Monday, December 20, 2010

Resisting Gift-Giving Pressure From Others


I just received a wonderful letter from the reader of this blog:
"Just read your blog about the Shouldless Xmas gifts. I am glad you wrote about it. I also recently had an experience with my follow students at school. All the students wanted donations for a Holiday party and to buy the teacher a gift, for being such a "good teacher" as they phrased it. I personally and honestly do NOT think he is a good teacher, so I told them I was NOT giving any money for it or the party. They of course naturally got surprised and angry. I personally do not care, because they do not pay my taxes, rent and food....Plus, I am NOT working Full-time and I am living of my resources.  In anycase, I do NOT want to go into my private financial pity episode with my colleagues, because it is none of their business and not their problem. So, I take the consequences as NO BIG loss and they shall get over it! As Dr. Albert Ellis once said: 'I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR DISFUNCTIONAL BEHAVIOR!' "
This statement incorporates several tips from my earlier post  about Resisting Gift-Giving Shoulds.  She recognized that (1) Fellow students may judge for not spending money, but they won't pay her bills later, and (2) People may be thrown off center when you don't spend as they think you "should," but your real friends will respect you for taking care of yourself.  This reader found a beautiful way to find peace by living on her own terms as opposed to other people's "shoulds." Are you finding the same?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Should-less Ipod


This may be completely off-topic, but I think this is a valuable piece of information for anyone who has become completely addicted to their iPod, as I have.  Earlier today on my way to work my iPod died.  It simply went to sleep and didn't wake up.  When I got home, it did not connect with my computer.  I was getting ready to bury the thing and figure out how to budget to get a new one.

Then I found this helpful piece of information online:

Reset Click Wheel Ipod (newer ipods including resetting an ipod video)
1. Flip the Hold switch on and off and make sure it ends up no longer on hold.
2. Press and hold the Menu and Select buttons (center Button) until the Apple logo appears (may take 5-11 seconds, and you may need to repeat this step)

I did these steps and viola!  My iPod came back to life.  All the music, all the settings still there.

It can be easy when we are stressed about holidays to slow down and problem solve effectively.  This was a reminder to me (1) not to put my affection and faith into mechanical objects that will at some point die, and (2) ask for help when said mechanical object fails.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to Resist Gift-Giving "Shoulds"!

Holidays, especially Christmas, are the perfect time to practice living life Absolutely Should-less.  During these last few weeks of every year, regardless of your religion, all of us are bombarded with an excessive flurry of “shoulds” coming at us in all directions.  Family, media, coworkers, department stores, pretty much everywhere you look the message is clear: “You should be buying things.”  The consequence of this is that it results in many people feeling guilty, sad, inadequate, even unlovable.

For many, spending an excessive amount of money is simply not possible.  I know parents who spend the entire year working, struggling, and sacrificing in order to provide food, clothes, safe housing, heat, and school supplies for their children.  An admirable feat, definitely.  But then Christmas comes around and guess what?  None of that matters.  Because adults and kids are all getting the same message -- gifts are more important than love.  “You should give your children expensive gifts to let them know how much you love them.”  See anything faulty about this logic? 

There is an easier way to live in this life.  You can challenge the status quo by choosing to be should-less, and even opting not to give presents if that would be a compromise to your happiness (or for you wallet!).  Unfortunately, choosing to be happier with less shoulds can involve some rejection and disapproval from others.  Deciding one year not to buy Christmas presents, or give birthday gifts, or not to send a card for any “holiday” invented by the card companies, can make you rather unpopular in your family.  Any time anyone breaks away from the status quo they risk some social consequences.  If you are concerned about this, please keep the following in mind: 

Tips for resisting gift giving "shoulds"

1.  This is your life and your life only.  Relatives and friends may judge you for not spending money, but they won’t pay your bills a month later.
2.  People may be thrown off center when you think or act differently.  They may react with surprise or hostility.  But the ones in your life who truly care about you will see how much happier you are.  They will want to support you in living a peace-filled life, and not going into great amounts of debt. 
3.  Sometimes it is better not to give others everything they want for holidays or birthdays.  In fact, by always giving someone gifts at these times, you may unwittingly be sending them a message that love should be expressed primarily through material gifts. 
4.  It can be quite beneficial to teach others, especially children, how to save and budget their own money If they are always getting material items they want, then there is no reason for them to learn how to financially plan. 
5.  By not giving in to societal shoulds, you may be helping someone else in ways you can’t even realize.  By acting in a healthy way, you give others permission to do the same.  There may be someone in your family suffering more financial duress than you, who finds incredible relief when you’re the first one to stand up against holiday/birthday shoulds.  Her shame about her financial situation may have prevented her from speaking up, but because you have done it, that road is paved. 

Holidays can be a wonderfully fun and peaceful time for you and your loved ones.  Or they can be a living hell. Which are you choosing?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday "shoulds"

Yup, the holiday season is here!  This is that special time of year when most people are bombarded with constant and insidious "shoulds" from children, parents, spouses, partners, media, culture, department stores, advertisements, and about a dozen other sources.  Is it any wonder why people experience more stress, anxiety, and substance abuse this time of year?  Do we really have to question why there are 5% more heart related deaths in December than any other time?

Going through the holidays with "shoulds" dictating how you think and what you do is like living in prison.  Those steel bars may have been created and sustained by the external sources around you.  Fortunately, YOU have the key to your freedom, that is, celebrating life without "shoulds."

