There many many things in life that fall overtly or silently into the category of what you’re ‘Supposed to’ do. Many times this seems to be more of an expression of momentum or cultural bias than any level of objective wisdom or individual consideration.
You’re supposed to stay in school, get good grades, avoid drugs and alcohol. You’re supposed to get a good job and focus on making money, have a nicer house, in a nicer neighborhood, and a nicer car. That is if you want to fit in with others that value those things.
Or perhaps your situation differs and you’re a third generation Union worker or welfare recipient. Those categories carry their own lists of ‘supposed to’.
Many world religions have lists and lists of ‘supposed to’ written into their dogma.
Some of our ‘supposed to’ ideas have a broader cultural underpinning.
You’re supposed to get married, have kids, and stay married. You’re supposed to treat others fairly, pay your taxes, have compassion (or not) and of course ‘be grateful for what you have’!
In other cultures, gender roles and responsibilities are defined differently and various patriarchal or matriarchal systems take root. These systems result in unique ideas of ‘Supposed to’. In Some African tribes, women elongate their necks over time with large metal rings because they are ‘supposed to’. In parts of Africa, woman are the leaders of tribes and practice polygamy, taking several husbands. These are the same social mechanism that leads young adults to prioritize a call to their mothers on Mother’s Day in Western Civilizations.
Some of these ‘Supposed to’ ideas are codified cultural or familial responsibilities.
Parents will certainly directly or indirectly communicate expectations to their children that they think are in their children best interest. Stay in school, stay out of trouble, value good grades, etc.
We are ‘supposed to’ obey the law. In a society with a well-developed Justice and punishment system, the threat of jail time enforces that we are supposed to do that.
But other ‘supposed to’ ideas are not always good. You’re supposed to have a few drinks at a party. You’re supposed to value promotions. You’re supposed to be married by 30.
These are cultural and social pressures that are driven more by a desire of people to validate their own actions, choices and (learned) priorities by creating social groups that mirror back the ideas that they value.
And some ‘supposed to’ ideas are written into the very fabric of our understanding of life. The role of a father or mother. The importance of a specific religion.
So, most likely, some of what we are ‘supposed to’ do is probably very much in our interest and based firmly on our developed understanding of how our various societies function. It is the expression of a million little lessons tidied up in an un-communicated conceptual idea.
But certainly, some of these ‘supposed to’ ideas are adopted without question our consideration. Exposing these ideas is difficult because the gaining of insight of these ideas is a deconstructive process. It is a subtraction of ideas whereas in general wisdom is the addition of ideas. It is not a search for an idea to add to your worldview but is instead a search for something that is not there… Perhaps that you have not considered or developed a reason to associate your identity with being a Democrat or Republican, it’s just that your parents were. Perhaps it’s that you thoughtlessly agreed to stash away part of your wages in a 401k for a third of your life and never bothered to reconsider that you could have bought a rental property instead by now. Or perhaps you are at the extent of your financial means to support a lifestyle of excess that you were silently taught to value via pop culture.
Exposing the damaging actions that you made because you were ‘supposed to’ is also hard because many times they will be seen as mistakes you have made. And we all know… You’re not ‘supposed to’ make big mistakes like that, are you… 😉