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“Shoulding” Out Loud

  • Elliott
  • February 28, 2011
  • 5

When I was first introduced to what is called “New Thought,” I was instructed to always be mindful of the words I spoke. Teachers, from all walks of life, (particularly new thought neophytes) were always around to remind me that use of the word “should” was not in alignment with walking this new path.

Obviously I still need that lesson because I always have a few people around who are willing to keep reminding me of this truth. I have one friend whose favorite expression is, “You’re shoulding all over yourself.” I can’t hear those words without conjuring up mental images which make me grin.

Today I am going to suggest that words do not create. Words may seem to have power to someone hearing or reading them, but of themselves they are intrinsically benign. Where the true power lies is in the emotions or thoughts which are attached to the words. Let me show you an example:

If I were to look at my savings account balance and say I really should start saving more money, log out of my account, and go on with my day, the use of the dreaded “should” word would have no detrimental effect to my peace of mind.

If, on the other hand, I was really needing to have a more money in my savings account and my small balance was insufficient to cover some current crises, then my “should” could be attached to intense stress.

If, when I looked at this account, I heard the voice of the “judger” telling me that I only live for now and never prepare for the future, and felt the emotion of “being a failure” because I did not have more money in the bank; the “should” could be attached to pain, anger, and sorrow.

The word “should” has no power by itself.

If I look at my wall-papered family room and think I really “should” peel that paper off and paint my walls, my should may motivate me to get out of the recliner and tackle the project. Or it may even suggest to me that I call a handyman to come and do the work for me.

The point is that the word does not cause pain. Any discomfort comes from whatever feeling or emotion is linked to the thought that the word suggests. It is the same for similar thoughts or phrases: I want, I need, I hope for, I would love, If only, etc.

Each of these expressions can be attached to one of these thoughts or ideas:

I want because something is lacking in my life.

I need because I am not enough without.

I hope for something because it will make me happy.

I would love more if my spouse were different.

If only I had a million dollars all my problems would go away.

With any emotional attachment which suggests that life, “as it is” could be better “if,” I abandon my present moment awareness and project myself into an imagined future. Such projection prevents me from living in the bliss which can only be found by being fully present, right here, right now, and it moves me out of peace.

At the same time, it is entirely possible that words like “I want” or “I should” can have no destructive emotion attached to them. For example: Saying I want to take the family to Disneyworld for Christmas can be a positive statement of a desire. It may result in me developing a plan to save $ 400.00 a month, so that I can move in the direction of that dream. As long as there is no self destructive emotion attached to the pursuit of the desire, the words are neutral.

So the bottom line, in life according to ET, is this: Thoughts create, words do not. Emotions frame our experience, not our words.

That is not to say it is wise to ignore the words I use. Paying attention to what I say and how I say it is important. My word choices may provide me with insight into habitual patterns which prevent me from living in peace.

What is more important, than monitoring each word, is noticing the baggage I have attached to the words I use. A “should” which arises from a dissatisfaction with “what is,” may identify an area in my life where I am allowing circumstances to override my ability to choose peace.

Everything, even my word choices, teaches me more about myself, when I am the willing student.


  1. Paying attention to the emotions behind my thoughts and words has been one of my biggest lessons. Even though I see how important it is, I often am not aware of it. I intend to see this and use this more often in my life. Thank you for reminding me.

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