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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

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 »

Flaw Partners

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 26, 2015

Evaluating a conflict within a relationship is a lot like doing detective work; sometimes a case is solved easily with nothing more than the broad strokes, and other times every particle of DNA is a necessary part of the puzzle. In relationships, big disputes over basic issues don’t require examining detail, whereas minor spats over specific matters necessitate the full “CSI: Marriage” treatment. No matter how thorough the required investigation, evaluate your needs and actions so that you can get the evidence to close the case for good.
-Dr. Lastname

FYI, I’ve had a rough life, but I’ve have enlisted the help of a therapist to help me get over the hurdles holding me back. Now my long term boyfriend (not fiancé or husband) has pushed me to breaking point with his selfish behavior, so after three years of making excuses for him, I finally ended our relationship. He wants back in– I don’t trust him anymore based on his actions, but he is begging to show me that he understands where he has gone wrong and is trying to change. I’m thinking, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” but these fucked up feelings for him are weighing on me and I can’t bring myself to let go. With an intelligent brain full of patterns to recognize, and if given a sharp wake up call, is he capable of changing his behavior enough to warrant me giving him another shot? Or should I listen to my own intelligence and kick his ass to the curb? My goal is to strengthen my instincts enough to recognize people I don’t need in my life and increase the size of my cojones enough to say enough is enough.

It would be easier to evaluate your ex’s worthiness if you’d given a more detailed inventory of his crimes, but deciding whether or not to stay with someone or take them back has a lot less to do with what exactly they’ve done wrong and more with what you expect any worthy partner to do right.

Your ex could have lied, cheated and stolen, or he could have just hogged the DVR and forgotten to squeegee the shower door; the process for figuring out what to do with him/for you is exactly the same.

Of course, you may also feel like your stubborn love for him should be factored in, but, not surprisingly, we find that smart decision-making and feelings rarely mix. So if you’re trying to decide whether to restart a relationship that failed because of your ex-partner’s bad behavior, do a top to bottom review of what you want, what went wrong, and what evidence you see that he has the motivation and the ability to make the necessary changes. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Destruction Manual

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 22, 2015

If there was an ancient koan about self-destructive people, it would probably question whether the constant screw-ups are caused by making crazy decisions, or failing to make good ones (and maybe a leaf and stream would be involved). Unfortunately, some actively self-destructive people are the way they are, and some passive failures just can’t be who they should be. So, if you’re perplexed by someone who can’t do right or can’t avoid doing wrong, don’t assume you can help or that they can help themselves. Take a careful look at their ability to accept help and do better before deciding whether help is possible, blame deserved, and certain riddles (and people) would best be left alone.
-Dr. Lastname

My sister has always had a lot of struggles in her life, starting from when she came out at a young age and lost our mother soon after. My dad has given her a lot of support financially over the years and continues to do so, even though she’s got a partner (male) and a baby whom we all adore and look after any chance we get. Here is where the rest of the family and I are starting to get concerned; ever since my niece was born, my sister smokes pot daily with the baby right beside her, and recently she’s been making some rash decisions: breaking up with her partner who loves her and supports her; dating a woman with a history of being unstable and bringing her to their house; and planning to move out although she has no job/income. The whole situation is starting to take its toll on my aging dad (who is very involved in the care of her child) as well as the rest of the family, and if anyone tries to broach our concerns with her she explodes into a rage. Ultimately I think the root of the problem is the pot addiction (maybe combined with the anti-depressants), her unwillingness to quit smoking, and the fact that our nephew is affected. We are all at a loss as to what to do and how to approach it for fear of alienating her and thus our nephew, but we need to set some boundaries around our support for her. Or, do we stay out and let her live her life, meanwhile watching how it affects our nephew and divides the family? Our goal is to figure out how to offer help without getting cut off and heartbroken.

Unfortunately, you’re right in assuming that your sister will probably respond negatively to any limits you place on her. In short, if you imply that she’s fucking up her life, she’ll say fuck you, but with you and your family cut off, your niece will be extra fucked over.

The key to not making things worse as you try to help is remembering that some people are just like that and can’t be rescued. You can be sure that your sister’s messing up her life because she’s designed to do just that; she’s a human wrecking ball, but nobody’s at the controls. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Proof of Strife

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 19, 2015

Strong feelings, like sports victories and financial losses, often seem inherently important and noteworthy, but, in reality, they mean very little taken out of context. Sometimes you feel something strongly just because you’re especially touchy (or don’t feel that much because you’re comfortable and momentarily undisturbed), so, as with an extra-inning win for a team that’s already been eliminated or a million dollar loss to a billionaire, it’s a small blip in the bigger picture. Don’t then jump to conclusions about your strong feelings, or their absence, until you’ve considered what you’re after and what you consider most important. Then you’ll know whether your feelings are a big deal or a bunch of nothing.
-Dr. Lastname

Let me preface this by saying that I am seeing a psychiatrist and on two medications, yet I continue to struggle with depression, as well as multiple sclerosis (MS). My problem though involves my husband, who has been my rock. When I met him, he was a hunk. We created two gorgeous children thanks to his gene pool; I often think that if I didn’t carry them people wouldn’t believe they were mine! He is a stand-up guy who comes from a great loving family, does the laundry, buys the groceries and cooks when I can’t— he even makes the coffee every the morning. I absolutely love my husband, but…am I still in love with him? I know that he’s great, and the sex isn’t bad, but I’ve just lost that loving feeling, as the saying goes. My goal, I guess, is to get that loving feeling back.

