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Feelings are the true F-word.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Posted by fxckfeelings on March 2, 2015

Human beings have figured out how to get to space, train a dog to recognize letters, and make a sandwich where the bread is actually chicken, but we’re still generally at a loss when confronted with the offer of help. It shouldn’t be that confusing, but accepting help can be necessary while feeling humiliating, or it can be humiliating while feeling necessary, and either way, the answer is remarkably unclear. Once you know what you need the help for and whether it’s necessary for your personal goals, however, then you’ll know whether it’s good for you, regardless of how it feels or looks to anyone else. It might never be easy to accept or refuse help (or eat meat on two pieces of poultry), but it’s easy to figure out whether accepting is the right thing to do.
-Dr. Lastname

I know I’ve been a total fuck-up for the last few years, and my family thinks I’ve blown through all my savings and gone into debt besides, but the truth is worse than they think. And because I know it’s all my fault, I get really depressed and angry at myself, which makes it impossible to get the courage and energy to try to get back on track. I’m too afraid and ashamed to talk to anyone, so my friends and work contacts have pretty much disappeared. Insanely, my parents and brothers still care enough to offer to help me get back on my feet, but I know they’re just offering out of pity, and I won’t be able to live with myself when I lose their money and let them down. My goal is to rescue myself without my family having to pick me up.

You might have thought your mom, little league coach, and/or high school girlfriend were full of shit when they tried to console you for a poor result, but they were right when they said that a good effort is more valuable than a great deal of success. Equating success with winning would explain why you feel like such a loser right now.

The higher your standards and/or self-opinion, the deeper the rut when your winning streak ends and the steeper the metaphorical climb back to an acceptable normal. That’s why, at a time you most need energy, focus, and social skills, shame for being less-than-excellent keeps you trapped in an emotional crevasse.

The only antidote to feeling like you’re insanely ungreat is to remember that life is hard, luck is important, and you’re always doing right if you’re ready to work and trying to be independent. Basically, you can’t hold yourself responsible for success or failure, just for the effort you make to achieve the former and avoid the latter. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »


Posted by fxckfeelings on February 26, 2015

Between for-profit education and for-bullshit accreditation, it’s harder than ever to figure out who’s actually knowledgeable and who just has access to a printer. It’s just as hard to figure out your own level of expertise when you have to weigh in on personal matters; being an outsider gives you better perspective, even if it makes you wonder whether you belong, but being an insider can ruin your perspective, even though it makes you feel connected and close. Either way, take perspective whenever you can get it and don’t blame yourself if you must sacrifice comfort and closeness in the process. You may not be a certified expert, but your opinion will be valuable nonetheless.
-Dr. Lastname

My immediate family has never been easy, in part because my parents went in for favoritism— dad adored my sister and mom my brother while I had to fend for myself. Now we are middle-aged and they are old and infirm and my father is ill. This has set off a toxic dynamic between my siblings who are having furious rows and exchanging horrible insults over the burden of our parents’ care. I travelled 400 miles to visit them and my sister walked out of our parents’ home at 2 am and found a hotel after a shouting match (which I stayed out of). Even though I did not have a happy childhood and was nobody’s favorite, I do wish to help them through their final days without being caught up in the warlike dynamic that my father’s impending death seems to have unleashed. My goal is to balance the demands of my own life, be a good daughter to my dying father and confused elderly mother, and avoid being drawn into the rivalry of my younger siblings who were both favored over me.

Kids who feel like losers are often comforted with the promise that it’s the outsiders who grow into the most successful adults; whether you’re talking about surviving high school or a tough home life, the popular kids peak early, and the weirdoes wait longer to achieve much more.

Your outsider upbringing might not have brought you wealth or an Oscar, but it has given you more strength and perspective than your more popular siblings could understand.

Your siblings’ closeness to your parents might have been a gift when you were kids, but it can become a liability at this stage if it also gives them an unlimited sense of responsibility for your parents’ welfare, and also plays into a blaming sibling dynamic. They end up mad at themselves, and at each other, for not doing a better job.

It’s an impossible position for anyone to put themselves in because there are obviously times when you can’t take care of your parents, or when the best care in the world can’t spare them from the pain and deterioration of aging. If you don’t know the limits of your responsibility, there’s no end to the guilt you can impose on yourself or those whom you feel aren’t doing their fair share.

