This is the fourth of four posts on the nature and management of shoulds. (Note: because Facebook does not easily allow paragraph markers, I am choosing to begin my paragraphs with … to make it easier to read — at least it is easy for me!)
To recap. Shoulds are the rules of social boundaries. They are an investment in the third limb of an emotional triangle, and are usually dysfunctional. They do however contain information — the rules of the social network.
The management of shoulds is a measure of maturity. To quote a poem I developed years ago:
No one is perfect; we all fall down.
The measure of maturity is how we arise,
And how we help others when they fall down.
So, how do I manage shoulds?
First of all, I attempt to digest them; I attempt to grasp the social rules that are being expressed by the should. By digest, I mean that I explore to what extent this information is of value to me. To what extent do I wish to live by this rule? Under what circumstances would I choose to act according to this rule? Or not?
Having done this, I am in position to choose how I wish to act when I next hear this should, either from someone else or from one of my own sailors. Simply put, I initiate what I call WIWI — Will I or Won’t I? What is the worst that will happen? What is the worst if I do? What is the worst if I don’t? I don’t waste time with all the nuances; they simply clutter my thinking. If I can live with the worst, the nuances don’t matter — life will unfold. If I can live with both ends of the spectrum, I simply choose whichever seems like the most fun.
Suppose I do not like either option — what then? I play. Not only is play fun, but it is the most sophisticated skill set I have (it took me ten years to learn how to play). Imagine someone (or a sailor) has told me I should do something that I do not wish to do. I will then choose to do something that is somehow appropriate to the emotional dynamics, yet is also a weird response, surprising to the other (and often to myself as well). The key is that I must create for myself a state of wonder (“I wonder what they will do with this? . . . Wow! What will they do?”). If I know they will react or be angry or be frustrated, it is not playful! When I am in a state of wonder, I am not anxious about what the other will do, and I am not invested in the third limb of this triangle.
The second thing that being playful does is that it pushes the emotional energy of the should back to the other; they must then deal with their own anxiety, anxiety that lead to the should in the first place. The difficulty here is that the other may not like my response, and may choose to escalate the pressure. So I need to be prepared — how will I respond if they do? So I do not choose to be playful when the danger is quite real! Remember — we will kill to protect the rules.
Note well: I tend not to play in cooperative situations — play jars relationships. Here, I would rather negotiate a resolution with the other, presuming cooperation. Sometimes, I will still play, but only to lighten the relationship.
Ok, enough on shoulds. I trust that you the reader can now grasp how complex the subject is.
Originally posted to Facebook 20160612