I just completed my review of Damon L. Jacobs' new book "Absolutely Should-Less." Psychotherapists are omnipresent ---- everywhere! My father used to say they were a "dime a dozen." In today's society, they are as common as stars in the sky. But every once in a while, a star appears in the celestial universe that is bigger, more noteworthy, and shines brighter than all the rest. Such is that bright new star that answers to the name of Damon L. Jacobs.
It is not that I don't take issue with some of what Jacobs presents. While I think his pedagogical approach is faulty in some areas, he is on target with much of what he speaks.
Over 35 years ago, Werner Erhard and his Erhard Seminar Training workshops (EST for short) noted that "shoulds," were the booby prize. That is, they were basically counter-productive. Cognitive therapy, specifically "cognitive restructuring," notes that if we change the emotion of language we can change the narrative of our lives. Over the last two or three decades it has been hit and miss. The problem is language, semantics, linguistics, --- call it what you will --- has enslaved us all. We can choose to run from language, but after all, it is all we have. The run is futile and language tags right along with us wherever we go ---like that bully of a classmate at lunch recess.
Rather than flee from language --- and specifically the words we use --- perhaps it makes more sense to simply stop running from them. Accept them, and embrace the words and language we use. The better approach may be to simply defuse the power behind them. I don't believe refraining from word usage is all that helpful. I think the better approach is to defuse the power behind the words in our usage.
For example, we in fact [and good science backs us up] "should watch our weight," " should listen to our partner's feelings," "should exercise," and "should learn to love ourselves."
While Jacobs suggests we should run from or ban "shoulds" [or similar emotionally charged words], I suggest we would be better served by embracing them, defusing them, and more importantly "re-defining them." Such an approach is more in line with "Cognitive Psychology," one branch of the therapeutic milieu that has garnered some credibility.
If we all learned to define "should" as meaning: "I want to" or "I will be happier if I do," then perhaps we secure a win-win here. "Should" is such an important aspect of our semantic-linguistic world, I doubt it possible to ban "should" or run from "should." However, if we understand "should" to mean or equate "should" to be something we want, wish for, or even love, I think we would all be the wiser winner. For example, If I meant "I should lose weight" to mean I will be so much happier, and healthier, and content if I lose weight; we'd be more inclined. The secret is to diffuse the negative charge that so often is the miserable psychological baggage that rides along with the word should and other word usage.
While some may wish to deepen the argument against banning "should:" I do not. I think Jacobs has done us all a service. Whether one bans the word "should" or redefines the word "should," as I suggest, I believe the outcome of Jacobs' book is no less weakened. That is, we are wise to "restructure" the meaning of the language in our head to serve the behavior we desire and believe will bring us happiness. In so doing, we avoid "should's" victimization of us. By restructuring our "head chatter," we clearly set a path for ourselves that focuses on the beauty of the morning sunrise rather than on the tedious ordeal of another day of misery working for another dollar that arises in some minds when seeing the morning sunrise.
Though I take some issue with Jacobs' pedagogical approach to learning how to love our lives and ourselves, I support his outcome. Here we march step in step, "shouldless" and "shouldful"
While the early bird may get the worm, it is, generally speaking, the second mouse that secures the cheese from the mousetrap come end of the day. While "should" may snare and trap some people wrongfully, it "should" not keep us from achieving happiness. Power is never in the word, but rather in the power of the speaker.
I commend this bright new "star" Damon L. Jacobs. I suspect his next book "should" be quite a treat.
Dr. J. Davis Mannino
[Dr Mannino is a professor of Psychology, a Psychologist, and author. He has written five books, including two national books, Grieving Days, Healing Days [Prentice Hall] and Sexually Speaking [McGraw-Hill]. He has been a practicing therapist for three decades [Please don't remind him!]. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sexually Speaking - Grieving Days, Healing Days