Enough With the Demands!
According to cognitive or rational therapy, people suffer emotional disturbances because of the irrational evaluations we make about ourselves, others and the world at large. These sorts of assessments are absolutist demands and unreasonable obligations; an infinite supply of “should’s” and “have to’s.”
When we are demanding of ourselves, we tend to think “I should be doing everything right! I should be a perfect mother, a perfect spouse, a perfect employee…” “I should be thin! And when we demand things of the world, we think “This shouldn’t be happening.” “The world shouldn’t be this way!” “It’s so unfair that this happened to me.” When we demand things of others, we think “Everyone should treat me as well as I treat them!” “My husband should know what’s wrong with me!” “My friends should let me know when they make plans!”
The emotional impact of absolutist demands
When demanding unrealistic or absolutist things of ourselves, we generate feelings of anxiety, depression or guilt because we’re so worried about meeting the expectations we’ve set for ourselves, which ends up stressing and blocking us.
Therefore, when we fail to meet those expectations, we feel like a failure, like we’re useless and worthless, which doesn’t even help to solve the problem, but instead further blocks us.
Perfectionism is largely responsible for this kind of absolutism. Perfectionists tend to push themsleves to achieve unrealistic goals, and tend to put off what they’re supposed to be doing for fear of not doing it perfectly, and since they’ll never do it perfectly because no one can, they end up not doing it, further confirming their own self destructive ideas: “I’m good for nothing” “I’m a failure“, etc . . .
On the other hand, when we demand that the world turn in the direction that we choose, feelings of victimization and depression begin to arise. When things do not go as we would like, we suffer from what is called low frustration tolerance, which is the tendency to exaggerate the gravity of a situation, to the point of qualifying it as terrible, unbearable and catastrophic.
People with low tolerance for frustration think that if their life conditions aren’t the way they want, that they’ll never be able to be happy and will be condemned to a horrible, sad and unbearable life.
Lastly, if we don’t accept that people have every right, even if it hurts us or bothers us, to act freely and as they choose, and we demand that they be the way we want, we’ll raise feelings of anger and passive-aggresive or violent behaviors, which will only worsen the relationship and have the opposite of the desired effect.
If we start being aggresive towards others because they don’t act the way we would like, the only thing we’ll gain is frustrating ourselves by not being able to take control of other people’s behavior, and even getting to the point of ruining the relationship.
So what should we do?
Stop demanding. And you may ask yourself: “isn’t that conformity?” No. It’s great to have dreams, to strive for things, to fight for things to go well, to prefer that people treat us well, etc. But one thing is to prefer or want something, and another is to absolutely demand it. It’s in the demand that we see the neurosis, because no matter how much you want something to be a certain way, it won’t be. The world doesn’t work that way.
Therefore, accept that reality and stop pushing yourself, others, and the world past their limits. Think “I’d rather be thin, but if I’m not, I have a lot of other qualities and positive things to offer the world”, “I would love it if my husband would remember our anniversary, but he’s human and he makes mistakes, too. Regardless, he has so many beautiful qualities.” “I wish I could find a job that pertained to my degree, but if that doesn’t happen, I can grow to be happy in other fields.”
You’ll never have absolute control, and only once you accept that will you free yourself from emotional disturbances that your self-imposed obligations and pressures cause you. Paradoxically, life will run much smoother.