Lately, I have been paying attention to the use of the word should, both when I am less mindful and use it and when others “should” all over me.
Why is that word the topic of this article and very much on my mind these days?
Well, I guess that will require some background and some facts about the word to make myself understood, should you care to follow along (pun intended).
Let’s go back to the origins of the word as I found them portrayed through my old friend Google.
Taken from the webpage: www.etymonline.com has it as c. 1200, from Old English sceolde, past tense of sceal (see shall). Preserves the original notion of “obligation” that has all but dropped from shall.
In a world where it seems everyone wants to have a say on how and when things need to get done to be successful in life, it is a marvel that we get any of our tasks and projects completed.
Many of us who have been brought up in an organized religion-based family or taken to church as children will be very familiar with the word “shall.” The Ten Commandments come to mind whenever I hear the word shall. So, it is not too far a leap to begin to make sense of the feeling of dread when one made to think they “should” do this or that, to be perceived this or that, or to get some-THING, some-ONE, or to be some-WAY.
I will not lie, this feels like a restrictive straight jacket to me, and I make a point of saying, “well that may work for you, but it is Not what I would choose, thanks!” Unless of course, it is something I WOULD or COULD choose.
See the difference?
I see and feel more lightness and expansion of the possibilities we all can choose, not what IS chosen for us. We all have our own free will, our own set of values that may or not be changing, and we are all on different parts of the journey…some more tortoise than hare.
Oh, the pressure that we put on each other to ignore our emotional guidance and stuff down our feelings that are inconveniently in the way of what someone else wants. Our emotions are there to tell us when we are going off course, and yet most people blatantly push against our boundaries and expect us to give in to their points of view.
This would be fine IF we did not become trained from a young age to then tell ourselves, “Yes, fine. It’s ok, maybe next time I will do what I want to do”. This is a recipe for a life of painful encounters with others.
Do this enough times, and before we know it, we no longer believe ourselves.
This is where the shame account gets bigger, and we make more and more deposits with very few withdrawals!
I suppose that is why I swore I would never force my children to hug or interact with others, especially off-putting adults, who were making them feel uncomfortable. I grew to dislike that treatment in my childhood immensely! That is not to say that I allowed them to be rude, I just let them to have their say in whether they wanted to extend the handshake or the hug.
I believe my children have way better boundaries of their own then I ended up developing because I have given them the space to listen to their inner knowing. In the end, they will have fewer shame ridden thoughts and be able to show up less fearful in life than I have and live a more pain-free, happy life.
Another example is the expectation of jumping up to do chores on my schedule and telling instead of asking, “Can you please…?”. There is way less friction around this subject in my home because there is respect for the pursuit of creativity which I feel is lacking in schools these days and I have asked myself, where else will they be allowed to explore their passions freely than at home?
In these small ways, we are creating a larger ripple effect that will reach out and touch many as they become adult men and go forth in the world!
Imagine a future where people were allowing others to use their built-in emotional GPS to guide themselves to a higher level of personal freedom. Where we could act as nature does and go with the flow, bend like the willow and enjoy the sunsets.
How much more time are we going to give away to others pleasures and when will we begin to enjoy our soul’s yearnings?
The last thing to say on the word should is the contagion of hopelessness that the mere implication we are obligated to do that thing that another expects from us creates a sense of powerlessness in a world that is shifting its power paradigm.
Perhaps this 12th Century word is due for an upgrade.
What word would you choose instead?