Lately I have been noticing so many “shoulds” and “should nots” going on in my own mind. I am sure most people have heard the pithy piece of advice, “Stop shoulding on yourself.”Well, I have been “shoulding” all over myself recently and it’s time to take a closer look at that pattern. This time of isolation has given me the leisure to spend plenty of time to allow my mind to wander, to just see where the default of my brain chooses to go.
As I noted in an earlier post, my negativity bias was installed early and has been a powerful part of my life. For a number of years, I have worked – very hard – to repattern that bias and it really has worked. But deep down, when I am tired or inattentive, the default still goes down the rabbit hole of negative thinking.
Today I realized that when my negative inner dialogue starts to take over, the overwhelming pattern is one of “should” and “should not.” There is some part of me that seems to be focused on some cosmic list of what is appropriate and what is not. I remember, back in the mid 80s, I stage managed a production of the play “Inherit The Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. I have always remembered this quote by the character of Henry Drummond:
“ . . . one of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of morality we have placed on human behavior: so that every act of man must be measured against an arbitrary latitude of right and longitude of wrong – in exact minutes, seconds, and degrees!”From “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence/Robert E. Lee
It seems like somewhere in my consciousness is a little imp of some kind that does exactly what that quote describes. I think or say or do something, then I hear an inner voice say to me, “You should not be doing that” or “You should do that instead” or some variation of those.
- You should eat a healthy breakfast every day.
- You should be more productive when you have all this extra time.
- You should not complain – your life is much better than most people.
- You should not drink so much alcohol.
- You should not eat so many starchy carbs.
- You should exercise more.
- You should lose weight.
- You should not spend so much time online.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Ad nauseum.
During this time of quarantine, I have so much more time to myself with no option but to just listen to my own inner dialogue. Yes, I meant dialogue – not monologue. It may sound schizophrenic, but the voices in my head are not just one voice going on and on and on. It’s me talking to myself and actually having full conversations. I am actually a witty sparkling conversationalist in my own mind.
Today, I have been frustrated by this judgmental voice – the once that keeps “shoulding” all over me. I don’t have any answers on how to silence this voice, but at least now I have become aware of it and realize that it’s there.
Part of my mission during all of this transition in my life is to work actively to be more kind – both to myself and to others. But today, the kindness to myself is the important focus. I cannot silence these inner voices – they are part of me and have been there for my entire life. But at least now I can hear them more clearly and know when they are positive and when they are not.
Incrementally, I can start to notice – stop – assess – repattern.
I now understand that it’s time to stop “shoulding” all over myself.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.