Here’s how it goes down: A thought comes – “Mmm, oh, it would be nice to eat a cookie. A warm, chocolate-chip cookie.” Simple. Unless you put a “simple” thought like that through the mind of an adult-child! Drum roll, boom-boom – enter doubting, unsure, cocked for battle adult-child Brain: But…should I eat it?
What if I then start to buy one every day…?
Do actually deserve a treat?
I’m running late today and now I want to spend five more minutes to buy a treat I don’t even deserve? Who do I think I am? And since I don’t truly know how to estimate how long things actually take – it’ll probably take an hour to buy the cookie…
A bit exhausting. A bit silly. And totally unnecessary (with practice).
We tend to wonder, “What’s the right course of action?” during times when life puts opportunity and choices in our path. (Actually, it’s more accurate to say when we intersect with opportunity, because I don’t believe it’s Life’s job to dole out our opportunities; it’s for us to make opportunities happen, to push the air that surrounds us with our movement and energy, and thereby create the ripest environment in which opportunity can grow.) Something happens–a job opportunity at your friend’s company, a surprise love interest through a mutual friend, or–especially–an inner, personal realization about what you truly want–and while your gut/heart/mind are clear on what you want, you don’t listen.
We don’t know how to listen to our gut properly. Instead of mucking about in the soul, heart or gut, we hike up into our minds and think it away. We think the opportunity into a twisted shape, an oblivion.
The word should shows up in my own vocabulary in many more ways that as itself, as should. There’s what if, there’s what will they think, they’ll say things, But if I do this…etc. It’s not our fault. We then ask, “What ‘should’ I do?” as we try to figure out an interaction or response, it’s not surprising that we distance ourselves; we were trained from a very young age to receive our answers from our parents and not from inside ourselves. For us it was safest for us to behave in the accepted way in order to get our basic child needs met. So we don’t have much practice (if any) with identifying our gut instincts and following them. That, and, when we take opportunities change is inevitably involved, and we tend to be change-adverse because it activates so many unresolved traumas. We become confused about the source of our anxiety during change – whether it’s from the current situation or is past trauma transposed upon the present.
The Should Press.
When I put a decision through The Should Press (think Dr. Seuss and the wacky, twisted machines that press-on and remove stars from the bellies of Sneeches)–in doing so, I stamp “should” all over the idea and thereby alienate myself from not just the opportunity but also from being in touch with what, for me, is real.
The shoulding happens lightning-fast, right? Pretty much the minute we have a desire, we stamp it with shoulds.
It once took me two years to decide to apply to earn a Masters Degree in creative writing. And it once took a year for me to break-up with someone I shouldn’t have been in a relationship with. While I don’t regret the time it took to go for the degree and I truly treasure memories from the relationship, I wasn’t acting on what I really wanted at the time. The Should Press stamped many paralyzing thoughts onto my wants – A creative writing degree won’t make me a writer, What if I’m actually avoiding writing somehow by going to school, What if only a totally crappy college accepts me, What if I miscalculate my budget and truly can’t afford it, What if self-sabotage and turn in my applications late? What if I’m a fool to think that I can write well? Such thoughts contributed to a two-year delay in going for it. With the relationship I didn’t truly desire, it was true psych-ops at work in my mind: I willingly made out with him, I can’t just turn around and say, “Oh, never-mind,” I can’t deal with the awkwardness of hurting someone I work with every day, I got myself into this mess – I should see it through, I’m just being silly and afraid of love, and, oh, the over-the-top sign of a twisted self-doubter, What if my gut is wrong and I don’t know what I really want?
What are your shoulds? What are you stories of action-delay?
If you honor your gut and listen to what you really want while also being a kind and loving self-parent to yourself, own your crap (take responsibility) — you can’t go wrong. Really! It’s a fool-proof system.
Buy the cookie. Enjoy it. If the next day and the next you also buy one, or that you’re dragging people along and buying more and more, then it’s time for your inner, kind and loving self-parent to pipe up and say, “I think you may want to cool it a bit on the cookies so that you don’t wind up feeling like an over-sugared slave to cookies…” Or, “Are you avoiding feeling something…?” Trust that you will take care of yourself, listen to yourself, and stick-up for yourself – we CAN learn to act from a place of self-trust. Another example: Once you learn techniques for how to end conversations (without guilt!) when you’re done with the conversations, you’ll no longer dread falling into conversation with people.
What is your gut telling you that you actually want? Go for it -
…no matter what anyone might say.
…no matter what anyone might secretly think.
…no matter what anyone might do.
It’s your life. ‘They’ don’t live it. Only you do.
When you give yourself permission to honor your gut and listen to and honor what your actually want/feel/think, you will experience a send of lightness and freedom that is beautiful, if infrequent till now. The other nice surprise to it, when we act on our truth, we suddenly find that we don’t give a damn about the shoulds anymore – we don’t have to manage them because they evaporate.
The answers are inside.
Be kind to yourself.