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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bury the Need

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 21, 2015

Neediness is the fuel that drives most of our truly regrettable decisions. Sure, the need to cure cancer can push you to get a Nobel prize, but you’ll need a lot of other resources and motivations to get there. The need to get fucked up, on the other hand, is a lot stronger and simpler, and you don’t have to get to Sweden for your reward. Mostly, neediness stops you from thinking about long-term consequences and other needs that are just as important but are less successful at grabbing your attention. So, no matter how hard it pushes you, or whether it’s yours or belong to someone you love, don’t pay too much attention to neediness until you’ve considered all your needs, separated the healthy from the unhealthy, and decided what you can do that will actually be useful. Then you and not your needs will be the manager of your goals, no matter how lofty or low.
Dr. Lastname

Since we’re still stuck in the same social and professional circles, I wonder how nice I should be to my ex-boyfriend. He and I were terrific together for ten years, at least when we were out with friends or visiting our relatives. Often times, however, when we were one on one, I’d get the feeling that he didn’t really like having me around, or that I got on his nerves, and that’s why he didn’t want to get married. His coldness would hurt, so I’d get sulky and hate myself for it, which would just make him back off even more. He told me he loved me, but then, one day, when he inherited some money and we had the opportunity to buy a house together, he said it was over. I think I’ve finally moved on in so much as I can stand to be in the same room as him, but my goal is to figure out whether telling him how angry I am will help me with my next relationship.

There’s no good reason to get angry at your ex-boyfriend now for not loving you enough back then. If he couldn’t give you what you needed when you were together, then there exists no possible (or at least legal) kind of confrontation to get what you need from him now.

Certainly, it’s normal to feel angry at someone who’s done you wrong, treated you bad, and left you high and dry, but unless you can translate that pain into a classic country or R&B song, then these emotions are best ignored.

That’s because fixating on your anger at your ex just strengthens a tie that you desperately need to cut. Expressing it doesn’t set you free; to paraphrase Aretha, it tightens the chain-chain-chains. Ultimately, the person who is in charge of your attachments is you. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Frank Checks

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2015

When you have a specific goal for yourself or someone you care about, it’s useful to imagine that goal as a physical destination, and set limits as the directions for getting there. After all, just nagging someone to do something they wouldn’t instinctively do is like being a GPS that tells the driver to “just get there,” and worrying about making a goal you haven’t considered carefully will leave you driving in circles. If you want to determine those limits, you need to know why your limits are better than the alternative so you can fully explain them, even if it’s just to yourself. If you can properly weigh the value of limits in terms of improvement, then you or that someone you care about can arrive at your goal via the best route possible.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t stand watching my son come home from school everyday, earphone in one ear, and go straight upstairs without acknowledging anyone so he can go hole up in his room and text and play videogames. When I tell him to get his face up and out of a screen before I take every last device away, he asks me why I’m punishing him. He’s a good kid and gets his schoolwork done eventually, but he doesn’t help out around the house or really engage on any level. My goal is to get him to see that it’s not healthy to do nothing but mess around with all this vapid technology without having to fight with him all the time.

It would be nice to have the kind of kid who naturally likes to socialize, chip in, and keep busy with healthy activities, but humans like that at any age are rare. After a long day—and, if he’s in high school, lord knows what horrors his day can include—most of us just want to zone out and relax with a glass of wine/Xbox.

Of course, if you express annoyance, your kid does what most people do when they feel criticized and under-appreciated—he finds a way to do even less. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Censure Track

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 14, 2015

The best way to test someone’s ability may be to put them in a high pressure situation—a mock trial, dinner with a spouse’s divorced parents, Kobayashi Maru, etc.—but the best way to test their character is to see how much responsibility they’re willing to take for things if they go horribly wrong. The ability to read and take criticism depends far more on personality traits and reflex than reason and judgment; that’s why Assholes are amazingly good at pinning responsibility on other people (which is why therapy usually has so little to offer) and nice people are good at figuring out how they caused it to rain. In any case, if you judge yourself as you would anyone else, you’re more likely to use logic rather than instinct. Then you can figure out whether you owe an apology or not, and to whom, and others can figure out whether you’re solid enough to grant a second chance.
Dr. Lastname

I’m usually OK with being single and childless—I’ve had some bad relationships that were far worse than being single, so being independent seems like a fine alternative, and kids will come when I’m ready. When I look at Facebook on Mother’s Day, however, and see pictures of my friends looking all happy with their kids and happy little families, I start to get depressed and hate myself. I’m sure that part of the problem is that my own mother died a couple years ago. My goal is to figure out why the happiness of others makes me feel like such a loser.

