I have worked with many women over the years recovering from a bad breakup or lamenting their singleness. And, when February rolls around, the prospect of Valentine’s Day just makes them feel worse. I hear comments such as, "Valentine’s Day is just a dumb Hallmark holiday that I should not care about." Or, "I shouldn’t care if I am in a relationship." Or, "I pride myself on being a liberated woman. I should be happy being alone." Valentine’s Day brings up other shoulds like: "I should be in love," "I should be with a romantic man," "I should be married by now," or "I should get a present on Valentine’s day." Often these words are said to me through tears of sadness and shame. When it comes to feeling bad on Valentine’s Day, the shoulds don’t help!
My work as a trauma and emotion-centered psychotherapist has made me keenly aware of the word should, which almost always signals an underlying, shaming belief that needs attention. When a patient says to me, "I should be..." it's my cue to stop and get curious with my client about the origins of their beliefs and question their validity.