it. Let yourself off the hook.
- Reframe the “should” statements in your thoughts and words at every opportunity. Make it a game with yourself. Then repeat aloud your new statement to reinforce the new feeling of enjoyment.
- The realization that you do have free-will and the power to choose will shift the energy vibration; from judgment to acceptance and even to excitement for the opportunity. You are now free from the pressure of resistant energy and of the depression and/or anxiety that comes with it.
Free will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do. ~ C.G. Jung
Remember that no one is expected to be perfect and that includes you and me too. Begin to be compassionate with yourself, accept your shortcomings, and have compassion for yourself and for the human condition that we all share.
Try this EXERCISE from “Shoulding” All Over Ourselves! at Network Therapy
“Close your eyes and imagine yourself living a day free of “should;” begin by picturing waking up, beginning your day–what would it look like, doing what your inner voice suggests? Unhampered by the demands and expectations of others, or even by your own? Go through a whole, imaginary day of doing just what your own intuitive knowledge of what will serve you best directs you to do. You have that knowledge, we all do, as our birthright. It might manifest as a fantasy, a voice, as a picture, as a strong pull in some direction you can’t quiet explain. It’s different for everyone. The important thing is to begin to turn your attention inward, to tune in and begin to listen for your own intuitive voice, that may have gotten lost in who you ought to be and what you should do.”
When I let go of pushing and pulling myself along with those “should” and “oughts” it takes much of the stress out of daily life. I claim my power, I make the choice. I have free will and the power to use my time doing what I desire. Don’t forget to celebrate your victories in daily letting go of self-judgment and reframing the words that are the doorway to it. Celebrate often and be happy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lindsay Godfree is a Life Coach, Certified Trainer of Infinite Possibilities, freelance writer, award-winning photographer, and creator of The Consciousness Guide.