Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.
I see only women in my private practice. Some come to see me for short-term, solution-focused work. Work that is focused on a specific problem or issue that they are currently experiencing in their life. One that they would like “fixed” as soon as possible, so they can move on to bigger and better things. Typically, when they feel like the issue has been worked through and resolved, they are also done with therapy. However, they do sometimes return to counseling with me when a new issue arises that they need help addressing. This is often how these women “do life.”
Other women come to see me for long-term, process-oriented work. Work that they would like to do (or feel they need to do), often really deep and hard work, because they are looking to make positive shifts in their life overall, individually, with their spouse, with their kids, with their friends, with their extended family, with their coworkers, etc. When they feel that this bigger shift has happened in their life, then our sessions usually end (or their sessions get more spread out from weekly to every other week or just a monthly check in session). Again, it’s often how these women “do life.”
With both my short-term and long-term clients, what I hear a lot in our sessions together (and let’s be honest, in my own life as well) are a lot of “shoulds” that are affecting their day-to-day mental wellness. What I challenge my clients to do is first start to notice all these shoulds and how they show up in their lives. Next, is trying to figure out together where they are coming from and what they mean, especially if they choose not to listen to them. What we’re finding is there is often a lot of judgment attached to these “shoulds” in life.
My “should” that came up for me today… I should go to my child’s Valentine’s Day Party at school. Why? Because good moms go to these parties (because society tells us we should go?). However, when I asked my son if he would like me to be there, at 10 years old, he said no he’d just like to celebrate with his friends.
I guess I could have been sad about that, but I was kind of relieved as it’s in the middle of the work day, there isn’t enough parking at school, the gate keepers at the office are typically unwelcoming and make entering the school a chore (their job, I know, but it would still be nice after all this time to be recognized as a parent and part of the school community too), and we have our own family Valentine’s Day plans tonight and will be spending plenty of time together later on. But, had I chosen to blindly follow the should, I would have done something neither my son nor I really wanted. So, I’m definitely happy and thankful that we took the time to talk about it ahead of time.
Shoulds may be coming up in your life because of societal pressure, but may also be stemming from your own perfectionism, expectations from your spouse, pressure from your work, judgment from your extended family, etc.