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Life is unfair.

Monday, April 27, 2015

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 »

Industrious Engineering

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 16, 2015

It’s not great to be a parent who is effective at doing the wrong thing any more than it is to be ineffective at doing the right thing; there’s no job out there with less correlation between effort and results, and with such high stakes besides. Yes, you should get credit for good intentions, even when they get you nowhere, and get away from bad intentions, especially when they get you and/or your kids into trouble. Usually, however, when your goals and methods are realistic and helpful, you have a better chance of accomplishing them and getting the job done.
Dr. Lastname

My daughter is about to graduate from a very impressive college after getting great grades, and I’m very proud of her, but I can’t understand why she’s not trying to look for a good job or a reasonable career. Instead, she wants to defend the downtrodden, so she’s looking for work for an NGO in a troubled part of the world or trying to get an internship with the Innocence Project. She’s had a privileged childhood and a great education she didn’t have to pay for—but that I had to work hard to pay for, thanks very much—so I tell her she should be thinking about using her advantages to get ahead and make a future for herself, rather than worrying about people who’ve had all the bad luck I’ve protected her from. My goal is to get her to take care of herself rather than putting herself at risk for the sake of people she’s got nothing in common with.

Aside from the fact that you believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and your daughter is drawn to helping the downtrodden, you’ve got some reason to worry about the risks of her young idealism.

Her heart is in the right place, but her desired work may take her to the kinds of scary places filled with the scary people you feel you’ve worked hard to protect her from.

In addition, you know that life in this country doesn’t provide much of a safety net, so your daughter’s future security will depend a great deal on her ability to find a good job and save money. In other words, if she doesn’t use the advantages you’ve given her to find a lucrative career, she might end up downtrodden herself. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fixed Signals

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 13, 2015

As we often say when pontificating about Assholes™, the great paradox of self-awareness is that those who worry most about whether they’re bothering other people mainly bother themselves, and those who don’t worry at all are a huge bother to anyone unlucky enough to cross their path. You can find a happy medium, however, by using reasonable tools for managing your social behavior, like keeping things friendly and superficial and pursuing goals you’ve defined for yourself. Trust in your own rules of etiquette, pursue your social goals, and you will find the sweet spot between obsessive and oblivious.
Dr. Lastname

I’m a divorced mother of three with a nice job who would like to get married again, so I was very interested when I got a message on Facebook from an old high school crush whom I hadn’t see in twenty years. He and I never dated, but we were good friends, and I was pleased to hear he was also divorced and happy living in a nearby city I often have cause to visit. So after we had a great time catching up, I suggested that we have dinner next month when I’ll be there, and he seemed eager but also a little unsure about whether or not he’d be free. We’re still messaging each other, but he hasn’t said yes or no to meeting up yet, so I find myself thinking a lot about what he’s thinking, and whether I’m reading his signals correctly or if I’m just nuts. My goal is to figure out what he’s really thinking and if he’s “just not that into me” or taking it slow because of where we are in life and what’s at stake.

Given that this guy is a teenaged crush, it makes sense that you’d revert to your younger self and worry about what people are thinking about you and whether the boy you like is going to ask you out or ignore you on Facebook or maybe even take you to the prom.

Equally juvenile, however, is this notion of writing him off simply because he’s “just not that into you.” He might not be—hell, he might be too tired after football practice—but as an adult woman and mother of three, you’re old enough to decide whether his wishy-washy flirtation means you shouldn’t be that into him. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Cause and Order

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 9, 2015

Looking for insight into how your mind works is like giving your brain a colonic; it’s uncomfortable, and while it feels like it should be beneficial, it usually just creates an unnecessary mess. Skip the mental probe and instead assess the risks and benefits, which is an unavoidable and valuable part of every treatment decision. Be prepared to distinguish between the kind of analysis that makes problems worse and the kind that you can’t do without. Then you’ll be ready to use your head, not waste time getting it out of your ass.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t understand why I keep a friendship going with this rather self-centered woman at work. I’m always vaguely resentful about the one-sidedness of our relationship, but she doesn’t realize it and thinks she’s a wonderful friend and things are great between us. I know better than to make an issue of the inequality—everyone knows she’s self-centered and clueless—but what bothers me is why I keep on inviting her over for dinner and investing in a friendship that always leaves me unhappy and resentful. My goal is to understand my needs better so that I can finally let go of someone I know can’t really give me what I want.

