Writers, Writing

‘Shoulding’ All Over Myself

I Really Should...Flickr.com by Sookie
I Really Should…Flickr.com by Sookie

I hate the word ‘should,’ but I use it on myself quite a bit.

I should be writing (working on my new manuscript).

I should be reading to improve my writing.

I should find a new book to read. (I did find this fun game to select a book, but twice it selected one I already read).

I should clean the house. I hate cleaning house.

‘Shoulding’ all over myself makes a mess.

Psychologist, Clayton Barbeau, came up with the term “shoulding yourself” to describe this cognitive distortion.

Yes, I feel distorted right about now.

Another psychologist, Albert Ellis, calls it “musterbation.” Yew!

Both say that we get into trouble ‘shoulding’ ourselves when it takes the form of an automatic thought, an abstract meaning an obligation to do something and if we don’t do it we are (or feel) wrong and guilty.

‘Shoulding’ ourselves is like nagging. We don’t need a spouse, or mother, to do this to us. It’s a  self-generated nag that makes us not want to do the task in question.

But there is something more sinister when we use ‘should,’ repeatedly, such as I am doing to myself today. Both psychologists say that the most frequent result of ‘shoulding’ ourselves is procrastination.

Yeah, the big P. That’s it in a nutshell. I’ve just been procrastinating all morning. I’ve been waiting to ‘feel’ like writing, because most of the time I feel like writing. Just not today.

‘Should’ is procrastination in disguise. I have to remind myself that not doing the ‘should’ is a choice. No one is going to suffer irreparable harm if I don’t write, read, or clean my house.

And the act of writing about this ‘shoulding’ and what I’m really doing has given me an epiphany- a light weight one-but one nonetheless: taking a step toward the ‘should,’ begins to propel you towards some sort of accomplishment.

So, I may not have worked on my manuscript, but I did do some writing today.

And that insight makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

So, now I’m going to go find my earbuds, the leash, and take my dog, Chip, out for a walk. Just because I want to do so.

Now go do something you want to do.

2 thoughts on “‘Shoulding’ All Over Myself”

  1. I like that! Never thought of it before in that way, but you’re right “should” implies lots of pressure to do things we don’t want to do. Okay, here I am going on a walk…
    Sometimes we should do to feel good but I’m doing for pleasure. Nice post, Mona.


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