Do you know the exact definition for SHOULD? I didn’t, so I looked it up (thank you Merriam-Webster)…
past of shall
1—used in auxiliary function to express condition <if he should leave his father, his father would die> — Genesis 44:22
2—used in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency <you should brush your teeth after each meal>
3—used in auxiliary function to express futurity from a point of view in the past<realized that she should have to do most of her farm work before sunrise — Ellen Glasgow>
The literal definition implies that the condition you are expressing has already passed. So why do we bother saying we SHOULD do certain things? Looking at definition #2, it appears to be all about obligation and propriety. Definition #3 makes me laugh… expressing futurity from a point of view in the past?! Isn’t that impossible? Or at least wasteful and silly? Don’t we have better things to do in the present than wonder from a past perspective about the future. There’s SHOULD and then there’s IS. What is actual reality? Why are we bothering to argue with reality?
-I should’ve gone to church but instead I slept late and then made pancakes.
-I shouldn’t buy these $250 jeans but they look really good on me, so I am going to anyway.
-I’m on a diet, so I shouldn’t eat that cookie.
-You shouldn’t have slept with him on the first date.
-You shouldn’t jay walk.
Won’t there be real, inevitable consequences or outcomes (good, bad or indifferent), regardless of the SHOULD mind chatter that accompanies decisions we’ve already made or will make anyway? Why do our minds add in this layer of psychological, societal judgement? As children, we don’t even understand SHOULD until our parents teach us. We just experiment and learn by trial and error, based on actual results. You touch the stove, it hurts. You swallow too quickly, you choke. You hit another child, they might hit you back.
Th idea of SHOULD leads to shame. At it’s very core, the intended result of SHOULD is to shame us into doing something we don’t want to do, or shame us into not doing something we’ve already done once, again. But what lies on the other side of SHOULD is RESENTMENT. You do something you don’t want to do, because someone (society?) says you SHOULD, and the resentment builds. And when you feel resentful, you don’t feel at home in your skin, you don’t feel at peace, you don’t feel joy, and you don’t feel connected to others. You feel closed off, misunderstood, sad, and probably pretty angry about it. As a result, you feel an ego based sense of entitlement (not confidence, but ego) because you didn’t get to be yourself in the first place, and now you “deserve” whatever you want. Which funnily enough ends up being whatever you SHOULDN’T want/have/do/be. So instead of not eating the one cookie, you eat the entire box. It’s such a lousy mental cycle and as you can see, it ultimately doesn’t work. And it’s doubly painful.
Can you go around doing whatever you want and hurting people in the process? I’m not advocating that, but you can. Because even this will have an actual effect or result – without the mental chatter overlay. You may lose friends. You may lose your job. You will be probably be very lonely.
So maybe SHOULD doesn’t have to be removed from the dictionary but how about we take the word back? How about we only use it to say I SHOULD do XYZ because I want to, or because it feels right to me, or because I am going to? As Byron Katie says, When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time. So stop SHOULDing, and start DOING (what feels right to you!).
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