There is a very famous quote by a Chinese philosopher – Lao Tzu, “Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.”
In simpler terms – What will people think of me? This is a thought that haunts many of us. Therefore, time and again we base our actions to please a lot of people. We make a choice to say things that are politically correct and that will be liked by most people in general. Often, demanding thoughts of ‘I must’ say, do things perfectly and not make a fool of myself becomes the foundation of our belief system.
Sooner or later, we realize that we do not have opinions of our own; as we are afraid to express them. I don’t deny that having opinions is indispensable. What I mean is, this is one set of thinking where we have the ‘I must’ demand.
But today, I also wish to draw your attention to something rather contradictory – Another set of thinking, the ‘you must’ demand.
According to RECBT, these demands are the ‘MUSTerabations’ we enforce on ourselves, others or life in general. These ‘Musterbations’ are the cognitive and emotional demands resulting in self – defeating behavior for an individual or a group.
What are opinions and how do they become demanding?
Opinions can be any view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. Some of us are absolutely sticking to the definition – ‘not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.’ These opinions become demands when we associate them with I must, you must, they must, it must etc for awfulzing everything around us.
We as a generation have gained an unspoken liberty to voice our thoughts. But most of the times, there is something that we overlook. We forget to be empathetic while voicing our opinions. This is because these demanding statements are now deep rooted within us and only we have made the choice of believing in them so strongly.
Reaching out & voicing our opinion is a much easier undertaking these days. Thanks to the social media. I don’t deny that the social platform available now has made things predominantly approachable. I am a follower of social media myself but unfortunately, there are two sides to every story.
Let me compartmentalize my thoughts further to make it comprehensive.
I hope all of us are familiar with a graph paper.
Definition: It is paper printed with a network of small squares to assist the drawing of graphs or other diagrams.
Let us consider this graph as a swimming pool. -10————0————+10, where -10 is the shallow side of the pool and +10 is the deep side. Likewise, on one side there are people who do not voice their opinions and on the other are people who take the liberty of expressing themselves without considering how the other person would feel, respectively.
When we get into the pool, we do not go there to hold the walls of either the shallow end (-10) or the deep end (+10). We go there to swim or float i.e being in the center.
If we can learn to float in between the pool (-2 -1 0 1 2), we can let go of our insecurities; have our own thoughts and at the same time be considerable enough to let others have their own opinions. Which means to achieve our goals. Here, the goal would be to have opinions but not being harsh in conveying them to others.
Anything that is taking us away from our goal becomes irrational.
Both, not having an opinion or given opinions with apathy can be self – defeating. That is because in both situations we fail to achieve the goal of aesthetically conveying our point of view.
Also, it is significant to realize that it is not just about challenging these demanding words but the underlying meaning associated with it.
Remember not to interfere with other’s rights to do the same for themselves while we give our demanding opinions to others. On the other hand, if we don’t have our own opinions we will follow others take on things and hence, this will make us more vulnerable to frustrations and faulty decision making.
Through therapeutic training, we can learn to guide and challenge these stringent demands we place on ourselves or others. This will in return help individuals or groups identify and challenge these prophecies and make their thoughts more realistic, elegant and flexible.
Coming out of our comfort zone to have our own opinions and also, let others have their own freedom of choice will help us feel the ‘float’.