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Fair' is a 4-letter word.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Profession(al) Help

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 22, 2016

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Young people in search of their vocational calling are often told to “find a job you’ll love.” What they aren’t told, however, is that most people love eating, having a roof over their heads, and getting to keep all of their teeth, and it’s easier and better to find a job you hate that helps you achieve those beloved goals than to search endlessly for work you’re passionate about while homeless and hungry for soft foods. Job satisfaction is never guaranteed nor fully under our control, so if working a shitty job is often unavoidable, working hard, whether your job calls to you or not, should be a source of pride, not shame.
-Dr. Lastname

I started my own business almost ten years ago, and it’s since grown really well with a staff of about 17 or 18. The problem is, I don’t enjoy the business I’m in very much at this point, so I am grappling with whether I should stop and do something else, or just carry on putting up with it. It’s hard to give up on something I’ve invested a lot of time and effort in, the business is doing well, I don’t want to put all my employees out of work, and I’m scared that I’d be throwing something valuable away and live to regret it in the future. My goal is to figure out whether (and how) I should stick to a job that I can no longer stand. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Indications You Should Make Peace With Your Parents

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2016

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If, like our reader from earlier, you feel uncertain about remaining estranged from Asshole™ parents, it’s important to keep guilt from pushing you to attempt an otherwise unwise reconciliation. So, before trying to reach out, take these five steps to figure out whether it’s worth the attempt to make peace with your wretched parents.

1) Determine The Danger to Your Kids

Don’t assume that you can always protect kids from your parents’ potentially hurtful words or actions, or stem their cruelty with your own kind, reasonable behavior. If they are sufficiently bitter or crazy they may attack on sight, leaving your kids shaken by their destructive and out of control behavior. Be realistic in evaluating your parents’ detonation times and never let your wish for reconciliation cause you to underestimate danger, especially when your kids are at risk.

2) Determine the Danger Overall

Imagine other potential kinds of of hurt and harm that reaching out to your parents may trigger; with some malicious, explosive people, any kind of contact is dangerous. Even if your efforts are kind and well meant, nothing will reduce their sense of grievance or eagerness to even the score. Rely on your prior experience, not wishful thinking, to predict whether a well-intentioned call or visit will expose you to spiteful behavior including shaming, verbal assaults, and legal struggles over gifts and inheritances.

3) Process the Potential Benefits

Ask yourself whether your willingness to engage in polite conversation and reconnect will have any potential longterm benefits for you and yours, beyond possibly feeling less guilty and isolated. Be realistic about whether your efforts will facilitate real gains, like larger family get-togethers and friendships between cousins. Include whatever pleasure such contact may give others and the satisfaction you may feel for being kind when you have good reason to feel hurt or mistreated.

4) Test Your Ability to Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe

Drawing on your experience from prior family conflicts, guilt trips, or shame shake-downs, prepare for the worst with exit strategies that will end unacceptable conversations and protect you and yours from hurtful fallout before you can get sucked in. Rehearse polite statements that express regret for quick exits while not attacking, defending, or prolonging the discomfort, and make sure to choose locations that are easy to leave. Don’t reach out until you are confident you can protect yourself from unacceptable behavior.

5) Tally Up Total Outreach Pros and Cons

If, after examining all the potential risks and gains, it becomes clear that reaching out to your parents isn’t likely to benefit anyone or build a stronger family, don’t do it, and certainly don’t hold yourself responsible. Your only obligation is to your family, and all you can do is try to give peace a chance if peace is even a possibility. As long as your decision is based on realistic risk assessment and good values, it will never be wrong, no matter how bad the guilt gets.

Parental Super-Derision

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2016

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We may all hope to be the kind of lucky people bound to our parents by a shared sense of humor, values, and love, but for some of us the only parent/child bond we share is in our genes. For those extra-unlucky group whose parents carry the genes for rage, alcoholism, and selfishness—the building blocks of Asshole™ DNA—reconciliation is all but impossible, and all attempts will leave you needlessly miserable. That’s why you should never satisfy your yearning for a better relationship with your parent until you administer an unofficial Asshole™ DNA test; learn how to size them up realistically and decide whether you can attempt to strengthen your bond or should leave it at the genetic level.