Mother’s Day, like weddings, birthdays (including that of Jesus Christ), and all other days that celebrate someone with gift giving, are usually doomed to cause as much pain as pleasure, and sometimes more.

The intention is to make someone feel appreciated and loved by giving them time, love, and shit they don’t need, but it often winds up making more people, including the honoree, feel worse by forcing them to consider all the time, love, and shit they don’t have. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Control Stop

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 11, 2015

Humans have long struggled to control strong emotions—to put limits on our heart’s desires or angry thirst for justice—but those emotions can become even more dangerous when they push us to try to control other people. You may want to control someone because you love him, or you may hate someone because she’s trying to control you, but in any battle for control, be it over passions, loved ones, or central Asia, there are very few victories. If you can tolerate those urges without allowing them to drive your priorities and control your mouth, however, you can avoid an epic struggle. You might not be in control, but at least you’ll be free.
Dr. Lastname

My stepfather recently went to the doctor and got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and some other things. This means that he would have to stop drinking and smoking. It’s been a month or two since then though and he hasn’t done a thing. I feel so angry and scared for him whenever I see him making a drink or smoking because it’s like he’s just pretending it will go away. Some of his logic is that some people smoke and drink for years and they live to be 90, but his parents deal with some pretty life-threatening health risks. I think to myself, “doesn’t he realize how serious these issues can get?” I talked to my mother about it and she says that he said he won’t give up drinking entirely, if at all. I feel so incensed because he is making us watch him ruin his body and his health. I know it would be hard for him but I feel like he should just suck it up, because if he doesn’t want to do it for himself, shouldn’t he be doing it for us? We’ve talked to him about it and he just blows us off. I think he is an alcoholic and I don’t know what to do. I can barely look at him but I want to help him. I don’t think he will ever admit to his problem and he won’t ever go get help for it. My goal is to figure out a plan because I can’t stand to see him kill himself like this.

When you share a strong bond with someone, you don’t just have feelings for them, but with them; it’s hard to watch someone you love suffering because, when you really care about him, you’ll experience his suffering, as well. The pain you feel if you lose him, however, will be yours to bear alone.

Trying to steer him away from possible distress, however, often makes your own distress worse, because you can’t control his decisions, addictions, or decisions about addictions, and pushing usually causes push back. You can share each other’s pain, even if it comes from accidentally hurting each other. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Risked Off

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015

Most tough decisions involve competing risks of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t variety; tougher still are those that factor in someone you care about, so now they’re damned if you do or don’t. In evaluating risk, however, we often over-fear threats that cause pain but aren’t dangerous and under-fear true dangers because they won’t hurt until they happen. So if you’re realistic about rating risk, and don’t overreact to the risk of emotional hurt, your decisions will often become clearer. That will make it easier to damn your doubts and do the right thing.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t really get into the specifics of my job (for reasons that are about to become obvious), but I work in a partnership with another woman at a job where a mistake could cause serious injury, and my partner is always drunk. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, because I’m an alcoholic myself (two years sober, in the program), but she denies everything and changes the subject. I don’t want to bring it up with the higher ups, however, because, even though her being drunk puts us both in danger and scares the shit out of me, I know she’ll lose her job, which will just make her drinking worse. My goal is to figure out what, if anything, to do about it that won’t get her in trouble or both of us in a dangerous situation.

While Alcoholics Anonymous believes that there are no “former” alcoholics, there are many different kinds, e.g., active, in recovery, functioning, possibly just French, pickled, etc.