Instead of feeling endlessly burdened by your parents’ decline or angry at your siblings for not doing enough, you can stay focused on helping out and staying civil. Perhaps your parents’ neglect wasn’t heartless, but an ingenious way of preparing you to be the one child able to stay positive and avoid a meltdown at just the time when they most need to feel that the family is calm and united.

Celebrate the wisdom and skills you’ve gained as a family outsider who had to take care of herself. Then share your wisdom with your siblings by respecting your own contribution to your parents’ support and showing little inclination to judge theirs. Show pleasure in their company and regret for the fact that no amount of support can make your parents’ lives much easier.

Being nobody’s favorite seems to have helped you to be kinder and less reactive than your siblings. If you stand by your goals of being helpful and avoiding conflict then your parents will benefit, perhaps your brother and sister will learn from your example, and you’ll achieve more than most people, cool or uncool, ever do.

“I feel like I was never embraced by my family and that what’s left is disintegrating, but I have my own ability to maintain positive relationships and will not let fear and guilt drag me into conflict.”

I love and support my daughter in almost all things—she’s my only child, and the one good thing my piece of shit ex-husband ever gave me—but she and I are fighting all the time these days because I told her that marrying her boyfriend is a bad idea. After the bloodbath of a divorce she lived through with her father and me, I thought she’d never consider marriage, ever, but now she’s really set on marrying this guy and really upset that I can’t support it. I know they’ve been dating for a long time, that he’s never hurt her, and that they aren’t doing this for any obviously stupid reasons. But for whatever reason, I don’t totally trust this guy, and I don’t think it’s worth the risk. My goal is to get my kid to respect my insight instead of fighting with me and ending up heartbroken.

Protecting your child from harm is certainly part of a parent’s job, and your bad marriage gave you good reason to regard marriage as painful and potentially harmful. As kids grow up, however, your ability to protect them diminishes, as does your responsibility to do so. So no, you can’t always stop them from making mistakes and suffering, but you can stop feeling responsible while continuing to help them learn from the things that go wrong along the way.

If you make yourself responsible for your daughter’s marital choice, you will fight with her, hurt your relationship, and drive her into the arms of a guy you don’t trust. Instead, remind yourself that her boyfriend is her business; your job is to teach her how to screen a partner for trustworthiness and learn from mistakes.

Begin by asking yourself what you learned from your broken marriage, putting aside your feelings of anger and betrayal. Pay attention to the information you had at your disposal when you first married your husband: what you knew about his reliability, behavior in past relationships, and trustworthiness. Don’t fault yourself for being overly trusting or foolish back then, just ask yourself whether you were diligent in looking at or uncovering evidence of his trustworthiness.

Without bad-mouthing your ex, share your wisdom with your daughter regarding good methods for doing a complete pre-partnership investigation into trustworthiness and compatibility. Don’t argue with her about whether her boyfriend is a good guy, because she needs to figure that out herself.

Feel free to disagree, if necessary, about her methodology or data interpretation, but don’t close yourself off to the possibility that you may be overly critical of her boyfriend and somewhat biased against the institution of marriage altogether. What was wrong for you might not be wrong for her, especially if she’s given her decision careful thought.

Your goal isn’t to get her to respect your insight into her boyfriend’s character, but to respect her own ability to observe behavior and understand what it means. As long as she can learn from your mistakes, as well as her own, your discussions will strengthen your relationship as her chief coach and booster and help her find a good partner (or at least one much better than her dad).

“I don’t have good feelings about my daughter’s current boyfriend, but I will urge her to gather objective evidence and weigh it realistically without letting our disagreements become personal.”

Release the Bounds

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 23, 2015

Interpersonal boundaries are a lot like women’s tights; they’re usually too loose or too restricting, and, in either case, almost everything about them is uncomfortable. How much sharing you do in a relationship may initially depend on habit, impulse, or neediness, but, in the end, whether you’re too loose or cutting off the world/circulation, the consequences may or may not be optimal. In any case, don’t let instinct or impulse (or a control top) control your relationships. Learn what works and apply some thought and method to your sharing, and everything will fall into place.
-Dr. Lastname

I love my mother, but she’s a very chatty, open person and, since she got her new smartphone, she loves to text me frequently during the day. I wouldn’t mind so much, except that her texts usually invite an answer or generally put me in an awkward position, like “Did you see what happened to the old nail salon?” or “why do you think your father is being so stubborn this time?” Then I have to stop and think of how to give her an answer that won’t be rude or get me involved in some family drama, all without requiring more than two or three word answers. My goal is to get her to stop and respect my other responsibilities without hurting her feelings.

