REBT Mates, it may have been yours truly who coined the term “disguised shoulds.”Click to find out why . . .
Warning! Disguised shoulds can be very sneaky!
REBT Mates, it may have been yours truly who coined the term “disguised shoulds.” Dishonest “why” questions are one of the most obvious examples. Dishonest “whys” pretend to ask for an explanation when in fact they are really making a “should” statement.
It is important to remember that our old friends, should, ought and must are in fact pointing to demands, and it is the demand that is at issue, not the particular words we use to express that demand. Demanding is as much a feeling as it is a cognition. There are various types of language (or silence) that can express demands, and what we are looking at today are the sneaky way we all do it, in this case, sometimes using a fake “Why?” question.
When we say, for example, “Why did you speak harshly to me?” we may in fact be searching for some explanation of that behavior. Perhaps the person was distracted by some pressing problem or is simply having a bad day. However, methinks that much or most of the time, the “why?” question is simply a dishonest way of saying something to the effect of: “I didn’t like it when you spoke harshly to me!” The “Why?” simply creates confusion and provokes the individual to frantically manufacture some explanation when often an explanation does not even exist.
It becomes a deep hole of non-communication. However, the more courageous and honest, something to the effect of “I didn’t like it when you . . . ” creates the possibility of a real dialog, mutual understanding, accommodation, change of behavior and increased closeness between the individuals. Note I said “possibility” not guarantee, but that is why it takes some courage, but I think is is worth the effort in the great majority of incidents.
The German psychoanalyst, Karen Horney, 1885-1952, coined the term “The Tyranny of the Shoulds.”
HOMEWORK :(What? Did you think there would be no homework???) This week, observe your communication and try to catch yourself about to issue a “Why?” question, and if you are not legitimately seeking information, then “change horses in midstream” and rephrase your question to a statement beginning with “I . . . ” expressing your feelings or reactions to the event in question. Please try this this week and report back on your experience. It will be invaluable to you and to the group. It has the further benefit of demonstrating why REBT is hardly a dry, academic exercise. Doing this will help you “get in touch with feelings” and deal with others more honestly.
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