My broken ankle throbbed throughout the night, making sleeping comfortably impossible. In an effort to get sleep a little longer, I cancelled my first two appointment of the day and moved another to later in the day. As a result, I had little to no reason to budge before noon. When I finally rolled over in bed and saw the number twelve, I mustered up just enough energy to begrudgingly catapult up in slow motion.
My day was off to a rough start, but the beautiful spring weather gave me hope that it might brighten up after all. I checked my phone before heading out for the day. I saw a text from a family member simply saying, “Call me.” Some of you would freak out if your parents sent this text to you. It was normal for my family to send me this even if they just wanted to say hi. I called them when I was driving out to my first appointment (on bluetooth for those of you who are silently judging me). The conversation started out with the average greetings and salutations but quickly went south. They brought up an issue pertaining to another family and trusting them with money.
I instantly saw red, zero to sixty. My blood boiled. This particular family member triggered nearly three decades worth of trauma, fighting, and verbal abuse. It all came flooding forward. Luckily my car windows were up because I yelled pretty damn loud. This carried on for about a minute or two until I realized I needed to take a step back. I told them I need to go to work just as an excuse to get off of the phone.
I pulled into a parking lot to gather myself. The damage was done. Guilt-ridden and with a bad taste left in my mouth, I sat and reflected. I should have stayed calm. I should not get angry like that. I should listen to what he says because he might have a point. I should call him back and apologize. I should. I should. I should.
Good lord. I despise that word or any variation of it. Should. Should’ve. Shouldn’t. Shoulda coulda woulda. Should-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
“Should” should be eliminated from our vocabulary, dictionaries, and thesauruses. Nothing good ever comes of it.
It sets unrealistic expectations on the past. Whenever we put the word “should” into a sentence, it automatically raises the bar. If you are applying it to an event that occurred in the past (i.e. “I shouldn’t have gotten mad at them.), then you are putting an expectation on an event that already happened.
It sets unrealistic expectations on the present and future. “Should” is a black-and-white word. It divides an action, choice, or decision right down the middle. You should do this. You shouldn’t do that. It negates the gray area that exists in life’s situations. If only life were that simple.
It is judgmental. When directed at others, the word comes with a hint of judgment. “Oh, you are not doing it this way. You should do it this way.” It eliminates having an open, or even tolerant, mind to other ideas and concepts. A closed mind is not conducive for progress.
It comes with feelings of guilt and shame. Along the same lines of looking at a past event with “should,” it feeds into guilt. We end up focusing on what could have been different rather than what actually took place. It makes it more difficult to accept a given situation.
Luckily, there are ways to replace this dreaded word in our language.
Restate expectations more realistically. Instead of saying I “should,” say “I can.” It sounds much more positive and motivational. Channel your inner Little Engine That Could.
Replace the statement by acknowledging the issue behind it. If you read between the lines, there is often an underlying issue. For instance, with my family member, my anger stemmed from unresolved feelings surrounding my trauma and the reminder the situation provided. It comes with much less guilt and gives a starting point for resolution.
Shift your focus. Do not focus on the expectation. Pay more attention to the benefits and consequences of your actions. It will help you to work towards your goal and acceptance.
I think you should try these out.
-The Caring Counselor