Should we stop saying should?

“I should have done better”

“I shouldn’t feel this way”

“I should be able to cope”

“I shouldn’t be this way”

Have you ever noticed how often you or others say the word should?

Shoulds are often part of our everyday vocabulary and can be helpful in motivating ourselves. However, with should, and similarly should not, have to, ought to, or must, can come pressure, guilt and worry because it reinforces the idea that we’re not enough just being ourselves. Shoulds are often an inflexible and unhelpful burden that demand us to do something. They are mostly negative and come from unrealistic societal pressure, others’ judgments or when we judge ourselves in comparison to others leading us to feel inadequate. They can force us to focus on what we should’ve done differently in the past and what we should or shouldn’t do in the future, rather than living for the present.


Psychiatrist Dr. Karen Horne first identified the ‘tyranny of the should’s and this was later expanded upon by famous Psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis who emphasised how destructive “shoulding” can be. They concluded that if we can challenge this should from a demand to a preference or a request, it can have a positive impact upon our emotions and is a healthier and more accepting approach to have for ourselves.

So, how can we ‘loosen up’ or lose some of these shoulds?

  1. Identify the should. What are you telling yourself you should or shouldn’t do? Are you telling yourself you should or shouldn’t feel a particularly way?
  2. Consider where the should comes from. Who is it that is saying how you should feel or behave? Why should you? What does the should really mean for you?
  3. Challenge the should. Are you putting unfair and unrealistic expectations or demands upon yourself?  
  4. Change the language. If the should is something that you really want, rephrase what you are telling yourself replacing should with a preference by using more helpful and flexible language such as ‘It would be good if…’ or ‘I would prefer it if…’.

Identifying, challenging and modifying your shoulds as and when they come up, or simply taking 5 minutes out of your day to consider what they are, could make a real impact on your mood. 

For more information on shoulds and other negative thinking styles, some helpful websites are listed below:

Get Self Help:

Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI):

Written by:                                                                                                      Laura Butler                                                                                          Counsellor & Psychotherapist                                                                SACAC Counselling

About Marital Infidelity

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. –

Walter Scott, Marmion

What is Marital Infidelity?

Marital Infidelity is when a triangle is created within a marriage. One spouse engages in a close emotional and or physical relationship with a third party, without the knowledge and or approval of the other spouse.  It is also described as adultery, cheating or an affair.  Once a spouse has created a triangle, it is usually maintained by the deception and secrecy towards the other spouse.  Lies of omission or commission are commonly featured.

Marital infidelity, whether emotional or physical, is a violation of the implicit and explicit trust between marital spouses.  When a triangle is created by one spouse, without the knowledge or consent of the other, the implicit and explicit marital trust is betrayed.  In a monogamous marriage it is usual for both people to have made an agreement to be sexually and emotionally faithful to each other.  Marital infidelity breaks this agreement.  The cause of marital infidelity is a deficit or lack of personal boundary on the part of the betraying spouse.

Impact of Marital Infidelity 

When the marital agreement is broken as a consequence of infidelity, the trust between spouses has been abused and as with all other types of abuse there is a perpetrator and a victim. In most cases immense suffering is experienced, particularly by the betrayed spouse.

Psychological and emotional trauma is the norm when the betrayed spouse becomes aware of the infidelity. It is helpful at this time for the betrayed spouse to understand that these responses are normal responses to what is a very difficult situation for them.  Anxiety, depression, rage and jealousy and a lowering of self-esteem and or of body image are typical psychological and emotional responses experienced by betrayed spouses.

The initial impact on the betrayed spouse can be likened to an acute grief response, which in the early stages can be very debilitating. There is a sense of unreality and shock, often followed by a sense of psychological and emotional numbness. The betrayed spouse`s physical health is also often negatively compromised, insomnia, anorexia and muscle aches are common symptoms, all associated with an elevated stress response.  At this stage the spouse can struggle to function normally. The betraying spouse can also experience similar psychological and emotional symptoms once the triangle is revealed.

Harmful Myths

There is often a myth that responsibility for marital infidelity can partially be attributed to the non- betraying spouse, or to the marriage itself, particularly in situations where prior marital problems and discord may have existed. This is not the case.

Further, in the early stage of revelation, as in all forms of abuse, the victim of marital infidelity often tends to question themselves and wonder if they are somehow culpable in some way for the event.  Consequently, the betrayed spouse can additionally experience guilt and shame as well as the range of other difficult experiences.

