Are you shoulding? (and the 7 step ‘Should process’ for when you are)
I find it fascinating how, we are the way that we are (how could we not be?) yet most of the time, we give ourselves a hard time with this idea that we ‘should’ be different.
When we give ourselves a should we tell ourselves that what we are or what we are doing is somehow not good enough, we conjure up a parallel reality where there is a perfect self, who does all the perfect things, makes all the perfect decisions etc…..
Yes I should eat less, smoke less, do more, earn more, exercise more, be thinner, smarter, sexier etc. be more organized/successful/relaxed/loving/knowledgeable/whatever.
Do any of these babies sound familiar? Or do you perhaps have your own unique cocktails of ‘shoulds’ ?
Isn’t it tiring?
(Take a nice deep breath in and out now please).And now ask yourself; are you ready to give up the mind f*** and the fight and break out of the ‘should paradigm? Once and for all?’
Lets break it down…yes, there are so many ways we ‘should’ ourselves, but essentially they are all the same, a denial of the way things are, of who we are, right now. It is a way of arguing with reality, of moving out of our experience and into ‘the should paradigm’, which, quite frankly sucks. This image of how we ‘should’ be, has the power to tyrannize us and keep us feeling generally incredibly inadequate.
I wonder, why would we want to make ourselves wrong for being who we are?
I wonder who the hell designed the ‘way things should be’ and I also wonder why we fall for it.
I figure it is probably because we were trained into it, introduced to the should paradigm at an early age by those who knew no better, by those who were also conditioned to should themselves and question their innate self worth, those who were also not offered a way to connect to a sense of wonder and contentment with life as is it and who are, right now. We have been conditioned into thinking that the ‘shoulding’ is in the service of self improvement, but really, it is more like a thinly disguised form of bullying, showing up in sneakily and subtle forms of self criticism. Living under the weight of ‘shoulds’ is heavy because when we ‘should’ we keep on reinforcing the notion that we are not good enough. Often these patterns were adopted when we were very young and are usually so ingrained that somewhere along the way we forgot to recognize them as optional.
Of course some would pipe up and say that if we did not ‘should’ we would just become lazy and irresponsible. The way I see it is that there are different ways to inspire change that are not about making us feel bad but rather about motivating us to move towards what makes us feel good. Simple really. When we contemplate change because we ‘should’ it feels like a chore. If we begin with the notion that we are not good enough and we really should be doing something about it, then doesn’t that feel a bit heavy and hopeless? A bit of an uphill struggle on the road to ‘getting it right? Isn’t that how so many of us feel so much of the time living in the ’not good enough-must improve it’ paradigm so favoured and promoted by consumerist culture.
So what if we changed the program completely?
When we come from the basic belief that we are not good enough and get stuck in patterns self negating that confirm this, then we forget to enquire into exactly who we are and where we are right now. And thus a simple yet supremely revolutionary way out of the should paradigm is to have the kindness and the curiosity to really enquire into where we are at, and why, in an open non-judgemental way. We can learn to enquire into our reality with an attitude of acceptance and from that place we can ask ourselves a few pertinent questions.
What is important to me? (a fantastic one to chew on at length).
Can I accept that I am really quite fabulous just as I am?
What is so important to me that I might need to make some lifestyle tweaks and choices?(for example cutting out sugar/meditating in the morning or whatever)
How would I feel if I made these changes?
How can I implement changes in a way that feels fun and nourishing?
Doesn’t that feel better than ‘I should…….’ And perhaps more effective too?
When we accept our intrinsic enough-ness and actually begin to feel this in our bodies, as a living fact of the beauty and extraordinariness of being alive, then when we contemplate making changes it comes from a sense of empowerment. If we commit ourselves to doing something because we want to and because we can feel why we want to choose a kinder way of living then making changes is less like a chore and more like a choice, a commitment we are happy to make even if sometimes it is hard along the way. It is easier to muster up enthusiasm about something that we have decided with love. Instead of wasting out energy chastising ourselves we can live our lives as an open living enquiry into what feels good and natural and juicy for us-yum!
Believe me, it is so much more fun that way.
It really does make sense to stop arguing with the way things are and that includes the way we are. And that means opening ourselves wide enough to embrace our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths, to value ourselves in our many expressions and of trusting that we are incapable of ‘getting it wrong’ and starting from where we are instead.
To understand this usually involves going beyond a whole life’s worth of conditioning-I know for me it has. To stop ‘shoulding’ we have to even give up the idea that we ‘should’ stop shoulding!! ha! to drop out of the should paradigm involves dropping out of our heads and into our hearts and into an immediate felt experience of our bodies, and that is a moment to moment practice.
We are a work in progress, can we just accept that? And yes sometimes we do need to reflect on ourselves and possibly give ourselves a little kick up the ass, but can we do this with kindness? Can we invite in change without stress, without condemning where we are in the process of becoming? Can we allow ourselves to live and thrive in a should free reality through constantly connecting to what feels good to us?
I would say YES and that it is in fact our responsibility to change the program and let ourselves ‘off the hook’, both for ourselves and the little people who are coming after us. Life can be a playful journey of self-discovery. When we move out from the weight of should we are free to grow and change naturally. And how does it feel to live in a should free reality? It feels great, it feels spacious, it feels intuitive and creative and joyful!
We become FREE to move with the natural flow of life force that wants to express itself through us, in wonderful ways, all the time, if only we are ready and willing to open our hearts to who we are.
Here is your take home should process
1. Notice when you are ‘shoulding’.
2. Notice how it makes you feel (take the time to feel the feelings in your body).
3. Can you find a ‘deeper should’ –a negative belief that you may have about yourself that is underneath that should (for example-I am lazy, I am irresponsible).
4. What positive life-affirming statement could replace this ‘deeper should’, a positively framed statement that allows for glimmers of possibility to shine into your awareness.
5. How does this new statement (or you could call it a prayer..) make you feel in your body?
6. Continue to use your body as a reference point. Allow a sense of ease to guide you to the choices that support your growth and your joy
7.keep on coming back to the enquiry and orientating yourself in the direction of what you love and trust. And enjoy the process!
And I leave you with the wise words of Byron Katie, that magnificent woman who woke up out of a deep depression one morning and fell wildly in love with everything. A woman who has made her way out of the ‘should paradigm’. She shows us that it is possible and reminds us of the basic reason we choose to live in another way.
“I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.” ~ Byron Katie.
Yep, it is simple really; lets stop arguing and start loving.