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Life is unfair.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Walk Away Glad

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 18, 2014

Many relationship blow-ups are due to the most fleeting of bad moods; who knows how many divorces could have been avoided if both parties had just been well-rested, fed, and/or not stuck behind that school bus on the way home from work. The most dangerous bad moods, however, are the ones that don’t have a simple/stupid source, and if those cause someone you’re in a relationship with to push you away, you don’t have much room to negotiate. If they simply want to be alone, and have no blame to bestow, you’ll often do best to keep your distance while leaving the door open. If, on the other hand, they want to dump on you for something you know you haven’t done, use their push as a head start to get away as quickly as possible. In any case, bad moods can make relationships difficult, but moody people can make relationships impossible; stay away unless you’re good at protecting yourself and putting their moods second and your needs first.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m in high school and I’ve been very good friends with this one guy for a very long time, and he’s kind of a passive, detached person; he generally doesn’t really care that much about most things, but it really wasn’t that big of a problem. At least until recently, since he’s started acting like he doesn’t care about our friendship. I know that he isn’t worth it, but we’ve been friends for such a long time that I don’t just want to let go. When I asked him why he was so bitter, even towards me, he said that he didn’t want any friends because everything is temporary, he doesn’t care about anything, etc. Now I know it sounds cool to be like, “fuck other people, I’m alone,” but I’m afraid he’s going to end up alone and sad if he continues to be a dick like this. My goal is to make him less bitter and be my friend again.

Before you make it your goal to reclaim a lost friendship, take a second to reconsider, not because your ever-detached friend might not be worth fighting for or just doomed to a life of dick-dom, but because you probably haven’t lost his friendship in the first place.

From what he’s said, you have no reason to think his feelings about you have changed. All that has changed is his mood and attitude towards the world, which, at this time of life isn’t that unusual. That his adolescent attitude has changed in a negative/apathetic direction is even less rare. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Wrong Term Solution

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 15, 2014

Since attention is a precious resource, it’s useful to view help like any other investment; sometimes your help pays off in the long run, even if you can’t get a good result right away, and sometimes your long-term prospects are grim and high-risk despite a good initial return. Just as you’d never invest sentimentally or impulsively, don’t get caught up in the immediate joys and frustrations of helping without first looking at the big picture and determining what you can actually accomplish and whether the benefit is worth the risk. Then you can invest wisely and with positive returns, sooner or later, for both you and those whose welfare you’re investing in.
-Dr. Lastname

I am worried that my daughter is heading for meltdown and I’m unsure how to help. Her marriage was a brief catastrophe that left her with no money and a young child. She seemed to be getting back on her feet by finding a nice place and, with my help, a new car, and she has support from family and friends. She also started a demanding new job that is out of her comfort zone–she was sick of her old job and wanted to switch careers for a long time—but now she is struggling to cope and feels back at square one with all the crying and sense of hopelessness. I suspect that returning to her old job would have had the same result, but she now feels it was a mistake to take on more stress and change, even though she needs to support her child and the work is well paid and what she always hoped to do. I have tried hard to help with practical matters and held back on unsolicited advice or judgment, but I find myself walking on eggshells for fear of getting it wrong. She is back on medication but I worry that her life is unraveling. My goal is to accept my limitations while knowing that I am doing all I can to offer support.

Parents with young children have a deep understanding of contagion, at least when it comes to the colds and infections that get picked up at the Petri dish we call school, but the real lesson comes when those children become adults. Parents might not catch their kids’ germs, but they can still get caught up in their drama.

Your daughter may feel like her life is unraveling because she is overwhelmed by motherhood and a demanding job, but don’t let her feelings infect your brain. Yes, she may wind up losing her current job, car, and temporary peace of mind, but that’s doesn’t mean she’s failing or that you have to go into crisis mode. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Loss Examination

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 11, 2014

Too often, people try to apply the koan about a tree in the woods to a mistake in their lives, i.e., if you’re fucking up but don’t acknowledge it, is it really your problem? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t just always yes, but yes, and how; avoiding a realistic look at something bad you might’ve done to someone else or yourself will often spare you the pain of immediate humiliation, guilt, or loss, but in the long run, it will cause much more. Instead of staying silent, make a sound/effort and examine the consequences and value of your actions. Then you’ll not only be able to take responsibility for your mistakes, but have some ability to make them right.
-Dr. Lastname

I have two daughters and I love my wife, so I was surprised when my older girl, who’s starting her second year of college, accused me of being sexist because of a joke I told her I liked. I admit that I don’t have a “PC” sense of humor, but I work with women I like and I’m sure they don’t think I’m sexist, so I told her she was being ridiculous, which just made her angrier. My wife then gave me a look that said she didn’t disagree with our daughter, so now I feel ambushed. My goal is to defend myself against an accusation I know is untrue from a bunch of females who are ganging up on me.

