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Do you SHOULD all over yourself?: Part 1


Its a five letter word no one wants to talk about or deal with, yet its one I find myself talking about (or dancing around) over and over each week…simply because of the ways not talking about it has played out in people’s lives. Usually it comes about being discussed in my office because of the way people “should” all over themselves in session.

Isn’t that what we do with shame? We “should” all over ourselves….

I should lose 5 pounds…I should do something more productive…I shouldn’t be telling that person “no”…I should have told that person “no”…I shouldn’t eat so many M&Ms…I should exercise...I probably should have done that yesterday……I should be good enough to…I should be everything to everyone at all times…


The “tyranny of the shoulds,” ruled by an unrealistic view of what one should do and be, stems from an effort to motivate oneself through guilt and shame. Ironically, it only serves to perpetuate the very cycle of guilt and shame that we despise and that wounds us so.

When directed towards others (i.e. “they should (insert some expectation we have of others in order to fulfill our needs) ) it leaves us feeling angry, frustrated, and resentful.

When directed towards ourselves, because this ideal is unattainable, it does the same; although, often times this anger is turned inward, resulting in, for instance, anxiety, depression, and other distressing symptoms. Albert Ellis, the grandfather of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, considered this “tyranny of the shoulds” an irrational belief.

Shame is unique in the way it attacks us at our core.

While guilt says, “what I did is bad,” the crux of shame says, “I am bad.”

Shame causes us to run and hide behind our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It causes us to reach for our go to, comfortable emotions (which for me is anger, by the way). I like anger, it gives me the gift of strength in my effort to fight the shame. The problem is, alone, this weapon is never enough because it doesn’t encourage me to examine what is really going on with me or to combat that internal dialogue with Truth.

You see, shame’s ultimate message is, “I’m unacceptable.”

It means something is wrong with me at the deepest level of my identity.

This is the first post in a series about Shame ... see Part 2

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