Goodbye “Should”

by elizabethbrantley

I recently read in Nonviolent Communication that the act of thinking or saying “should” is actually a very violent act against ourselves. The word “should” implies that we have no choice.  The very idea and act of choosing is the basis for all freedom. Therefore, creating a situation where there is only one answer makes us each a slave to our “should”.

If the violence of “should” is that we deny there are other options, or rather we deny ourselves a choice in everything, then would we find greater peace and happiness, if we started developing the habit of seeing our choices?

I experimented with this this morning. I fought the “shoulds”. I fought the persistent voice that keep claiming I should be doing something. That this was not right. That I was lazy or stupid. I fought it.

Drew had to get up early this morning, and so he did. I was still in bed when he was leaving the house (6:45 am) and I found this guilt engulf my body. “I should be getting up now”. “I should have a job that I need to get to this early.” “I shouldn’t still be tired.”

Then I stopped. “Wow!” What was my internal dialogue going to be if I took out all these “shoulds”?

The remarkable thing was that without allowing myself to say or think “should” I became much more gentle! I didn’t even know how hard I was being on myself! Suddenly, I found myself asking, “Do you want to get out of bed?” “Is it pressing you get up now, or could you use this hour to catch up on some sleep, since after today the week gets a busier?”

Then I noticed myself using a phrase that I rarely used in this situation. “Are you joyfully willing to begin this day?” “Are you joyfully willing to get up now?”

I found the answer was a definitive “No!”. So guess what. I didn’t. I indulged in staying in bed, fighting the shoulding voice, declaring that today, I would get up when I was joyfully willing to do so.

In an hour or so, after sleeping, meditating, clearing my mind. I found I was there. I was at the space where I was excited and ready to get the day going.

Instead of rushing my shower, which I often feel is something I “should” do. I lingered. I lit a candle. I even turned it into a bath for a few minutes! Any time I felt I “should” do something, I had to say “no”, sometimes even out loud to get the full message across to myself.

By 9 o’clock, having worked against my “shoulds” I found myself fully ready for the day, showered, done the dishes, started laundry, taken out the trash, cleaned the bedroom, almost effortlessly. Each action I had taken came from a place of joyful willingness. It was a choice, and I had full right and liberty to choose not to do it.

I am amazed at the amount of time I now have and the clarity and peace I am experiencing during this day of not “shoulding” myself. My list of “to-dos” is more a reminder of some things that I hope to get done today, as I am working on my relationship to this list. I have to see each of those little bullet points as a choice. My choice. Each one is not necessary, each is not vital to my success, my day, my job, my progression. They are each ideas and choices I make to move me forward, to help me get my work done.

This is still very hard, but I am working on it. The imprisonment of “should” has held my mind for some time and it is hard to simply change. So I look, instead, even at this process. “Are you joyfully willing to change your “shoulding” ways? Are you joyfully willing to experience a life of more peace?”