don’t should on me

In my recovery work, I’ve come to view the word “should” as an opening for shame, among other not-so-great feelings and ways of thinking about myself and others. When the word “should” is used, it opens the door to failure – to view myself or someone else as a failure. I have developed a practice of working hard not to “should on myself” 💩 or others for that reason.

There’s something less than vulnerable about the use of should too. For instance, saying “we should get together sometime”. It sounds good, but there’s no risk of rejection. And it’s not quite committal. For instance, it’s very easy to say “yes, we really should” – without planning anything and without actually committing to or risking anything.

And then, as I stated above, using should often opens the door for blaming and shaming. “You should know better”. Here’s an example of internal dialogue that might happen after such a statement:

Ouch! I really should know better. So, why didn’t I know better? I must be so incredibly stupid! Yes, that must be it! And why am I stupid? Because my parents didn’t teach me what I need to know. It’s really their fault I’m an imbecile!

Oh, and here’s a question to ponder.
What happens when what “should” happen doesn’t happen?

The phrase ambiguous loss comes to mind. But also stealth expectations. I have expectations of you, of me, but I’m not really going to come out and say them. I’ll just leave it up to you to figure out. Oof!

It takes time and intentionally to bypass that word. I have to pause and think a bit deeper, a little harder. What is it that I really want? What is it that I really need to express? Here are a few examples I’ve thought about.

“We should get together sometime”.
(Hey, I think you’re pretty swell, would you like to get together sometime?)

“You should really clean up your room.”
(I care about you. Would you like some help organizing & cleaning?)

“I shouldn’t feel this way.”
(I don’t think my feelings are valid or justified, but I still feel them. Maybe I need to question why I feel this way.)

“I shouldn’t eat this.”
(I know this is not healthy for me but I really want it. What is driving this “really want”?)

“I should journal.”
(I think journaling might really help me work through what I’m feeling, but if I don’t journal, I will choose not to hold it against myself later.)

How about you? Do you agree with my perspective on “shoulding”? Do you have other words that you view as potentially shame-inducing or that might create ambiguity or uncertainty?

6 thoughts on “don’t should on me

  1. Willow

    As my dad used to say, “Put coulda, woulda, and shoulda in one and and a quarter in the other and you can buy yourself a cup of coffee.” I mean, it was a long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LA

    I hate the word and feeling of guilt. Does this count? Also failure. I think we think of these words and corresponding meanings incorrectly


  3. Pingback: in my feels – unwanted

  4. Pingback: what’s in a name? | Pinwheel in a Hurricane

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