Dr. Wayne Dyer believes that the world is full of “shoulds” that people apply to their behaviour without evaluation, and the total of these shoulds makes up a very large self-destructive behaviour zone. You may be guided by a set of rules and principles to which you do not even subscribe, and yet you are unable to break away from and decide for yourself what works and what does not work for you.
He says that nothing is absolute. There are no rules or laws, which always make sense or provide the greatest amount of good for all occasions. Flexibility is a far greater virtue and yet you may find it difficult, indeed impossible, to break an unserviceable law or violate absurd tradition. “Fitting into your society or enculturation may be useful for getting along at times, but carried to an extreme, it can be become obsession, particularly when unhappiness, depression and anxiety are the consequences of meeting the shoulds.”
Dr Dyer is nowhere inferring or in any way suggesting that you become contemptuous of the law, or break rules simply because you see fit to do so. Laws are necessary, and order is an important part of civilized society. “However,” he asserts, “blind adherence to convention is something else entirely, something, in fact, which may be far more destructive to the individual than violation of the rules.” He goes on, “Often rules are imprudent, and traditions no longer make any sense. When this is the case, and you are unable to function effectively because you must follow senseless rules, that is the time to reconsider the rules and your behaviour.”
Abraham Lincoln once put it, “I never had a policy that I could always apply. I have simply attempted to do what made the greatest amount of sense at the moment.” Simply, he was not a slave to a single policy that had to apply in every single case, even if the policy was written with such an intention.
A should is unhealthy only when it gets in the way of healthy and effective behaviour. If you find yourself doing annoying or otherwise counterproductive things which are the result of a should, you have renounced your freedom of choice and are allowing yourself to be controlled by some external force.
LOCUS OF CONTROL
A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation).
It has been estimated that about seventy-five per cent of the people are more external than internal in the personality orientation. Essentially, you are external if you assign responsibility for your emotional state in your present moments to someone or something external to yourself.
The internal locus of control person puts the responsibility for how he feels squarely on his own shoulders.
Virtually all shoulds and traditions are imposed by external sources. That is, they come from someone or something outside of yourself. If you are overburdened with shoulds and unable to break conventions that are prescribed by others, then you are externally oriented.
Fatalists, determinists and people who believe in luck are of the external orientation. If you believe that your life is mapped out for you in advance, and you need only to follow the appropriate roads, then you are very likely loaded with all the shoulds that will keep you on your road map.
You can never find self-fulfillment if you persist in permitting yourself to be controlled by external forces or persist in thinking that external forces control you. Being effective does not mean eliminating all of the problems in your life. It does mean moving your locus of control from the external to the internal. In that way you make yourself responsible for everything that you experience emotionally. “You are not a robot, running your life through a maze, filled up with other people’s rules and regulations that do not even make sense to you.”
BLAME AND HERO WORSHIP
Blame is a neat little device that you can use whenever you do not want to take responsibility for something in your life. It is the refuge of the externally oriented person.
All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame the person, it will never change you. T
he only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. But blame itself is an irrational act. Even if blame has some effect, it will not be on you.
You may succeed in making another feel guilty for something by blaming them, but you will not succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy. You may succeed in not thinking about it; but you will not succeed in changing it.
The tendency to focus on others can go to the opposite extreme where it surfaces as hero worship. In this case, you may find yourself looking to others to determine your values. If so-and-so does it, then I should do it too. Hero worship is a form of self-repudiation. It makes others more important than you, and relates your own fulfillment to something outside of yourself.
While there is nothing self-defeating about appreciating others and their accomplishments, it becomes self-destructive when you model behaviour on their standards.
All of your heroes are people. They are all human. They do the same things that we all do every day. Be your own hero.
When you get out of blaming and hero worship behaviour, you will be moving over from the external to the internal side of the ledger. On the internal side, there are no universal shoulds for either yourself or others.
THE RIGHT-WRONG TRAP
The question of right versus wrong as it applies here has nothing to do with religious, philosophical or moral issues presumptive of rightness or wrongness. Here the subject is you, and how your notions of right and wrong get in the way of your own happiness. Your rights and wrongs are your universal shoulds. You may have adopted some unhealthy stances which include right means good or just, while wrong is equated with bad or unjust. The word right implies a guarantee that if you do something a certain way, you will have a sure-fire results. But there are no guarantees.
You can begin to think in terms of any decision as bringing something different, or more effective, or legal, but the moment it becomes a question of right versus wrong, you are trapped into the “I have always got to be right and when things or people are not right, then I am going to be unhappy” trap.
Perhaps some of your need to find the right answer has to do with the search for certainty. This may be a part of your tendency to dichotomize, or to divide the world neatly into extremes such as black/white, yes/no, good/bad and right/wrong. “Few things fit neatly into those categories and most intelligent folks roam around in those gray areas, rarely coming to rest on either black or white.”
The tendency for being right is more clearly evidenced in marriage and other adult relationships. Discussions inevitably become a contest that results in one partner being right, and the other wrong.
People are different and they see things from different perspectives. If one must be right, then a breakdown in communication is the only predictable outcome.
Once you give up those inaccurate and self-destructive rights and wrongs, you will find decision-making a simple matter of weighing which consequences you would prefer at a given moment.
If you must comply with all the rules all the time, you are destined to a life of emotional servitude. However, our culture teaches that it is naughty to disobey, that you should not do anything that is against the rules.
The important is to determine for yourself which rules work, and are necessary to preserve order in our culture and which can be broken without harming yourself or others.
There is no percentage in rebelling just for the sake of rebelling, but there are great rewards in being your own person and living your life according to your own standards.
BY CAPT SAM ADDAIH (RTD)