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Shoulds and Shouldn’ts

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Looking at the world without preconceived notions and a list of shoulds and shouldn'ts.

Looking at the world without preconceived notions and a list of shoulds and shouldn’ts.

I must be a bit cranky today. If so, I blame it on the weather which is showing a miserable face today. With glowering gray skies that threaten and sometimes deliver on rain which is not needed by my garden and lawns any longer, as well as a cold breeze that makes cool temperatures feel even colder, I am spending the day, grumpily, reading the words of others who are complaining. I hear their voices pleading for justice or for some reality that they feel should exist, a demand for their rights accompanied by lofty idealism. Their voices sometimes wear me out. They are so focused on shoulds and shouldn’ts that they fail to honour what is in front of their faces.

Yes, people should be kind; babies should be healthy and live almost forever; husbands and wives should be faithful and in love forever after; and the list goes on and on and on. Who wouldn’t want the world to be perfect as they see it? The problem is we don’t all see the same world the same way. So we take positions, build philosophies, religions, social systems and legal systems in order to try to line up everyone in straight rows following the straight path. In fact, it is hard to find even one other person who will agree fully with whatever ultimate order each of us might conceive. And naturally, we become somewhat angry and resentful towards the world and the people in it, frustrated that even our own people don’t seem to get it.

And so, we go to war on so many different levels trying to convert the world and the people in it. We use passive-aggressive strategies to have our way in our families and among our friends. We try bribery to win over the hearts and minds of our children. We use guilt and shame when bribery fails. We work hard at this work and find out that where success has happened, it is worthless, for even we have abandoned the original truths in favour of new truths.

Shoulds and shouldn’ts are about control, not about being authentically oneself. Shoulds and shouldn’ts are about ego, about fleeing from the shadows that haunt us, especially those shadows we find within ourselves, shadows we project onto others whom we then beat up with words, with sanctions and sometimes with bullets and bombs.

I am not all that much different as I have a list of shoulds and shouldn’ts that I impose of myself. And, if given power, I might even try to impose them on others in a mistaken belief that I know best. The world of shoulds and shouldn’ts raises up a heat within me. If I am lucky I see the signs and make an effort to take my seat on a cushion and meditate. If I am luckier, the meditation soothes that heat and the world of shoulds and shouldn’ts retreats back into a dark corner where it will lurk waiting for another moment of weakness.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

June 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Jungian Psychology

One Response

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  1. Robert,

    Your message reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from anthropologist & ethnobotanist Wade Davis, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”



    Bill Rathborne

    June 16, 2014 at 6:24 am

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