A man at a dinner party admits that he married his first wife "because, well, you have to get married sometime, right?" (Actually, you don't.) A composer who sets music to blockbuster films complains that they are too commercial, but is unwilling to forego such movies' wide audiences and big paychecks for work on more meaningful projects. In each case, the individual may be guided by unexamined assumptions about what constitutes responsibility, satisfaction, even success.
Kernis contends that we each acquire a mixed set of shoulds, oughts, and have-to's while still too young to process them. They are neither fully conscious nor deeply considered but are acquired through convention and the expectations of others. Getting beyond these arbitrary strictures often demands the kind of soul-searching that most of us put off or avoid entirely. In fact, much of the work that people do in cognitive and behavioral therapy is to hold such beliefs up to the light and examine where they came from, a necessary step to resolving the anxiety or depression they typically create and that drive people to seek help.