Why do these conflicts between what we do and should do exist? The word “should” is at the root of the problem.

Psychoanalyst Karen Horney pointed out that we all need to learn to differentiate from the unhealthy “shoulds” we are socialized with vs. our actual self-determination. She proposed that we all have “real” selves which are defined by our more authentic desires vs. our people-pleasing “ideal” selves. Our real self shows us our core essence and can be witnessed in young children, if we watch them closely and give them free realm to explore. Yet, as soon as we learn to speak as toddlers we are very direct with what we want — which means we are often confronting understandably frustrated and tired adults who are dealing with their own real desires juxtaposed against very real responsibilities.  

So where things go awry in our processing is this: As we are socialized into a society that strives to function with norms, consistency and peace so we can be “educated” and “become productive citizens” we are schooled as to what we “should” be doing. So, our unrealistic journey of people-pleasing begins; our sense of personal failure starts to elevate; and, our awareness of feeling unfulfilled grows. 

What Horney also pointed out is that the more we believe and try to fulfill external “shoulds” placed upon us by others and society, the more we begin to feel self-hate and disappointment. Because we believe we are failing to uphold and achieve some arbitrary standard that quite possibly has little to do with our own reality or desires — it becomes harder to recognize what we truly feel in our hearts. The good news? Because of a deep need for self-preservation, the factors that would help us feel closer to the genuine essence of our unique individual self will always resist socialization because, I believe, we intuitively know that we are each a gift to the World because of our unique, never-to-be-replicated nature of existence.  

When the conflict of shoulds pile up, we need to ask ourselves: Who’s “shouldn’t” on me now? Is the should guiding us towards a better life or is there some other agenda worth analyzing?

Silver Disobedience® philosophy believes all healthy relationships begin with self-awareness. I’m @DianGriesel aka @SilverDisobedience ✨ I am a Perception Analyst and I wrote The Silver Disobedience Playbook. Here, I share my Daily Meditations for other Ageless, Passionate & Curious People.  More info in my bio, my websites and at Wilhelmina New York