Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Should Have Known Better

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‘I should have known better’ is yet another example of the tyranny of the shoulds. This one is particularly egregious since it’s pointed towards a past happening that by definition can’t be avoided or changed, only endured.

So it’s a form of self-abuse that pulls you into a cycle of negative thinking where you get down on yourself and stay down on yourself for what went wrong due to what you didn’t know back then.

The key to challenging and correcting this negative thinking pattern is to remind yourself that maybe you could have known better but you didn’t. What’s important is that you do know better now, you’ve learned something important about yourself and life, you’ve grown.

Your now is what really counts. You have some power to manipulate the present. You can choose to use the lessons you’ve learned to make your present and with it your future better. And in the process you actually do change the past too in the sense that it takes on an entirely new meaning when it’s perceived as a stimulus for your growth and self-actualization rather than yet another example of your incompetence.

When the ‘I should have known better’ thought pops up consciously replace it with ‘Now I do know better’. It would be nice if the process of growth and self-actualization were always the result of pleasant, wanted happenings but if that’s your secret hope then sooner or later life is going to get in the way and disappoint you. The pleasant, wanted happenings and the unpleasant, unwanted happenings are all grist for the self-actualization mill, they all represent opportunities for personal development. The thought ‘I should have known better’ proves that personal development has occurred, it proves that you know something important now that you didn’t know back then. Choosing to focus your psychic energy on your positive growth by changing the thought to ‘Now I do know better’  will help you break free of that unproductive cycle of negative self-talk.