Here’s a mystery I might have solved. I have always wondered, why do I keep telling myself what I “should” do?

Because it doesn’t really work. It makes me unhappy, often causes me to avoid doing whatever it is I “should” be doing, and it certainly doesn’t work on other people. Other than telling someone to “calm down”, there’s not much in human communication that is more counterproductive than piously explaining to someone what they “should” do.

But then came Coronavirus. And early on, I started to physically isolate myself. Why? Because I knew I should do it.


So that’s what’s going on. We “should” all over ourselves because it really does work in emergencies. And that’s what it’s meant for.

Sort of like fear. And anger. And all sorts of other survival emotions that do a great job when they are used in the context for which they evolved. Emergencies. Life-or-death situations.

Well, from now on I will stop “shoulding” on myself over minor stuff, just like I’ve stopped paying attention to my anger when it is trivial.