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Psychological Payoffs: Shoulds

how do you get honor


“Shoulds” = Pride of Knowing

  • Ego will help you to recognize, remove, and replace your ego: a.k.a. self-esteem.

“Man delights to ruin man.” —Seneca

“Satan thought, ‘I am better than Adam,’ and that better than is still strongly in us.” —Rumi

“To presume that one really knows is fatal indeed!” —Chung Tzu

“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.” —Anthony de Mello


“Shoulds” As Law or Rule

Shoulds go by many names: archetypes, belief, canons, customs, directives, dogma, ethics, ethos, examples, formulas, guidelines, guides, ideals, laws, manners, methods, models, morals, mores, orders, ordinances, paradigms, precepts, principles, prototypes, recipes, rules, shoulds, standards, tenets, the good, the law, the universal, values.

  • Of course, shoulds do not have to equal pride. It is just a fact in adults that shoulds typically indicate pride.

Logical Syllogism

  1. Superior = pride.
  2. Shoulds = superior.
  3. Shoulds = pride.

How does it work that shoulds become an ego trip?

  • The logic works like this:

A judge is higher than the judged. To make sure you are aware of this, the judge’s seat is higher than the judged.

  • To know the right puts you over the one who does not know the right.
  • To know what should-be means you know better than those who do not know what should-be.

Since you are judging, since you know better, since you are shoulding—therefore—you are better, you are superior to those you are judging and shoulding on.

  • Since you think you are superior, then you are experiencing pride.

To should is to judge. To judge is to be in a one-up position. It is easy to claim to be superior if you are in a one-up position. To claim to be superior, even when done automatically or unconsciously, is to experience ego pleasure, high self-esteem, pride.


Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Therefore, an excellent mental health strategy is to reduce and eliminate shoulds. This is why Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is so effective. REBT works to eliminate shoulds.

Even though REBT theory does not generally recognize that shoulds are an ego expression, REBT does reduce ego by reducing shoulds. Albert Ellis, the founder or REBT, is aware of this result and wrote a famous paper on it entitled “RET Abolishes Most of the Human Ego” in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 13:4, 343-348, 1976. This paper is available as a reprint from the Albert Ellis Institute, 45 East 64th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021-6593. (212) 535-0822.

  • The dire need to be right can be understood as a coping strategy to avoid being wrong inside.
  • People who live by self-esteem a.k.a. ego, have internal conflicts between the should-be and the should-not-be.

In simple terms, when people think of themselves, they are wrong. So people prefer to think of others who they can make wrong so they can be right.

This explains people’s obsession with the news, which everyone knows is not factual but merely entertainment or for ego gratification. The news distorts information to create the conflict of the shoulds. The news wants to present simplistic should-bes and should-not-bes to give your ego food for thought.


Ego’s favorite two coping strategies are:

“Those who suffer from an exaggerated sense of their own ability and accomplishment are continually subject to frustration, disappointment, and rage when reality intrudes and the world doesn’t validate their idealized view of themselves.” —The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

  1. To be right, make them wrong.
  2. To avoid being wrong, make them wrong.

This explains why people are externally referented and focused. That is, it explains why people are focused on changing and controlling others instead of themselves.


Ego Pain & Ego Pleasure

“Victory is pleasant, not only to those who love to conquer, but to all; for there is produced an idea of superiority, which all with more or less eagerness desire.” —Aristotle, Rhetoric

  • When you are wrong, you have ego pain, shame, or low self-esteem.
  • When you are right, you have ego pleasure, pride, or high self-esteem.
  • For peace of mind, give up ego.
  • For the sake of your relationships, give up ego.

Deeper than Pride in Knowing Is Suppression

  • Suppression is an act of power and pride.
  • We derive ego pleasure from exercising the power of the flesh to murder something and then hide it in darkness.
  • In order to suppress something, we must first kill it as something, as some label, name, or term.
  • Suppression is triple ego pleasure: pleasure in knowing better, pleasure in doing better by suppressing, and pleasure in being better by being suppression’s power (the one who suppresses thinks they are suppression or its power).

Practice the Opposite of Ego Thinking


Related Pages


Book cover Ego


Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: naive men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.” —Aristotle, Rhetoric

“Identification prevents and perverts the flow of thought-feeling.” —J. Krishnamurti, The Collected Works of J. Krishnamurti, Volume IV, p. 8

“If you must be right, then you fail to learn and so lose.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because you’ll start to feel better.” —Charlie Brown

“Is not virtue a negation of becoming?” —J. Krishnamurti, The Collected Works of J. Krishnamurti, Vol. III, p. 204

“The cause of all sins in every case lies in the person’s excessive love of self.” —Plato, Laws

“The cause of the pleasure felt by those who insult is the idea that, in ill-treating others, they are more fully showing superiority. That is why the young and the wealthy are given to insults; for they think that, in committing them, they are showing their superiority.” —Aristotle, Rhetoric

“The soul is undiscovered though explored forever to a depth beyond report.” —Heraclitus

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” —Norman Vincent Peale

“The way to do is be.” —Lao Tzu

“Unless, of course, you insist on identifying yourself with the people and things you love; and thereby seriously disturb yourself.” —Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 175

“You can be right and lose, or you can be wrong, learn, and win.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“You can be right, or you can be happy.” —Anonymous


Quotations from Scripture

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” —Matthew 10:39

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” —Matthew 16:25

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” —Mark 8:35

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” —Luke 9:24

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” —Luke 14:26

“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” —Luke 17:34

“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” —John 12:25

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