“Should”ing On Your Loved Ones

Last week I talked about how using the word “should” when you talk to yourself about your own personal tasks and goals can create a sense of obligation.  This week I’m going to talk about what we create for ourselves when we transfer that sense of obligation onto those we love.

It’s very normal to have expectations of other people in our lives and, in my experience, the closer we are with another person, the more expectations we tend to have.  These can be small expectations like hanging up the bathroom towels after you shower to large expectations like the way your loved one supports you in your life and your career.

There’s just one problem with those expectations: you have no control over whether or not they are met.  That is because, no matter how much you try, you have no control over the actions of others even those to whom you are closest.

Other adult humans get to behave in whatever way they believe serves them even if you see things differently.

“Should”ing on others causes you to give up control over your own emotional state to those around you.  Let’s look at an example.

I live with my husband.  I believe that, after a person showers, that person “should” hang up the towel that was just used on the rack to dry.  If he does that, I’ve set myself up to feel satisfied or pleased.  If he doesn’t do that, I’ve set myself up to feel annoyed or angry.  It’s important to note here that my feelings have nothing to do with where the towels end up after he showers.  They have everything to do with the fact that by setting up a belief of how he should behave, I have handed over control of my emotions to his behavior.

I don’t enjoy feeling angry or annoyed with my loved ones.  What we’ve been taught is that to prevent this we just need our loved ones to stop doing things that make us angry or annoyed.  What we learn from this work, however, is that there is nothing our loved ones can do that make us feel that way.  It’s our thoughts and beliefs about the things they do that create those feelings. 

So often we can get caught in a “should”ing trap.  Let’s say I have a difficult day at work.  I get home and I think that my husband “should” be able to see that I’m upset.  He “should” ask me about my day.  He “should” sit and listen to me while I tell him about my day.  He “should” commiserate with me.  He “should” try to fix things and make me feel better.  Can you see how I’ve “should”ed my  husband right into an emotional minefield?  One misstep from him and BOOM!

No one feels better when that bomb goes off.

How do I get out of this pattern you ask?  Again, it comes down to letting go of the word “should”.  It creates a completely different emotional response when I think about something I would like my loved one to do rather than about something they “should” do.  If I would like my husband to ask about my hard day and yet he doesn’t, he hasn’t broken an unspoken “should” rule.  Rather than getting upset at his lack of insight, I can simply ask him if he would be willing to let me tell him about my day so I can decompress. 

You free yourself from this pattern by letting go of your rules about how other people in your life should act.  When you find those “shoulds” coming up, ask yourself again why you believe that your loved one should act that way?  Most of the time it’s because we believe that, if our loved ones act a certain way, then we will feel better, but that’s a lie.

The only way you will ever feel better is to think thoughts that create better feelings.  I’d like to offer that releasing the emotional responsibility for the actions of others back to them is one of the most liberating things you will ever do.  When you let go of the “shoulds” you have for others, you free yourself from their control.

If you’d like to learn more about how to do this sign up for my free course How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  The reach out to me via email at hello@unicorndoctor.com to learn more about how coaching can help..