Over the next few weeks on this blog I will be presenting various tips/tools/insights on how to cope with the holidays without "shoulds", or at the minimum, with less "shoulds."  It is my strongest intention that anyone reading will begin to assert their power over destructive "shoulds" and have their most peaceful and fulfilling holiday season ever.

As always, comments are welcomed here, or email me at Shouldless@gmail.com with any thoughts or questions. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Do It


In honor of World AIDS Day, I wanted to do my part to share education and information about the current HIV Vaccine Trials taking place across the United States.

I first heard about these studies four years ago. At that time I noticed I was no longer seeing HIV presented in the media as a crisis. However, people I knew were still being infected, friends were still getting ill, my clients were still struggling, and families and loved ones were still suffering. I felt frustrated that 25 years into this epidemic we didn't seem any closer to seeing the end of it, and that the younger generation appeared dangerously oblivious to the risks of contracting this disease.

That’s when I learned about the HIV Vaccine Trials taking place in New York and many cities around the United States. It appeared that this was the answer I was waiting for, this was the change I was waiting to see. If one could be vaccinated and protected from ever becoming HIV infected, it would certainly promote physical and emotional wellness in myself and my community.

Sure, I had trepidations about receiving an experimental vaccine. So I took the time to educate myself. I talked to the nurse at Project Achieve,  I did research, and I asked questions. I weighed the possibility of minimal side effects against the potential of global benefits, and concluded that this was the right thing for me to do. I agreed to receive injections of either the vaccine or placebo, and agreed to come in for follow up blood draws for several years after.

The side effects, if any, were anticipated to be mild flu-like symptoms and fatigue for 24 hours after receiving the injection. To be honest, this part did not thrill me. But then I realized that some minor flu-like side effects were minimal compared to the discomfort and illness many of my loved ones with HIV had gone through. And with that, I agreed.

Over the next six months I received the three injections. And yes, I did have minor flu-like symptoms and fever for a short duration after receiving each injection. However, instead of that bothering me, it became something I perceived as positive. I realized that what was happening to my body was going to directly assist the researchers in learning how to eliminate this disease from our world. Generations from now, children would be as familiar with HIV as today’s generation is with polio, in part thanks to my efforts. I was willing to endure any side effects of discomfort with that goal in mind.

I now work for Project Achieve doing outreach and education about the trials around New York City. The current clinical trials are taking place now in several cities in the United States.  You can press here to find out if it is happening in a city near you.

This is an opportunity to actively take part in the solution. This is a chance to honor those that have passed, and their families that miss them. This is a chance for volunteers to take pride in knowing they are doing their part to change the world. Participating in the HIV vaccine trials gave my life a new sense of meaning and purpose. Will you consider giving yours the same?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Should-less" weight loss


One of the "shoulds" I hear most often is, "I should lose weight."  This is such a pervasive thought in our culture that I dedicated entire chapter to it in my book, "Absolutely Should-less." On the surface, there appears to be nothing wrong with this statement, especially when losing weight could benefit one's physical and mental health.  The only problem is shoulds are not an effective motivator for long term change. They can sometimes be a catalyst for short-term compliance.  But they do not produce effective results in the long haul.

Why is that? Because "shoulds" about weight loss (and any other activity) are based on external pressures. In my book, there is a step-by-step process offered which helps you break down all the sources of learning why you "should" lose weight.  The basic idea is that none of us were born into this world looking in the mirror and saying, "I look fat today."  We had to learn to police our bodies this way.  And if we learned it, that means we can unlearn it.  

The main problem with using a "should" to change behavior is that it often produces the opposite result.  Overtime, reacting from a place of "should" leads one to become resentful, burnt out, frustrated, and then having a negative reaction to healthier eating and going to the gym.  If you have ever walked by that gym and felt guilty, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The good news is that there is an easier way to lose weight and make healthy choices.  By challenging and altering long-held "shoulds" you make room for new thoughts, new values, new beliefs.  You can begin to make choices that are rooted in love and appreciation for yourself instead of fear.  You can be empowered to feel in control of your decisions instead of complacently adhering to societal standards.  Or to put it another way, you can feel GREAT whether you decide to hit the gym or not!


Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Day After: Was It Good For You?

Was it good for you?  Monday, November 1st was the Third Annual Give Up Your Shoulds Day.  For one day, hundreds of you went without a harmful "should" that had been preventing you from having the blissful life you deserve.  Now what?

If you enjoyed having a day without "shoulds," then consider trying one week, maybe even a month. My book Absolutely Should-less offers a step by step guide to reducing "shoulds" in satisfying and effective ways.  It encourages you to take responsibility for your own bliss and directly challenge any messages that conveys, "You should change."

To learn more about how to live blissfully without "shoulds," continue to visit this blog, or listen to any one of the shows:  

Radio Show with General Hospital's Jacklyn Zeman
Feast of Fun
Da Doo-Dirty Show (Damon comes on around 85min)
Brandon's Buzz 

If you are in the New York City and want to see me for a session, please contact me at Shouldless@gmail.com, or call 347-227-7707.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Third Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day Is Today!

WELCOME to the 3rd Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day!  I couldn't be happier to celebrate this holiday again and to hear all the "shoulds" that people are willing to give up for a day.  Remember: Giving up a "should" does not necessarily mean you are going to do drastically different things.  It may mean doing the exact same things differently.  Either way you get to wake up on a Monday morning without having all the "shoulds" weigh you down.  So here's how it works:

MORNING: Please post on your FB or Twitter status one "should" you are willing to give up for one day. Please include @Damon L. Jacobs so I can see it. (on Twitter it's "DamonLJacobs").

