I am cursed.
I am haunted. Every day thousands of Shoulds attack me and mess up with my life.
Fight with Shoulds sucks lifeblood out of me and leaves me apathetic and exhausted at the end of the day.
Back in my binging days the Curse of shoulds was the cement which held bricks of my binge-eating prison together.
At some point I questioned its bonding force and escaped.
I learned to detect and neutralize them. I became a “Shoulds slayer”.
Here’s my recent victory over Shoulds.
The other day the boss sent me to the meeting with one of our major clients to report the progress of the project I am in charge of. It was challenging. If I screwed up — the bee would be on me. And, mind you, this bee’s sting hurts very badly.
And I didn’t worry. I had occasional butterflies in my stomach, and, of course, I wasn’t that relaxed as I would be on the eve of a regular “non-event” day at work.
But I didn’t freak out. I wasn’t terrified by “big event psychological burden”. I wasn’t nervous to the point when I was emotional mess.
And here’s where a “Should Curse” came into play.
“It’s strange. Why don’t I worry? I should worry under such circumstances. If I don’t worry — it means I don’t care enough? Does it mean that I don’t take it seriously? Maybe, I should skip my boxing workout and read through the materials on the project one more time?”
Toxicity of Shoulds started leaking into my thinking pattern. I had to take counter measures ASAP; otherwise the poison would debilitate me and throw my mind into a full-blown destructive panic.
But let’s get closer to binge-eating.
The most dangerous thing about Shoulds here was that it used to push me on the binging route even when my body didn’t want any kind of junk food in the first place. It lured me to take the bait. Fooled me into “just one” trap again.
And the moment “just one” gets into the system, the neurobiology of the addiction mechanism takes over and the train wreck is well on its way to disaster.
I should feel a certain way under certain circumstances. I should react according to a “supposed” pattern to particular events. I should…I should…
And if I don’t feel or behave the way I “should” — then something is wrong with me? And if something wrong with me — I have to “fix” myself. How? To “make” myself feel in a “should” way.
And how I am going to make myself feel in a “supposed” way?
The mind flips through “ready-to-go”’ solutions. And it picks the easiest one.
Problem solved — go get comforting food and it will put you in the “right” mood.
I used food to “adjust” my emotions so that they fit into the Shoulds mold and correlated with Should-be-like-this reality.
There were numerous Shoulds which manipulated me into binge-eating. Here are some of them:
– “It’s Friday. I should reward myself. Otherwise it’s not Friday”;
“It’s Saturday. I should enjoy my lazy morning and treat myself with something delicious”
– “It’s Sunday. It’s still weekend — my “allowed” time to indulge in my favorite treats. I should hurry up and “pack away” as much treats as I can”
– It’s Monday. I’ve survived it.
– It’s Thursday — too far till Friday.
– It’s Wednesday — Hump day.
– It’s Thursday — almost Friday!
– It’s Friday…
– It’s a new season of my favorite TV show
– It’s tough time
– It’s good time
– It’s always “shoulds time”.
Along with Shoulds themselves there was overthinking and overanalyzing. Why my attempts to “should myself up” didn’t work this time (i.e. why I failed to create an “ideal” emotional state for the given situation).
The way I should feel, should get satisfying amount of pleasure, provide certain kind of productivity — it always mismatched the actual result.
I hoped that Should will work if I threw more “fixing substances”. And I upped the “dosage” of cookies, cakes, ice-cream, and eventually anything that looked like food.
When higher dosage didn’t work either, I started beating myself up for not being able to “digest and enjoy Shoulds in a proper way”.
And so I planned for “better Should” next time so that “proper Should” would do the trick. I will persist. I will find my magic recipe for the exactly right amount of “normal, approved, legit Should” which will keep me happy and content for the required period of time and won’t get me into trouble.
Shoulds form expectations and predictions with regard to upcoming rewards. They “zombified” me into a conditioned response. And, in the long run, threatened to kill ability of my emotions to make independent evaluation of my experiences.
Shame it took me so long to finally stop and ask myself: “Wait. Maybe there is nothing wrong with me. Maybe Should is wrong?”.
This kind of question was scary because at some moment I felt like I was losing my ground. It felt like my entire reality was made of Shoulds. And if I detached from them, I would find myself in vacuum.
Logic told me that there would be no vacuum. I won’t die, won’t go crazy. It’s unlikely that I will be sent to some land for hopelessly weird people.
Logic. But my emotions sent that ice-cold feeling down the pit of my stomach and threw a paralyzing net over me. So, for some time I kept doing what I was doing. I watched myself going insane, and not being able to do anything about it.
Questioning Shoulds and pushing the Stop button when reacting to conditioned expectations was my first step to freedom — from binge-eating and beyond.
Holidays are approaching. Festive spirit is everywhere. Or, at least, its “should ghost”. During this season Shoulds hit their peak of destructive power. The magnitude of Shoulds is in its prime. There is nowhere to run. No place to hide. All the thoughts are captivated and imprisoned.
One step out of Shoulds’ matrix — and punishment is right here, around the corner, ready to hit with feeling of loneliness, deprivation, not belonging. The void.
I have so much more to say about the curse of Shoulds…
But it’s too big topic to cover within one post.
And enjoy a Shoulds-free day !