“Musterbation” : When Enough is Enough

by: Jovita Orais 

Yep, that’s the word all right. I did not misspell it. "Musterbation" is a word that Dr. Albert Ellis( a renowned American psychologist) described a kind of frame of mind that we whip ourselves with a lot of "shoulds" or "oughts."

 Over Thinking -abstract-Painting watercolors by moonix-20 @ diviantart

Over Thinking -abstract-Painting watercolors by moonix-20 @ diviantart

When we "musterbate" we flagellate ourselves with a set of rules and standards, lots of "musts", "oughts" and "shoulds" that we feel intense pressure to perform. It’s as if you are forcing yourself to do the tasks. We defeat ourselves by the way we force ourselves to get moving. We feel like an ex-convict under a tyrannical probation officer. Every tasks seem unpleasant and dull we can’t stand to face it.

For example, have you experience desperately wanting to lose weight but ironically you ended up lazing around not exercising and stuffing yourself with greasy hamburgers and sinfully rich chocolates? How about telling yourself that you ought to write and finish that report tonight, so you could hand it in the very next day but you wind up procrastinating, sitting in front of the tv or yapping on the phone?

However if we feel that everything is so right that taking action seems so natural and effortless, and we irrevocably feel that it’s the obvious next step then why not? But it’s not an everyday occurrence when your bursting with desire to swing into action and say to yourself "I know this is the right thing for me to do right now, I can’t wait to get started." If most of our days are like that then we have to be grateful. It would be nicer if we completely get rid of the nagging self-doubts (should I do this? should I do something else?) completely. If we can align our values, feelings, thoughts and actions in harmony we are in the direction of fulfillment and abundance.

When we tell ourselves " I should have bought that piece of land right before the real estate market boomed" or "I should have mowed the lawn before the lawnmower got busted" we are perpetually whipping ourselves with so many "oughts," "shoulds" and ‘musts" that we are feeling obliged, burdened, tense, resentful and totally drained of energy to get moving.

Consequently hating ourselves for being unproductive and lazy.

Why is this pushy approach (either from within or outside ) doomed to failure? Why won’t it work? Let me explain. If you, yourself or someone else eggs you on, aggressively urges you, prods you even cajoles you to do something you will feel a natural resistance. (Your mom tells you to make your bed before going out or your friend tells you to break off with your jerk boyfriend.) It’s like this. It’s a basic law of physics, that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Anytime you feel shoved, whether by someone’s hand actually on your chest or someone’s bossing you around, you will tighten up and resist so as to maintain equilibrium and balance.

You will attempt to preserve your dignity by refusing to do the thing that you are being pushed to do. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. You can’t win either way. Because if you refuse to do, you or the other person demands you to, you end up defeating yourself just in order to spite him or her. In contrast, if you do what the person tells you to do, you feel had. You gave in to those pushy demands. You get the feeling the individual controlled you and this robs you of self- respect.

Also you are giving yourself two problems for the price of one. First, you ended up not doing the tasks which really are for your own good. Second, you are being hard on yourself after not doing anything.

Inappropriate "should, ought or must" statements are surefire pathway to guilt. These irrational statements imply you are expected to be perfect, all knowing and all powerful which of course, you are not. There was no foolproof way to predict a real estate boom in your neck of the woods that’s why you didn’t buy that strip of land when it was up for sale. There was no way you can tell before hand the lawnmower is going to be broken.

Here are Four Ways To Get Rid Of Your Coercive Shoulds, Oughts And Musts:

1.Rewards System. It’s human nature to go after what we want not what we don’t want. For example , if you want to lose weight, think of the benefits; you have more energy to socialize, you fit very well in that little black dress, you look attractive in it, someone hot will ask you out, your social/dating life will improve.

2.Reformulate the way you tell yourself to do things by eliminating coercive words from your vocabulary and translating it into " It will make me feel better if I"….. or "It would be nice if "… or "It would have been better if…..".

3.Keep a daily log. Write every time you do things on your own volition. Without anyone telling you what to do. At the end of the day tally everything. Over a period of several weeks you will notice that your daily score keeps increasing. This will remind you that you are in control of your life. You will have more self-confidence. And you are able to view yourself as a more capable human being.

4.Schedule five minutes a day to recite all your should statements and self-persecutions out loud. Rattle off all the most abusive self- criticisms you can think of (" I’m such a rotten loser"). Limit you "shoulds" to this scheduled period so you won’t be bothered by them at other times. No more worrying, complaining fretting, stewing, disliking at anytime of the day.

Does this sound all too simple? Will it work for you? Why not try it and put it to the test? You will be treating yourself with a sense of respect. You will have personal dignity and a feeling of freedom of choice. You will motivate yourself through rewards rather than punishment. Get in touch with the limits of your knowledge. Accept yourself as an imperfect person. Believe you can transform yourself, break a bad habit, cultivate a new useful one, enhance self-control and lead a productive life by living a "should-free" day. Everyday.


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