-Dr. Lastname

After decades of trying to have a positive relationship with my parents, I finally stopped all contact two years ago after they transferred their toxicity to my children. Therapy has helped me realize that they are narcissists and that it is simply impossible to have a loving relationship with them. That knowledge deepens as my relationship with my own children grows as they grow, and I cherish them. Although we are all much happier without contact, and even though I know that actually things will never change, a part of me still wishes that things could be different. My father’s own brother refuses to see him for similar reasons and he and other relatives are very supportive of me. Recently, my partner lost both of her parents and she was able to be with each of them in their final hours. Now she is worried that I may regret not trying one last time to improve relations. I appreciate her concern but fear that there really is no point and that, if I did make contact, I’d just be laying myself open to another attack. But, what if I do regret not trying..and so it goes round and round in my head. My goal is to determine whether I’ll feel worse about not talking to my parents or, by trying to talk to them again, possibly allowing their toxic presence back into my life.

Given how hard it is for most people to part with their favorite/disgusting jeans from college or prized collection of VHS tapes, it’s not surprising that cutting yourself off entirely from your parents, no matter how necessary, is bound to leave you with lingering senses of sadness and doubt.

You’re right, of course, to give top priority to the protection of your kids, particularly if your parents are likely to become violent or openly express rage or make accusations in their presence. Even so, there’s no way to feel entirely at peace about cutting off all communication, knowing that time and death will someday make the silence permanent. And admitting to yourself how that silence may also provide some relief will just flood you with the kind of guilt that most Catholics, Jews, and people with neck tattoos feel exclusively entitled to.

Before giving into this first wave of guilt and assuming that resuming contact would be a worthwhile step towards improving your relationship and elevating your soul, take stock of past attempts and their results. Don’t expect to be able to mend fences with insight so powerful that it dissolves their mistrust and hostility; your only standard for a good intervention should be to be pleasant, polite, and reasonably conciliatory, regardless of results. If you achieved this standard through a few good attempts with no real return on your efforts—or worse, your efforts were greeted with a blast of hostility and drama—it’s unlikely that trying again will produce a better result.

Once you’ve decided that seeking improvement is probably unrealistic and possibly harmful, ask yourself whether it’s worthwhile or even possible to have a limited non-relationship rather than nothing at all. A limited non-relationship means restricting contact to short, superficial, polite conversations, free of emotional satisfaction, intimacy, and, as such, opportunity for conflict. You may never get that desired (and fictional) catharsis, but you will be able to participate in large family gatherings without threat of conflict and express benign good wishes, however shallow, regardless of past wrongs or recent provocation.

If you’re hoping to reconnect in order to achieve some level of emotional satisfaction, then you’re bound for disappointment; the best result, aside from the confidence that comes from doing your best to do what’s right, is the possibility that it may nurture other good family relationships for you and the kids while showing the kids how to avoid conflict when it’s pointless and destructive.

Don’t hold yourself responsible for or feel guilty about letting go of anything that’s unfixable, be it your beloved first car or your relationship with toxic parents. Don’t assume, however, that total excommunication is your only other option; you can always salvage broken things for parts.

So, if you wish, you can usually maintain civility with uncivil relatives if you first decide that the strategic rewards are worth the unpleasant effort of management they invariably require. But if you decide that it’s unlikely that your efforts will be rewarded with anything but regret, don’t let guilt blind you to all the benefits of letting go.

STATEMENT:
“Now that I’m a parent, I wish I could improve my relationship with my parents and give them and my children an opportunity to bond and get to know one another. Given that my parents are unimproveable Assholes™, however, I do what’s necessary to protect the kids while keeping things civil and peaceful.”

An Open Letter From The Authors of F*ck Feelings re: This T-Shirt

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 21, 2016

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Dear Fellow Americans,

It has recently come to our attention that “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS” has become an unofficial slogan printed on T-shirts for Donald Trump’s current presidential campaign (see below).

fyf

Given that we are authors of a New York Times best selling book whose title shares two outta three words with said slogan, we feel that it’s worth publicly stating that we not only have nothing to do with said shirt (or any political ideology, period), but that this slogan has nothing to do with what our book is about.

  • Our book asks readers to “F*CK FEELINGS” when it comes to problem solving and decision-making. We aim to teach readers how to approach life’s major problems by trusting experience and common sense, not just blindly following their emotions.
  • “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS” seems to refer specifically to the negative feelings that not-Trump voters may harbor towards their fellow, Trump-supporting citizens. The wearer’s feelings, however—namely the negative ones that may be behind their support for their candidate, like pride, paranoia, rage, etc.—are, apparently, not to be fucked with.
  • What we would say to those who wear this shirt, and to voters in general, is, of course, that when it comes to making the extremely important decision of whom to vote for to hold the highest office in the land, F*CK ALL FEELINGS EVERYWHERE FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.

