Ought and Should (and the damage they do)

My former marriage counselor used to tell my ex and me that all sorts of problems arise when we think “I should” or “He should” or “We should.” “Should” is a often crazy, damaging concept. It suggests that the present circumstances are either right or wrong, that the present way we feel is either right or wrong, that there is some sort of universal stamp of approval or disapproval for every single thought, word and deed.

And while I have come to intellectually understand that very few things in life warrant a universal stamp of approval or disapproval, old thought patterns and old fears bring the concept of “should” to the forefront of my mind time and time again.

In “The Journey’s Echo,” selected travel writings of Freya Stark, I came across this passage that grabbed my attention.

What is wrong with the human race, that having bought at so high a price the fruit of the tree of knowledge, it cannot even use it to tell what it likes from what it doesn’t? Not ignorance, but laziness and cowardice prevent us from knowing what we like. Left to themselves, the untaught make lovely things, but when we begin to think that we ought to admire or despise, we think the thoughts of other people, too indolent or too fearful to discover our own.

Isn’t that what should (or ought) boils down to — the thoughts of other people?

After reading them, Stark’s words started dancing around me and taunted me. They challenged me, saying "This applies to everything: how you raise my kids, who you choose to date, what you choose to wear, what publications and websites you'll write for, how you reveal things about yourself and your family to others…"

When I allow my choices, my opinions, my likes and dislikes, to be those of other people, I do damage to myself. I stop knowing who I am and what I like. I miss out on things. I miss out on me.

And, yes, this idea applies to wine. It definitely applies to wine.

The more I learn about wine and the more I become known as someone who is knowledgable about wine, the more I second guess some of my everyday wine choices. Is this wine I’m drinking on a Thursday night that was inexpensive something I should post to my Instagram account?

Should I let the world know I’m drinking a fun sparkling wine in a can? Should I let the world know I didn’t hate it?

What might others think?

When I try to figure out what other’s may think about the wine I’m drinking, I’m choosing to think their thoughts — or what I assume their thoughts may be. I’m allowing their thoughts inform my own and take precedence over my own, while questioning my own likes and dislikes.

On Instagram, I did choose to let the world know I was drinking a sparkling wine from a can a couple of days ago. But, even questioning whether I should share my wine choices for fear someone might think badly about them is a thought process I need to break, a fear I need to laugh at.

I want to admire or despise (or simply dislike) based on my own thoughts, not someone else’s. If I don’t, when it comes to wine, why should anyone care what I have to say about it?

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