Is Shoulding All Over Yourself Causing Anxiety, Depression or Anger?

Posted by in Anger, Anxiety, Depression | 0 comments

I came downstairs this morning and saw several pairs of shoes by the door, dishes on the counter from the night before and stacks of paper and mail on the counters.  This sight stirred a deep sigh and I said to myself “I really should be better at keeping the house picked up.”

Many Christian therapists have been critical of the controversial theorist Albert Ellis, who often used provocative phrases such as “shoulding all over yourself” to describe what people do when they live in bondage to their “should” and “should not” beliefs. However, Ellis’s use of crass statements served a valuable purpose.  Crude statements like this infused humor into the way people saw their patterns.  When his clients noticed themselves holding onto shoulds and should-nots they could in essence tap themselves on the shoulder, chuckle, and change the should to something more productive such as “would prefer to” or at least ask themselves “does this should belief that I am beating myself up with really matter or define me as a person?”

This statement “shoulding all over myself”, although it may be crass, is certainly a word picture.  Ellis’s point may have well been to illustrate to his clients the self-degradation that happens when we hold ourselves to our shoulds and should-nots.  When we don’t measure up to our own unrealistic standards and expectations the tendency is to scoop a gigantic pile of crap right on our head, leading to depression, anxiety or anger.

It has been my experience that insight alone does not produce the change that people desire.  Often we have trouble determining healthy standards from destructive expectations and hold onto our beliefs about how we “should be” or “not be” as if they are Biblical truths.  If you are experiencing anger, anxiety or depression and think that you might be “shoulding all over yourself”, please consider seeking a counselor who can assist you in untangling yourself from destructive beliefs to live a life of freedom and wholeness.

But before I close this post, I can’t help but ask… who else might you be “shoulding on”?  This crude statement becomes even more disgusting when we think about how we may be degrading our spouses or our children by expecting them to not make mistakes, have weaknesses, or struggle in some areas.  Are your expectations robbing you of joy and connection with those around you?  Criticism of self and others is a sure way to sabotage relationships.

As for me, at some point the dishes were put away, the shoes were picked up and the papers got sorted through… only to reappear the next day.  Thank goodness my value as a wife, mother and person are not measured by my ability to keep a perfectly staged home!