2pm-3pm EST: Listen to our "should-less" blogtalk radio broadcast with General Hospital's Jacklyn Zeman at http://tobtr.com/s/1319605, at 2pm EST (11am PST) .Call in live and share with us your "should"!

3pm-4pm EST: Engage in Twitter discussion with Damon about "shoulds" at http://twitter.com/DamonLJacobs

8pm-9:30pm EST: If you are in NYC, come to the FREE workshop, "How To Lose The Should To Get The Good" at 208 W. 13th street. Free Brownies made by Matt Cameron, aka, the "Zesty Chef" of New York.

THROUGHOUT THE DAY: You can listen to me discuss the bliss of living life "should-less" by listening to my appearance on any one of these shows:

Feast of Fun
Da Doo-Dirty Show (Damon comes on around 85min)
Brandon's Buzz 

If this event appeals to someone you know, please tell them as well!

Thank you so much, I look forward to sharing a wonderful "Should-less" day with all of you!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Third Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day Is Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the big day! We're almost there! For those who wish to participate in this event here's how it will work:

MORNING: Please post on your FB or Twitter status one "should" you are willing to give up for one day. Please include @Damon L. Jacobs so I can see it. (on Twitter it's "DamonLJacobs").

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Messed Up Thinking #6: It Is Personal


 When someone says something to you or about you, it feels personal.  When someone hits you or knocks you down, it feels personal.  When someone uses Twitter, FaceBook, or any social media to publicly attack you, it feels personal.  When a bully in your life tries to hurt you or intimidate you, it feels personal. But the power you have in ANY and all of these circumstances is to remind yourself of this golden phrase:

"What other people think of me is none of my business."

Seriously!  You have the choice to change your mind at any moment by repeating the above.  You may need to repeat a lot if you have never said it before, but I guarantee the more you integrate this message into to your daily life, the easier it will get.

What's implicit in this message is that every single one are walking around on this earth making meaning of life based on our perceptions.  How each and every one of us define good or bad, smart or dumb, attractive or unattractive, completely depends on how we have been conditioned.  You don't get to choose or control the conditioning with which other people judge you.  What you do get control over is how much power and attention you are going to give it.

Remember, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."  If you attack me then I will definitely experience pain, outrage, frustration, or some form of hurt.  But suffering happens when I tell myself, "He is right. I'm no good, I should shut up, I should be dead."  If every child and adult truly learned this lesson, I can promise that this epidemic of gay suicides would end quickly.

When someone hates you it has nothing to do with you.  Learn this now, live peacefully forever. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at Shouldless@gmail.com

Friday, October 22, 2010

Feast of Fun!

I had such a wonderful time talking with the boys at Chicago's Feast Of Fun show the other day.  We discussed the impact of "shoulds" on bullies, gay suicide, as well as how we challenge destructive "shoulds" in our own lives.  We also reviewed the five things gay men typically do to sabotage relationships, and the ONE thing that everyone can do to stop the spread of HIV (and it's not about condoms!). Please go to Feast of Fun to download the show (#1276 on 10/20/10) and tell me what you think. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Messed Up Thinking #5: My Feelings Are Facts


This is probably one of the biggest mistakes smart people make to ruin their lives.  They use their feelings to determine what is absolutely true.  They decide that just because something feels a certain way, then it must be an accurate reflection of reality.  And as we have witnessed recently in the news, this type of thinking can be fatal. 

To begin, feelings are not facts. They are experiences that can be extremely pleasurable or quite disturbing.  Either way, they do not always reflect what is objectively taking place around you.  For example:  When I'm waiting for that subway train to come, I often feel like it's never going to get there, and then I experience frustration, impatience, and anger.  The rational  fact is that eventually that train will be there.  It could be one minute, it could be twenty minutes, but eventually someday, sometime that train will appear.  When I decide to believe my irrational feelings, I suffer the consequences, by having unpleasant emotions.  

This can be especially troublesome in relationships when you feel like someone else is doing something wrong.  A phone call or text message isn't returned quickly.  Your partner is distracted.  Your sex life decreases.  These can all lead one to feel like a relationship is in trouble, when in fact, these can be common occurrences in any long term partnership.  These changes may mean nothing at all.  But if you make decisions solely based on how they feels, versus rationality,  you are bound to be stressed out and unhappy, and possibly destroy a union that has value to both of you.  Conversely, you may feel like someone truly loves you and wants to be with you, while the rational evidence may show that that person is not loving and caring towards you.  Either way, feelings are not the best indicator of what is actually happening in reality. 

Sadly, thinking that feelings are facts can have deadly consequences as well.  We are too familiar now with the frequency that young gay/lesbian people take their lives while feeling like their life will never get better.  Rationally, we know that life does get better, and the current "It Gets Better" campaign offers plenty of credible evidence to support this.  Yet suicide attempts are made from the irrational thought, "I feel my life will never get better so that must be true."

Please keep in mind, there is nothing "bad" or problematic about feelings.  As I said earlier, feelings can be wonderful pleasurable experiences.  What brings unnecessary pain is suffering is when you use feelings to decide something is true at the exclusion of rational evidence around you.  I may feel that train isn't coming, but all rational evidence would indicate it will.  I may feel my life is over when all rational evidence would indicate it will get better. 

