Recently I had a situation that made me think about how “Shoulds and Oughts” can be a clue to our script.
My sister and I were talking about our plans for the day. “I should go swimming.” I said. I had recently joined a health club and had set a goal of swimming 100 lengths, three times a week. I was torn between sticking to this goal or having a day out.
This time, I ignored my inner voice telling me what “I should” do and decided on the day out. My reasoning was (a) it was a lovely day and it would be good to get some fresh air; (b) I could catch up with my sister; and (c) I could still do a healthy level of exercise during the week.
Sometimes we do things because we think we should do them, rather than because we have chosen to. ‘Should’ and ‘ought’ are usually a sign of not accounting in the moment. Instead we interpret situations through the lens of our script. A script is the story that we apply to our life. It is made up of how we see ourselves, others and the world around us and the beliefs we have about how our life will play out. When in our script, we discount aspects of current reality to fit the script. Because of this we limit our choices and may replay feelings and behaviours that don’t serve us very well.
What happened when I was faced with the choice of doing something I wanted to do rather than something I felt I should do was that I went into script. I momentarily replayed a familiar belief that I could only have fun when I had finished all the work. The payoff for this is that whatever I did I would end up feeling bad. To not go out would mean disappointment but to go out would mean feelings of guilt.
The alternative to this was to acknowledge my scripty thinking. I took a deep breath, grounded myself and considered rationally what choices I had. I also thought about the consequences for each choice. As a result I made the choice to have the day out without experiencing the guilty feelings.
It can be hard to recognise when we are in our script. Looking out for situations where we beat ourselves up, run negative inner dialogue or focus on what we ‘should do’ rather than on what we choose are good indications. Once we are aware of these things, we can start to make more empowering choices. We can replace ‘I should’ and ‘I ought to’ with ‘I choose to or ‘I have decided’.