It hurts to be criticized by women who are important to you, and it makes sense that your instinct is to immediately defend yourself. The problem with a defensive reaction, however, especially when it comes to accusation of sexism, is that it reads as dismissive and patronizing. So if you think it hurts when two women you love call you sexist, imagine how those two women feel when you appear to prove them right.

You may know in your heart that you’d never treat women unfairly or target them, but plenty of people with good hearts can accidentally say and do bad things. The number one cause of offensive words and actions isn’t purposeful bigotry, but accidental ignorance; plenty of people say things that could be considered racist, but very few of them are dues-paying members of the KKK. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Whole Wide Worth

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 8, 2014

Thanks to eBay, Antiques Roadshow, and the various fronts of the Storage Wars, it’s fairly easy to put a value on almost any object. When it comes to putting a value on our own skills, however, most of us come up dangerously short; sometimes, we overvalue our services in an unreceptive market or undervalue them in order to make sacrifices for the needs of others. Fortunately, if you pay more attention to your needs and the market than to your emotions, you can assess your professional worth without the need of an expert or auctioneer.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m glad my sons took over the family restaurant, because I really don’t want to work so hard now that I’m in my fifties, but I care about the business and still want to contribute to its success. The trouble is that they’re a bit like my ex-husband—they get very overbearing and negative about any suggestion I have to offer—so even though I’ve got a nice office at the restaurant and go there every day, I feel useless. I have ideas and expertise, but I’m just waiting for my chance to contribute. My goal is to find a way to make my sons feel more comfortable about my suggestions, so they can continue to grow the business and learn to respect their mother’s ideas.

While being of an older generation can get you respect in most families—at least if the younger generation is out of their teens—the opposite is true in business. As in art or music, a successful business-person is more apt to get due praise from the next generation after he or she is gone, not necessarily from this earth, but just from the office.

It’s a shame that your sons can’t take advantage of your restaurant management experience, but like a lot of people new to leadership, they seem determined to prove and distinguish themselves by doing things their own way. Any attempt to impart wisdom may seem less like genuine interest and more like interference. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Age Against the Machine

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 4, 2014

For something that’s both incredibly intangible and subjective, potential is remarkably admired. At least money can buy you lunch and loved ones can share dessert; potential is usually only valuable in absentia, when you’re either mourning it’s loss or praying for it’s arrival. Instead of pining for how you could have been, or used to be, a “contender,” stay focused on meeting your daily priorities with the things that have actual value, like work, friendships, and family. Whether your potential was really lost or was never there to lose, you can always respect what you’ve done if it’s worthwhile and ignore what could have been.
-Dr. Lastname

I used to believe in seizing the day and not thinking too much about the future, but now that I’m in my sixties, I find the things that bother me just don’t go away— seizing the day is too hard, and thinking about the future too painful. I’ve got bad knees that make it very hard to climb stairs or get through an airport without a wheelchair and my monthly medications cost serious money. Feeling helpless is the first step to feeling hopeless, so I find myself thinking depressing thoughts and feeling depressed a lot of the time. My goal is to figure out a way to not let pain and negative thinking wear me down.

When you rely on a “seize the day” philosophy to get the most out of life, you often forget that many days have nothing much to seize. On other days, you may be forced to seize moments of eating shit and compromising in order to keep your promises or protect your future security. Crap-e Diem, indeed.

If seizing the day is what really matters, then yes, as you get older, there’s less that’s new and exciting, and your seizing opportunities are fewer. If, on the other hand, you also value the less glorious and not always enjoyable parts of life, like making a living, raising kids, and being a friend, then aging just means there’s less to seize and more to savor. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Mind Your Voice

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 31, 2014

Some pressing problems are like mosquito bites or cravings for bags of Kit-Kats; the amount of urgency they inspire is inverse to the amount of attention they deserve. Other problems, like that angry rash on your arm or the spreading leak under the toilet, would be much easier to bear if you did not have to think or talk about them, but they’re the ones that often require careful discussion and negotiation. So don’t let your problems tell you when to talk or keep silent. Ask yourself what’s necessary, and, exactly like an adult who can deal with problems responsibly, you’ll often find yourself doing the opposite of what’s comfortable, and knowing you’re doing a good job.

