July 17, 2023


In my Resolution Focused Therapy (RFT) model Phase 2 is addressing “distorted beliefs”. We use the words Shoulda’s, Coulda’s, and Woulda’s (SCW) countless times a day without thinking anything of it, that is, until something happens. Just the fact we used these words when looking back at events or behaviors evokes a sense of regret. Often these words produce guilt or shame about a decision or action we took. I have devoted my entire professional career to addressing these words when dealing with trauma and addictions.

Most times, when we have used the SCW words, very little has come of it, and we just shook it off and moved on. It “would” only take one time for an event to occur and traumatize us for a very long time. For me, that period was four years. The longest period I have addressed in groups has been 56 years. Yes, for 56 years a client tormented himself over a past event that emotionally froze him in time.

Start taking note of the times you use these words in a day. Pay attention to the process behind the usage of them. If a life event occurs (e.g., death, accident, medical problem, etc.), process your responses and afterwards your feelings about that event. This will begin to open your eyes to how hard you are judging your actions or behaviors. Or worse yet, blaming yourselves for events that many times was not “your fault”. And even when events may be our fault to own, none of us are perfect. We expect perfection from our thoughts and actions and will severely punish ourselves for not doing what is impossible, being perfect. I know I did!

Throughout the day I will still catch myself saying one of the SCW’s and stop dead in my tracks. I will then process the action or lack of action that caused me to say one of them. I will accept that I am not perfect and I will proceed to own that decision and forgive myself for not being perfect. I will then act accordingly to correct that thinking and promise to do better in the future. This only took decades for me to to get to this point. Like I always teach, the search for understanding and inner peace is a journey, not a race! But since adopting this process, I have been able to put my day’s events behind me and push me to be better in the future. It gave, and still gives, me peace, something that makes the work worth it.

I do not believe there are any shortcuts to addressing our past events. There may be many models that offer symptom relief, but that does not resolve distorted beliefs or thinking. There are no shortcuts to processing our past and present behaviors and owning our part in them. In fact, I have found that not processing them means not owning them and owning them is necessary for change.

The simplest way to avoid inner change for peace is to always look outward for fault or unjustly inward for self-blame. Relieving the symptoms of that avoidance creates a false sense of security about your past. This has, and will continue, to often lead to relapses and setbacks in your mental health.

Start today being aware of your language and the SCW’s you use. Then work backwards and you will see many past events relating to the use of the SCW’s and the self-punishment you may have implemented.

Nobody is perfect! So, stop expecting perfection from all your actions!

Mind, Body, Spirit…Balance!

Vinnie Strumolo, CEO, CCO, LMFT