Nothing can quite pull you out of the here and now like your brain giving you a laundry list of personal shortcomings and ways in which you could have improved upon them. Your entire day stops, and suddenly you’re ruminating over the past. You can’t let yourself repeat the same mistakes again—you won’t.
This little cognitive distortion has gone by many names including “shoulding on yourself” and a slightly more scandalous term coined by Dr. Albert Ellis: musterbation. Perhaps the most regal form of the term is by Dr. Karen Horney who coined the phrase “the tyranny of shoulds.” All of these describe the same concept of excessive re-experiencing of what you perceive to be your personal weaknesses. This is a journey leading you on the road towards perfection with a map that instead guides you towards self-hate.
No matter what you decide to call this sinister thought pattern, notice its effects on your self-motivation, self-esteem, and ability to stay connected to the present moment.
Break the thought cycle, because the potential for growth is not found in the past. It’s firmly rooted in the present.