Usually, we disappoint at least one person everyday, from the co-worker who didn’t get a response to his office birthday poll email to the barista who felt her latte art skills had earned her a fifty percent tip, without losing any sleep. When the disappointed party is a parent, however, it can make you lose your mind.

When it comes to confronting your mother about her textbook texting abuse, you might think you’re just worried about hurting her feelings, but you’re probably even more worried about the guilt you’ll feel when you can’t give her what she wants. It’s a normal child’s reflex, particularly if she seems to depend on your response, but you’re not just an adult, but one who doesn’t have the time to stare at your phone and gossip with your mom all day. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Birth of a Notion

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 19, 2015

Traditionally speaking, young people have always been impulsive by nature, but only recently have they given their philosophies acronyms, e.g., YOLO, FOMO, etc. (If you’re over fifty, these mean “You only live once” and “Fear of missing out.”) While it is true that you don’t live twice and that missing out on things is sad, focusing on these thoughts is often not helpful, particularly if you’re trying to make a mature decision. Sometimes you need to make up your mind and stick to it, FOMO be damned, and other times you should rethink a decision that feels right and consider standing down, because YOLO has a point. Either way, don’t feel guilty if a decision doesn’t come to mind or if later events cause you to reverse yourself. What counts in the long run is not whether you appear decisive; if your decisions promote good consequences that reflect your values, then you need not fear possible regret.
-Dr. Lastname

For the last eight months or so leading up to my 40th birthday, I have been bugged by the awareness that although I am not sure if I want a kid or not, the clock is ticking, and it worries me that the decision will be taken through lack of decision-making. Yes, I should discuss it with my husband but somehow I can’t get the words to come out. Perhaps I am stalling because of what he might say (I have imagined it either way and both are scary). I think we both have the makings of good parents, but we’ve never really been like other “proper grown-ups.” We have talked about it a few years ago and he was like “it’s up to you”… I think neither of us wants to be the one to pressure the other. Now I am just confused and mildly panicked. My goal is to find the courage to have a big grown up conversation and move forward, whatever decision we arrive at.

There are a lot of fun, contradictory human instincts, i.e., the way people feel compelled to get others to smell or taste something bad, or the way they merge at the last second to avoid traffic, thereby creating yet more traffic and filling less evil drivers with rage (ahem).

Less insidiously, there’s the way people avoid dealing with the most important decisions and leave them up to fate, the least reliable arbitrator of all.

You’re so spooked that you can’t even come up with an opinion on the subject; deciding how you feel about having children shouldn’t begin with a conversation with your husband, unless you want him to make up your mind for you, particularly since he’s told you he’s OK with whatever you decide. With the pressure of having a major decision on behalf of two people, it’s no wonder you’re stuck. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Mental Touch

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 16, 2015

Some medical issues can be resolved quickly, but most of the serious ones aren’t that easy; for every temporary infection and sprain, there’s the eternity of diabetes and, of course, mental illness. Just because your crazy isn’t going away, however, doesn’t mean you can’t try to figure out how to lead a sane life anyway. And if you can get your crazy under control, you have to stay vigilant in order to keep it that way. So don’t try for control that is perfect or permanent; that’s as farfetched as a cure. Prepare to take one drug and one symptom at a time until you know what you have to deal with and what works best for the long run. Even if you can never cure the pain, you don’t have to let it be an overwhelming pain in the ass.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m not depressed any more, but going to the hospital and taking medication didn’t change the fact that my wife looks at me in a different way than she used to, and she spends more time at the gym, where there’s a handsome trainer who knows her name. She says I’m crazy and paranoid because this guy’s gay and just being friendly and, after twenty years of raising the kids, she’s too tired to mess around anyway, but I know what I see. And there have been signs in the way she seems happier and sweatier when she gets home from working out and her sweat smells more manly than feminine. My goal is to get someone to see that it’s more than coincidence, and that I have good reason to feel she can’t be trusted, and I’m not just nuts.

The paradox of feeling paranoid is that validating your fearful suspicions is what you both crave and dread the most. If you’re right, then you’re not crazy, but neither are your worst fears; your sanity may be intact, but your world would be destroyed.