For politicians, appealing to emotions is the easiest way to get a vote; it’s much more effective and efficient to scare support out of voters or draw them in with nostalgia than it is to educate them about policy and strategy. That’s why it’s our responsibility as voters to ignore the endless barrage of emotional manipulation and educate ourselves about what a candidate plans to do, how they plan to do it, and whether those plans are realistic, given how our government’s traditionally worked (or hasn’t).

If that sounds like work, it is, but a vote is an investment; you wouldn’t sink a lot of money into a new car without looking into all the latest models and you wouldn’t make a down payment on a house without checking up on everything from the plumbing to the school district, so you shouldn’t throw your support behind someone who’s going to lead your country without giving their resume and their leadership plan as much consideration as you’d give a possible mortgage.

So please, when it comes to voting for our next president, listen to us, not a garment: F*ck (ALL) Feelings and make your decision based on facts, not emotions. And please buy our book F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems.

Yours in Democracy,

Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett

 

Authors of F*ck Feelings: F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems and the upcoming Fuck Love: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship (coming out in early 2017, should we avoid the Apocalypse)

5 Ways To Evaluate The Dry Drunk

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2016

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People who aren’t drinking are technically sober, but, like our reader’s ex-husband described in a post earlier this week, many have not developed or just lost the ability to put aside selfish needs for the sake of long-term goals, values, and making relationships work. They’re often good at pleasing you in the short run, which makes you feel things are going well, but you must look closely at how they handle frustration and painful emotions before you know whether they’ve overcome the negative impact of alcohol on character. Here are five ways to evaluate the dry drunk before you get too close and find out the hard way that his sobriety is only booze-deep.

1) See How He Handles Hurt

Because drunks are blind slaves to their needs and impulses, a dry drunk still feels entitled to get back at you when he’s hurt or, at least, to find immediate relief the way he once did from booze. What you hope is that, instead of pouting or sulking, he’ll assume that hurt feelings are sometimes unavoidable, suck up his pain, let the bad feelings pass, and continue to act like a decent human being. If he instead acts petulant and feels entitled to have a good time with his buddies or new girlfriend because you’ve let him down, then he still has a drunk’s habits, just without the bar tab.

2) Mind the Money

Thanks to the same impulse control issues, a dry drunk can also have problems saving money; he means to be financially responsible but winds up spending more than he intended on various virgin ways to feel good and stop feeling bad. Ask yourself whether he really can stick to a budget and save money or whether he can’t stop himself from getting you a flashy present when he worries that you’re mad at him or losing interest. If he can’t, then he’s likely to act twice as bad when he’s the one losing interest in you.

3) Assess Kill-building

Since learning new skills or taking on a new challenge is often a frustrating process, it’s one dry drunks often lack the self-discipline and pain threshold to deal with. Note whether he can make himself take on difficult projects, stick to unpleasant routines involving errands or exercise, and do other boring activities for the sake of a good cause. If he has values of his own, he’ll stay busy even when you’re not there. If his motivation is to make you happy, he’ll look busy when you’re around, but not do much more. That speaks poorly for his ability to learn (or relearn) the skills needed to stay sober, like patience and acceptance.

4) Look for Lies

Of the average drunk’s propensity for dishonesty, Stephen King once said that, “Ask an active alcoholic what time it is, and 9 times out of 10 he’ll lie to you.” Similarly, a dry drunk will also lie with ease, usually to avoid conflict, regardless of whether the lie is easily discovered and the consequences are much worse than if he told the truth. Don’t avoid checking on the facts because you want to show him you trust him and build up his confidence; look for honesty as a sign of real sobriety.

5) Track the True Source of Blame

In the absence of morals or values, the main belief held by any addict, aside from the importance of getting high, is the absolute importance of quid pro quo. As such, a dry drunk also feels you should make him feel good if he made a good effort to make you feel good, and any unwillingness to hold up your end of the bargain is the ultimate betrayal. So, whether he’s bored, angry, or hurt (see above), he’ll find reasons to blame you for his bad feelings. Don’t think that expressing such blame will improve your relationship; instead, recognize it as a sign that a good relationship may be impossible, at least until he realizes that he’s got a lot more work to do on his sobriety beyond staying sober.

