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The only way to truly change a person is by killing or maiming them, so stop.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nuclear Over-Reactor

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 29, 2015

Your brain’s ability to identify problems is a lot like that of a drug-sniffing dog, which is to say, despite its training and experience, it still occasionally confuses flour with cocaine or gives the OK to a cargo ship packed with heroin. In order to avoid overreacting to a non-problem or writing off something dangerous, think carefully about the consequences of problems and your intuitive response before deciding whether you need to act or sit on your hands. That way, you’ll be a more effective problem-assessor (and possibly problem solver) and more than earn a treat.
Dr. Lastname

Since my husband and I divorced, I feel like my daughter is slipping away. The divorce wasn’t bitter, but my daughter has the same sensitive temperament as my ex-husband and just generally takes after him more, so she seems more comfortable with him than with me. She and I love one another, but we don’t have the same natural rapport that she and her father have, so, all things being equal, it makes me feel a little on edge when we’re together. When I try harder to show I care (buy her clothes, take her to concerts, etc.), it seems to make her more uncomfortable. I feel like I’m losing the most important relationship left in my family, and I should encourage her to tell me why I make her nervous. My goal is to find a way to make our relationship work.

It’s natural to think you can get closer to your kid by being more like the person she’s close to. Unfortunately, trying to be like someone you’re not is like a dog trying to walk only on his hind legs; it’s hard work, curious and awkward for everybody nearby, and eventually, you’ll be unable to resist returning to a natural/quadruped state.

That’s why a major requirement for partnership is finding someone who can accept your temperament the way it is, which might also explain why your partnership with your husband wasn’t sustainable. Either way, you can still have a successful partnership with your kid, even if you aren’t 100% compatible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Task Asker

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 25, 2015

Taking on responsibility is like drinking fine wine; the right amount will make you feel pleasant and, as of the latest study, improve your health, but the wrong amount will either leave you flat or flat on your face. Unfortunately, how much responsibility we decline or assume is too often a matter of thoughtless emotion and habit rather than reasoned consideration. So develop your own procedures for examining the responsibility that you should really claim. Your result will always reflect your best efforts if you drink/choose responsibilities, well, responsibly.
Dr. Lastname

My girlfriend is very nice to her father, who doesn’t like to let her out of his sight during her visits (which are every weekend, rain or shine). He’s always had weird mood swings though, going unpredictably from doting to totally paranoid, so she does her best never to rock his boat. I thought she’d be happy when I offered to come along—given that the visits take up most of her weekends, going with her would make it easier for us to see each other—and initially, she was excited for me to join her. As his mood started to change during that first visit, however, she became very controlling and nasty with me. She said she wanted to protect me and also make sure I didn’t upset him, but she was just plain rude, and I felt she needed to know how abusive she’d become, which then triggered a big fight. My goal is to see her father get some help, because if he can work out his issues, maybe she will have no reason to become so unpleasant.

It’s not unusual for people who bend over backwards with kindness to snap into rage; bend anything too far and it’s bound to snap eventually. Unfortunately, the person who gets snapped at isn’t always the person who was doing the pushing in the first place.

These types knock themselves out to be unselfish and meet the needs of others, but instead of getting thanks and cooperation, they get obstruction, demands and criticism, which, understandably, can make them a bit testy. Then they feel guilty for their nasty words, and have to try even harder to do the backwards-bending Pilates. If they didn’t snap, they end up twisted into a human Cinnabon. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Unspoken Word

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 22, 2015

Private health issues heal the same way that visible open wounds do; bind them up for too long out of shame and they’ll fester and get oozy, but if you put them out there too much they also risk getting oozy, as well as scaring away everyone, including those who want to help. When it comes to hidden problems, never assume that communication is the equivalent to antibiotic, but always fight unjustly negative thinking, whether you voice it silently or publicly. As long as you credit yourself for what you do with what you can’t help, rather than blaming yourself for bad performance, you’ll communicate well with yourself and others and keep scarring to a minimum.
Dr. Lastname

I was never a bad mother, but I’ve always got weird thoughts in my head about how I’m going to harm members of my family. I’ve never, ever acted on these thoughts or purposefully hurt anyone, but the thoughts’ persistence made it so that I was never able to just relax and enjoy my daughter when she was growing up. So when she recently told me that she and her boyfriend, whom I really like, are going to get married, I looked gloomy because I was immediately swamped with thoughts about how I was also going to harm him now, too. My daughter told me she was hurt because I seemed unhappy about her decision, but I didn’t want to let her know how crazy my thinking is (I’ve never told anyone but my doctor about it), so I just told her I was sure I was going to be very happy with him and was just bad at showing it. My goal is not to ruin my kid’s happiness with my craziness.