If we want to live in a world with less suicide, less violence, and less suffering, then it begins by each person challenging automatic thought patterns.  If you want to see young people live and thrive instead of taking their lives, then all of us need to be that change.  We can all be part of the solution just by making some adjustments to our thought patterns. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Feast of Fun

I am so excited to announce that I will be doing an upcoming show with the brilliant and twisted minds behind Feast Of Fun. The Feast of Fun podcast is a daily talk show hosted by Fausto Fernós and Marc Felion featuring celebrity guests, artists, musicians, actors, friends and members of the GLBT community. The program is a roundtable discussion of unusual news, social trends and features cocktail recipes and interviews.

Few people work harder to bring intelligent, stimulating, and FREE news and entertainment to the world every day. Their contributions to the spirit and health of GLBT community are unmeasurable.  They were honored on the one year Anniversary of Podcasting by the iTunes Music Store for having "helped pave the way for podcasts to go from underground movement to mainstream phenomenon.”

Please check out their incredible work at the Feast of Fun website, and come back to this blog to listen to our upcoming show.  

UPDATED:
Listen below.


Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Lose The Should To Get The Good" Workshop November 1st


I am so excited to announce this addition to the 3rd Annual Give Up Your Shoulds Day events.  I will be offering a FREE workshop in New York City, on Monday, November 1st, at the GLBT Center (208 W. 13th Street), from 8pm-9:30pm titled, "How to Lose The Should To Get The Good". If you have EVER experienced any sadness or stress telling yourself you should be any different than you are today, or if you want to learn how to help others decimate cruel messages from bullies, then THIS is the workshop for you!

Free treats will be served, and signed copies of "Absolutely Should-less" will be for sale! If you are in the New York area, please come join me.  Questions? Email me at Shouldless@gmail.com

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The "Shoulds" Killing Gay Youth

Another gay related suicide was reported in the news today.  In an earlier post, I discussed how all action is a response to a thought.  In the case of a gay person committing suicide, or trying to commit suicide, it is always coming from the equation:

 I should be straight + I should be normal
 = I should be dead

It is way past time that we get smarter about this.  Someone cannot take the extreme action of killing themselves without a "should" in their thoughts.  A "should" is a rigid and inflexible belief about yourself, others, or the world.  When you use "should" you are presuming you know how things "should" be, and demanding that things had better go your way or not at all.  Suicide is an extreme response to this thinking.  

I am proposing a one day moratorium on "shoulds" on Monday, November 1st.  One day without, "I should be straight." One day without, "I should be normal." One day without, "There is something inherently wrong with me and I should change."

Sure, "it gets better," but absorbing that message requires someone to have faith in a future event.  It comes as little comfort to someone who is seriously contemplating suicide.  It is time to help gay youth stand up and fight against the "shoulds" that are demanding they kill themselves.  Teach them how to say NO to the internal and external voices telling them they should die.  Give them tools for intelligently and effectively challenging the thought, "You will never be normal so you shouldn't live."

It is not enough to blame bullies, legislators, haters.  There will always be sources of negativity and hate in our lives.  By living "should-less" you effectively protect yourself against the hatred and rigid standards of others.  Living "should-less" is a recognition that they may hate you, but you don't have to hate yourself.  I am living proof that these tools can save your life. They can help you too. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


Saturday, October 9, 2010

L Train "Shoulds"

If you have ever been to New York City, or are familiar with the transportation, you will know that New Yorkers are pretty dependent on the subways to get around.  In the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, we are especially reliant on the L train to get anywhere.

This weekend the brilliant MTA suspended all L train service, thereby leaving Williamsburg commuters stranded / inconvenienced.  Even better, this was not announced until Thursday, the same day we were told our monthly passes would be raised over 10% in December.

What a week for those of us trying not to clog the street with cars and fumes!  However, as with all adversity, this is a wonderful opportunity to again practice living should-less.  The reality is there are no L trains.  This is true whether I "should" it not.  There are ways to get into Manhattan for work, it will simply take [at least] an hour instead of my usual 15 minute commute.

If I sit around and talk about how horrible things are, then I pay the price for that, not the MTA.  I will get angry, my blood pressure will go up, I will have trouble sleeping, and feel worse.  If I tell myself that it's no big deal, I'm just a little inconvenienced, I have new music on my ipod to listen to, and this is just an opportunity to see more Little Miracles, then I feel better.

Even inconvenienced I realize I still have choices.  How about you?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Third Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day Is Coming!

Get ready! The Third Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day is coming on November 1st and YOU are invited to be part of it! For one day, you are invited to give up a certain "should" that leads to stress, guilt, misery, or any sort of sadness. Some examples of "shoulds" people gave up last year included:

I should clean the house
I should go to the gym
I should be making more money
I should lose weight
I shouldn't still be grieving this loss
 
 I should be getting more work done 
I should call my parents more often
I should stop eating the leftover Halloween candy

..And many many more. Everyone who gave up their "shoulds" last year reported feeling better that day.  Some felt so good that they decided to give up them the next day too!  Crazy as it seems, people generally live more calm and fulfilled lives when they give up the word "should." Go figure!

Remember, a "should" is any rigid thought you carry about yourself, the people around you, and the world. It is NOT necessarily tied to your action. For example, you could give up your "should" about going to the gym, and then still go to the gym. It's not about what you do or don't do, it's about the thoughts and beliefs you are carrying as you move through you life.

