the siren of “should”

As usual, something interesting came into my view a little bit before I was getting ready to write today. Actually, there were a few somethings, and they all had to do with should.

One was an article that referred to shoulds as a siren. Another referenced shoulds as a method to prompt us to behave differently. I decided to play with both ways of looking at shoulds – as siren and prompt.

Come play with me…

Okay, first the siren. There are two images of siren that fit here. The first is the enticing, alluring siren-of-the-sea from Greek mythology, the temptress that leads us to crash on the rocks. Oh wow, does that image speak to me! All the things that I should or should not do, be, feel, think, want, buy call out to me with an almost irresistible song of temptation.

The second image is the warning siren, the loud wailing or clanging noise of warning like a fire alarm, or an ambulance. When I recognize that I am shoulding, I hear the warning bells go off inside my head: “Danger, Will Robinson!” Or more accurately, “Danger, Maggie, you are about to play by someone else’s rules!” That’s actually kinda helpful information. Maybe we can pull over until it passes.

So then what about the siren as a prompt? I’m going to shift it up a bit. I don’t think that shoulds usually prompt me to behave in a way that is right or good for me. So instead of a behavior prompt, I’m going to think of them as a set of thinking or writing prompts. Here goes:

  1. Notice: Ah. Siren goes off. I have just encountered had a relatively major should usage, (as opposed to a minor turn of phrase, such as “I should wash my hands.”)
  2. Answer any of these prompts:

What just prompted me to think that? Was it an external cue, such as social media scrolling, advertising, a visual cue, a comment? Was it an internal cue, such as a habit or belief?

How does this should make me feel?

Why do I believe that I should do whatever that thing is?

If I do the should, what would be different?

Do I even want to believe that?

What do I really want to think/feel/believe?

Try it on. Does it feel awkward? Why? Am I afraid? Of what?

This is a way to go deeper. Deep down, what’s the thing I’m afraid to say out loud – even to myself.

So what can I do now? Maybe that’s enough. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Thing is, I’ve just given myself the gift to decide what I want to do – not what I should do.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love and light,

Maggie

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I have room for a couple of one-on-one clients right now. Send me an email if you’d like to talk: maggie@maggiehuffman.com

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