Unfortunately, having a superior understanding of something doesn’t give you greater control over it; then meteorologists could have kept this past winter from being record-breaking-ly miserable in New England, Billy Beane would win every world series, and the “Grizzly Man” would still be alive.

That’s why understanding why we want something unhealthy is usually a huge waste of time; not only doesn’t it stop us from reaching for it, but the quest for further understanding becomes one more excuse for not stopping our pursuit in the first place.

So ask yourself whether you’ve been chasing one-sided relationships with self-centered people for many years. If the answer is yes, and you’ve been wondering why for almost as many years, then the answer is that you’ve got a bad habit that’s hard to break. It doesn’t matter why you do it, only that you stop doing it as soon as possible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »


Posted by fxckfeelings on April 6, 2015

Unless you’re a GPS, a chess robot, or a politician, it’s likely that, when it comes to relationships, passion motivates your decision-making more than strategic interests. That’s why we want to reward betrayal with rejection and neediness with nurturing; unfortunately, we forget that caring for and managing our own lives are our primary responsibilities, as well as far more under our control. So put reactive feelings aside until you’ve decided what is most likely to meet your self-responsibilities; that will usually be the more meaningful, most carefully plotted course of action, in the long run, than reacting to what’s been done to you.
Dr. Lastname

I owe my mentor a huge amount—he stuck by me through a long period of unemployment and repeatedly wrote me terrific recommendations—and I thought I’d landed in heaven when he finally arranged for me to work directly for him doing large-company sales, which is what I’ve always wanted, at a time when I needed work more than ever since my youngest daughter got sick. So I was shocked to discover that, once I started working for him, he was often belittling, critical, and frequently humiliating. I’ve asked around (discretely, of course) and found out that other people also think he’s often overbearing and mean; he’s actually been spoken to about it, but he’s so good at what he does that no one is going to fire him. I guess I should feel better that his treatment isn’t personal, but it still feels like a bit of a betrayal to have this man who’s always given me so much support become a source of daily opposition. So my goal is to figure out what to do with him and this job.

Don’t let yourself be distracted by your feelings for what must feel like a betrayal; yes, you should stand up for yourself and you have a right to feel hurt and furious, but standing up for yourself doesn’t mean standing up to anyone else.

That’s an oxymoronic idea that makes your feelings for an abusive Asshole more important than your own values and strategic goals, and thus makes you a slave to their Asshole-ishness. Just because he hurts your feelings doesn’t mean you have to let him hurt your career.

Your goal then isn’t to figure out what to do with your nasty mentor—his views and behavior don’t even matter to management—but to figure out what’s best for yourself, your sick kid, your healthy kids, etc. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Knowledge is Sour

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 2, 2015

When faced with a seemingly insurmountable issue—an illness, personality flaw, really ugly feet—most people think that getting to the bottom of that issue and finding an answer of some kind is their ultimate goal, when in reality, it’s just the beginning. Too often, they’re actually looking for someone to blame or focusing on one small problem and ignoring the big picture. So don’t let helplessness guide your assumptions, your searches, or your choices in footwear. Ask yourself what answers you’re really looking for and whether you actually know more or less than you think you do and, given that knowledge, whether anything other than life is really to blame.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t stand seeing how depressed my husband is, and no medication seems to help. Several things he tried were very promising at first but then pooped out or quickly caused side effects that made him even more miserable. I can’t get a straight answer from his doctors as to why they’re not working or whether his symptoms are from his illness or being over-medicated. No one seems to know what they’re doing, or what to try, or why the medication isn’t working, or when to stop when they’re not working…I feel really lost. My goal is to find some way to get his treatment on track.

When treatment doesn’t work, it’s natural to feel helpless and look for an explanation. Both fortunately and unfortunately, for most psychiatric problems, the answer is simple– treatment often doesn’t work.