Here's how it works: at 2pm EST (11am PST) I will be doing a special one hour broadcast on blogtalk radio with the beautiful and "should-less" actress Jacklyn Zeman (Bobbie from GENERAL HOSPITAL).  People will be invited to call in and discuss the "should" they are willing to try to give up for one day, and any obstacles to having a "should-less" day.  Following that event I will be holding a Twitter conference answering questions about "shoulds", or anything else I am asked.

Keep checking back on this page for updates about events, contests, giveaways, and more! And get ready to have one of the best "should-less" days of your life!!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shenell Edmonds Speaks Out Against Gay Suicide

I recently had the joy of talking to Shenell Edmonds, who plays Destiny on ABC's ONE LIFE TO LIVE. We had a lot to converse about, but the 16-year-old talent knocked my socks off when spoke out against bullying and gay suicide. Check out this clip:
Press here to watch the full interview at We Love Soaps.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


Monday, October 4, 2010

Gay Suicide & "Shoulds"

Every action is a result of a thought.  When we are talking about preventing suicide, and more specifically, preventing the deaths of more young gay people, we are gravely remiss if we do not address the "shoulds" behind the attempts. More specifically, no gay suicide has been attempted without the following equation:

I should be straight + I should be normal 
= I shouldn't be alive

If parents/educators/churches/mentors/communities don't start training youth to challenge and question harmful "shoulds," then I am concerned that there will be more deaths in the future.  I am writing this to ANYONE out there, of any age, that feels there is anything "wrong" with being gay or lesbian. Borrowing from Absolutely Should-less, here is how I approach saving a life:

1. Who told you that you "should" be straight?  This question encourages you to examine the unspoken "normal" parts of your world.  Sources of this learning [or brainwashing] might be parents, bullies at school, church, society.  You can learn how to question these sources, and decide if you want to believe everything you have been told to believe. 

2. Is this "should" true for everyone everywhere 24/7? Is it true that everyone should be straight? Is it true that everyone in the world should be "normal"? And what, exactly, is "normal?" Isn't it possible for some people in the world to be gay and happy? If it's true for them, it can be true for you.

3. How does it feel when you think this "should"? Unhappy? Overwhelmingly depressed? Hopeless? What's implicit in this question is that how you feel is a direct result of what you are thinking.  When you change your thoughts and beliefs, you change the way you feel. 

4. Who is profiting or benefiting from your "should"? Who has the most invested in your unhappiness? The bullies at school who want you dead? The school that enabled the cruelty? The family that wants you straight? The homphobic right wing that hates gay people? ANYTIME you feel there is something wrong with you and you "should" be different there is someone who has something to gain.  Do they really deserve that level of power over you?

5. What would one day be like without this "should"? Imagine one day without the "should." One day where you wake up without a "should" hanging over you about being straight or being normal.  What what that feel like? What would you do? Where would you go?  It is quite possible for you to have many more days like this if you let go of the "shoulds" that are causing you grief.

6. Who would you be without this "should"? Who would you be if you didn't think of yourself as somehow inferior or less than?  Have you come to identify yourself as a "loser" or victim? It is easy to take that on if you have spent a lifetime of being mocked and attacked.  But you still have the control over your identity and the responsibility to change that in order to have a happier life. 

7. Replace the "should." Language is powerful.  You can change your perspective by changing your words.  Examples may include, "I'd prefer to be straight but I still have the right to be happy if I'm gay," or "I am deserving of love and happiness no matter what sexual orientation I am," or "There is no normal," or "Anyone who tells me I 'should' be anything has an agenda and does not have my best interests at heart so I choose not to believe them."  

Using these tools daily, over and over, can change the way you see the world, the way you perceive difference, and even the way you see bullies.  There are always going to be people in this world who have an agenda to bring you down.  You do NOT ever have to give them the power to hurt you. 

*For additional help and resources please go to The Trevor Project

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist who has been working with GLBT youth since 1997.  He is currently practicing at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Little Miracles Everywhere 3


If you watched the evening news this week in New York, you no doubt were told about all the things that had gone wrong in the city, and all the things that may go wrong in the future. Terrorism, murders, disease, tornadoes all par for the course when it comes to trying to scare New Yorkers.

However, I had another one of those little miracle incidents that will never make it on the news. I was coming into a subway station in Times Square after having a wonderful discussion with ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Shenell Edmonds (which will be posted at welovesoaps.net).  It was raining and there were lines to get in.  As I swiped my card through, the meter read, "Please swipe again at this turnstile." So I did as I was told.  "Please swipe again at this turnstile."  Lines got longer.  I swiped my card again.  On the third try it said, "Just used."  Yes, the wonderful MTA took my $2.25 fare without letting me in.  To add insult to injury, there was no station agent (due to cutbacks) and no one to report this to.

My only option was to buy another pass.  Instead, a young woman behind me swiped me in!  I could not believe a complete stranger would essentially give me $2.25 for positively no reason.  "Consider it my good deed of the day," she said, and ran off on her way.

This event will not make any news shows.  It will not get in any newspapers.  If this young woman had shot/ hit/ assaulted me, hundreds of people would have known about it.  Instead only the 15-16 people who read this blog will know about his little miracle in Times Square today. 

There are little miracles everywhere if you look hard enough.  I was blessed to have one appear today. Are you seeing any yet? 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Angry "Shoulds"


Angry today? Pissed off? Frustrated? Well then it must be someone else's fault.  Or is it?