It’s easy to understand why you might feel ashamed of having murderous thoughts, even if they have nothing to do with how you really feel and have zero influence over what you do. Involuntary thoughts are like a terrible roommate that lives in your own head; they’re slobs that are always around, pestering you for attention and refusing to take the hint and leave.

The major thing that makes mental illness so hard to describe, comprehend, or, for some people, even believe in, is the way it can make your own brain turn against you. We’re used to our stomachs, joints, and even prostates turning against us, but our brains are literally supposed to know better. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Mistrust Fund

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 18, 2015

At this point in history, when China, North Korea, and the St. Louis Cardinals are out to steal our classified information, it’s hard not to feel a little paranoid a lot of the time. While the healthy kind of suspicion that used to alert us to danger in the jungle now alerts us to possible identity theft, the unhealthy kind spams our brains with plenty of false alerts and often makes us miserable. So if you find yourself excessively afraid, don’t panic about your panic. Do your own investigation, in your own way, and then do what’s necessary to protect yourself. Then you can learn to ignore false worry and focus on the important threats (the Cardinals) instead.
Dr. Lastname

I recently went through an airport screening and got pulled aside for an extra exam. As I waited while the hand swabbing was being processed, a security officer took a long time looking at her computer. Strictly for security purposes, she said, ever since 9/11. Afterwards, I found myself becoming paranoid about whether the government was spying on me, and whether it might include the IRS, FBI, etc. The security area is always being filmed. Now I have a desire to complain to the government about my treatment and the suspicious way they handled me. Common sense says to let it go, but that is what nice people always do. My goal is to figure out whether my common sense should prevail.

We like to think we don’t get paranoid without good reason; as Kurt Cobain once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” On the other hand, the scariest forces conspiring against him turned out to be in his own head.

Like pop culture phenomena and the mythology of dead rock stars, feelings of being watched and plotted against, once triggered, take on a life of their own.

Paranoid thoughts are probably part of a neurological reaction that’s most likely triggered by some situation that is traumatic, spooky, or hard to explain. Once started, however, paranoid feelings don’t stop, no matter how sure you are that the only thing after you is your shadow. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Control-Option-Complete

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 15, 2015

It’s strange that, as children, we’re pushed to declare what we want to be when we grow up, and then get disappointed with ourselves when we can’t achieve that goal, even though most kids want to grow up to be king or a dinosaur. If you get to adulthood without an idea of what you want to be, plausible or no, you may feel doomed if uncertainty and indecisiveness make such decisions difficult or illness makes your chosen path impossible. In reality, what matters most is not choosing a career or doing well at it, but being a decent and independent person as you find your way in life. Then, whether a career appears or, like the dinosaurs themselves, comes to a premature end, you will grow to be a strong person who can be proud of your choices.
Dr. Lastname

I’m in my mid-20s and struggling from some choice-paralysis in regards to my career. I went to college on the other side of the country a few years ago and obtained an arts degree (I know, I know – bad move), and am doing administrative work. I find it deeply unsatisfying but it pays quite well, considering. I also know that if I wanted, I could build a solid career here in something practical, I would just have to decide which career. On top of that, my family is here, and I’ve taken up meaningful volunteer work. I have some friends with their masters that are starting up serious careers, and then some that are doing things like buying houses and getting pregnant, which makes me feel like maybe I should just find a boyfriend and start settling too. On the other hand, I deeply want change, a bigger city and different industry options. I got into a program at a college in a bigger city on the other side of the country, and it’s probably as useless as my current degree, but I would love to go back to school and be more qualified in something. Also, this city I would be moving to has more varied industries. But leaving my job and going back to school on the other side of the country means I would have to take out more student loans which just seems stupid. I know there is no right answer and that everyone goes through this in a way—if I go, I can always come back—but the part of me that wants to be pragmatic knows that with my current debt, moving would actually set me back a lot. My goal is to reconcile my desire for a cool arts job in a bustling city with my growing desire to be practical and either make a decision to find something that works for me here, or move, explore other options, and not look back.

Like marriage, a career is about the long game and shouldn’t be judged by its immediate rewards, be they to your mood, wallet, self-esteem, etc. Besides, while marriage is hard work, a career is just hard work; the only way to get the same kind of bliss from a new job as you would as a newly wed is to start working in porn.