As an alcoholic in recovery, you should know that AA also says that we’re only as sick as our secrets. And your secret, about her secret, could make you both very sick indeed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Misgiving Parade

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2015

Anxiety, like exhaustion and hunger, is one of those sensations that always and unfairly has a negative perception. After all, exhaustion is just your body putting on the brakes, hunger (not the chronic kind) is your body telling you it’s ready for pie, and anxiety is your body’s fire alarm that puts you on high alert and out of danger. Unfortunately, however, even when you take the right steps to protect yourself, the alarm doesn’t always shut down and sometimes it tells you to do things that really won’t protect you at all. Then you may still be anxious, even though you’ve done the right thing, or you may do the wrong thing because you’ve listened uncritically to your anxiety. In any case, if you develop a disciplined way of assessing risks and benefits, anxiety won’t control you or always be to your detriment. Then you’ll be good at protecting yourself without making self-protection (or maybe sleep or eating pie) your only goal in life.
Dr. Lastname

I want to put my current relationship on hold, but I’m worried that I’m just backing away because I’m afraid of intimacy. He’s a nice guy with a good job, and now that it’s legal here he really wants to get married, so I wonder if I’m just scaring myself out of a good thing because commitment makes me nervous. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been stressed lately at work and feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to overreact to the fact that he expects me to call every day and, when I couldn’t, because my cellphone broke, he wouldn’t talk to me for three days out of anger. My friends say he’s rigid and overbearing, but they can be overprotective. My goal then is to figure out if I have a problem with intimacy or anything else that makes me so hesitant to commit.

Deciding whether or not to break up with someone, like deciding whether or not to move or look for a new job or get bangs, is one of those high stakes decisions that deserves a lot of consideration and often comes with at least a little anxiety. After all, you have a lot to lose, the gain is uncertain, and when you actually want hair somewhere, it can take forever to grow out.

The trouble with anxiety, however, is that it doesn’t just make you nervous about doing things that you really need to, like leaving the house, going to work, and figuring out your order at Chipotle, but it can make you second guess the validity of good, solid data and reasonable judgments. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Messed Friends

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 30, 2015

When relationships fail—and unfortunately, most relationships are as likely to succeed as a Ron Paul presidential campaign—most people focus on figuring out what went wrong at the end. The more useful insight to search for is what went wrong at the beginning, because the problems probably started when you chose the wrong person to trust or the wrong reason to get attached in the first place. When you need to figure out what went wrong, don’t trust your intuition or your version of events. Instead, assess relationships, past, present and future, according to your standards of decent behavior and moderate expectations. Then you’ll be able to determine what went wrong and whether you need to be more selective or more reasonable the next time you put yourself in the running.
Dr. Lastname

Years ago, I was hired by a wealthy guy to plan one of his big parties, and he really liked my taste, so we hit it off as friends. We enjoyed both working together and socializing with our spouses over the years, so I assumed we were good friends, even though I knew he had been very critical and dismissive of other people who worked for him and had a reputation as imperious and nasty. I don’t know what happened but, shortly after planning for our last event got underway, he started to show me the same nasty side he’s turned on others, blaming me for things that weren’t my fault, not accepting explanations, and making demanding phone calls. When he finally fired me, it was a relief but I also felt hurt and tortured by thoughts of what I could have done to prevent this. My goal is to deal with my feelings and figure out a way of getting some relief.

As a provider of luxury services, you’re probably aware of the “princely patron” syndrome: the wealthy client who acts like a generous big shot in return for attention and admiration. Such people are also known as monsters, Trumps, and, most relevant to your situation, Royal Assholes™.

He may give glowing recommendations for you to famous friends and an intimate position in his life, but if you don’t give him full royal deference in return, you may be headed for the gallows. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Sick Change

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015

Of the many things out there that people can be afraid of—spiders, heights, gays—the one thing that truly scares the shit out of all of us is change. Whether it’s good or bad, change is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar is inherently frightening. Sometimes, particularly when it’s forced on us, we think change will turn out badly and it doesn’t, but when we really don’t want change, we try to prevent it, and that can be at our own peril. Don’t let neediness or fear control your view of the future (or marriage). Whether you’re facing or adapting to change, think through what’s good for you, and you’ll become better at forecasting its impact and taking pride in your brave response.
Dr. Lastname

After hip surgery, I felt like I was in a fog…it wasn’t just the physical adjustment, but there was a freak complication during the procedure, and my brain might have lost oxygen for a bit. I came out of it with no energy, and my memory was shot. The doctor said that was normal, but now it’s a year later and I still don’t have the energy or mental sharpness that I used to depend on. My husband says I’m different but that he likes the new me just as much as the old one, if not more, because he thinks I’m calmer and a better listener. I think he’s just being sweet, so I’m still afraid to spend time with old friends or co-workers so I don’t frighten them and humiliate myself since I just feel slow and stupid. My goal is to get my old self back and stop being a pale imitation of the smart go-getter I used to be.