Hugs and Alcohol

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2016

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There are many ways to be hurt by an alcoholic partner, even if he’s in recovery, but figuring out who’s responsible for that hurt can be a lot more complicated. That’s because alcoholics, be they sober for ages or still steadily soused, are well-practiced in victimhood, which makes them very good at explaining hurt in terms of what you’re doing to make them unhappy and very bad at taking responsibility for their actions. So if you consort with addicts and want to avoid undeserved blame, you’d better know how to tolerate hurt, tell right from wrong, and stand up for your own convictions. Otherwise, you’ll also end up with a lot of unnecessary heartache.

-Dr. Lastname

I married my recovering alcoholic ex after he’d been sober for three years. We went through hell and back together and I stuck by his side through it all, but our marriage only lasted six months— it took that long for him to tell me he isn’t attracted to me anymore and kick me out. Of course, I smelled the booze on him as he said it, because he’d actually relapsed. I’ve moved on somehow, but still feel angry, especially since I just got off all my anti-depressants. My goal is to figure out how to get over this massive, mind-blowing disappointment.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Ways To Jet Out of Loserville

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2016

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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have your eyes on a very specific prize, second place can feel like a first class ticket to Loserville, even if it’s just a coach ticket to whatever goal you had in the first place. If your drive is making it so hard to appreciate your efforts that it’s really just driving you crazy, here are five ways to deal with that perceived failure.

1) Get Your Goals In Line

Putting aside the performance goals that you don’t really control, like a particular salary, promotion, or degree, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Usually, with goals that are work- or education-related, you’re ultimately trying to find a way to make a living and develop your skills and abilities. The kind of grades you get or job you finally land—the feel-good outcomes—are never completely under your control, so don’t hold yourself accountable for them.

2) Set Effort-Based Standards

Instead of reaching for those feel-good outcomes, measure your success by how much time, effort, and overall feel-bad hard work you put into your goal, like the number of hours you studied and whether you asked for help when you needed it. If you found yourself avoiding the work, ask yourself whether you faced that problem and tried to do something about it. Be objective in grading your efforts, using the same standards as you would for anyone else, and if you find yourself falling short, avoid self-incrimination and aim for self-improvement instead.

3) Fight Negative Thoughts

Unless you’re a massive jerk/Republican presidential nominee, you wouldn’t tell someone who’d tried hard and put in the work that he was a failure, so don’t be that mean to yourself. If you’re a natural-born perfectionist who tends to get down on himself, learn how to talk back to your self-criticism and give yourself positive encouragement, getting help from a positive coach/therapist if necessary. Otherwise, your negative thinking will make your performance worse, cause you undeserved pain, and put you at the mercy of the world’s meanest critic, who happens to live in your head.

4) Get Motivation From Your Good Values

Ditch outcomes-based motivation, looking inward instead to find drive in your own positive ideals, like the importance of being independent, helping others, and doing your share. Yes, you’re also motivated by good results, competition with others, and the ecstasy of the victory lap. When your career goals reflect positive values, however, regardless of whether you’re getting the glory, it’s much harder to feel negative about the outcome of your efforts, even when those outcomes are negative themselves.

5) Reject Failure And Rethink Success

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t listen to old clichés and keep trying the same thing over again and again. Step back, seek advice, and ask yourself whether there’s an obstacle you can’t control, like a skill you can’t acquire or a relationship you can’t make work. If that’s the case, accept your helplessness, don’t take it personally, and try to find another way forward. You may need to compromise or eat some crow, but as long as you’re acting in accordance with your basic values, you’re on the right path to some kind of success you can be proud of.

Doctor Feelbad

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 30, 2016

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When we’re desperate to push ourselves to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, drive and doubt can combine to create an inner drill-sergeant: a loud, insulting voice in your head that screams all the insults of a military commander but much less flying spittle. Unfortunately, that balance of drive and doubt can be precarious, so if you push yourself too far you may go from driven to too depressed and full of self-hate to do much of anything. As with a new recruit, you may have no choice over your commander/the kinds of emotions that get you going, but you can learn how to manage those emotions so they don’t cause you to give up and go AWOL.

