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Tyranny of the Shoulds

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Autor:   •  December 4, 2010  •  Term Paper  •  752 Words (4 Pages)  •  695 Views

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The late psychoanalysis Karen Horney came up with the idea of the "tyranny of the shoulds." She described the "tyranny of the shoulds" as being are the forces pressed on us by parents, peers, socio-economic class, teachers, career counselors, pop psychology, opinionated relatives and friends and the elusive 'conventional wisdom' (Richardson, 2006) . They tell us the many things we should or shouldn't do. These "shoulds" can be seen in anyone's life, especially in the lives of college students.

Three particular "tyranny of the shoulds" that could apply directly to college students include, "I should get done with school in four years, I should make my parents happy as well as myself, and I should know how to balance school, work, family, friends, and stress." These tyrannies apply equally to both men and women; however they could apply more to a particular man or a particular woman. Gender is not what decides how the tyrannies are distributed, but rather the person's upbringing and values. If a person, regardless of gender, is brought up to value education he or she may be more prone to feeling that he or she must complete school within four years. If there is pressure from outside sources, i.e. parents, a student could also own this tyranny of feeling that he or she should finish undergraduate schooling in four years. The tyranny that states "I should make my parents happy as well as myself," could also be distributed on the basis of upbringing and values. Typically females seem to worry more about making their parents happy than males, but it is stereotypical to assume that gender is the influential factor. Again, if a person is raised to value family approval he or she will more likely adapt this tyranny. The third "tyranny of the shoulds" that directly applies to undergraduate students, "I should know how to balance school, work, family, friends, and stress," is again equally applicable to men and women.

All three of these tyrannies may seem irrational to anyone who does not engage in them, but very logical to anyone who does. When dealing with the inner conflict of any "tyranny of the shoulds" one is unaware of the irrationality. One only sees the need to strive for perfection. These inner conflicts are not usually conscious, but rather more of driving forces that motivate or discourage one's actions and feelings.

I have finally freed myself of many "shoulds" that I have carried with me for many years. One in particular is the thought that "I should never get a bad grade or do bad on a test." For a long time it seemed very unacceptable to me to get a 'C' or worse on anything school related. I also carried the "should" that "I should get good grades regardless of whether I learn anything." Being in college has allowed me to realize that it is more important to learn material than it is to get


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