A Simple Tapping Technique To Dissolve Old Shoulds

Tapping Shoulds
Image courtesy of Sookie

Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone’s actions

Are you shoulding on yourself?

Are you telling yourself all day, every day, what you should be doing (and feeling bad about what you haven’t done)?

Sometimes we have so many ‘shoulds’ it’s difficult to know what we want.

Have you noticed that even though ‘shoulds’ are supposed to be motivating, what you should do often doesn’t get done!

As the definition says a should is a rule you ‘should’ live up to, a demand you ‘should’ meet, an expectation of how you ‘should’ behave.

  • I should lose weight
  • I should be more assertive
  • I should be more patient
  • I should …

Shoulds are often intended to be motivating, to help us do what we want or what is best for us. In theory our ‘shoulds’ should help us get things done

Unfortunately they don’t usually work that way.

Three ways shoulds don’t work

On the face of it ‘shoulds’ should work, but there are three ways in which they backfire:

  1. Even though we should do something it might not be what we want to do. If we (or part of us) doesn’t want to fulfil the should there will be inner conflict and stress. Unfortunately, most of us are carrying around a lot of out-dated ‘shoulds’ given to us earlier in life.
  2. If we don’t meet the should we feel bad. If we fail to fulfil the should we may feel regret, disappointment or shame. We can criticise ourselves about our ‘failure’, even though we know we should be kinder to ourselves.
  3. We might resist our ‘shoulds’. Most of our shoulds were learned in childhood where we struggled to resist being told what to do. If you learned to resist your ‘shoulds’ in childhood, any should, no matter how worthy, may provoke resistance. Even if the should is one you agree with the automatic resistance to a ‘should’ will kick in.

One way of tapping out a should is to tap our way through these different aspects of the should. That approach will work but we might need to do quite a bit of tapping to unpack and neutralise all those aspects.

In this new approach we tap to dismantle the should itself, so there is nothing to feel bad about or resist.

One way of thinking about a ‘should’ is that it is a line in the sand which we should or shouldn’t cross. Rather than tap on the reasons for crossing, or not crossing, the line, the ‘flip a should’ process works to erase the line in the sand.

How to ‘flip’ a should

This approach is a variation on a technique called The Belief Flip that I developed to dismantle limiting beliefs.

  1. Pick a should or (a shouldn’t) that you know you have.
  2. For example if you are struggling to write a report and you know you should do it, your should might be: “I should get on with it”.
  3. Pick (or create) a shouldn’t that goes with it, for example: “I shouldn’t waste time”. Now you have a should and a shouldn’t that are a kind of mirror image of each other.
    • I should get on with it
    • I shouldn’t waste time
  4. Give each of these phrases an intensity score so you can check your progress.
    • I should get on with it – 8
    • I shouldn’t waste time – 6
  5. Now create a should and a shouldn’t that is the opposite of their counterparts. For example:
    • I should get on with it.
    • I shouldn’t waste time.
    • I should waste time.
    • I shouldn’t get on with it.
  6. Now tap through each of those statements alternating them on the tapping points (no setup required):
    • EB: I should get on with it.
    • SE: I shouldn’t waste time.
    • UE: I should waste time.
    • UN: I shouldn’t get on with it.
    • CH: I should get on with it.
    • CB: I shouldn’t waste time.
    • UA: I should waste time.
    • TH: I shouldn’t get on with it.
  7. Now check the intensity charge of the original should and shouldn’t.
  8. Repeat if necessary.

Note: Since you learned these ‘shoulds’ somewhere, you may find that old memories or feelings surface as you tap. Use regular tapping approaches to neutralise those memories or feelings.

Once the charge on the should has reduced it’s worth checking that your should is actually something you want, rather than something someone else wanted for you.

That’s easy to find out. Just say out loud and substitute ‘want’ for ‘should’ and ‘don’t want’ for ‘shouldn’t’ in the phrase you tapped on.

For example:

  • I want to get on with it
  • I don’t want to waste my time

If you have an emotional resonance with those items they are your wants (or don’t wants) and you can take whatever action you need to take to get them.

If there is no charge on those phrases they are probably someone else’s wants (or don’t wants) that you have taken on and can let go of.

IMPORTANT: This process is designed for dissolving should’s of a moderate intensity. If your should is “I should never have been born” or “I should end it all now” this is not the right technique for you. If you are troubled by those shoulds please get appropriate support from someone who knows what they are doing

Unpacking shoulds

It would be nice if we only had a few shoulds to deal with. However, it’s not unusual to find that we have a lot of shoulds working on us around any issue.

This process is designed to uncover some of the shoulds that are lurking around any issue or difficulty we are having.

  1. Pick an issue where you feel you could be making more progress.
  2. With that issue in mind complete the following sentence with as many items that occur to you: “I should … “
  3. Then repeat the process with: “I shouldn’t”. For example: If I’m still struggling to write the report I could have a list like this:
    • I should …
      • get on with it
      • pull myself together
      • be more determined
      • get my act together
      • have more willpower
      • etc
    • I shouldn’t
      • waste time
      • take it easy
      • give up
      • give in
      • distract myself
      • etc
  4. Give each item a score and use the ‘should flip’ to undo those ‘shoulds’.
  5. Check to see that each dissolved should is a want of yours.

If you grew up in a ‘shoulding’ environment you may find that you have a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts lurking in the wings.

Releasing them has huge benefits for your peace of mind and ability to take action. With a de-should-ed heart and mind we can see more clearly what we want to do and have more freedom of action to go for it.

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