Once you take that into account, it’s becomes easier to simplify your career choices, particularly when it comes to work, going to school, or change in general. Right now, in your mid-twenties, you have a great opportunity to explore career options, new cities, even sexualities if you’re so inclined, all without having to worry too much about pay or security. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Able-Ready

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 11, 2015

While the old saying may be that the best way to make God laugh is to make a plan, there is something to be said for preparedness in the face of uncertainty. Of course, if you’re very nervous, you’ll never feel prepared enough, and if you’re unaware of the real dangers, you’ll risk becoming overconfident. So learn how to be open to doubt when you have a problem to manage. You may not feel as passionately certain about your position, but you’re more likely to be persuasive while side-stepping conflict and making a Higher Power giggle.
Dr. Lastname

After several years of separation, I am now negotiating a divorce settlement to secure my future. My ex has a history of dishonesty and is with a woman who resents his long history with me and uses ultimatums and pressure to influence his rather weak behavior. We are on reasonable terms, however, and I have learned to disengage and put aside strong emotions in my dealings with him. He is all for settling by mediation but I feel vulnerable as trust is lacking and I need to get a good deal here. I am having an experienced divorce lawyer advise me through the mediation process with a back up plan of asking him to take over if I am unhappy with the progress. I am meeting with my lawyer soon and then must negotiate with my ex regarding dividing our assets and dismantling the legal side of our long marriage, and I’m not absolutely confident that my ex and I will be able to get through the process without a lot of unnecessary and destructive hostility. My goal here is to find a way to focus on a secure future, to protect myself from being ripped off and to avoid falling into the trap of high conflict/low resolution angry exchange that was my default setting in the marriage.

When entering a hostile negotiation, it’s always tempting to, in the words of Bull Durham, “assert your presence with authority.” And it might feel smart to set the tone that you’re tough and won’t be fucked with, but more often it makes the other person think that you’re so tough, you’re about to fuck with him, and it’s all downhill from there.

It’s natural to be nervous, but it’s more important to remind yourself of all the smart things you’ve done to keep this process from getting ugly. Or to at least keep an ugly process from becoming a disaster. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Many Crappy Returns

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 8, 2015

We spend endless amounts of time wishing happiness on our friends and pain on our enemies, if only because their respective happiness and misery gives us pleasure, as well; there’s at least one German word and a few nighttime soap operas that sum up the concept well. Trouble is, of course, that happiness is a deceptive drug and punishment has unintended consequences, so our cathartic needs are a poor guide for what we should actually do. Even if you can’t help but cheer on friends and flip off villains, don’t take any real action until you can carefully consider the limits of what you actually control and how you wish things to turn out. Then you’re much more likely to get a glücklich ending.
Dr. Lastname

I’m worried about my sister’s recent engagement because she hasn’t known the guy that long and she’s been very vulnerable since her divorce from her unfaithful ex-husband. On the other hand, she seems so happy after such a long period of misery, and I think that’s all that really counts. The guy is probably fine, but we just don’t know much about him, and things have moved very quickly. I know that if I ask her to slow things down, she’ll tell me how happy she is, implying that I’m trying to rain on her parade. My goal is to help her be happy.

As we’ve said many times, a good marriage should provide many things—a trustworthy partner to share responsibilities with, the ability to use the carpool lane, someone to always take the blame—but immediate happiness is not one of them.

Marriage is a forever commitment, and happiness is a fleeting emotion; marrying someone because they make you happy makes as much sense as getting hungry and investing everything in a restaurant. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Choice Recognition

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 4, 2015

Credit, be it personal or plastic, is often given too freely to people or things we’re desperate to hold onto in order to make ourselves feel better. Paradoxically, we also tend to deprive ourselves of that credit too easily, so we end up feeling miserable, anyway. Before letting fear or perfectionism or a the lure of Amazon one-click control your credit decisions, think hard about what you have a right to expect and what’s good enough by your standards. Then you’ll make better decisions about friendship, and have a better appreciation for yourself, others, and for appreciation itself.
Dr. Lastname

I’m a single mother in my late 30’s, two years out of an abusive marriage for which I did get some therapy, but probably not enough. I met a man six months out (way too soon, I know) and we agreed that we would “date” casually as friends. Of course I developed feelings for him and I’ve come to realize that I am not a “friends with benefits” kind of person. The problem is that we have been seeing each other for almost two years. Every couple of month or so he pulls back, but we always end up seeing each other again, and each time the relationship advances a little further. He also has his issues, mostly childhood drama due to losing his parents young. We’re currently on a break of his request, but he has texted me every day, says he wants me as part of his life but he needs space, etc. I want to be in his life, but as a committed partner. Sometimes I feel like he is stringing me along, and other times I think he is afraid to let himself love me. My goal is to figure out if I should I just walk away and try to forget him—which I don’t think I even know how do I do that—or wait for him to take another step forward.

