If I were to be a guest on the TV programme Room 101 (which would actually never happen, other than in my head), without a doubt I’d argue to bin the word ‘should’ – and if my case was rejected, I’d pull the lever myself (in my imagination, with Frank Skinner in a headlock), because it fully deserves that fate.
Should comes to visit a lot in my practice, more often in the earliest sessions and in a flurry of dilemmas or internal conflict; a person’s own wants and needs overridden because of one should or another that has worked its way in to their psyche, or been put there by others.
It seems such an innocuous word – a sentence-filler almost – but aside from its context in a legal basis and the laws and rules of the land, I find it has the potential to hold so much power… Shoulds can create expectation that we come to believe we should meet, and may set us on a life path because that’s what we should do – or indeed restrict our wants and dreams because we shouldn’t.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes the word Should as – “Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone’s actions”.
Wowzer, doesn’t that just sum up restriction, oppression and burden, and create a breeding ground for guilt, blame and shame?
Interestingly, very few, when the question is posed, can name their ‘Lord of Shoulds’, other than to say they or them. Society, community, family, tradition, culture and responsibility all appear, in part, to generate shoulds, and I can see how they can feel so dominant, when fitting in and being accepted forms part of our survival make up.
There’s certainly a balance to be had in identifying and meeting our own needs and dreams – in feeling courageous, confident and liberated enough to strike out towards them, whilst maintaining our relationships with those around us. But it can be achieved, and that’s why Frank I’m putting should in Room 101. In my job, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching hope, purpose and potential overcome obligation and become unleashed….