If shoulds and musts were candy and nuts. Pinpointing demands.

The title of this blog was derived from an old quote, "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas". I first heard the line in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, a favorite comedy show of mine. The eccentric Sheldon delivers the line with great disdain to a professional colleague, who impacted the removal of Pluto (one of Sheldon's favorites!) from planetary status.

CLICK (13 second clip) Sheldon delivering his line with a strong look of contempt.

CLICK (13 second clip) Sheldon delivering his line with a strong look of contempt.

The original quote gives reference to people who make excuses or use redirection to taking ownership. I have used poetic license in this blog to tweak the line's start to "If shoulds and musts...". This change shifts focus from excuses or redirection, to the demands we place on ourselves and others.

Time and time again we think to ourselves things like...

  • "I must do a great job on this project."

  • "I must score a goal."

  • "I must get an A on this test."

  • "S/he (significant other, friend, coworker) should listen to my advice."

  • "S/he shouldn't keep doing that."

  • "He (your child) must listen to my directions the first time."

  • "She (your child) shouldn't disrespect me in front of others." (think about the grocery store)

  • "He (your boss) should give me the raise I deserve."

Whenever we tell ourselves things like this we leave ZERO room for any other possible outcome. This type of thought is extremely rigid and inflexible. The reality....we can not control the world around us,  we can only chose how we want to respond to it. Using words like "should", "must", "have to", or "need to" creates a demand and makes the situation a matter of black and white or success and failure.

I see patterns like this time and time again with countless clients. There is no discrimination, as it affects young and old, male and female. The negative patterns of demands result in people getting stuck in negative thinking loops that chip away at someone's self-esteem after "failing" over and over or building up someone's stress and anxiety over "having to" do something every time. All of these things lead to stress and can permeate an individual's life in various ways affecting work, school, family, relationships, athletics and more. The key is to first identify these demands and build up an increased awareness of what we say and how often we say it. Write them down. Keep a journal of them. Many of my clients are absolutely shocked by just how often these words enters their daily thoughts and/or conversation. By building up mindfulness of when these demands creep in, it allows someone to pinpoint exactly how much of an issue demands are for them. It is no wonder people are stressed when I hear many of the demands. People are expecting themselves (and others) to be perfect. This is when the real work begins. Stay tuned for the next installment in which we look at how to unearth these demands. 

Side note....the title picture of this blog comes from a sweet I enjoyed when I was a kid, salt water taffy. It was a delicious treat I my brothers and I would get when we visited our grandparents. We'd all go to the Ocean City boardwalk at the Jersey shore and get a big bag of them. No boardwalk trip was complete without a round of putt-putt and perhaps a few rides. The piece de resistance though was the fresh, warm, scrumptious Johnson's caramel popcorn overflowing that clear plastic bucket. Mmmm. :)