The Lost Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself


Ken Donaldson on The Lost Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself

The Lost Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself

I should do that.

I should’ve done that.

I shouldn’t have done that.


You should do that.

You should’ve done that.

You shouldn’t have done that.


They should do that.

They should’ve done that.

They shouldn’t have done that.


There’s a lot of “shoulding” going on these days. How odd, then, that with all this shoulding activity, that “shoulding” doesn’t even show up as a “real” word in my spellcheck, or in most of the mainstream online vocabulary resources.

Nonetheless, all this shoulding is getting very messy. For example:

  • Shoulding provokes people to feel unnecessary guilt.
  • Shoulding invites people to feel unworthy and shameful.
  • Shoulding enables people to feel like a failure and rejected.
  • Shoulding is at the core of many relational power-struggles, conflicts and, eventually, relationship dissolution.

Your inner-should-er (not to be confused with shoulder…spellcheck!!) is NOT your friend.

What is the origin of this guilt-provoking, “I’m feeling like a failure”-creating, and relationship-destroying force?

Quick digression: Let’s start with the literal meaning and origin of “should.”

From the Merriam Webster online dictionary:

Should, \shəd, shu̇d\

verbal auxiliary \shəd, shu̇d\

past of shall

1:   ought to <They should be here soon.>

2:  happen to <If you should see them, say hello for me.>

3:  used as a more polite or less assured form of shall <Should I turn the light out?>

Origin of SHOULD

Middle English sholde, from Old English sceolde owed, was obliged to, ought to

First Known Use: before 12th century


I love the Old English origin: “owed, was obliged to, ought to.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

I’m sure in those days, before the 12th century, “should” was used in the context of integrity and respect. And THAT sounds awesome!

However, as often is the case, this definition and the spirit of the way the word, should, has been used has drastically changed.

Somewhere along the line someone figured out that it could be used as a powerful manipulation tool!

You should do this!” or “You shouldn’t have done that!

(Bringing back any childhood memories?? Sorry about that!)

Yes, insinuating guilt via the almighty “Should” is indeed a very powerful way to get people to do things.

There, however, is one very serious problem with the guilt-provoking method of motivation:

It creates resentment!

But wait! It gets even worse! That internal, highly-critical little-voice to yourself is even more destructive. And even though, quite like getting “should on” from an external source, “shoulding on yourself” may get you into action, there again is one very serious problem:

It creates resentment AND plants the seeds for one to begin questioning your self-worth.

Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself! I’m not a religious person, so quoting or interpreting the Bible, or any other Holy Book, is certainly way out of my area of expertise. BUT, I think most people (everyone so far of whom I’ve asked over the last 30 years) have some idea of the story of the 10 Commandments.

Actually, I think there were at least 12 Commandments, with the 11th being at the heart of this writing:

Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself

And the 12th, which actually enables this suggested 11th Commandment:

Thou Shalt NOT Compare Thyself To Others

(I’d like to also insert here a BIG proactive and sincere apology to all who I may have offended by questioning the reliability of the Bible.)

Clearly, I was not consulted about these matters, but I’ve had a number of “conversations” with the “Collective Consciousness” about these two missing Commandments.

So far there has been no resolution. But I plan to keep engaged in the conversation with CC.

Now that I may have spent probably too much time (I should have been more succinct…see what I mean?!!) on describing the problem, what then is the solution?

It’s simple, but not necessarily easy (my most common, and favorite, response when my clients want to know how to change their thinking and/or behavior pattern). In fact, it comes down to 3 simple words:

Replace the should.

See, you can’t get any simpler than that, right?!!

However, having the awareness and the know-how to intervene; now that’s the “not so easy” part. But here’s a simple (but not necessarily easy) process that I commonly refer to as:

 The EQ (Emotionally Intelligent) 5 Step Dance






Rocket science, right?!!

When you stop, pause, think, choose and respond, you begin to break the “automatic thinking” patterns, and have the opportunity to insert new empowered responsive patterns.

In other words, when you live The EQ Five Step, you live more intentionally, consciously and purposely.

You respond instead of react.

Reactions come from the most primal part of the brain, the survival and protection reptilian brain, and therefore they are often irrational and overly emotional.

Responses, on the other more friendly hand, are run through the parts of the brain that can make more rational choices and discern between a real threat and only perceived threat, therefore allowing a much more calm, centered, logical, appropriate and grounded response.

Now, go practice all this because practice makes…____________________ (what)??

NOT perfect, but permanent.

Yes, practicing makes permanent changes in the way you think, respond, feel and live.

So practice the 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself

(Or anyone else!)


…and, of course, Marry YourSelf First!



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