— Cognitive psychotherapy defines "obligation" as an excessive focus on a thought: "I must behave or feel in a certain way, with an inability to see alternatives and real consequences of such behavior. This is based on pre-imposed or pre-programmed past behavior and thinking patterns."
I see obligation from the point of view of the action result— if to take an action (or in a broader sense, to live), one requires some special conditions, and one is constantly expecting these conditions to be fulfilled (this is the worst case), or if one works on creating these special conditions, trying to subject everything to his idea of reality, struggling with what one already has. In this case, the action result is about waiting or struggling with life, which only deepens unacceptance and frustration with reality, accompanied by the sense of righteousness. Often, after acting this way a few times, the energy of such person is depleted, and no action becomes possible ("one loses heart"). This is the extreme form of how obligations manifest.
Here is an example: in the middle of the summer, there is a sudden frost, the snow and hail kills the crops — this is very unpleasant, of course, — but different people would react differently to this event, and the consequences will depend on their reaction. Some could be too attached to the crops and certain weather, they are unable to accept the loss — trying to act in the old way, comparing the reality with their expectations and what the reality could have been… and of course, reality always loses against their expectations. This causes negative feelings, depriving of energy for action and ability to consider alternative solutions to the problem. Others may be less attached to their expectations from the past — after a short period of going through negative emotions, they concentrate on the goal, and if the frost is still there, they find other means for existence or sources of food.
This can refer to anything: nature, people, personal behavior, God. The belief that life must be different and that it has no right to exist in its current form leads to constant frustration and blocks one's creative self-actualization. As soon as you have a feeling that you must be different or that someone else has an obligation towards you – this is a sign that it is time to work on an inner dis-balance and liberate whatever stands on your way to feel good here and now.
This refers to the very nature of "musts" or obligation — what I described above is natural. Imagining a reality where I must not have any obligations is also incorrect. This may cause an inner conflict — I believe that the world must be a certain way and, at the same time, I am aware of my own "must" in this, and it may seem to me that my "must" mustn't be there. At this very moment, it is important to recognize that I have just produced another "must" or obligation. In fact, neither way it "must be".