How often do you find yourself saying “his ex-wife shouldn’t call during dinner,” “the kids should pick up after themselves,” “little Timmy’s mom should spend more time with him,” or “my husband shouldn’t have to pay so much in child support?”
The word should keeps you locked in a perpetual state of war with reality. The word should adds stress, keeps you angry, and can cause rifts in your most important relationship: your marriage.
Like most stepmoms, I lived in my own world of should and should not without even realizing it. That is until I had dinner with a good friend and she challenged every one of my should and should not statements.
“Junior should keep his room clean,” I stated as I sipped my wine.
“Is that true?” my friend asked.
“Of course it’s true!” I was more than a little incensed. How dare she challenge me!
“How do you know it’s true?” she persisted.
“Because he should keep his room clean.”
“Is his room clean?”
That was the reality. Regardless of whether Junior should or should not clean his room, his room was a mess. As trivial as it sounds, as long as I thought in should terms, I was having a big argument with reality. And reality always wins.
“Have you heard of Byron Katie?” my friend asked.
I shook my head.
“She wrote a book called “Loving What Is” and I think it might help you with Junior.”
Not one to let a recommendation slip by, I ordered Katie’s book and found her website, www.thework.org. I devoured Katie’s book and realized that every stepmom who wants to end her suffering and her war with reality may want to read the book and do The Work. As I did The Work, it became clear to me that my belief that Junior should clean his room was causing a lot of stress and anger to build up. Applying the final step in The Work is like pouring liquid plumber on the negative emotional clog that seems to accumulate in so many us.
Taking Junior’s messy room and my belief that he should keep it clean one step further, I applied the “Turnaround” – writing down statements that were useful, beneficial, and true. Should statements are not true; they are attachments to false beliefs. My turnaround statement looked like this:
Junior doesn’t keep his room clean because he has too much stuff. Too much stuff overwhelms Junior.
This was a true and useful turnaround. In seeing the reality of the messy room, I was able to come up with a solution that benefited both Junior and me as well as my husband. The three of us agreed to donate or throw away items that no longer served Junior. Three large trash bags later, Junior had a room that he could manage without becoming overwhelmed.
While the example I used may seem trivial and simplistic, any should or should not statement can be used in The Work. Four years ago, I applied Katie’s strategy on many of my false step life beliefs and I effectively ended my war with step reality. If you are ready to accept the wholesome what is so, discover creative solutions to step life issues that seem to plague you, and clear out your negative emotional clogs, I strongly encourage you to read “Loving What Is” and do The Work.
“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.” – Byron Katie
Your Homework Assignment
Go to http://thework.com/thework.php and follow The Work process. You can download Katie’s “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheet and tackle all of your false beliefs and should statements. Some of the false beliefs you work through may be emotionally uncomfortable but I encourage you to work through them. The freedom you’ll feel once you release your attachments to your should and should not statements will be worth it.
This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of StepMom Magazine and is part of Peggy’s 12 part series, “Remodel Your Life.”
** Special thanks to Maureen Campaiola for introducing me to Loving What Is back in 2007!**
The more that I learn, the more that I am realizing that the Body By Vi Challenge is not as much about what we have to lose, but more about what we have to gain in the process. I’m reclaiming me. Are you ready to do the same? Join the Challenge today!