As we move forward trying to discern the gist of the Are vs. Should Problem, I want to describe both the general dilemma and share a few specific examples. Generally speaking, you know you are in the Are vs. Should Problem when you experience discomfort, cognitive dissonance, anxiety, fear, anger, and other uncomfortable emotions. Of course, there could be many causes for these states of mind and it’s ALWAYS hard to identify the cause. It’s like when my kids get sick I always want to know where and when they picked up the virus or bacteria. We are all Sherlock Holmes to some degree and need to know WHY things happen. With the Are vs Should Problem it is difficult because the symptoms are so universal.
On the other hand, it could be that any discomfort, to some degree, is RELATED to the Are vs. Should problem and I make the assumption that this is nearly always the case. Despite the multitude of things that can happen to a human and the variety of reactions we can have, I’ll argue that the cognitive dissonance related to these reactions is in part a result of the struggle between who you ARE and who you think you SHOULD BE.
If you look at the Episodes I have recorded, you will see the Are vs. Should problem at work in many forms. Analysis Paralysis is something we all experience where we can’t make a decision, get anxious, and lose the ability to move forward. To some degree, this is a result of the conflict between what the person we ARE would do, and what society/family/job tells us we SHOULD do. We all experience internal conflict and Doubt about our decisions and what the outcomes will be. This is the essence of the Are vs. Should problem. Similarly, struggles between narcissists and codependents epitomize the ARE and SHOULD extremes between two different people where each person is struggling between extremes of selfishness and caretaking.
Though I can’t yet offer distinct solutions about which voice to listen to, I do know that this struggle is fairly universal. I talk about this in episode about different vs. the same. I think this is because the struggle between these competing personalities (ARE vs. SHOULD) can be isolating and lead us to spend a lot of time ‘in our heads’ and at the very least we need to be aware of how isolating this struggle can be. When we are in our heads, we are feeling more pressure from the SHOULD and need to get more inside our ARE. Think about it, who is the voice in your head most of the time? Who are you talking to? Who are you?? The more in your head you are, the more ‘should’ you are being.
Which person do you want to be? This is where we will be headed in future episodes. This is the type of person you are being – but is it the type of person you want to be?? Who do you REALLY want to be? The are or the should? This dissonance can be mild or critical. This is what the personal inventory is all about, identifying and ranking your traits and prioritizing what to do about it.
In this episode I share a few examples ranging from fairly benign to critically important. Struggles between the ARE and SHOULD can create chronic anxiety, stress, and fear. Do you want to live in a state of anxiety all the time? Our perspectives about gender roles or blue and pink jobs can greatly influence some people’s choices and experiences. Isn’t it important we figure out what matters to us as individuals and each other? Does it really matter if a woman wears pants to work or makes as much money as her male counterparts? Some times it most certainly does matter, and the potential outcomes are disastrous. Other times it might not matter so much. It comes down to the type of society we want to live in and be (see the Dream Bigger Episode) and what rules we think are worth defending, and which ones are not.
The first step, again, is to lay out your Personal Inventory prioritize each item, and decide what matters. This will determine your personal values and beliefs.
In upcoming episodes I will discuss how these personal values lead to society-level norms, rules, and laws. I will start to dissect how the ARE and SHOULD come to be, and ultimately, how learning not to care what people think goes a long way to choosing which voices you want to hear.
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