A Peer’s Perspective: The Ritual of Should (by Jill Davis)

“When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself” –Plato

I have been looking forward to the long-awaited film adaptation of Stephen King’s book about Derry, Maine and the sinister entity that has lurked forever in the town. Over the years, so the story goes, there is a ritual that is said to destroy this persistent pest and although it has been tried with fervor over the centuries, it fails once again when the eager protagonists attempt it in this present day encounter. I wonder if you are aware of yet another ritual that has failed for many when facing the pervasive monster of negativity — the ritual of SHOULD.  How does this mindset keep people stuck in a cycle that doesn’t work?

There have been countless times I have said or thought things like “I should eat healthier, I should go to bed earlier, I should have said that when I had the chance, I should have known I couldn’t follow through!”  If I could see heads nodding in agreement now I wonder how many I’d see!  The ritual of should is a very common practice and fails us each and every time by leaving a door wide open for guilt and negative thinking to enter. It also allows the feelings of defeat to fester and grow and throw a blow to self-esteem and worth, as well as leaves regret laden on the doormat.

The movie version of King’s story captures this well yet we have the ability to change our unproductive rituals.  What are some steps that can be used to change the outcomes? I’m glad you asked!

  1. Show yourself compassion when things don’t work the way you planned. There is great power in being kind to yourself. My reaction used to be one of feeding myself a regular diet of pointed fingers and punitive thoughts. As you can well imagine, this kept me steeped in a rather dismal frame of mind. It was only when I became aware of this pattern that I was able to begin changing it.
  2. Watch your self-talk.  Imagine if you will, your best friend sitting in a chair across from you.  This person who is near and dear to your heart has been going through a challenging time and has come to you for support and encouragement. This would be readily given as this person holds a place of importance in your life. Now, imagine you are sitting in the chair across from you and remember that you are of no less importance than your beloved friend and deserve the same level of support and encouragement!
  3. Practice mindful restating of the facts rather than charging your words with emotion. For example, if I forget to pay a bill on time, I could say “I’m so stupid, I should have paid that and then I wouldn’t have to deal with the late fees, I can’t do anything right!” I could also change the narrative I tell myself and say something like “I wasn’t able to get my bill paid on time this month and it could mean some additional cost will need to be added. This will be a bit rough. I’ll do my best to manage the difficulty and I will plan better next time. I know I can get through this.”

Developing new thought patterns takes time, so I encourage you to be patient with yourself as you are well worth the investment! Life isn’t scripted like a movie, yet you have the power to edit the script so that you can achieve a better day. Who knows, it may change in such a way that you’ll look to create a sequel!

Jill Davis is Peer Services Coordinator for Mind Springs Health and gratified by hearing from her readers.  Drop her a line at Peers@MindSpringsHealth.org