I’m not sure if other people experience this, but something I’ve found to be particularly frustrating about feeling bad is the way it tends to make me bad. What I mean is, I feel bad over something, then it builds on itself, and I feel bad for feeling bad. And on the downward spiral goes.
A typical example would be when I try to remember something that I feel I should know. I’m not sure if it is my imagination, but my memory seems to be a lot worse than it used to be. I don’t have any memory tests to judge it by, but given that I am gradually getting older, have been dealing with depression and anxiety for some time, and didn’t have the greatest memory to begin with, it doesn’t seem a stretch that my memory has gotten worse.
I will try to remember something from the past, sometimes in response to a question, sometimes just because I am trying to recall a name or a fact for myself. I try to remember but can’t. Then I get a bit frustrated. I try to remember. I try to force myself to remember. It generally doesn’t work, and then I often go into a self-hating spiral of thinking, something along the lines of “Why the hell can’t I remember this simple thing? I should be able to! Why do I have such a shit brain?”
The same thing happens in large social situations, where I have always felt uncomfortable. I then feel bad about feeling bad, and sometimes leave feeling exhausted, thinking something like “I’ve been dealing with people my whole life, and I suck at it! I should have figured out how to do this by now! I suck!”
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The word “should” tends to feature prominently, along with feelings in inadequacy, stupidity, and a general sense of being a total failure.
Although I am not quite at the stage where I am feeling good about feeling bad, I am gradually reaching the stage where feeling bad doesn’t make me feel worse. When I can’t remember something, where I feel awkward in a social situation or say something stupid, I feel the annoyance, but I don’t seem to feel the need to beat myself up about it quite so much anymore.
I think that I am doing the best that I can. I think that we all are. I am increasingly coming to believe that there is no free will that exists magically independent of the million things that have led up to the current moment. I think things are the way they are, and could not be otherwise. That being the case, “should” is meaningless. The psychologist Albert Ellis used to refer to people having unhelpful mental habits of “shoulding all over themselves” or "musterbating" and making themselves feel terrible, and I think he was on to something.
I don't seem to have such a strong need to "should" myself these days. I seem to have less stress and more acceptance of the way things are. I'd like this to continue into the future, and just maybe I'll find a little more peace.