Having those fears invalidated isn’t so hot, either, because it means that you can trust the world around you, but your own brain is suspect. So if proving and disproving your suspicions will always end badly, learn how to give less weight to those nagging thoughts in the first place. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Stress Direct

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 12, 2015

We often say that being anxious has its benefits; after all, if you didn’t have nervous genes, your ancestors wouldn’t have been on edge enough to notice that angry mammoth by the watering hole and you wouldn’t be here today. Anxiety doesn’t work, however, if you’re so stressed that you can’t get the nerve to even leave your cave, or if you refuse to see a problem because it’s stressful and insist the charging mammoth is just a big happy dog. In any case, don’t let the unpleasant nature of stress push you to obsess over it or ignore it; learn to evaluate danger, whether you feel stressed or relaxed, and you’ll become better at both protecting yourself and appreciating the security you’ve created. Hopefully, your ancestors will appreciate your efforts.
-Dr. Lastname

I feel that nothing in my life is going in a good direction. I’ve learned an immense amount from my former båsusiness partner—she cashed out last spring–but I don’t think I’m that good at sales without her strategy behind me, so I’m short of money, as usual. The business itself is valuable, so I’m not out on the street yet, but I’m not eager to sell because every single one of these jokers making offers can’t be trusted not to ruin everything I worked so hard to create. Basically, I don’t see anything working out, and I don’t see what I can do about it except lose everything and die penniless. My goal is to figure out how to get out of this trap.

If pessimists see the glass as half-empty and optimists see it as half-full, anxious/depressive people see it as evidence that they’re failures who ruin everything they touch. And that’s true even if the glass is full to the brim, because they can see evidence of their worthlessness in anything if they squint hard enough.

My guess is that you’re good at many things, but self-assessment isn’t one of them. You may not feel anxious or depressed, but you’re describing the same sort of distorted perspective. After all, most people who start and own their own successful business feel trapped. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Keep an Even Zeal

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 9, 2015

Passion, love, and misery are like the rich foods of emotion; trying to banish them from your life altogether is as impossible (and saddening) as attempting to consume them non-stop. Passion especially, like a buttery steak, always gives apparent meaning to life, but too much can push you into taking dumb risks and too little can cause you to undervalue who you are. Ultimately, there are other values that matter more, like thoughtfulness, patience, and fiber, which is why moderation is key. If you can avoid pursuing heavy foods or feelings to excess, and remember the real basics, then they can enrich your life without weighing it down.
-Dr. Lastname

What is love? Some might say its a kaleidoscope of happiness, fun, visions coming together of two different personalities to settle for a better future. Love gives you a canvas to paint your future with colors of happiness and joy. For me it was a life changing experience because it happened with someone who was completely different from me. I first thought it could change us for the better¬—two people coming together to create a better future with a scope of mending oneself for the happiness of other, and it didn’t seem a hard task considering the happiness it involved—but I was shattered to learn that it was just a sham. My point of view didn’t matter, the pain didn’t matter, the agony didn’t matter, all that mattered was her nature, her attitude, her look out towards things. It took me four long years to come to this reality but it was too late…all it took was a whisker of a second to wake from that slumber of false hope. When it did it was all too late but for the better of both the individuals because four years of struggle were prevented from turning into a lifelong of pain. My goal is to remain outside the bubble of so-called stigma called LOVE.

To paraphrase the famous Homer Simpson quote about alcohol, love is the cure to and the source of all of life’s problems. It’s given us excellent pop songs, drunk wedding toasts, and, for most people, moments of true happiness. It’s also given us terrible pop songs, sober divorces, and, of course, lessons in true misery.

As such, it’s not unnatural to want to recreate lost love if you feel, as so many do, that it gave meaning and importance to everything you did and do. One way of holding onto it is just expounding on it with all the meaning and emotion the written word can allow, as you’ve done above.

