Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The "You Should Virus"


I have been doing some serious thinking lately! My mind is a whir with lots of things I look forward to sharing with you, my blogging buds. Two primary topics have been gallivanting through my little head these days: compassion and judgement. Two great tastes that go great together! Ok, not so much. But these are two fascinating studies in human nature, are they not?

In thinking about judgement, I will begin by confessing that I can be judgmental. I have knee-jerk reactions to things and people that I allow to go unjustified. Conversely, I can be compassionate too. Sometimes in a good way and other times to a fault. Giving all of your compassion away and leaving none for the self is a form of self neglect and (possibly) abuse. Would you agree? I am going to continue exploring this in later blogs but for now, I want to ask if anyone else out there remembers catching the "you should virus"?

I was 22 and facing end-stage lung disease. I was living in California while awaiting a double lung transplant. While I was rich in some life experiences, I was quite naive and innocent in many others. At that time in my life, I was not very judgmental of other people. This was not because I was saintly, it was because I had never really thought to be. I was too consumed with my own inadequacies to take time out of myself and judge other's life performance skills.

At this time, I began dating a man who was a little older than me (about 4 years) and had been on his own since his teen years. He owned a business and was certainly more are a part of the grown up set than I was. For this and other reasons, I idolized him and emulated him. I began dressing like him, talking like him and even thinking like him. (Sad, I know, but haven't many of us done this before we knew who we were?)

It was here I caught the "you should virus." He had frustrations at work and general frustrations with family and friends, as most of us do. His response to these frustrations often manifested as small or big rants to me. There was a formula to his rants, though. The sentences almost always started with "Well, I do this (implication here is "this" is being done well, with integrity or with great effort), and since I can do it she/he should too."

I began to learn this pattern and applied it. It felt good to say that because I was doing something well/right/difficult that this meant no one had an excuse not to live up to my standards. It achieved a nice effect of patting myself on the back and justifying my frustrations with other people. I had been infected by the You Should Virus and, little did I know, I would suffer the symptoms for the rest of my life.

As an older, more well-rounded adult, I could see the error of my ways. Intellectually it became obvious to me that people are different, with different talents and challenges, and comparing them to myself in this "If I can, then they should..." way was both pointless and silly (not to mention not-very-nice). At various times in my life I have made great effort to find medicine for the You Should Virus. Sadly, I find myself slipping back into it eventually. It seems to be in my blood.

Perhaps my approach has been wrong. Perhaps, once a person is infected with the You Should Virus, there is no cure. Perhaps this is a chronic illness that needs maintenance therapy. Currently, I am in the process of developing a therapy to help me keep this virus in check. I am excited to share this new therapy with you once I have done more research and self-experimentation.

Meanwhile, as I continue to think on these things, I wonder if I am looking for treatments to only medicate myself or if there are others infected. I would sincerely appreciate any comments on this. Am I the only one who has been infected by the You Should Virus?

3 comments:

environmental fiend said...

Hmm...doesn't everyone have an internal "moral code" like this that they measure themselves and the rest of the world by? I do see what you're saying about compassion versus judgment...I'll be interested to see the next installment. :)

Jill said...

Interesting, Tiff. Although when I read the title of your post, I immediately jumped to what I think of as the "you should virus" which is different than yours. I tend to internalize the "you should" part. When I was waiting for my transplant (from 26-28 yrs of age), I always would think that if he/she can do it, I "should" be able to as well (comparing myself to healthy folks and CFers alike!). Often, this was to my detriment because I overextended myself too many times. The hardest lesson I ever learned was to slow down, say no, and take care of me instead of focusing on everyone else (that is the overachiever/MD in me!). So, I am inflicted with the You Should Virus but the "YOU" is me, not directed outward! Interesting food for thought.

CF Superstar said...

I too have been infected with the "you should virus" and my particular case seems to be a chronic illness needing maintenance -- although I have not found the best treatment yet. Like Jill said, my case seems to be a bit more directed at myself, but there are many people that have gotten stuck in my crosshairs. My newest idea is to check into the philosophies of Buddhism and mindfulness. I applaud your honesty and vulnerability to post about this nasty little bug. I look forward to reading about your journey to find a treatment.