We have all been conditioned to believe that when we are upset it is someone else's fault, or it is because of an external event (ie, weather, stock market, missed trains, etc).  We have been taught how to blame others when we things don't go our way.  I can't think of one person who hasn't at some point thought, "If everyone just did what I said they should do then I'd be fine."

There are [at least] 5 problems with this rationale:

1. Everyone else is thinking the same thing about you.
2. Your anger towards others does not motivate or inspire them to want to change the thing that you want them to change.
3. Even if you sincerely believe you are right about what other people "should" do, they won't be the ones to deal with the high blood pressure, insomnia, poor digestion, and muscular-skeletal aches that come from holding on to anger.
4. Anger often snowballs into physical and/or verbal violence.  These acts cannot be undone or forgotten, and can have grave consequences in your personal and professional life.
5. Anger begets more anger. Or to say it another way, it creates anger in your target, which then gets dumped onto someone else, and so on, and so on, and so on.

So what's the alternative?

1. Responsibility.  YOU are responsible for your emotional state.  Not your boss, not your employees, not your partner, not the station that killed your favorite show.  YOU.
2. Recognize the "Should." Behind every angry feeling is a "should." If you could challenge that "should," you could significantly reduce your anger.
3. Breathe. If you are not breathing, it is impossible to think rationally.
4. Eat humble pie.  It takes a humble person to say, "I don't know how things 'should' be.  I may think I know, but I am not God and I accept that sometimes things happen for reasons I do not understand."
5. Recognize the attraction to anger.  Being angry can produce feelings of intense excitement, adrenaline, and the illusion of great strength, not unlike cocaine.  If you enjoy heightened anger states, it is important to acknowledge this fact if you choose to reduce or change them. 

Ultimately it is up to you and how you are going experience your life.  If you want to blame others for your suffering, that is most certainly an option, but it is an option that will only increase your anger and frustration.  If you want to have an easier and more joyful experience of living, you will want to consider changing your "shoulds" in order to make that happen. 
  
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Monday, September 27, 2010

What You See Is What You Get


The HSBC bank has unwittingly provided New Yorkers with daily reminders of the most fundamental principle of maintaining peace: projection makes perception. Meaning, the way we experience our world around us depends primarily on how we view it.  The good news here is that if we are having a negative experience or an unfavorable feeling, all we have to do is change how we see it!

Let's take the example below.  A picture of the Manhattan skyline is displayed from the Brooklyn side.  Let's say you are the person who thinks of the Manhattan skyline is "glorified." How do you think that person will feel?  If you are like me, who does glorify the Manhattan skyline, you'll look at that picture with awe, humble admiration, and in my case incredible gratitude that I get to live there.

But what if you look at the same exact skyline and see "vilified." You see the buildings and you perceive greed, competition, selfishness.  How might you feel then?  Most likely, you will experience some type of anger, annoyance, resentment.

How about "gentrified?" If you look at the same exact skyline with the perception of "gentrified," you will most likely experience sadness, regret, victimization,  and hopelessness about the future. 

This is the exact principle that the great Dr. Albert Ellis illustrated in so many of his teachings.  We don't have feelings because of the things around us, we have feelings because of what we tell ourselves about the things around us. You can look around and see a cold hearted horrible world no matter where you are.  Or you can look around and see the miraculous glories that are created and sustained every day.  I know which one of these helps me sleep easier at night.  How about you?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Messed Up Thinking #4: Catastrophizing


Confession: Of all "Messed Up Thinking" forms, this is the one I have been most guilty of in my life.

Have you ever stayed up all night worrying because you thought something was going to turn out horribly, only to have it be okay? Have you ever been consumed with anxiety about a future event over which you have no effect? If so, you may be experiencing "Catastrophization," ie, the assumption that things are going to work out as a "catastrophe" in the future.  Or, believing that that meeting, that party, that date, that meal, that 401K account, that vacation, or anything else is going to end up very badly.

Keep in mind, we live in a culture that produces and maintains catastrophic thinking.  The entire basis  of consumerism is about scaring into you thinking you need to purchase something you don't truly need.  Corporations pay billions of dollars a year to try to make you believe you should lose weight, reduce wrinkles, have the best car, clean kitchen counters, and follow hundreds of other contrived dictates.  It is implied that the consequences of not following these "shoulds," and not spending your hard earned money, is that you will be left alone and unloved.

At the same time, newspapers and televisions present "news" items that are designed to instill fear in you, so you will continue to buy their papers, watch their shows, and buy the products that are advertised.  As mentioned in an earlier posting, the media has a vested interest in making you castrophize that horrible things could happen to you at any moment.  Given these insidious messages, it makes complete sense that any one of us are walking around in a state of unease, discomfort, or even panic!

There is an easier way to get through life.  Recognize that catastrophizing about a situation does nothing to make that situation less likely to happen.  In fact, over-worrying can make you less likely to think clear enough to take appropriate action to avoid a disaster of some sort.  When your brain is flooded with a flurry of anxious thoughts, it impacts your ability to problem solve effectively.

So what's the alternative? Change your thinking.  Recognize that most true catastrophes in life, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, car accidents, plane crashes, are statistically rare, and completely out of your control.  Don't underestimate your ability to handle a disaster.  If you made it far enough to read this blog post, then you clearly have survivor skills you can draw upon to manage a crisis.

Also be aware that anytime you are worrying about a future event you are practicing the power of faith.  Most people refer to "faith" as something spiritual and peaceful.  But faith is simply believing in something you can't see.  You can utilize the power of your faith to believe that life is going to be okay, that you can handle adversity, that someone or something is watching out for us, and experience the peace that comes from that.  Or, you can utilize the power of your faith to believe that something horrible is around the next corner and everything is going to be awful in your life.  That choice is up to you.

