Welcome to stren #9, “I could” for “I should.” “I could” is one of three word-switches that is critical to free us from dictators. This stren is quite simple: Whenever reasonable, substitute “could” for “should.” “I could” inspires us to assume responsibility for our life’s experience; could redirects the energy we waste on blaming others or “guilting” our self when another or we ourselves fall short of the dictator’s shoulds.
“Should” is a prescriptive word that conveys there is one proper action; all other actions thereby become improper. “Should” is the favorite means dictators use to express themselves. “Could” is a descriptive word that invites our freedom organ to imagine alternative actions and select an action from any of the alternatives we or others create. Our first masters, instinct and tradition, program our thinking pathways to lead to the actions they prefer before we are sufficiently mentally mature to resist. We can be grateful for such dictators because we are so helpless for a prolonged period. We survive and thrive according to the protection and directions we receive. As we attain physical and mental maturity, we have a mission to outgrow the hard shell that imprisons us and assume personal responsibility of our life’s experience.
We can go through our lifetime as a servant to “the shoulds” and “should nots” that are a necessary part of our early way of thinking. Many people do just that, as do all other living beings on earth because they have no alternative. Humankind is different in that we are given an intelligent part of our brain that I refer to as our “freedom organ,” what most people commonly call our “cerebral cortex.” Our freedom organ has the specialized function to acquire knowledge and make us powerful creators. It gives us the opportunity, as well as the burden that goes with freedom, to join nature and nurture in creating who we are and what we become. Our freedom organ is capable of imagining things not present in the outside world, and using will power to make our imaginings a reality, a part of the common world we all share. Our growth of knowledge has recently accelerated so rapidly that we are like exploding fireworks, instantly creating light in all directions. No other earth creature has such power to change ourselves and the world.
What has become clear is that we are a work-in-progress. We begin our life as a servant to instinct. We reach physical maturity still directed by our nurturers. We make ourselves super-mature to the degree that we assume personal responsibility for our own destiny. The shoulds that are first required to protect us become our prison. Descriptive “I could” words empower us to think outside of the box. They free our thinking from the “shoulds” that lock us into fate and circumstance’s prescriptions. When we substitute descriptive for prescriptive words we signal our freedom organ to assume responsibility for what we think, what we feel, and what we do.
Descriptive words inspire meaning and purpose to our work-in-progress. As we acquire the knowledge that increasingly makes us powerful creators, like it or not, we determine to what degree we direct our powers to constructive and to destructive outcomes. Our recent knowledge of weapons with ultimate destructive power has created the urgency to add wisdom to the power of raw knowledge.
The hardwired demands of instinct would have us direct our creative power to survival of the fittest and the fight or flight behavior prescribed by our genes. The hardwired action pathways of tradition would have us direct our creative power in the successful ways our ancestors and nurturers managed yesterday’s problems. Neither instinct nor tradition is well-suited to wisely problem-solve the many side-effects that accompany current knowledge. Instinct too often assigns blame and demands instant harmful confrontation. Tradition too often acts to restrain destructive aggression by teaching self-putdowns, what we call “guilt.” Our culture is so indelibly programmed for guilt that we call individuals who act without remorse “psychopaths.” Blaming others or blaming our selves is unlikely to problem-solve current issues that require a newer way of common sense thinking.
Recognize that “should” is the most common of a limited number of prescriptive trigger-words in our language. Learn these equivalents: have to, must, ought, it is predetermined, I am compelled.
Recognize that “could” is the most common of equivalent descriptive word-switches in our language. Learn these equivalents: “[I] choose, am wise when ..., like, desire, wish, prefer, decide, elect, opt, think, fancy, determine, take responsibility, originate, cause, when this occurs then likely ...”
Summary: Substitute when reasonable “I could” for “I should” or equivalent descriptive word-switches such as “could, choose, prefer, I am wise when …” for prescriptive trigger words such as “should, have to, must, ought.” Prescriptive words convey the dependency of childhood responding to the commands of a dictator. Descriptive words stimulate creative thinking.