009: Three Little Words That Can Mess up Your Life (Part 1) — Should

Are you “shoulding” all over yourself? The word “Should” happens to be one of the most insidious in the English language. In today’s episode, we talk about how:

  • Psychoanalyst Karen Horney called “The Tyranny of the Should” this tendency to create an idealized self and a rejection of the real self.
  • Albert Ellis spoke about the three kinds of “musts.”
  • Using the word “should” is conveying criticism, like “scolding” oneself (or others).
  • The value statements implied by that word are arbitrary and relative.
  • The laws of Nature do not follow any “should,” but instead are what they are, and we don’t get a vote.


  1. Rephrasing — replacing “should” with “is” or “does” or “I would prefer it if…”
  2. Reattribution — considering the alternative causes of events and behaviors.
  3. Positive Reframing — acknowledging that Should Statements come out of a very good place in you, that they reflect positive attributes and values, and that there is a helpful side to holding those beliefs.

See Also

  1. The Tyranny of the Should, by Karen Horney
  2. The Three Major “Musts”, by Albert Ellis
  3. shall (v.), the Online Etymology Dictionary

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