Please Don’t “Should” On Me

September 2014 Newsletter

Dr. gloria wright

I’ve noticed in conversations that people often refer to what another person should or could have done. Sometimes they say it to me, “But you should have….” Often times what they mention never crossed my mind. The kicker here is that somehow they hold me responsible or judge me for what they think I should have done.  Pretty much leaves me out of the equation. They have a script for me – unbeknownst to me – and somehow think they know best.

Another form of mindreading is when someone projects what they think your reaction to their thoughts might be. “I know you’ll think this is trivial, silly, crazy….” No, they don’t know what I’ll think. To tell you the truth with all the stories I’ve heard, you’ll have to go a ways to get me to judge you. But, they project their made-up, preconceived judgement onto me. Isn’t this a waste of energy to go around thinking you know what others think and/or shoulda’, coulda’ done? Isn’t this another form of depersonalizing?

This can also be a symptom of people who have constant mind chatter – commonly called “monkey brain.” There’s little, if any, white space or silence in their minds. I recommend (again) that you practice active meditation. Focus on those positive feelings: gratitude, love, joy, peace and hope. Keep doing it. It will make a difference.

How about we give each other the benefit of the doubt? How about letting people be innocent until proven guilty? How about replacing judgement and criticism with curiosity?

I think we have a basic human need to know and be known; to see and be seen. But these preconceptions get in the way of truly connecting and getting to know each other. I think it’s a point of maturation and evolution. Kohlberg and Fowler talk about it in stages of decision making and moral development. When we project ourselves and our thoughts onto others, they don’t really exist in relationship to us. This approach is one that is dominant in adolescence. Teens think everybody is thinking about them and see the world as black and white. With some years under our belt, we begin to see a lot of grey in the world.

Getting to know someone is a continually evolving process. How many of us have thought “I’ll never let my child do that.” “I would never….” And then we do. As well as I know myself, I am sometimes shocked to my own reactions when I’m faced with circumstances. If I’m still getting to know myself, how can someone else think they know my thoughts or actions?

What is really exciting to me is the process of really “getting” someone.  I have been fascinated with people as long as I can remember. And people I think I know well have certainly surprised, even shocked me with their decisions and actions. There is a saying this reminds me of: “I like my tailor best. Every time he meets me, he takes my measurements anew.” What a refreshing concept.