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Thinking About “Should” Statements

“Should” statements often represent expectations and requirements…and can often precipitate depression and make it worse. As an example, depressive feelings can increase among individuals who believe “I should not feel depressed. I should be over these feelings already. I should be able to feel better.” When these “should” statements are consistent, they can be painful reminders and add frustration as clients find the gap between expectation and reality widening. I often work with my clients to encourage them to try to think in terms of what they would prefer to do, what they would like to experience, and what they can do to help make this come to fruition. It is all about trying to shift focus from a “should” pattern of thought to a more “preferential” outlook.
When clients use “should” as a judgment word, it can have a very strong emotional impact. As an example, if you fail to do what you tell yourself you should do, you may beat yourself up and judge yourself in a harsh manner. It’s important to remember to be as kind to yourself as possible, that we live in a world which is constantly changing and unpredictable…things are always in flux. It is impossible to constantly anticipate what will happen next and respond in a perfect manner to everything that pops up in life!
I often work with clients to help them adopt a more preferential philosophy, which has the following positive affects:
–feel less self-inflicted stress
–experience a decline in “blame-centric” thought
–have the courage to try more things without being fearful of failure or harsh self-judgment
Remember, it’s not realistic to completely get rid of words such as “should”, “ought”, or “must” from your vocabulary. They do indeed have a place! It’s important to simply be aware of how some irrational demands can influence how you feel and function. Try to make a shift from a demanding to a more preferential frame of mind.
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