Please Note: This is our last new post until 9/4, since we’re taking August to focus on finishing our book. We’ll refresh the front page with older posts while you get refreshed in the sun, and we’ll see you (and your sunburns) in September.

-Dr. Lastname

I have awful OCD symptoms that I can’t find the right treatment for. For years, I’ve had graphic, uncontrollable thoughts about killing the people I really care about (my parents, my husband), and even though I have no reason to harm the people I love, the thoughts are so persistent that I genuinely fear I’ll hurt one of them. I started psychotherapy in my twenties, and it’s always felt good to have someone I could tell about it so I felt less pressure and fear, but after all these years and communication (and a couple attempts at medication), nothing’s ever really changed. Now I’m in my forties and I’m happily married, but my husband rolls his eyes when I bring up the subject and try to relieve my fear by airing it out. My goal is to end these thoughts once and for all.

Not surprisingly, the best way to get control over obsessive thoughts isn’t to obsess over them. Airing these thoughts might provide temporary relief, but instead of releasing them, you’re empowering them; they’re like a plant, and you’re giving them the air and sunlight they need to grow and grow.

You’ve clearly tried everything, including medications, which sometimes reduce the intensity of obsessional thinking. If nothing has worked, however, then you probably also know that there isn’t a cure. That means it’s time to practice acceptance, as well as restraint. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

‘Nuff Love

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 28, 2014

Tough love is always a tricky option; it’s never clear when it’s appropriate, if it’s ever appropriate, or when you’re so fed up that you’ve actually crossed the line into “easy dislike.” This is especially true when you can’t seem to get through to a troubled loved one and aren’t sure whether you need to do more or “toughen up” and do less. Instead of letting fear or frustration control your involvement, ask yourself what prevents him or her from getting help, then try different strategies, and observe what happens. Sometimes more is more and sometimes more is less, but you can be sure, no matter how helpful you can be, that you’re doing your best with what in unquestionably a tough situation.
-Dr. Lastname

Please Note: After this Thursday, we are taking time off to finish our book and won’t have a new post until 9/4. Please have a fun and problematic August, and we’ll be back to help in September.

My brother is sinking into an economic mess and he won’t let me help him. He’s a good guy who’s worked for years at the kind of manufacturing jobs that are now being shipped overseas, and his last position was just eliminated. I’m good at managing problems like this and discussed his options—selling his place, cutting back on expenses, getting employment counseling—but he doesn’t follow through, or even seem to pay attention. Sometimes I think he’s got some brain issues or something, because he invited me over to dinner recently and when I showed up he was asleep on the couch after eating fast food. He’s depressed, but he can laugh and enjoy himself, so it’s more that he spaces out whenever he has to do something complicated. My goal is to get him to get moving before he goes deep into debt and can’t pay his bills.

Some people don’t respond to good advice because they’re stubborn or lazy, while others appear stubborn or lazy because their brains are failing to process information normally. There’s a big difference between having a damaged personality and a damaged brain.

The fact that your brother forgot he invited you to dinner suggests he’s having trouble with attention and maybe memory. The bad news is that he might have some serious cognitive issues, but the good news is that, with a little time and effort, you might be able to help him with his financial situation after all. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Fuel

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 24, 2014

All of us suffer from a Cassandra complex at one time or another, where we see something so clearly—from how your brother will regret eating that gas station sushi to why your wife will wish she’d never paid for a year of intensive aerial Pilates up front—but can’t get anyone to heed our vision. Sometimes you can see a disaster looming because people are too angry and agitated, and sometimes it’s because they’re complacent and don’t give a damn. In either case, before you try to sound the alarm, give thought to the reasons for their feelings and the probable impact of your attempts to warn them so that your attempts to change opinions don’t accidentally cement them. Provide wise counsel if you can, but don’t expect anyone to listen until events, even painful sushi-related ones, put them in a more receptive state of mind.
-Dr. Lastname

As long as I avoid certain (mostly political, mostly right wing) topics, I get along with my in-laws pretty well. The problem is that such topics sometimes become unavoidable, usually when they get really wound up about a specific current event, and right now, they’re very vocal about being rabidly pro-Israel. I’m Jewish (they aren’t), so they assume I feel the same way as them and shower me with links and e-mail forwards that are nothing short of anti-Palestinian propaganda, but I don’t agree with them necessarily, and that kind of thing makes my skin crawl. They see the issue as black and white, and let’s just say I just see it as complicated, infuriating and heartbreaking, and their warmongering just angers and depresses me. I want to find a way to respond to them that gets them to see how damaging and foolish their angry rhetoric is, or to at least find some consensus in getting them to agree that killing isn’t answering anything. My goal is to get my in-laws to drop the subject in an enlightening, non-provocative way, even if I can’t change their minds.

