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Section 25
Domineering Resident Technique #10
The Tyranny of the "Shoulds" with Domineering Residents

Table of Contents | NCCAP/NCTRC CE Booklet

Sometimes when dealing with the complaints of a domineering resident, you may feel guilty for not being able to provide the ideal activities program for all of your residents, as you think you "should."  If this feeling is excessive, you may be trapped under the unreasonable power of the “tyranny of the shoulds.”  Section #3 introduced the concept of "Should" thinking when the 10 Inaccurate Automatic Thoughts were explained.  Because this is one of the most typical Inaccurate Automatic Thoughts, we will examine "Should" thinking in further detail in this section.
Since most beliefs and rules are formed in response to needs, they have nothing to do with truth or reality. They are generated by parental, cultural, and peer expec­tations and by your needs to feel loved, to belong, and to feel safe and good about yourself.

While the process that generates “shoulds” has nothing to do with the literal truth, it depends on the idea of truth for its power.  In order to feel motivated to act on a "should," you have to be convinced of its validity.

The tyranny of shoulds is the absolute, total, or fixed nature of the belief that is the basis of your “should” self statement or self criticism.  When you make “should” statements to yourself they usually have an unbending sense of right and wrong. If you don’t live up to your shoulds, you judge yourself to be a bad and unworthy person.  This is why some Activity Directors torture themselves with guilt and self-blame regarding complaining domineering residents.  This is why they may become paralyzed when forced to choose between unbending rules like, “I must be everything to every body” and reality, “There is no way I can make all of my residents happy.”  

Here is a list of some of the most common "shoulds."  Place a number in front of each to indicate how often you might use this "Should" in your self-talk:  1 = Frequently   2 = Sometimes   3= Rarely   4 = Never

1, 2, 3, 4



I should be the epitome of generosity and unselfishness, as activity director.


I should be able to deal with any problem in the facility with calmness.


I should be able to find a quick solution to every problem a resident has.


  I should never feel hurt. I should always feel happy and serene.


I should be completely competent.


I should know, understand, and foresee everything for every event that I plan.


I should never feel certain emotions such as anger toward my elderly residents.


I should never make mistakes.


My emotions should be constant.


I should be totally independent.


I should never be tired or get sick.


I should never be afraid what other staff or residents think.


I should always be busy; to relax is to waste my time and my life.


I should put others first: it is better that I feel pain than cause anyone else to feel pain


I should always be kind.

Do you see how the  “shoulds” above that you listed as a 1 or a 2 create unrealistic standards for yourself?  So, if you feel that if you don’t live up to your shoulds, you judge yourself to be a bad and unworthy person, would Journaling be beneficial to change this self critical self-talk?

So, what do you do if you have several 1's and 2’s above?  The next Section entitled "Responding Assertively to the Requests of Domineering Residents" may be helpful.
- Adapted from McKay, Ph.D., Matthew and Patrick Fanning.  Stop Letting Your Life Lead You! Master Your Own Destiny Through Self Esteem! New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA, 1987

Forward to Section 26
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