When you lose something great about yourself, whether it’s the ability to strike out the side in the big leagues or make it as a supermodel or just remember the names of everyone at the party, it’s hard not to dwell on everything you’ve lost and search desperately for a way to get it back.

Unfortunately, change is inevitable with age and it’s always uncomfortable, even when it’s welcomed. You can find the courage to withstand a career-salvaging Tommy John or Tummy Tuck. When the changes are more mental than physical, however, there’s almost nothing you can do, even though you’d give anything to turn back time.

You’re right to try to get back to your old self, at least at first; that’s what rehabilitation is about, for a limited time. Almost always, however, when there’s a permanent component to an injury, your goal needs to shift from total recovery to management of a permanent impairment. That’s when you transition to becoming a sportscaster, a trophy wife, or, in your case, someone slightly different. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Cast Iron Boundary

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 23, 2015

Unlike territorial boundaries, which are marked on maps, with road signs, or even—looking at you Canada—guarded by polite-yet-firm officers in fun hats, interpersonal boundaries are often much more ambiguous and rarely agreed upon. Still, people who worry about invisible boundaries and try in vain to locate them are more likely to blame themselves for an apparent violation, whereas people who don’t notice even well-marked boundaries are likely to blame the guards that reprimands them. Before you become your own, impolite border patrol, get a good idea of what boundaries you think are reasonable, whether you’ve respected them, and whether your can stay on course or rethink your maps in the future.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t stop wondering what I could have done to keep my roommate from angrily breaking our lease at the last minute. He claims it was impossible to live with me because I was a shitty roommate who stayed up too late Skyping with my girlfriend in the living room and making noise (she’s working overseas for six months and the wifi sucks in my room, so it was fairly unavoidable). If I’d known that we were being loud or bothering him, I would have immediately searched for an alternative, but I really didn’t know he could hear us. And I tried to keep quiet anyway, wore headphones, and was always PG when he was home, but it obviously didn’t work. I knew he might have been bothered about something, but the first time he told me what he was pissed off about was when he told me he was leaving in two weeks. I feel like a jerk for what I’ve done, but I’m also terrified about finding someone new so I can still afford to live here. My goal is to figure out what I did wrong so it doesn’t happen again.

Roommate dynamics are often tricky, especially in situations where the only thing you have in common with the person you share your most personal space with is the inability to afford your own apartment.

Even so, when someone whom you’ve lived with departs on bad terms, it’s hard not to feel as if you’ve failed, even if they’re a near-stranger whom you don’t like very much and wouldn’t spend time with in any other context.

Most conflicts in roommate situations arise from the fact that parties often assume that their boundaries are the norm and are thus universally understood and respected, despite the fact that people’s ideas of what’s appropriate in a living space can vary wildly, e.g., some people don’t mind sharing their food while others believe in separate, padlocked fridges. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Ministrations Cycle

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2015

People often assume that psychological problems require treatment, but they don’t stop to think about what treatment requires from the psychological problems/person with them, namely, a willingness to weigh choices, make decisions, and take action. Otherwise, people can get pushed into talking about problems they’re indifferent to or being overwhelmed by problems they’re actually familiar with. So ask yourself how treatable a problem/person is before urging them to get help. Remember, you can lead a person to therapy, but you can’t make them think.
Dr. Lastname

I wish my husband could be happier, but therapy doesn’t seem to be helping him. He hates his job, but he can’t bring himself to look for a new one or find ways to do more with his free time. I was hoping therapy would get him to decide what he wanted to do, so he could be more active and happy, and even though his therapist has given him some good advice, my husband is just as miserable. He says he enjoys speaking to the therapist, and I’ve told him and his therapist what I think the problem is, but there’s no change. My goal is to see my husband be happy and not be a victim of his work, and maybe decide whether he needs a different or better kind of therapy.

Unlike most other treatments out there for what ails you, therapy is a two-way street; you can get dragged to the dentist or hassled into seeing the hemorrhoid doctor and, even if you didn’t want to go, you can still walk away feeling better. If you only go to a therapist to please others, however, you’ll usually just be wasting your time.

That’s why, despite your good intentions to ease your husband’s unhappiness, don’t assume that therapy has much to offer unless he’s the one offering to go without being coaxed. That means he seems willing to weigh his alternatives and consider the impact of his choices, not let someone else choose for him. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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