As you know, one of the biggest obstacles to finding a good partner is not being able to lose a less-than-good one. In other words, as long as this guy keeps stringing you along, you’re keeping a better relationship away.

The first thing to decide is whether your feelings for Mr. Off-and-On can work to your benefit; ask yourself whether you enjoy the good times more than you suffer from his absences, and if, during the absences, you can put your pain aside and enjoy life or even dates with other prospective mates. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Evaluation Route

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 1, 2015

The only thing people are worse at accurately evaluating than “family values” politicians and Marvel movies is their own character. That’s the drawback of judging something using your emotions and expectations, not facts and fairness; it makes us as apt to judge ourselves too harshly as to excuse ourselves too readily. In any case, don’t trust your self-judging instincts until you’ve examined the facts, reviewed your standards, and decided how you would judge a friend under similar circumstances. Then, however you feel, stand by your verdict/review of Ant Man and act accordingly.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve lost a few really close friends over the years, one after the other, and it’s got me wondering whether I’m really a jerk (or “Asshole™”?) but don’t know it. Most recently, my best friend froze me out when he accused me of hating his boyfriend; I swear I kept my thoughts about him to myself, and besides, I didn’t think the guy was so terrible, but either way, I was shocked when my friend dropped me and I had to hear from someone else that he was married. Before that was the friend who was always mad at me but then went nuclear when I suggested spending less time together, then a handful of ex-boyfriends who think I’m the devil, a job or two I was awkwardly let go from without warning…when everything was happening, I thought I was doing the right thing, but with a such a long enemies list, I have trouble trusting my judgment. My goal is to figure out whether I’m just bad at choosing friends or bad at seeing myself for the jerk/Asshole™ I really am.

Since the first rule of Asshole™ club is never wondering if you’re an Asshole™, you probably aren’t one. On the other hand, the first warning sign that someone’s an Asshole™ is learning that they’ve got a list of people who’ve wronged them that’s longer than the list of ingredients on a can of Pringles, so your concern is understandable.

Of course, everyone can act like an asshole sometimes, but that doesn’t an Asshole™ make, especially since you probably regret that behavior while an Asshole™ would expect a trophy for it. What you need then is a reliable, objective way of examining the moral value of your actions (and the value of those friendships, as well). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Blame of Your Existence

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 28, 2015

Just as some people believe that any illness can be cured with Robitussin and everything improved by a healthy dollop of ranch dressing, there are too many people who think that the solution to any conflict is found through promptly and randomly placing blame. Unfortunately, this belief is as smart and healthy as the ones involving ‘tussin and tangy fat, because we tend to find blame in all the wrong places. We like to blame others for our own faults, either out of self-protection or because we’re really blind to our own mistakes. Then other times we unfairly blame ourselves because we can’t stop feeling responsible for shit we can’t possibly change. In any case, don’t blame anyone just because your feelings tell you to. Examine your standards, the nature of the problem, and what people are actually capable of doing before you decide whom to blame and what to do about it. The answer may involve ranch dressing, after all.
Dr. Lastname

I thought I’ve been doing well in my new actuarial job at an insurance company, so I was shocked when my boss dressed me down for missing a deadline that I thought he didn’t really care about and implied wasn’t that important, anyway. He also told me that one of my colleagues was pissed at me, which came out of nowhere and was just as upsetting, especially since I thought that colleague liked to joke around with me. My goal is to figure out what’s wrong with my boss that he would randomly lash out at me in that way.

When someone you thought was happy with you suddenly and plainly makes their unhappiness known, it’s at best confusing, and at worst, it’s evidence that one of you has had a stroke. And, given your history of not smelling burnt toast, it’s easy to see the other guy as the problem.

In the wake of this revelation, you’re forced to figure out what really happened—you have to take the lead on a CSI: Tantrum—so you have good reason to first wonder if the person who lashed out at you was in a bad mood or tends to do this kind of thing regularly. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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