Stop Shoulding Everywhere
We gotta’ go now
For my first year of being stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I had a Marine roommate, who I’ll call “Tyler,” that had a tendency of clogging toilets. Occupants of the adjacent room with whom we shared a lavatory would often complain, though I thought Tyler’s behavior was amateurishly funny.
His penchant for shutting down porcelain thrones wasn’t reserved solely for our barracks, because Tyler put many off-base toilets out of commission, as well. When out to eat one evening, Tyler excused himself from the table and within a relatively short amount of time hurried back to our group.
“We gotta’ go,” he exclaimed. To a gathering of military police (MP) personnel, Tyler’s erratic behavior could’ve alluded to a threat of some kind. When questioned about his insistence to leave, Tyler replied, “I just shut down the toilet and it’s overflowing everywhere. We gotta’ go now!”
Upon leaving Okinawa, it was customary for each MP to receive a farewell plaque which expressed some unique distinction regarding the recipient’s character. Tyler’s keepsake referenced his uncanny ability to obstruct the proper flow of latrine water by way of massive bowel movements.
Some people do not care for crude humor, especially when discussing the seriousness of mental health or illness. I imagine person X reading the story of Tyler and his gnarly deuces, and thinking, “I don’t believe therapists should use boorish humor for serious subject matter.”
In this case, person X maintains a self-disturbing personal narrative that functions as a demand. Using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I assist people with identifying similar commands which are placed on oneself, others, and life.
These unhelpful beliefs often present in the form of should, must, or ought statements. While merely thinking therapists shouldn’t behave in a particular manner isn’t necessarily unproductive, believing such a thing and then experiencing an unpleasant result is another matter altogether.
I want to be precise with my language, because I maintain that the words we use matter, so allow me to differentiate between definitions of thoughts and beliefs. A thought is an idea or opinion produced by thinking, or occurring suddenly in the mind.
I may think, “I like carrots,” and this opinion doesn’t have any emotional impact on me whatsoever. On the other hand, a belief is an acceptance that something is true or that a thing exists, and by placing faith or confidence in someone or something.
Noteworthy, beliefs do not require evidence in order for a person to maintain the validity of something. I may believe, “I’m going to a land of sweets and joy, called Candy Mountain, and I’ll be accompanied by colorful unicorns.”
Though neither thoughts nor beliefs require strict evidentiary claims in order to exist, my belief in Candy Mountain may result in joy, a warm sensation throughout my body, and behavior whereby I jump up and down in excitement. Nonetheless, my belief is entirely irrational.
Rather than moralizing the matter—as some people have expressed to me that they think “irrational” equates to “bad”—when I mention “irrational,” I’m simply referring to that which is not in accordance with logic and reason.
REBT uses the ABC Model to demonstrate how our irrational beliefs can create discomforting consequences, not simply Candy Mountin-esque joyous feelings. Using this model, let’s look at the difference between a thought and a belief in relation to outcomes.
Action – Person X reads about Tyler and his gargantuan poops.
Thought – Person X then thinks, “It’s not necessary for therapists to use vulgar wit for weighty subject matter.”
Consequence – As a result of the thought, person X shrugs off discussion about defecation and carries on about the day.
Here, in the “thought” category, person X expresses an opinion that doesn’t have the value of an emotional, bodily sensation, or behavioral consequence. Because person X’s idea has minimum consequential impact, it isn’t self-disturbing.
Likewise, when learning ABCs in childhood, I didn’t learn to sing, “A, T, C, D, E […],” and so this sort of Action-Thought-Consequence connection doesn’t produce significant disturbance, is inconsequential, and can be dismissed with a mere shrug.
Action – Person X reads about Tyler and his colossal shits.
Belief – Person X then believes, “I don’t believe therapists should use boorish humor for serious subject matter, because people suffer from mental illness symptoms, so I can’t stand that Deric is so flippant in his blogpost!”
Consequence – As a result of the belief, person X becomes angry, experiences an elevated heartrate, and goes onto social media in order to let the individual’s tens of followers know how displeased person X is.
In this example, person X’s preciously maintained conviction (belief) has been violated. Even though I may not have been aware of this person’s existence—let alone belief—and I disagree with the proposed demand, it doesn’t matter to person X, because beliefs of this sort aren’t rational.
Nevertheless, person X’s consequence stems from a belief and not the action. In essence, how Tyler shits doesn’t give person X fits.
Albert Ellis, the originator of REBT, is remembered as having stated, “Shouldhood leads to shithood. You cannot be a shit without a should.” Ellis was well-known for his use of humor while practicing psychotherapy.
According to one source, “The insightful and humorous idiom, ‘Stop shoulding on yourself,’ can be an easy reminder to forgo ‘shoulds’ (akin to the same phrase with an expletive [shit], it implies something unfavorable, unproductive, etc.).”
When we should on ourselves (e.g., I shouldn’t make mistakes), others (e.g., He should’ve returned my call by now), and life (e.g., Life should be easier than this), we’re in for shouldy consequences when our irrational demands aren’t met. Regarding this matter, one source states:
We make things we desire absolute necessities when in fact they are not absolute necessities. [Ellis] called this process of placing absolutistic shoulds on thy self “shoulding” on oneself. He taught that once you “should on yourself” you tend to make an illogical jump to an extreme attitude about the human worth you possess.
An “illogical jump” or logical leap (jumping to conclusions) represents the process of determining hasty conclusions based on insufficient consideration of relevant variables. For instance, the aforementioned person X believes all therapists should behave in a particular way.
This is an illogical jump, because not all attorneys, bakers, barbers, physicians, and certainly not all therapists behave the same. Even in heavily regulated occupational fields, not all of anyone could possibly behave in the same manner, because humans are fallible beings.
Therefore, it isn’t necessary to irrationally and rigidly demand that I shouldn’t use an anecdote—albeit a repugnant one—related to Tyler’s shitting habit and other people’s tendency to use shouldy language. Either way, shitting or shoulding is a messy issue.
Tyler received a commemorative plaque that highlighted his ability to clog toilets, mainly because other MPs thought his behavior was humorous. Regarding the aforementioned filthy situation in which he overflowed a restauranteur’s toilet, Tyler promptly demanded, “We gotta’ go now!”
Use of the word “gotta’” is synonymous with the word “should.” As an example, saying, “You gotta’ respect me,” is the same as demanding, “You should respect me.”
Unlike the humor associated with Tyler’s sharp command, people often inflexibly place demands on themselves, others, and life, as there is little amusement associated with the unhelpful, unhealthy, unproductive, and unfavorable consequences associated with their irrational beliefs.
After all, you don’t have to dump your demands on others, like dropping a stinky load in a toilet. As such, I’m here to help people learn how to become their own plumbers by assisting them to resolve their issues before they overflow, creating an urgent “gotta’ go” situation.
You don’t gotta’ keep disturbing yourself in this manner. Stop shoulding everywhere. Otherwise, you may want to carry around a roll of toilet paper wherever you go, because you’re likely to create many messy situations.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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