The Three Faces of “Should”

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The Three Faces of Eve is a movie from 1957 about a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder.  One personality is meek, another bold and daring, and the third even-keeled.  In the depressive brain lurks a “should” which also has three faces.  By its nature, “should” implies that what IS, is simply not enough and thus leads to discontent.  “Should” is quite possibly the single most dangerous word for a depressive brain.  Its three personalities are The Accuser, The Fortune-Teller, and The Shape-Shifter.

The Accuser

This is the finger-pointer of our brain, tricking us into playing a self-directed-blame game in which we always seem to the villain or the loser.  The Accuser’s primary weapons are the malfunctioning filter of the depressive brain and shame.  The combination of the two results in a mental cloudiness which obscures visibility into our memories.  It separates our depressed self from our well self, causing us to forget we have ever been happy.

The Accuser leaves us regretting our past and fearing our future.  It takes incoming messages from other people, passing them through the negativity filter.  Then it adds a sprinkle of shame and voila! 

  • INCOMING: Why don’t you go out and DO something to make you feel better?
  • FILTER + SHAME: I’m not any fun to be around.  I’m probably keeping others from having fun.
  • ACCUSATION: I should stop going out with people.  I’m never any fun and I always ruin things.

The Fortune-Teller

The Fortune-Teller’s weapon is “if”.  It shows us visions of what surely would have been if only we had done or said something differently.  “If” is another “should” in disguise, and can be both regret and threat.  Can you spot the fortune-telling in the following statements?

  • REGRET: If I had been more outgoing, my marriage would not have failed.
  • THREAT: If I failed at marriage once, I will fail again.

We become conditioned to anticipate conflict and the result is often anxiety.  Because the Fortune-Teller has shown us the future and the Accuser has told us we cannot handle it, we try to avoid it, even at the expense of our own self-worth and peace of mind.

The Shape-Shifter

The Shape-Shifter has the uncanny ability to take on the persona of people we know.  For some of us, the voice belongs to a parent, for some an old friend or flame, and for some it is these and more.   All too often, it really is a parent or loved one, although they may have had good intentions when they said whatever hurt us.  Just as understanding the concept of “better” can be difficult when you are going through a valley, the concept of the filter is foreign to somebody who has never had depression.  So, how to fight the three faces of “should”?  Try using “big buts”.

Big “Buts”

When you catch yourself thinking a “should”, write it down.  You don’t have to address it immediately – in fact, it is probably best to come back to it during a quiet time.  When you do come back to it, try to identify the underlying accusation.  Then, rewrite the statement without the accusation and with a big “but”.

  • THOUGHT: I’m not any fun to be around. I’m probably keeping others from having fun.
  • ACCUSATION: I’m never any fun and I always ruin things.
  • NEW THOUGHT: When I’m feeling depressed, it is hard for me to enjoy myself and I imagine nobody wants to be around me, BUT when I feel better I can and will have fun with the people I love.

Let me know if it helps!

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