Tyrannised By Shoulds

Tyrannised By Shoulds

Try these softening steps.

Albert Ellis, a pioneer of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) observed that the demands we make of the world and ourselves are littered with words like ‘should’, ‘must’, and ‘ought’ (together with their opposite, ‘not’).

He even coined a special word for it - ‘musturbation’ - to describe these inflexible demands.  

When you have high standards and drive yourself hard to do well, should-ing can be unremitting. I know. I used to be a huge musturbator too.

The trouble is, when we ‘should’ ourselves, our motivation is often based on a sense of obligation or fear, rather than a genuine want or desire. The result can be exhausting, disempowering and self-defeating.

So... how do you stop?

Consciously, deliberately, replace your demanding ‘should’ language with advice that is more constructive.

Change your language - and you’ll change your mindset.

Here’s a two step process:

  1. Replace the rigid demand with a softer alternative.
  2. Add a get-out clause.

Step One: Replace the rigid demand with a softer alternative

Identify the words ‘must’ / ‘should’ / ‘ought’ in what you're telling yourself, and replace them with words like ‘I’d like to’ / ‘I’d prefer’ / ‘it would be nice’. For example:

  • I must get a perfect result… becomes… I'd like to get a perfect result
  • I should know everything about this… becomes… It would be nice to know everything about this
  • I must not fail… becomes… I’d prefer not to fail

Step Two: Add a get out clause

Now add a get out clause using ‘but’. For example:

  • I'd like to get a perfect result…. but if I don’t, I’ll find a way to make this work
  • It would be nice to know everything about this… but I know there’s always more to learn
  • I’d prefer not to fail… but, whatever happens, I know I can learn from it

Why not give it a go? As a strategy to tackle the should-er in you, this one's a great start.

From my own experience, and that of hundreds of clients, I can vouch for the fact that liberating yourself from should-ing will not only benefit your mental health, it will improve your focus, productivity and confidence too.

P.S. If your challenge is more that you ‘should’ other people, this process is equally effective - and equally desirable!

Want more? ’m here and ready to help. Let’s master those musturbations!