-Dr. Lastname

I’m a 23-year-old man who spent my formative years as this retarded socially awkward mute and at some point after visiting hospitals for work experience I decided I wanted to be a physician really fucking badly. The only problem was I was a moron who spent his formative years playing video games instead of taking the right science classes or getting good grades. I then spend an extra year working my ass off and taking the right classes at night and volunteering in health care during the day. Since the start of the whole ordeal, my academic advisor has been telling me it’s never going to happen and I should go for nursing, and I’m thinking, “fuck you, I’m going to be a doctor!” Then I don’t actually get the grades to get into med school—they’re all a grade below what I need—and in order to fix them I would have to repeat another 1-2 years, which isn’t a possibility. I then think about going to the nearest bar to drink myself to death, but I don’t, so off I go to study psychology with some health studies thrown in. I’m now in the 2nd year of course and need to get interested in becoming a clinical therapist, otherwise I won’t have the motivation to get a good grade. My goal is to figure out how to become interested in becoming a therapist other than gritting my teeth, giving up on my dream/accepting that I’m stupid, and getting on with my shit.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Ways To Determine If Your Spouse Is Worth It

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 4, 2016

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As illustrated by our reader from earlier this week, it’s hard to trust a partner who leaves you out of the loop sometimes, even if, in almost every other way, you love him or her very much. Before letting either suspicion or your special emotional connection be the key factor in whether or not to stay together, ask yourself these five questions to determine whether or not your spouse is telling the truth and worth taking a chance on.

1) Examine His Honesty Experience

Think back on whether or not he has a solid record of truth-telling, not just by looking at your own history but by seeking out the opinion of family, friends, and, depending on the level of commitment at stake, his exes and even his possible- court records. Ignore anger or hurt in favor of the facts, and give extra weight to crimes, credit card debt, and infidelity. Don’t pay much attention to white lies unless they seem indicative of worse offenses.

2) Assess His Lies’ True Effect

After getting a complete history of his truths and falsehoods, consider whether you’re bothered more by his lies because of the way they impact your life, finances, or future, or by the way they affect your feelings and inspire paranoia. Look at his worst lies to you and their impact on your relationship, paying more attention to how they damage your security, wealth, and family relationships than how much they piss you off. Define for yourself the kinds of impact you can’t afford to tolerate, even from someone you love.

3) Determine His Ability To Divulge Honest Answers to Direct Questions

One good way to distinguish the liar from the truth-evader is to see how he responds to questions about his hidden dealings, because if he makes up lies to cover up previous lies of omission, you’ve got a problem. If he doesn’t and easily tells the whole truth, then develop your own system for reminding yourself to pin him down on a regular basis. Your system must protect you from any real danger to your security or that of your family in order to be effective.

4) Figure Out His Ability to Own His Dishonesty

If he agrees that his lying is a serious problem, you still have to figure out whether he genuinely agrees or if he’s just going along with you in order to make you happy. If he truly owns his lying, he will take the same steps as an addict in recovery; he’ll talk about it, own up to his slips, and examine triggers that get him into trouble by working with a support group or therapist. What you’re seeing then isn’t just apology, but an honest effort at improvement and reparation and, hopefully, a good result.

5) Given His Dishonesty, Make A Choice

If your safety and security are endangered by staying with your less-than- forthcoming partner, then your only choice is to end it, but if they aren’t, then make your decision by listing whatever you value about the relationship. As we always say, think less about what you like about this relationship than what you want a relationship for in general, i.e., how much you require from a partner for companionship, co-parenting, sex, etc. Then ask yourself whether your current partner’s contribution to those goals outweighs the impact of his truth-impairment, taking into account what you can and can’t expect to change about his behavior. If it is worth it, then learn to ask a lot of questions and become better at forgiveness. If it isn’t, then learn a valuable lesson in what your relationship standards are and you’ll be better at finding someone new who meets them.

Trust Protection

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 19, 2016

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Because trust between people who know one another well usually depends on how well they treat one another (and their cars, pets, and fancy coffee makers) over time, we tend to assume that mistrust would not flare up in a close relationship without good reason. Unfortunately, some apparently normal people are sometimes prone to limited bursts of paranoia, so mistrust can also arise spontaneously for reasons that we don’t understand. That’s why it’s important to develop objective methods for assessing the causes of mistrust, whether it’s your own or others’, and whether it’s broken-espresso- machine-related or not.

-Dr. Lastname

I love my partner very much— he makes me very happy, and I feel very cherished. Despite that, however, I cannot trust him because there have been a few times that he has neglected to tell me very important things that affected us. He will keep me informed for a week or so, and then neglect it again. If I cannot trust him, can this relationship work? Can someone who behaves like this change? My goal is to figure out whether I can stay with someone I love, even if I can’t take his word. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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