But really, the only thing that is guaranteed from should-ing on ourselves is the emotional consequence of guilt.
This is also the case, in my experience at least, when other people should me. I’m not talking about constructive feedback or when we are learning a new skill, but the type of should-ing that occurs from people struggling with their own codependence.
Individuals who should us, are likely coming from their adapted ego state of needing to be in control. To test this, think of a time you told someone what they should have done instead of what they actually did; did you think you knew better? Did you want to control the situation because you knew how it should be handled? Did you believe a certain situation could have been avoided had someone just listened to your advice?
In my experience, there are days that I struggle to remain in my functional adult state and cross over to a state of being too vulnerable. This often occurs with particular individuals (parents, eh?) with whom I still grapple with damaged or fractured boundaries. On these days, or with these people, when I am should-ed upon, I have a shame attack and feelings of guilt that are difficult for me to shake off.
Protecting Yourself from Carried Guilt
Having experienced this very thing today, I would like to share some ways to overcome these feelings of guilt and shame and move back to our functional adult self.
Visualize your Boundaries
Remind yourself where you begin and end, and where they do. Sometimes it is helpful to reinforce this boundary through visualization. Some people picture a hula-hoop around them and gauge that space around them as theirs and protected. I tend to visualize building a small pony wall, and each brick has a needed word/affirmation on it. (e.g. trust, love, safe. ).
Reframe Your Thoughts
We feel guilt because we believe have erred in some way. Our own guilt lets us know that we have done something outside of our value system. Carried guilt, on the other hand, is induced into us from childhood trauma and strikes us even when something is not outside of our values. We may even blame ourselves for things that are not within our control. If you make the determination that you are feeling carried guilt instead of your own guilt, recognize that this particular should-ing experience is resulting in a cognitive distortion and work to reframe your thinking. For example:
“I am human and fallible.”
“This is not about me but it is about them and their cognitive distortions/codependence.
Talk About Your Boundaries
Having reframed your thoughts in order to work through the feelings of guilt, communicate with the individual in order to be heard and not to manipulate a particular response or reaction. This can be done through using Pia Mellody’s talking boundary:
“When I heard you say…
What I make up about that/What I think about that is…
And about that, I feel…”
Or even a simple I-statement:
“I feel..… when… because...”
Hopefully, through these three steps, you can move away from the feelings of guilt and the damaging effects of should-ing and back into your functional adult self. It worked for me today!