However, it needs to be clearly stated that the responsibility for marital infidelity does not belong to the betrayed spouse. It is the sole responsibility of the betraying spouse , even in marriages where there has been prior severe dysfunction.  The betraying spouse made a unilateral choice at some point, to break the implicit or explicit marital agreement, at least by withholding information from their spouse about the emerging triangulation.

The Aftermath

As every marriage is unique, the impact of infidelity can have varying outcomes. It really depends on what each of the spouses wants to achieve.  Often the decision to end the marriage is taken.  It can be helpful to seek support individually or as a couple when this is the case, in order to facilitate a `good ending`.

However, infidelity does not necessarily mean there is nothing worth salvaging in the marriage. There is in fact evidence for post marital infidelity growth.  For this growth to develop however, both spouses need to be willing and able to meet the challenges associated with re-building trust in each other.  With shared motivation and commitment, a new and robust, intimate, shared reality may be created and emerge over time.  Professional counselling is also available to assist couples with this endeavour and can be very effective and helpful.

“Turn your face to the sun and let the shadows fall behind”.  Maori proverb

Written By:                                                                                                              Dr Anita Corfe                                                                                                Counselling Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist                      SACAC Counselling


Raising Kids Away – Parenting Outside Your Childhood Experiences

7 December 2016

Recently I asked a group of expats parents about their biggest challenges raising kids in Singapore. This isn’t to say that they felt their lot to be more difficult than other parents, but simply what they struggled with. One of issues I found most interesting was the challenge with parenting in a different context than the one you grew up in. Unless you yourself grew up as an expat in a major city, there will be significant differences from your experiences growing up to the ones your children are a part of. From the friendships they have to the transitions they navigate and how they spend their free time, there will be many differences. This also isn’t to say that your children would have grow up the same way you did had you stayed in your home country, (IPads are the bane of parents everywhere!), but it can be difficult to come to terms with the perceived loss.

I believe that one of the best ways to parent where you are is to take a good look at where you came from and take deliberate steps to decide where you’re going. I don’t mean travel. To effectively be the best parent you can be is to acknowledge your childhood, know your current context and deliberately move forward.

We as parents do our best given our circumstances. Knowing where you came from begins with acknowledging the hopes that you have for your kids and your expectations of what growing up “should” look like. These can be highlights from when you grew up or things you want your own kids be a part of. Was it biking in your neighbourhood with your best friend, playing a favourite sport in the street or having the freedom to explore? How about your children? What sorts of things do you see them doing or what would you like to see? I’d encourage you to take a minute to think about this list now – here are a few ideas to start with:.

Me My Kids

Hobbies/Activities/Clubs etc…:





Hobbies/Activities/Clubs etc…:




Once you have a thought about this, the second step is coming to terms with some of the differences. On your side of the list, there will be experiences that aren’t possible for your kids growing up here in Singapore. They won’t enjoy all of the highlights you did growing up or have all the same experiences. This can be particularly tough for expat parents as they came to Singapore for opportunities for themselves and their families, never imagining what they would give up. It can be easier to accept the losses when you see the new opportunities that are available to your children, side by side. For the difficult losses, sharing memories of your childhood with your children is one way to pass them on. Much like my father regaling me or stories of walking to school uphill – both ways – in meters of show… wait, I think that’s something else entirely.

There will be other experiences that you hold so close, that are a part of your core beliefs, that you won’t be willing to let go. They may be things you are still passionate about today. Perhaps it is a connection to nature that you don’t feel is possible in a big city, or developing empathy towards the elderly which is difficult without many older people in your child’s sphere. These core elements bring us to the third step – deliberate action.

Deliberate action begins with identifying the core belief that you feel isn’t being met. Take a look again at the list you generated earlier. Is there anything that is on your side that you feel passionate about that you absolutely want to be a part of your children’s experience growing up? Once you’ve figured that out, the next step is thinking up small (tiny!) actions that can start to address it. What can you do to bring in small pieces of that experience to your kids? If you want them to appreciate nature more fully, perhaps it starts with taking regular walks in the jungle or along the beach, or going fishing at a reservoir. Share your joy and your passion, but build slowly. A lifelong love of nature doesn’t come from a weekend blitz of kayaking and trekking. It’s through small actions that we can start to build momentum, appreciation and capacity for new ways of living.

Written by:                                                                                                              Phil Meehan                                                                                                   Canadian Certified Counsellor / Professional Certified Coach              SACAC Counselling