As a psychotherapist I spend a considerable amount of time helping people to let go of their counterproductive, sometimes toxic, “should’s.” People in personal growth sometimes say we have to stop “should-ing on ourselves.” In my experience, both professionally and personally, it is more accurate to think in terms of trading in one set of should’s for another. To believe I should do everything perfectly is ridiculous. To believe that I should do my best is a respectable value. To believe that, once committed to an idea, I should never change my thinking, is close minded. The opposite is preferable: to believe that I should keep an open mind and that if I am influenced to change my mind, I be willing to acknowledge that change. Those of us who believe in a participatory democracy share a belief that we all should vote. What follows are a few of what I believe to be productive should’s that can help us be stronger and wiser constituents.

 

SOME POLITICAL SHOULD’S

 

- When a politician clearly contradicts something he said in the past, something that is a matter of record, we should insist that he include the sentence, “I changed my mind.” Whether or not he wants to explain the shift in thinking can be completely optional. But to blatantly contradict himself and expect that we will say nothing is truly treating us with no respect, as if we are stupid. We should not tolerate that.

 

- Problem solving should be our first priority and should transcend party affiliation. To assume that representatives of either political party are ALWAYS right is not realistic. We root for our sports teams unconditionally; that is not the way we should support political parties.

 

- Political discourse needs to include idealism. Ideologues incite us and inspire us. They make us think, they make us feel. They motivate us, they help us remember to care what is going on. But ideologues should not be in positions of authority. The people we elect to run things should be pragmatists -- expert problem solvers. Ideologues, by definition, are not good at thinking in terms of the gray between black and white, by definition, not good at compromise. (They are not supposed to be; not their job.) Ideologues should stir things up and keep us on our toes. Pragmatists should be in charge.

 

- We should be vigilant about the temptation to settle for overly simplified explanations of issues. The jobs entrusted to our elected representatives are complicated --- a lot of ins and outs and what-have-you’s.

 

More should’s will follow, no doubt. Please feel free to add to the list I have begun here.

 

 

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