Pathological Shoulds

Pat Greig, a psychologist in private practice, visited my MOPS (Mothers Of Pre Schoolers) group last week. She spoke on the topic of "pathological shoulds". She listed the following "shoulds" that commonly impact women:


My performance should always be perfect

I should never make mistakes

I should always be productive in the use of my time

My life should be easy and hassle free

I should always be in control over events in my life

I should be slim, youthful and attractive

I should be competent and effective in everything I do

I should be doing and achieving more than I am

I should always be totally independent

I should always be bright, positive and cheerful

I should be married or in a committed relationship

I should have a harmonious, loving supportive family

I should be a perfect parent

I should be sexy and have high libido

I should be working

I should have a high status job

I should be witty, interesting and fun to be with

I should like other people

I should have lots of friends

I should always say yes to request from others

I should never be afraid or insecure.


It is of course, perfectly legitimate to have strong preferences... but a "should" or "must" or "have to" makes us stressed, anxious, guilty, or driven. Christians can add another mountain load of "pathological religious shoulds" on top of the expectations listed.


Do you recognise any "shoulds" that impact your life... or "shoulds" that impacted your life in the past? Have you learned to deal with "pathological shoulds" in healthier ways? I'd be interested to hear from you! I'll write more on this topic soon.



Janet said…
I had to challenge a "I should" a couple of weeks ago. I started a new job 2 months ago, and one day I was working on a contact database, and thought I did well. The next day (an RDO) I got a phone call to ask what had happened. 2000 records were deleted from the database. I was sure I couldn't have made that bad of a mistake - guess what! I did.

"I don't make those kind of mistakes" I kept telling myself - until I felt like dirt because I DID made that mistake.

I heard myself tell my daughter - it was my pride that hurt the most - then I realised the base of all my self-loathing ... pride.

I am human like any other person - I would give a colleague more grace than I was giving myself. I had to break down that pride - admit to myself I made a huge mistake - and I am still trying to rectify it.

Sometimes it is easy to see these truths in other people - the trick is to recognise it in yourself!

Janet McKinney
Janet Woodlock said…
Ouch... I feel for you. I think I tend to self-flagellate the most when a stuff-up is out there in public ("what will they think of me?") or when other people are affected ("I've put everyone out because of what I've done... I'm a bad, bad person")

You're right though... it's good to give ourselves the same grace we'd be willing to extend to other people and tell ourselves reasonable messages ("Everyone makes mistakes, and now I've learned something") instead of self-flagellating messages ("clearly I'm a moron"). Easier said than done!

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