There are numerous ways to reduce catastrophizing.  Therapy, meditation, exercise, education, spiritual practices, all can help you to reduce worrying, and enjoy living. My number one suggestion for living with minimal anxiety is getting rid of the "shoulds" that cause stress and fear in daily life.  What is working for you?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jacklyn Zeman Recommends "Absolutely Should-less"

I recently received one of the best gifts in the world — a public endorsement of my book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret To Living The Stress-Free Life Your Deserve" by an actress and humanitarian I greatly admire, Jacklyn Zeman.  Most know her as the sinfully delicious Nurse Bobbie Spencer on GENERAL HOSPITAL.  What many don't realize is that she has also dedicated a large part of her off-camera time and energy toward helping others.

She has been committed to supporting public awareness programs for organ donors and filmed a video used in hospitals nationally to promote Hepatitis B vaccines to medical workers.  She received the Gabriel Project’s Distinguished Achievement Award for her continued support for African children in critical need of life-saving heart surgery. She has been a board member and the Leukemia Society’s Honorary Chair for various events held in New York City. In 1998 she received the Leukemia Society’s Charlotte M. Meyers Volunteer Recognition Award. She is a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, helping to raise awareness of the women’s risk of heart disease and received their Les Etoiles de Coeur Award. Since October 1998, Jackie, with former GENERAL HOSPITAL co-star Rick Springfield, has co-hosted the annual Dolphin Ball numerous times, raising money for Cystic Fibrosis.

So you can only imagine my humble gratitude and appreciation for this statement: 

 

If Jacklyn Zeman thinks it's worth it, how about you?  Purchase your copy today by pressing here.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Messed Up Thinking #3: "I Need..."

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our thinking is believing we "need" something or someone in order to feel peaceful.  So many people end up suffering because they continually say, "If I just had this person in my life" or "If I just had this job," or "If I just had a whole lot of money," then I would be happy, then I would feel "successful." 

The only problem with this is that 99% of the time, even if you get what you think you need and feel better for a short period of time, most people go back to eventually feeling unhappy.  Why? Because rearranging externals in your life won't foster long term changes within.  Sure it's nice to have that partner to spend time with, sure it's nice to go to a job where you make lots of money.  But plenty of people have these things and are still miserable.  Don't believe me? Look at the cover of your supermarket tabloid, find out which "celebrity" is unhappy this week, and then tell me that money + "success" = happiness.  

The good news is you have the choice and the right to live a happy and fulfilled life exactly where you are at right now.  Even if the circumstances are imperfect, even when you aren't getting what you think you need, you still have the option to feel powerful, important and successful.  This can only happen, however, when you change your perceptions.  Instead of believing, "If I just had the man I'd be happy," try flipping to, "If I was happy I'd have the man."  Instead of telling yourself, "If I had that job I'd feel successful," you could say, "If I felt successful I would get the job."  

In other words you can make your happiness the starting point instead of the end goal.  By changing your beliefs about what it is you "need" to feel good, you are much more likely to receive and appreciate good fortune in your life.  Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning," offers an excellent framework for how someone can choose to find meaning and peace even in the midst of a nazi concentration camp.  Tina Sloan's brilliant new book, "Changing Shoes" gives relevant and concrete steps that anyone can take when life's adversities drag you down.  All of these wise resources reminds us that changing our minds comes before experiencing joy.  If they can do it, you can do it too!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Unique Speed Dating Event Coming to New York!



Tried speed-dating? Not like this. Make a connection for a night or a lifetime!

This gay men's networking/dating event gets you a date with 20 guys, a fun night out at awesome Vig 27 and feedback on your dating interactions from our relationship experts. Cover is $25 with ALL proceeds going to adopted charity. This month's charity is the Ali Forney Center, an LGBT youth shelter. To pre-register email 20connections@gmail.com. Future Connections planned for straight singles, LGBT singles, poly couples and more!

This is a wonderful opportunity to speed date in Manhattan in a fun, innovative, and original way that hasn't been done before. People who attend will come away more educated, informed and empowered about seeking dates with others.

WHAT:  Dr. DeMarco presents Connections, a unique speed dating occasion, with special guest host Marti Cummings 
WHEN: Wednesday, September 15th, from 7-10pm  
WHERE: Vig 27 (119 E.27th st., New York, NY). 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Messed Up Thinking #2: Blaming

It's so much easier to make it someone else's fault.  Your anger, your frustration, your disappointment, your sense of not being treated fairly, all seem simpler to blame on others.  There's only one problem with that: Most everyone else believes the same exact thing! So if everyone is running around seeing fault and blame in everyone else, the world ends up being a quagmire of hostility, frustration, hurt feelings, and destroyed relationships.

If you want to feel better in your life, then try holding this for one minute:  You are completely responsible for how you feel. Completely. This is a liberating concept for some, a terrifying concept for others.  As long as you hold other people accountable for your moods, thoughts, emotions, and experience, then you are bound to suffer.

This is not to imply that you are responsible for all the circumstances in your life.  You may love someone who is sick.  You may have recently lost a job.  You may have been physically injured.  These are all contexts where you may or may not have had any responsibility at all.  Your reaction, however, to these circumstances, is your responsibility. 

Taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings goes completely against what most of us learned as children.  We all have been conditioned to blame others and seek outside ourselves for peace.  Most people unquestioningly point the finger at someone else or something else when they are feeling unhappy.  But then that gives the person or that thing all the power.

How do you stop this pattern of messed up thinking? Try ONE day during which you take full responsibility for every feeling you have.  Just one! If you feel tired you say, "I am responsible for feeling tired." If you feel happy you say, "I am responsible for feeling happy." If you get really pissed off traffic you say, "I am responsible for feeling really pissed off in traffic." Even if it seems silly, take responsibility.

Again, this blog is for people who want to make choices that will lead to having an easier day.  Taking responsibility and ownership for your feelings is one of the most effective ways to do this.  Try it, and let me know how it goes!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." 

 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Should-less" Labor

In honor of Labor Day, in the spirit of celebrating workers, from the perspective of everyone who works hard for the money, I have one thing to say to all you bosses out there:

STOP WITH THE SHOULDS ALREADY!  

Here is why:

1. "Shoulds" are an ineffective motivator of change.  They can be effective in promoting short-term compliance.  But if you want employees to be inspired versus numb compliers (who then become complainers), then drop the "shoulds."

2. "Shoulds" demonstrate limited leadership capability.  They imply to others, "you should do what I tell you to do because I'm telling you to do it because I was told to tell you to do it."  A valuable leader communicates in ways that demonstrate responsibility and critical thinking, not auto-rehashing someone else's ideas.

3. "Shoulds" take a top-down approach to work activity.  They rule out any sense of collaboration, and thereby alienate the worker from the duties.  When workers feel like a valuable part of the system they tend to show up more and work harder.

4. "Shoulds" frequently are received as shaming.  If you have a worker that is not able, for whatever reason, to meet your standards of "should", the s/he may feel shamed, humiliated, and will call in sick more often to deal with all the physical symptoms that come from feeling shamed and humiliated.

5. "Shoulds" terminate discourse.  There is no input, nothing to be said once a boss says, "You should do it this way." This again, inevitably leads to alienation, complaining, and a high amount of sick days.

What's the alternative to "shoulds?"You COULD try:

1. Telling employees why a policy needs to be implemented.  The more someone understands why they are being told to something, the more likely it is they will do it.

2. Find common ground with goals.  A successful project means more jobs, money, and all those benefits everyone in the company wants.

3. When possible, include workers in the decision making process.  Ask for feedback, discussion, things that help worker feel attached to the common goal.

4. Use language that communicates respect.  Some examples would be, "Our accreditation agency is expecting us to do it this way..." (versus "You should do it this way...").  Or, "We believe the following steps will help us reach our common goal..." (versus "You should do it this way..."). Or, "Based on the data, it is clear we will thrive if we do these things differently..." (versus, "You should do it this way...").

5. Keep dialogue open, especially if an individual employee is having trouble producing.  Ask questions before offering solutions.  Listen to what your employees are telling you.  When appropriate, don't hesitate to refer to a therapist or an EAP. 

Most Americans spend 30-50% of their lives at work.  Wouldn't it be great to have it go smoother? Drop the "Shoulds" and you'll have a much better Labor Year!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Little Miracles Everywhere 2


Spotted today on the "L" train:  A man sat alone on a two seat section of the train.  A woman got on the train, started to sit down next to him, but stopped herself as she saw a tiny puddle of a liquid object on the seat.  The man saw this, took out a kleenix, wiped the seat down, and motioned to her it was clean.  The woman said, "Thank you" and sat down. 

No dialogue after that.  Nothing bad happened.  Nothing outstandingly good happened.  Nothing that would ever make the "news." Just the under-the-radar basic human acts of kindness that take place all around me every day in New York City.

There are little miracles everywhere.  Is anyone else seeing them? 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Single Lady "Shoulds"

Unless you've been living in a tent this past year, you undoubtedly have heard a very popular sung by Beyonce called, "Single Ladies."  The chorus features the following lyrics:

Cuz if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it

The song is both defiant and reactionary.  It celebrates a woman standing up for herself, but at the same time reinforces a conservative notion that the goal of a relationship should be marriage.  Without realizing it, this fabulous singer has offered up a wonderful example of why "shoulds" in relationships are toxic and destructive.  

At the beginning of the piece, we find Beyonce in a club after a painful break-up.  She is apparently nursing her wounds after this relationship of three years when another man catches her attention ("I’m up on him, he up on me").  The rest of the song is directed toward the man she broke up with, who presumably is pretty upset she's up against anyone at a club. She responds by asserting her right to look good and go out ("I couldn't care less what you think, I need no permission."), and then to call him out by singing the aforementioned chorus.

As I mention in Absolutely Should-less, "shoulds" are ineffective motivators for change.  They may inspire short-term results, but they do not create or sustain interest or motivation in maintaining behaviors.  Translation?  You may "should" a guy into putting a ring on it, but that symbol won't make him stick around.  Isn't it possible that the man in the song had some intimacy issues he could have worked out in therapy? Does Beyonce think she can change his desire to marry by calling him out and embarrassing him at the club?

So what's the answer? When you are in a relationship, be honest with yourself and your partner about what you want and what you do not.  If marriage is authentically right for you then you have a right to ask for that, but your partner has a right to not want that without being shamed and humiliated.  By effectively communicating your truth to others, you get to experience deeper and more respectful relationships, and well as less "shoulds" about the "ring on it" in the club.  Wouldn't that be preferable?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."