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When used as a verb, to should upon someone is to say or think that that person “should” behave a particular way, usually in an attempt to manipulate that person through the implied threat of judgment and shame. As a noun, a should is an instance of shoulding.

Shoulding is a form of conditionality: if you don’t behave the way you “should” (according to the arbitrary dictates of some external authority), you will be deemed wrong, bad, or unworthy. Shoulding is also a common pseudo-power tactic.

Conventional parenting, schooling, and religious training are so fraught with shoulding that conventionally reared children eventually internalize the external shoulds and develop the habit of shoulding on themselves. Such a child is said to be “well-adjusted” but as an adult will have difficulty connecting with his or her authentic Inner Guidance.

Shoulding is major component of the dominator model, and it goes hand-in-hand with either/or, right/wrong thinking. Thus, shoulding undermines both creativity and partnership.

Since shoulding is psychologically coercive, being should upon activates one’s counterwill. Adults who were raised with a high degree of shoulding may have an overdeveloped counterwill, which can lead to being oppositional, rebellious, defensive, passive-aggressive, etc., but counterwill does not get rid of the shoulds.

To release yourself from the shackles of shoulds, start by cultivating your inner freedom. Then you will be free to connect with and follow your Inner Guidance.