Try an experiment-pick one area of your life and live in two different ways. First, experience it with thoughts and statements like “this is something I absolutely need, so I have to seek it and keep it, and my actions can best be described in terms of “I need to do this”, “I should do this”, I must do this”, or “I ought to do this”. Keep a journal about this experience – what feelings are you aware of during the experience and what success did you have in attaining and keeping what it is that you need?
Perform this experience twice, once in terms of something you need that has to be provided by another person, and once in terms of something you need that can be provided by your own efforts alone.
Now experience the same thing with statements and thoughts like “this is something I prefer” or “this is something I would like to have”, and statements or thoughts about getting what you want, “I want to do this” or “I will do this” and keep a journal about the experience in terms of the feeling that arise during the experience and about what success did you have in attaining and keeping what it is you want?
HE: “When I thought that I need for her to have sex with me, it was often on my mind, I would make subtle statements of suggestions about having sex, I would interpret her actions and statements in terms of whether or not she was going to meet my needs, feeling more tense and resentful as the night went on and she seemed to ignore my hints, and when she went to bed before me, without even hugging, kissing, or saying good night to me, I felt resentful and unloved. Not getting what I needed, I went to bed in a bad mood”.
HER: “When I felt I needed him to do more housework and childcare and my hints did not result in him doing these things, I felt increasingly resentful. When I noticed him making hints about having sex, I was too tense and angry to feel in the mood, so I ignored the hints, and when he had still not done much around the house by bedtime, leaving it all for me to do, since I had not gotten what I needed, I ignored him and went to bed alone”.
HE: “I looked at her, felt a rush of affection and some beginning attraction and thought that it might be nice to have sex tonight. I did not obsess about it, but went on with the evening, playing with the kids, and noticing that she was tired after dinner, so I suggested she sit down with a glass of wine while the kids and I cleared the table and washed the dishes. Since she was still relaxing on the sofa, I helped the kids get ready for bed and read a story to our little one. After their lights were turned off, I got a glass of wine and joined her on the sofa and we cuddled a bit. She put her head on my chest and I and I started caressing her. We got so excited that we threw a blanket over ourselves and made love on the sofa. It was fantastic!”
HER: “I was especially tired that night and was thinking how nice it would be if he were to help with things that needed doing, and when I sighed tiredly after dinner, he jumped up and gave me a glass of wine and encouraged me to relax on the sofa while he and the kids cleared the table and washed the dishes. He got no argument from me! I relaxed, sipping my wine and feeling a bit less tired, so I was thinking I would get the kids to bed after the dishes were done, but when I slowly got up from the sofa, my wonderful husband gently pushed me back on the sofa, and cheerfully herded the kids upstairs. I heard giggling going on and then heard him reading our little one a story, and then blessed silence ensued. When he joined me on the sofa, I felt a rush of affection and snuggled against him, putting my head on his chest. When he started to gently stroke my hair and neck, I felt something stirring inside, and when he started caressing my body, I felt energized all of a sudden and we threw a blanket over ourselves and made love right there on the sofa, and it was wonderful!”
For most people, when we tell ourselves things like :I must do this”, “I should do this”, “I have to do this”, or “I need to do this”, or tell ourselves things like “I need this”, “I have to have this”, “I deserve this”, or “I am entitled to this”, these thoughts lead to tension, discomfort, and other negative feelings until such time as we do get what we need or get to do what we need to do. The positive feelings that arise when we get to do what we need to do, or get what we need, usually involve a sense of pleasure but seldom reach the level of joy.
When we tell ourselves things like “I want to do this”, “I would like to do this”, or “I would prefer to do this”, or tell ourselves things like “I want this” , I would like to have this”, or “I would prefer to have this”, these thoughts usually give rise to more pleasant feelings such as calmness and hopefulness, and when we do get what we want, we are more likely to experience excitement or joy.
For many people, these words also have different effects on our motivations. When we use words like need, have to, should, ought to, or must, we may feel some resentment and resist doing the required actions, thus the words are actually decreasing our motivation. On the other hand, words such as want to, would like to, or would prefer to, usually result in more motivation to do the desired actions.
Words like need to, should, or must, tend to lead us to perceive ourselves as victims of the circumstances in our life, whereas words like want to, would like to, or would prefer to, are more empowering and suggest we can choose what we want to have or what we want to do.