Getting off the “Should” Wheel
Everything is proceeding as it usually does, but you feel cranky, grumpy, resentful, and generally out of sorts. Your relationship to things has tightened. You start to resent "having to do" the next thing. You have an image of a rat running on a wheel and you are the rat. How did you get here? What can you do once you find yourself here?
Landing in this place is usually preceded by at least two things: consistent denial of one or two core needs and "should" decision making. "Should" decision making happens when you forget that you are free to choose and you begin to make even the smallest decisions from idea of what you think you should do rather than what is most alive for you. Consistent denial of one or two core needs and "should" decision making reinforce each other. The more you deny a basic need the more you tend to engage in "should" decision making and vice-versa. The more this happens the more you relate to life with a tense pushing or pulling. Your relationship to life takes on a sticky quality and it becomes difficult to find a sense of ease and freedom.
Caught in this sticky mess, you will likely experience impulses toward pleasure grabbing and move toward whatever your indulgence is. Unfortunately that bowl of ice cream is only temporarily pleasurable and as soon as it is over the previous state returns.
You can effectively find relief from this cycle of unmet needs and "should" decision making in three ways. First, just name what's happening with compassion. By simply pausing with a slow deep breath and saying to yourself something like, "This is hard. This doesn't feel good and I can be with it," you create a little space around the experience and become a little bit free.
Second, ask yourself what has been calling to you that you have been saying no to. Perhaps, you have been wanting to take a long bike ride along the river or finish an art project or read the novel you just got. When something is calling to you day by day, it's likely to be an important strategy to meet key needs for you. If you don't want to make time for what's calling to you in the moment, look at your calendar and write down a time when you will answer that call. Treat it like you would any important appointment.
Third, name the universal needs/values alive for you behind all the "should" decisions. Just repeating these to yourself can often shift your relationship to those very same activities, especially if you have taken the time to fulfill needs you had been neglecting. For example, perhaps you hear yourself saying, "I should answer all those emails." Looking through the needs list you realize that answering emails is about caring, trust, integrity, and contribution. Connecting with these needs you can answer the emails from the aliveness of the needs rather than the oppressiveness of the shoulds.
Of course, the most effective practice is one of prevention. Just returning to mindfulness throughout the day - connecting with what's alive in you and embracing it with compassion and wise action, helps you cultivate the freedom to live in alignment with what's true.
Practicing with Anger