Remember, the scientific meaning for “effective” is “better than nothing,” not “usually works.” And when “better than nothing” translates to “maybe less terrible than normal,” it’s easy to feel effectively screwed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Reality Low

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 30, 2015

The feeling that your life isn’t real—either because it’s not what you expected or wanted it to be, you live more in your head, or because you literally believe in The Matrix—can be disturbing or comforting. For some people, the disconnect comes from liking imaginary worlds more, while others start feeling their reality is false when it unexpectedly disappoints or traumatizes them. Whether life feels real or not, however, should not determine how you live it. Decide what’s important in terms of the value you place on your work or relationships, however real they feel. Then you’ll find meaning in what you do, no matter what color pill you decide to swallow.
Dr. Lastname

Reality, when it’s not rotten, is tedious. Since I was a kid, I’ve escaped into fantasy. This usually involves listening to loud music and playing the same film clip for hours while I pace and daydream about things that could not possibly happen. You might think I live in my parents’ basement, but no–I have a career in the one realistic endeavor I ever pursued successfully plus a nice home in a big city. I thought I would love my career, but I chose the wrong thing. I have never been able to pursue any goals for myself that I did not deem necessary for my continued existence. So, I can run my branch but I never learned martial arts, drawing, dancing, playing chess, or anything I do in my daydreams etc. It’s also difficult to make friends (surprise!) and as my life experience is so unlike theirs, it’s very hard for me to understand what my friends are feeling when they relate their woes. I just pretend to. I have not had a “boyfriend” in 20 years–I don’t tell them that. It’s a strange compulsion. Nothing makes me happier than to daydream in this repetitive way; however, I’m perfectly aware it has blighted my life. I never did drugs, got drunk, etc. I do this. My sister used to do it too but just grew out of it on her own. My goal is to stop this weird daydreaming and pursue the couple realistic goals I have in the second half of my life.

People talk about daydreaming as if it’s a way of discovering and connecting with what you really want to do, but for certain people it’s more of a way to disconnect with what your life really is. As escapes go, it’s less romantic, more witness protection program.

This is because of the way some minds work, namely by turning something creative into a compulsion. It’s possible that, for you, daydreaming about grand achievements while watching the same movie clip over and over is a kind of OCD/rumination that feels good and makes you feel less anxious. It relaxes you, but it also restricts your ability to function in a meaningful way. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fool to be Kind

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 26, 2015

Despite whatever’s going on in the Middle East, at the merge onto the Holland tunnel, or in your average Costco on a Saturday, people are often very kind to each other. We rarely feel we’re being kind, however, because we get bogged down with guilt about something we didn’t do wrong in the first place. That’s why, depending on whether you feel guilty or not, what feels kind can be mean and what looks unkind can actually be thoughtful. Think hard about what you don’t control before you decide whether you’re doing a kindness or not, and remember, if you let yourself off the hook for problems you didn’t cause, you’re doing a kindness for yourself.
Dr. Lastname

I try to help my brother, but my wife says I yell at him too much. He was always a little slow, mentally, and doesn’t realize that he talks too loud and at the wrong times. Since we took him in a year ago, I’ve tried to improve his social skills by telling him to shut up when he interrupts a conversation and getting him to lower his tone. My wife says I sound rude and nasty, and other people have said that about me, but my brother is getting the message and he says he doesn’t feel insulted. Sometimes you have to be harsh to get through to people. So my goal is to get my wife to understand that being mean is sometimes necessary.

There’s no doubt that it is sometimes helpful to correct other people’s behavior, especially when your intentions are good and their perceptive abilities are as bad as your brother’s. What you might ask yourself, however, is whether setting him straight with his social skills requires such a “Scared Straight” approach.

After all, it is possible to sound assertive without also sounding angry and overbearing, and without losing any of your effectiveness. Skilled animal trainers are called whisperers and not screamers for a reason.

If you can’t do assertive without turning into a drill sergeant, then you might share a little bit of your brother’s obliviousness when it comes to the harsh tone of your voice and the response it evokes from others. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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