Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


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It can be transformative for people to bring all their shoulds, ought to’s, musts, and have to’s into conscious awareness, deciding for themselves whether these inflexible beliefs and values really fit who they are and who they want to become. Usually should values have been instilled into people since they were very young. These embedded values show up in the flow of conversation all the time. People make a statement in passing about their lives or personalities, without even thinking about it, holding this belief to be an objective fact in no need of critical observation, when in actuality it is a subjectively held belief instilled from without that not everyone else, or sometimes even anyone else, shares.

I need to smile more, I should really be a better listener, I ought to take life more seriously, I have to be better than everyone else at whatever I do. Says who? As the rational emotive psychologist Albert Ellis would ask, “Where is it written that you need to do any of these things?” Other people are not driven by your same set of should values yet they remain living, breathing, working, and growing. You won’t suddenly disappear if you tweak some of your beliefs.

The mindful path is to decide upon a way of being, upon beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions that will help you grow into the fullest possible version of who you are. Human growth is a lifelong journey that only ends in death. We focus on our successes and build upon them. We know that as long as we are trying our best at whatever we undertake we can be proud of ourselves, regardless of the outcome. We spend our time and energy becoming the most authentic versions of ourselves, constantly growing, instead of the inflexible versions everyone else has told us to be. When we loosen the hold that should values have on us, spaces open up to help us choose more fulfilling paths that make us feel good on the inside. We don’t get down on ourselves for not living up to some external ideal, we get up on ourselves for growing towards our internal ideal.