NYC Therapist Talks: Expectations and shoulds

NYC Therapist Talks is a blog series written by actual therapists in New York.

It's something we talk about a lot in therapy- the difference between expectations and shoulds. Shoulds, as you might remember from elsewhere in our blog, are what late NYC Therapist Dr. Albert Ellis conceptualized as something called a cognitive distortion. This type of distortion leads to unhealthy negative emotions and the behaviors that go with them. In therapy, something we're trying to do is help people form strong preferences (or healthy expectations) and get rid of the irrational and unreasonable demands they put on themselves and others (called shoulds- or what Ellis called "Shoulding all over yourself".

Working with a therapist can help you change your thoughts and behaviors, but ultimately, you'll be recognizing those demands in no time! The result? Something not meeting your expectations is disappointing and frustrating, and as a result of feeling disappointment and frustration, you behave in a way that will help you get your strong preference of getting those expectations met. The result of the other way? You get pissed off, enraged, depressed, anxious (all of those unhealthy negative emotions we talk about with the therapist), and as a result, you behave in a way that is probably going to be self-defeating- fighting, arguing, etc.

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