The danger, as you point out, is that love can draw you to someone who has different values, wants different things, and is maybe just not a nice person. It blinds you to dangers and the risk of breakup while offering such a strong illusion of deep meaning. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Disgrace Worker

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 5, 2015

Humiliation may cut like a knife, but it’s more like a double-edged sword when it comes to problem solving. Sometimes it warns you that you’re doing something wrong when you’d be otherwise oblivious, but it can also sometimes frighten you needlessly when you’ve really done everything right. Keep your mind and skin intact by not letting humiliation stop you from judging your own actions, taking credit for your actual accomplishments, and making changes if you think they’re necessary. Only a fool would do otherwise.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m in my 40s and in pretty good health, but I’ve had problems with my memory after hitting my head on the ice a year ago, and it’s driving me crazy. At work, I just can’t remember whether I told or asked someone something before, so I hesitate to speak up and then wrack my brain trying to figure out what I actually said and did because I’m so afraid of humiliating myself or looking weak. I’ve gone from being confident and outspoken to quiet and timid, and people wonder what’s wrong with me. I’ve asked my doctor to check out my memory and see if I need treatment, because I’m too young to be going senile. My goal is to do whatever is necessary to function properly and stay on top at work.

Whether you work at a fancy brokerage or the Burger King drive-thru, most of us rely on quick recall at our jobs, particularly if we want to impress a group of fast-talking peers, ace an interview with an employer or client, or just avoid getting reassigned to bathroom captain.

It’s not surprising then that your concussion-induced memory problem has triggered anxiety and self-doubt. From what you don’t say, however, it doesn’t seem like slow recall has impaired your ability to actually hold your job, just to impress while doing it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fake Yourself Comfortable

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 2, 2015

We’ve said many times that it rarely feels right to do the right thing, and vice versa; that’s why making a smart commitment can feel horrifying while using heroin can feel super terrific. So when you have a tough decision to make, don’t pay too much attention to how comfortable your choice makes you, or those around you, feel. Consult your values and do what’s right, and prepare to live with discomfort if that’s what being smart/sober requires.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m very happy with my marriage, and my wife isn’t pressuring me to have children, but I know she’d like them and time is running out. I have nothing against having kids—we’ve got enough money, and there’s nothing I think is more important in my life—but I’ve always been anxious, and I know that having kids will make me even more stressed out. I’ll always be worrying that we’re doing the wrong thing, because that’s the way my mind works. My wife thinks I’ll be OK, but I know that my self-doubts never stop. My goal is to figure out a way I can be comfortable having kids.

Very few people know with 100% clarity that it’s time to have kids, and most of those have an outside source, from a cult leader to a positive pregnancy test, making the call for them. Since very few anxious people are ever 100% sure about anything, however, not even a fetus or a Svengali is guaranteed to set your mind straight.

As you describe yourself, you’ve always been too stressed to think about what you’d like to do, focusing more on your worry about whether or not you’ll do things wrong. That may make it hard for you to get enthusiastic about starting a family (or anything else, for that matter). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Faux-Win Situation

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 29, 2015

Strong emotions often push us to act without weighing consequences, simply because we feel helpless and need to take action; that’s why the world has so many unworn expensive shoes, memorial tattoos, and children born just before or after their parents’ divorce. In reality, we’re often screwed no matter how we choose to react, or we’re just panicking for no reason and no action is required in the first place. In any case, no matter the emotional forces, think first and act later, weighing your alternatives and acting only if you think it’s necessary. You might not feel any immediate relief, but in the long run, you won’t have anything (or anyone) to regret.
-Dr. Lastname

My grown son has always been very difficult, but his last outburst was just too much. He caught me at a time when I was having a tough time and felt vulnerable, and I told him I thought he was being a selfish, self-centered little shit, so he told me never to talk to him again and hung up. Unfortunately, even if I shouldn’t have said those mean things out loud, I was right; he’s a jerk, so none of his friendships has lasted and his kids are very careful not to aggravate him. Even though I feel really guilty about it, I just can’t bring myself to pick up the phone or write him and try to patch things up. I know that if I don’t reach out to him, I won’t see those kids, but if I do, I’ll have to have a conversation with him, which is just going to be unpleasant and end badly. My goal is to figure out a way to repair our relationship so I won’t dread talking to him or feel bad about being such a heartless parent.

The good news is that you’re living evidence that Asshole™-ishness isn’t always genetic. The bad news is that you have still spawned an Asshole™.

As we’ve said before, Asshole™s can cause serious harm without any real provocation; they’re usually very needy, and their neediness causes them pain that they think is your fault, particularly if you’re a parent or other person who stirs up those feelings by virtue of your very existence.

Asshole™s truly believe you deserve punishment. What you deserve, besides a better son, is protection. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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