Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shoulding all over myself

I laugh when I hear someone in a meeting say that they "shoulded" all over themselves. It is funny but such a true statement for so many of us in the program.

I certainly did my share of shoulding. And most of my finger-wagging attitude came because I was angry that my expectations and values weren't being met. And I had no concept at the time about being powerless. I thought that I knew how things should be. The alcoholic had a different attitude.

I listened to a sponsee tell me about his shoulding yesterday. His wife is an active alcoholic, and he told me about his morning conversation. It went something like this:

Him: "You sure are being grumpy this morning."
Her: "Yes, I guess I am. But you seem to not be so happy yourself. What's bothering you?"
Him: "You! You are bothering me. You should cut down on your drinking. You feel bad and then you sit around and mope. You should go out for a walk, do something positive. And you should get some help."

Wow---I remember those conversations. They did nothing but cause a major escalation. We would both end up saying things that were hurtful because I was angry at her drinking and felt it was my job to get her to stop by shaming, blaming and shoulding.

At the time, I didn't understand the concept of powerlessness, acceptance, or minding my own business. I was critical, judgmental and angry. And I probably learned a lot of that from my parents who were judgmental themselves.

Anyway, I talked to the sponsee about how a statement that starts with the word "You" is a controlling statement. And it often contains some form of accusation or judgment. If I feel compelled to make a comment, an "I" statement about my thoughts works much better and feels more honest.

"Thou shalt not should thyself. "


  1. Oh Syd! Thank you for this reminder. I catch myself shoulding all the time and have to repeat the serenity prayer about a dozen times before it sinks in. (Thick skull)

  2. Yep.......Should NOT tell others what to do. It it their LIFE. (no judgment; etc)

    But I take it a step further. I don't want to be with anyone that I feel INCLINE to tell them what they Should be doing? (even if I don't verbalize it).

    I know I'll never LIVE or Date or have a grown child at home again with ACTIVE Alcoholism; or any Ism; Workaholics; Computer Video-Game Obsessions.

    My 2 grown children are ADDICTS (as I mentioned); and it is so Peaceful without them living here. (alcoholic the 23 year old; and video game that prevents the 25 from working-he is with his father).

    Life is so SERENE now; even if at times I have slip ups. But I can't do it anymore.. share a roof with someone with any addictions again.

    I pass no judgment on others that do it for decades.. but 17 years as a child and then a marriage of 9 that has some problems in that area; a daughter who was bad for a few years; and dating someone for almost 2 years (that ended 2 years ago). Never again.

    This is a Peace at almost 48 that I never had before. No one under my roof with any addictions. (even my tenants are non-addicting people). I was careful even in that area now.

    I have slip ups but I get my serenity back so quickly now because I refocus on myself; before it was too difficult.

    I was telling my grown son he should stop playing video games all night and he should be out riding a bike; using his college degree; and on and on.

    I'm taking a 100 Day Reprise from both grown children. They still are pressuring me to move home.. the son does not like being at his father's so I did tell him he SHOULD look for a job and take any job and Independent; and the Girl is making me feel guilty that she really don't want to live with her stockbroker boyfriend who constantly smokes pot. (but she is an accountant and can make more money than I do; she could get her own place). I tell her she SHOULD.

    I'm tired of telling them what they SHOULD do. :)

    They have to SINK OR SWIM.......

    I have NO IDEA why they LIKE me so MUCH.. (maybe because I was an Enabler); .....but they had to go college. (and all parents want their children to go to college if the opportunity is there.).

    I finally stop feeling Guilty that I all the SHOULD to them did not work..........they are still indulging in their addictions.. and if they were here they would not STOP anyway. (even if they SHOULD..)lol

    This was a great post. Thank you for writing it with so much clarity. The blogs I'm reading are so ON TARGET and well written. I'm getting a lot out of all you Bloggers.

    Thank Syd.

  3. Hi Syd,
    Good to be back and happy to have the wisdom of the program at my fingertips once again.

    I needed to hear this today. Thank you.


  4. Oooooo. Anytime my husband tried to should me I get prickly. I try to be more understanding when he does it now because I know he is trying to be helpful (i.e. if I am venting about my instructor's criticism, I am looking for a sympathic ear, not his unhelpful solutions on how to fix my manuscript he has not even read).

    But when I was active in my alcoholism? Eek. He didn't should me often, but when he did, I'd typically eviscerate him with a "when you've got all your shot together and stop doing x, y and z that are extremely annoying/bad/unhealthy, then you can tell me what to do. Until then, f--- off."

    I'm sure he respected me for it. :p

  5. Syd, I'm glad you have stopped finger wagging.

  6. i know I SHOULD be able to relate to this...

    and well, yes, I do and can relate. :)

  7. Is that like shoulda woulda coulda... but didi't... darn it!

  8. Wow, I hate when I start a sentance with "You should", but I very seldom stop myself because, I think, oh, but they REALLY need to hear this from wise old ME.(EGO?)LOL! Thanks for this post Syd! Got a lecture about expectations from Mrs. Sponsorpants today...Good Night!

  9. I have never heard the term "shoulded".
    Now, I have.

  10. I used to work with a woman who sais "you should have" so often...what a way to live!

  11. thank god i no longer hear those conversations! i never, never, never want to go there again.... and i think should's are as bad as expectations. and should be eradicated!!!!!

  12. Dear Syd...I feel that you are right.

  13. Thou shalt not should thyself. Oh I love that. Yes its true saying "you" really does not help. In my consultancy work i have to remember its, we and I. " I must make sure", " If WE manage to do this"
    Great post

  14. My therapist first introduced me to this phrase and I love it too. And yes, when I was active it I was very reactive to the shoulds from my husband and others. But I was the one who should all over myself all the time and since I didn't it was a horrible, horrible existance. Thank God that is past. I still should on myself now and then and my husband still shoulds on me but just having this expression to use to point out in a non judgemental way helps to gently bring it to the forefront in a nonconfrontational way.

  15. Would the past tense of shoulded be shad?

    Were I to lower my expectations my life would be a smoother ride.

  16. I do that a bit, when I catch myself saying "should" then I will think, who am i to say what others "should" be doing.
    Since the new year being just nice to others is beggining to feed back to me and I feel happier and therefore I am nicer still to others.
    First week back nearly over, I tried not to talk too much about work today, see if you agree with the global consiousness theory which I have stolen

  17. Thank you Syd.

    What a terrific post.

    Sometimes I still catch that "should" word coming out of my mouth before it is fully formed. I then have the opportunity (with a little dancing in my mind) to change it to something reasonable and non-judgmental. - - -

    Being a Gemini, it usually works out O.K.

  18. Well, I "SHOULD HAVE" figured someone "WOULD HAVE" brought this up, sooner or later. Anyone else "MIGHT HAVE, before now.

    Maybe I SHOULD try to be more careful??? -grin
    Thanks, Syd

    Steve E.

  19. I can imagine how tough that would be with a spouse...not to should. Parenting an addict has a different set of problems than having a spouse who is. And then there are the similarities. You must have felt that her problems were thrust upon you, I would think.


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