The Daily Groove

WordWatch: "Should/Shouldn't"

Today, notice your use of the words should and shouldn't, or any sense of duty or obligation that feels like "a should."

The old paradigm of control through coercion relies heavily on people having internalized shoulds — following the rules established by external authority figures.

The new paradigm of empowerment through partnership arises from authentic Inner Guidance, driven by the Creative Pleasure Principle. In other words, the only thing you should do is "follow your bliss." :)

Pleasure-orientation always eventually leads to more partnership, more kindness, more generosity. Why? Because they feel better than war, hate, and belief in scarcity.

To make the shift, replace "should" or "shouldn't" with "could" and "could not..." For example, "I should nurse my child" becomes "I could nurse my child, and I could not nurse my child... It's my choice."

Shoulds tend to make you feel as if you have no choice, which breeds resistance — resentment, anger, etc. Connecting with your freedom clears the way to feel your Inner Guidance.

Comments (closed)

Re: WordWatch: "Should/Shouldn't"

I love your daily emails - they give me a huge boost every morning. I was truly dismayed, though, at your choice to use nursing as the example of should or shouldn't. This is a "hot button" issue that, unfortunately, divides women. But the reason for the divide is a lack of support for breastfeeding as the biological norm. It is too often presented as a choice. Because of this, women see the CHOICE as the norm, as opposed to first wanting to use our bodies as nature intended.

I wish that we lived in a society where nursing was fully embraced, and not just seen as a simple "choice". It's not a simple choice - nursing and bottlefeeding are not equivalent at all. To put them in the same sentence implies that they are. To see this sentence in an attachment parenting forum really surprised and disappointed me.

Now, if your sentence was "I could nurse my cranky toddler on the bench in the shopping mall, or I could take him out to the car..." - that would be a choice!

Leslie (in NJ)

Re: WordWatch: "Should/Shouldn't"

Leslie -

I'm right there with you on the importance of breastfeeding. My partner breastfed our children for a combined duration of ten years, and we have two children, so... You do the math. :)

Please note that I don't write The Daily Groove for a mainstream audience. I write for leading-edge parents who tend to be pro-breastfeeding, and I used the example of breastfeeding "shoulds" because it's a common issue in these circles.

The reason so few American women breastfeed their babies for more than six months is not just because they have the choice (freedom) to bottle-feed, but also because they DON'T feel free to choose full-term breastfeeding (2+ years) as nature intended. For some, this lack of freedom is rooted in economics, for some it's rooted in shame, for some it's rooted in ignorance.

(In case anyone misread that last sentence, I'm not saying that mothers who don't nurse are ignorant; I'm saying that ignorance often undermines mothers' sense of freedom to choose breastfeeding.)

In reality, both choices exist: you ARE free to choose whether or not you acknowledge your freedom. Right or wrong, that's indisputable. The question is: When a mother believes she has NO CHOICE but to breastfeed, does that make her feel empowered as a nursing mother? In my experience, lack of freedom makes a person feel less empowered, not more.

In my work as a parenting coach, I serve mostly moms who practice attachment parenting in one form or another. One of the most common issues that comes up is the build-up of resentment toward nursing toddlers. These moms feel entrapped by nursing. They're not in touch with their freedom of choice in the matter. This not only diminishes the value of the nursing connection, it also undermines the mother-child partnership in general.

I never tell them they "should" keep nursing; that would only add to their inner turmoil. Rather, I encourage them to acknowledge that they are truly free to say "no" when their child wants to nurse. Why? Because freedom is a two-way street, and if you're not free to say no, you're not truly free to say YES. And guess what?... When the overwhelmed, resentful, guilt-ridden, AP moms I've coached connect with their freedom to say yes or no to nursing, they choose YES more often than not.

When a mother feels free to CHOOSE breastfeeding — when she knows she could switch to the bottle but chooses to nurse anyway — then the act of nursing becomes an affirmation of her POWER and ABUNDANCE — the power and abundance of her body, of her heart, of her creativity, and of her freedom.

In the big picture, we are in the midst of recovering from thousands of years anti-nature, anti-pleasure, fear-based, control-oriented, disempowering beliefs embedded in culture. The cure is a multi-generational transformation toward a culture of partnership. And without freedom, partnership devolves into domination systems.

Think about it. You can't have an authentic, mutually empowering partnership with your child (or anyone) if you don't feel free to choose when and how you participate. And "shoulds" undermine that feeling of freedom. "Shoulds" and "have-to's" are the mainstays of domination systems.

Only in freedom can we be truly responsible for our choices.

• See also: Who's Demanding? and the comment following it.