Shoulds and oughts
We all, at times, think to ourselves something like, ‘I shouldn't do this‘ or ‘I ought to feel that‘ and generally we follow that inner voice because we want to do the right thing. It probably doesn't even occur to us to question it. Well, of course, I'm going to suggest that we do! I'm going to suggest that every single time we have the words ‘should‘ or ‘ought‘ in our minds, we are in danger of following a message which doesn't belong to us but which was put there by someone else.
Who could do this? We‘re free to make our own decisions, aren't we? We are, yes, but we've all been socialsed in order to be able to make friends and co-operate generally. And, as children, we wanted our parents and teachers approval (mostly!). They taught us right from wrong and we did what we were told (again, mostly). In those teachings were messages containing all sorts of shoulds and oughts, whether they were explicitly stated or silently implied.
As adults, we still carry those messages and probably live by them. But are they right for us still? If you were taught as a child that answering back is wrong, does that apply when, as an adult, someone treats you poorly? If it was somehow assumed that, when you grew up and your parents became elderly, you would look after them? Do you have to do this unquestioningly, no matter what the state of your relationship with them and notwithstanding your other desires or commitments?
You know I‘m going to invite you to reflect on your own inner shoulds and oughts. Are you really doing the things that are right for you or just following old edicts which no longer apply? They might be exactly the same but it's worth checking...
Related articles from our experts
Katie Leatham Individual and Couples Counsellor/ Supervisor BACP Accred, UKRCPJune 20th, 2017
Eugene Gallagher BSc (Hons), MBA, MA, MBACPJune 21st, 2017
Yvonne Fitzpatrick-Grimes BA (Hons) Dip. MBACP.June 20th, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.