One reason it’s hard to stop angry war rhetoric, particularly if it comes from nice people who aren’t particularly angry in non-political situations, is that they feel that aggressive action is necessary to prevent or overcome a dangerous threat. From annoying e-mail forwards to amassing an arsenal, fear rarely leads to thoughtful, positive action.

So if you suggest that your in-laws are advocating useless conflict with and killing of Palestinians, you’re questioning their morality at a time that they’re calling for moral sacrifice. You’re not just spilling blood in front of a shark, but a shark who thinks he’s being chased by a kraken. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Psyched Ward

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 21, 2014

Despite what the Ramones (R.I.P.) once declared, most people do not want to be sedated, especially if it’s for reasons involving “going loco.” Some people can’t think about psychiatric hospital admission as other than a form of kidnapping, and others as a failure that should never have happened if they took proper care of themselves. In reality, it’s good to think about psychiatric admission as something that can happen again regardless of how well you take care of yourself, and will rarely happen for reasons that you won’t ultimately agree with. The more you accept the possibility of hospital commitment and consider your own views about what makes hospitalization necessary, the more skilled you’ll be at managing the situation if it occurs again, even if it’s something you’re never going to wanna do.
-Dr. Lastname

I’ve got depression that is usually controlled well by medication, but I had one bad episode three years ago when I got really down, couldn’t leave the house for a month, and was on track to starve myself to death. My parents were right to pull me out and take me to the hospital, but it was a horrible experience; there were some scary, sick people there, and staying there was traumatizing. Now my shrink wants me to put together a crisis plan that will tell my parents how to decide when they should take me to the hospital, if it ever becomes necessary again—a sort of “advance directive”—and I’m trying to figure out how to make sure that I don’t have to go back unless it’s really, really necessary. The last thing I want is to visit an emergency room where they like to lock people up, so I end up trapped in the nightmare ward again. My goal is to figure out how to minimize the possibility that I will get admitted again.

As traumatic as it felt to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, you are familiar with the bigger trauma that you would have experienced if you weren’t admitted. The scary people you say in the psych ward were probably fairies and pussycats compared to the hellscape that your own home had become.

You know how painful your depression was, how it interrupted everything important in your life, including work, relationships and your ability to care for yourself, and how it endangered your health and your life. That’s the trauma it’s now your job to manage, and avoiding the job because you’d like to avoid the hospital is a foolish move. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Job Affliction

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 17, 2014

No matter what drew you to your current job—having to pay rent, wanting to fulfill a lifelong passion, being forced step up where no one else can or will—you do the work because it’s got to be done, and if it didn’t, it would be called play. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t refuse to do work that you believe is not required, or that feeling underappreciated and overworked is always a good excuse to take a break. Instead of reacting to the pressure of your job, be objective in examining your job description. Then, whether you have to say no to someone who expects too much of you or deny your own wounded feelings, you’ll know you got the job done right.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m a photographer, so when my father asked me to take some portraits of a cousin and her husband as an anniversary present, I was happy to contribute. I went all out for them, and they seemed to really enjoy the results. Unfortunately, they enjoyed them so much that my cousin asked me to do more pictures, this time with their kids and grandkids, with the assumption that the next session would also be free. I tried to explain to her that I’d be losing too much money if I did another session—not just on rentals, but on my time—but she just took it as a personal offense, like I was breaking a promise to her and to my father. I’ve done everything I can to explain my position, but she won’t believe me, and while my dad seems to understand, he’s still pretty upset. My goal is to resolve this issue and get her to see that I’m not a liar, just someone who needs to make a living.

Whenever you have a dissatisfied client or customer, never tell yourself that the customer is always right. If your services are in demand, you’re going to meet many customers, and some of them, even if you’re related to them, are bound to be Assholes™.

An Asshole™ customer is rarely right because they’re rarely happy; no matter what you do, you’re dealing with someone who has inflated expectations and no sense of their own responsibilities or obligations. You cannot do right by someone who cannot be pleased. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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