"Pathological Shoulds" II
When we are young, our mothers (or other primary carers) drill into us all kinds of norms, boundaries, and expectations. We should wash our hands after using the toilet. We should clean our teeth twice a day. We should not hit, yell at, call names to or generally abuse other people. We should listen when others speak. We should take turns. As we grow older other expectations are drilled into us: to cooperate with our teachers, to look after our things, to do our homework, to get a job, to pay our taxes. These kinds of expectations are necessary for our well-being and for the good of society. A child brought up with weak or chaotic boundaries is likely to turn into a sociopath. It is as if we need a certain amount of "law" internalized and translated into good habits in order to be a fully functional member of society.
So when is a "should" pathological? Perhaps when circumstances change? (e.g. I feel compelled to vacuum and clean the bathroom and wash the floors every day... but now I'm working full time and I'm exhausted and crazy trying to do it all). Perhaps when it's a compulsion? (I can never, ever, relax about this). Perhaps when we have very unrealistic "shoulds" driving us to feel like a failure, because we cannot keep up with the harsh taskmaster in our heads? Perhaps when our stress levels are spiraling out of control?
I'm not a psychologist so I don't feel I know "the answers"... I just have questions. What is a "pathological should"? What does a healthy expectation of ourselves look like?