I have a couple of little characters who sit on my shoulder and tell me what I should do. I like to call them the “Should Brigade”. These characters are very keen, and have an opinion about most things. In the past they used to play a big role in my life, and in those days they weren’t so small, and they weren’t so cute and funny. They used to be very demanding and caused me a lot of anxiety trying to work out what I was supposed to be doing and making me do things I didn’t want to do, just because they thought I should.
The trouble with the Should Brigade is, although they don’t seem to realise it, they have lived very sheltered lives, and get their “shoulds” from old information, gossip, the television – anything they can find. They seem to have an endless supply of rules and expectations that have not been thought through, and don’t necessarily fit the situation. In fact sometimes what they say makes no sense at all when you challenge them.
It seems logical that we should all do what our Should Brigade tells us, (after all they know what we should do) but I have started to challenge that assumption in a big way. In my case, the shoulds seem to be motivated by fear, or a desire to please and be accepted. They also seem to come from an assumption that my preference or my gut feeling is surely going to be wrong, misguided or dangerous.
As an experiment I started looking out for shoulds, and replacing them with other questions:
What is necessary here?
What is important in this situation?
What do I want to do?
What do I feel like doing?
Whats going to help here?
So far I am finding that working out what I want and need in this way is sufficient to decide what to do. Those little guys are getting very glum. I think they may be out of a job!