This is one of "22
virus definitions" (thought-mistakes that cause ineffectiveness
and unnecessary negative emotions).
SHOULD be a nicer person. People shouldnt treat
me that way. The world should be fairer. These
kinds of statements are called imperatives. They are also called
"should statements" by David Burns. Albert Ellis, who
concentrated more on this thought-mistake than on any other,
called it "musterbation". Ellis really hammered on
this one, and for good reason. It is the source of a great deal
of unnecessary negative emotion.
In an interview, Ellis explained how he
gets himself out of an upset.
1. First he says to himself, Im
2. Then he asks, What am I telling
3. Finally he looks for commands and demands:
Things should not be this way, the other person should
not act that way, I should not feel this way, etc.
Ellis focused on shoulds and musts because
he found by long experience that these really get people in trouble.
Its a good virus definition to go after first. Ellis was
not only an innovator and teacher, but he was using this stuff
on his own therapy clients since the 1950s. His long wisdom and
experience showed him he could go right to the heart of the matter
by searching for shoulds and musts.
Once you recognize the shoulds and oughts
and musts you use on yourself, and once you realize they are
merely preferences, it takes away the intensity of your negative
feelings and you are left with mild disappointment, simple frustration,
or concern rather than sadness, anger, or fear.
Ellis began by assuming right off the bat
that if youve got a problem, the source of it is "musterbation."
For example, you might present a problem in a therapy session
that you are ashamed or embarrassed about something. His very
first assumption is that the source of your distress is you are
thinking either, I must be loved by everyone, or
I must achieve greatness, or both. And he would probably
be right. From either of those two underlying musts, you can
easily become embarrassed or ashamed when someone doesnt
seem to think youre wonderful, or when you did something
that wasnt great.
Ellis would then teach you that there is
no reason to continue believing you must be loved or achieve
greatness. Sure, it would be nice, but it isnt necessary
to existence, and thinking it necessary makes you miserable.
See the complete list of definitions: The 22 Virus Definitions.