I wish I had it my way.
Just making that change in our self-talk can make all the difference between healthy and unhealthy decisions.
That first phrase, of course, is a demand, and demandingness is reflective of words such as “should” (or “shouldn’t), “supposed to,” “have to,” and the one most kids love, “fair.” Demands are rigid, dogmatic, and black-or-white. Here some examples that you may recognize in yourself or others:
“You should let me do what I want.”
“He shouldn’t have cut me off.”
“I have to be right all the time.”
“That’s not fair!”
Demands are typically unhealthy because they are rigid and unyielding. On a practical level, if something “should’ve” happened, it would’ve, but it didn’t, so you are more likely to upset yourself by thinking that it should’ve instead of thinking that you wish it would’ve.
Healthy thinking is generally more flexible, allows for some “gray areas,” and is more realistic. Preferences are reflective of words such as “wish,” “like,” “want,” or “hope.” For example:
“I wish she would’ve let me go out with my friends.”
“I’d like it if you’d agree with me.”
“I hope it doesn’t rain on my big day.”
“I want my own way.” (There is nothing unhealthy about wanting your own way; unhealthiness can come with insisting on your own way.)
Some people have difficulty with this concept. They think that flexibility of thought leads to giving in or having people take advantage. However, it is possible to be both passionate and flexible.
I’m passionate about Steelers football. I like it when they win, and I hope they do well every year. However, I don’t think that they must win or it’s the end of the world! And some people do–you may know some who greatly bother themselves whenever their sports team doesn’t do well. I can’t think of any circumstances that could possibly exist that would compel me to root for the Patriots, but I’m certainly not going to ruin my own day if they cheat–I mean–win.
Think of the difference between a pine tree and a palm tree. Wish is stronger? Most people would say, “the pine” because it stands tall and keeps its coat, even in winter. However, which is better in a hurricane? The palm is, of course. Why? Because it is flexible, it can bend and adjust to the fierce winds. Tall pines break during times of strong wind, which is why they don’t flourish where hurricanes blow.