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Hilber Psychological Services

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Posts tagged shoulds
Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Have you been accused of being passive-aggressive? Have you told someone else that they're being passive-aggressive? We hear these terms quite frequently. Some of the time they are often right on the mark and other times this term just does not fit. What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Passive-aggressive behavior is indirectly being aggressive to get what you want or don't want, while still appearing like you're easy-going and trying to please others. Using passive-aggressive statements is seen as a way to resist and still appear like you're complying. Passive-aggressive behavior can also be defined as a "deliberate and masked way to express covert feelings of anger" as stated by Whitson in Passive Aggressive Diaries. Many times people may want to appear likable, easy-going and happy, yet they are actually angry or resistant. These people may believe that they're not allowed to have or show their feeling.

What can I do instead? 

As the term states, this is a combination of two extremes: Passive behavior and aggressive behavior. Passive behavior and communication tends to be wishy-washy, indirect, and hints at the point we want to make. Aggressive behavior is typically attacking, mean, and hurting someone else to get what we want. Neither extreme helps you achieve what you want to accomplish.

Instead of passive-aggressive behavior, we can be assertive. Assertiveness is being firm but friendly and using our words to mean exactly what we want to say. To be assertive, you can state the exact message you want to get across without hiding your emotions or being hurtful. For example, instead of saying, "Fine, whatever. I don't want to finish this anyways." You could say, "Can we stay for 10 more minutes? I just want to finish this first." By using this assertive statement, the other person is unlikely to feel bad, hurt, or angry, and you get to finish your task. Being assertive still means you both "win" and you still get to have your feelings and be friendly.

You can also talk to a professional to help guide you through these behaviors and be more assertive. This can help you feel better about yourself and increase the connection in relationships.

To discuss this and other behaviors in detail, contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.

How to minimize your "Shoulds"

Too many "shoulds" equals too much guilt. If you've been following Hilber Psychological Services, you already read the post about "Too Much Guilt" and you already know that "shoulds" are thinking mistakes or cognitive distortions and they move us further away from our happiness.  There's a place and time for guilt, but making our daily choices each day typically does not require excess guilt. We want to feel more empowered and "in control" of our decisions, feelings, actions, and our lives in general. So, you know that you need to limit your "Should" statements, but how do you actually decrease your "should" statements?

The first step is to be aware of statements that include "shoulds." The next step is to empower your decision making and take control of your choices. This is an easy activity you can do to minimize your use of "Should" statements.


You make millions of choices everyday. These range from minute choices to larger, life-changing decisions. These include what time you're going to wake up, whether you get out of bed at the first alarm or snooze it, how long you shower, if you shower in the morning, what you eat for breakfast, and if you sit down at the table to eat. We haven't even left the house yet. This means that you also have millions of choices to practice being aware, and accepting each choice you make. You have also had experience with these choices so accepting these small choices will probably be easy for you to practice with.

Each time you make a decision, even a small choice such as what shirt you wear, you can state, "this is my choice, I accept this," or "I choose this decision," or even "this is mine to make, I accept it." Or any variation thereof. The important part is to tell yourself that the choice is yours (awareness) and to accept that it's yours to make.

Now I know you cannot possibly do this for each and every decision you make or you may not make it out of the house in time, but try to do it as many times as possible. You can say this in your head or out loud for others to hear.

By the end of the week, note how often you're able to make a decision without shoulds or guilt and how empowered you feel. Can you imagine how good it will feel if you choose and accept your bigger decisions?

For more information, contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.

Too much guilt?

Do you have too much guilt? Does it eat away your insides? Do you often say "should" statements? There is a time and place for guilt, meaning that guilt is useful in some situations. Maybe we go to stand in line at starbucks only to realize there's a long line that we accidentally bypassed, or maybe we accidentally knock over a vase and it breaks, or even accidentally hurt someone's feelings. The key word here is "accidentally" and these situations illustrate that we just didn't notice something or someone. We can problem solve and use our coping skills in these situations, so we would go to the back of the line, apologize and pay for the broken vase, or apologize to the person and explain that you didn't mean what you said. After we do something of the sort, we can feel better and guilt can go away.

Relationship advice

However, sometimes the guilt likes to stay longer than usual or maybe it occurs more than the usual scenarios. Maybe we feel guilty almost daily for not eating better or working out enough. Does this guilt help you work out more? Does it make you eat better? Most people say "no" - it does not actually change their choices or habits.

This means that we are feeling guilty for no reason. We are wasting our energy, time, focus, and emotions on guilt when there's no reason. With extra, unnecessary guilt there are most likely "should" statements in our daily vocabulary. Based on the cognitive distortions or thinking mistakes, "shoulds" add more guilt where we don't need it. This is the brain's way of feigning that we're better than we actually are. The problem with that idea is that we are telling ourselves that we need to be different than who we are. I'm sure you can imagine how a child would feel if we told him, "you need to be a different person than who you really are." Adults are a little more sophisticated as we've practiced for many years, but we slide in the guilt with "should" statements.

Your challenge this week: Be aware of when you use "shoulds" or if you add unnecessary guilt. Try to redo the statement without the "should" and see how often you can correct yourself with an appropriate statement.

If you'd like more ideas on how to feel better or would like more information, contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.

Thinking to more Happiness

Ever hear a teenager say "well I don't want to exaggerate my feelings.. I'm just unsure if they will like me?" Probably not. Most of us have heard others say thoughts that exaggerate, catastrophize, and overgeneralize their feelings or emotions - and they aren't limited to teenagers. Research shows such a huge link between emotions and thoughts (or cognitions) that an entire psychological or therapeutic orientation has grown out of this connection. This orientation is widely used and accepted by all kinds of therapists and insurance companies alike.

Here are some points to help you become aware of your thoughts and determine whether they are unnecessarily affecting your emotions in negative ways. The following are "thinking mistakes" you may find yourself thinking:

  • Mind Reading - believing that you know what people are thinking, yet haven't asked them first. Example: you don't receive a call back from your friend, you think "she probably hates me now."
  • Telling the Future - thinking that you can predict the future and know that something will end badly. Example: you have a presentation, but think "it will go so badly, everyone will laugh at me off the stage."
  • Emotional Reasoning - determining the reality and facts based on how you feel. Example: you're nervous about going to the holiday party, you think "I'm so nervous, everyone will see how anxious I am and no one will talk to me."
  • Labeling- attaching negative labels to yourself, calling yourself names. Example: you forget to call your friend back after work, you think "I'm a horrible friend, I'm so stupid & untrustworthy."
  • "Should" statements - using "should" to motivate yourself or punish yourself. Example: you write a report for work, you think "it shouldn't take me so long, it should have less errors in it."
  • Overgeneralizing- making a conclusion based on one or two small aspects. Example: you hear someone at work doesn't care for you, you think "she doesn't like me, so everyone must hate me."
  • Catastrophizing- exaggerating the likelihood that something bad will happen. Example: you're nervous about the meeting with your boss, you think "chances are that he's going to fire me, I won't be able to find a job and I'm going to be hungry & homeless."

If you become aware of these, take a breath and think about what you could stay instead. Instead of "I always do it that way" it could be "sometimes I do it that way" or "I often do it that way." Which ones have you found yourself saying or thinking?