Many feelings—loving, hating, hurting, etc.—are sometimes experienced more intensely by people with MS because of subtle changes in the brain. It can act like a magnifying glass, blowing up your every emotion and, in some cases, leaving a burn.

In your case, your love for your husband hasn’t intensified, but your need to feel in love with your husband, and awareness that you aren’t as intensely in love as you once were, have become overpowering. And having strong feelings about weak feelings can feel like a strong force striking your brain.

Luckily, there’s no reason you can or should change your feelings. What you should do, however, is question their importance when compared with your values, sense of the alternatives, and the possible influence of your illness. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Foe Future

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 15, 2015

When it comes to navigating through problems in a relationship, you can’t always trust your ability to recognize the difference between major issues that can be worked through and those which mark the end of your journey altogether. Even if you can see what terrain lies ahead, there may still be no clear route to getting past the issue. So don’t assume you should have an intuitive relationship GPS to tell you how to overcome problems and know which are predictable or your fault. When things go wrong, re-analyze your plans and prepare to accept sudden changes to your destination.
-Dr. Lastname

After some rocky years, I’ve worked hard to build a supportive relationship with my son, but I’m worried about his new girlfriend. He’s crazy about her, and she seems to like him, but she was so surprisingly critical of him and everyone else at our first meeting that I left feeling very worried. He explained afterwards that she’s very sensitive because she was abused and that she’d made it clear to him that she was sorry that she had lashed out, but that didn’t do much to ease my concerns. Then again, if I asked him why she treats him badly and why he puts up with it, he would just stop talking to me. But if I say nothing, I’m worried I will lose him to a very unhappy relationship with a difficult woman. My goal is to save him from rejection or worse without possibly sacrificing what we’ve struggled to maintain.

Any time parents take on the responsibility of saving their kids, there’s often a huge sacrifice involved, i.e., a savings account, a kidney, or, if you’re literally taking a bullet for your kid, a pulse.

Thankfully, saving your kid from a bad relationship need not be your responsibility, nor must it require a huge sacrifice of any kind, from losing your life to your fragile relationship with your son. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Shame and Fortune

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2015

Like dental surgery, high school, and Bar Mitzvahs, humiliation can be pretty painful, but it’s not always a good thing to avoid. Sure, it sometimes makes you reactive to people and values that don’t really deserve your attention, but other times it alerts you to the fact that you’ve been acting like a jerk and need to change. So, before fighting the fact that you looked or done bad, judge your own behavior to know whether it’s time to clean up your act, or just pay attention to doing what you think is right. Then you’ll gain something from your suffering, even if it’s just knowledge and not passage into manhood.
-Dr. Lastname

Christmas day turned into a nightmare this year because I failed to set a clear boundary with my adult kids, and the fall out has set me back on antidepressants. My soon-to-be ex-husband chose to spend the entire holiday with the family of the woman he had a long affair with. I have tried to be civil to her and my kids have met her for the sake of their father, but when my daughter wanted to set up a Skype session with her dad from my house, it was a step too far for me. My protests were overruled, and it all got worse when one of my other kids became angry and refused to participate, which led to un unpleasant atmosphere and bickering. I intervened only to realize that the woman and my ex could see me and hear what was going on. I felt humiliated and very angry to be put in this situation in my own home. The day was wrecked for all of us and I did not help by getting drunk and overturning the tree. I wish to be able to have minimal contact with my ex while accepting that my kids want him in their lives. My goal is to avoid triggers like this by setting firm and clear boundaries, knowing my limits, and having a coping strategy to maintain self-control.

It’s always hard to set boundaries if you don’t know what you’re setting them for; most middle eastern countries were given fairly arbitrary boundaries, so it’s not surprising that that region and your Christmas experience have an eerily similar level of conflict.

Your intended boundaries may be more purposeful than those given to Pakistan, but if your purpose is to avoid humiliation, then you’re giving top priority to the way you look to other people. Particularly to your ex-husband’s soon-to-be new wife, and she’s the last person whose importance, or even streamed image, you want to amplify. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Final Estimation

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 8, 2015

Unless you’re a robot, lobotomized, or the anti-cable news pundit, it’s impossible to assess a situation without some level of inherent, personal bias. It’s especially difficult if you’re assessing your own decisions; your judgment will appear consistently poor if you’re self-critical, or consistently justified if you’re critical of everyone else. Whatever your nature, don’t leave self-judgment to your reflexes; regardless of whether you tend to blame yourself, others, or both, take time to measure the moral value of your actions, particularly when life forces you to make compromises. Then act accordingly by protecting yourself when you deserve it, and making improvements when that’s what you should do, so you push your bias towards doing what’s best.
-Dr. Lastname

My ex-husband isn’t a bad guy, but he was and is a drinker who much prefers hanging out at the bar with the boys. We get along OK though, so we still live in the same house because we can stand to and it’s best for the kids. Lately, however, I haven’t had my usual energy due to my Crohn’s disease, and it bothers me. I always do OK at my full-time job and I never mess up caring for the kids, but I’ve been letting some of the household cleaning chores slide, and my ex has been giving me a hard time about it. I know I’m fucking up, so his criticism really gets to me. My goal is to find a way to restore my energy or at least get him to be more understanding of my condition.

Even if you and your ex are technically apart, it’s nice to keep things peaceful and together for the kids’ sake. It’s not nice, however, if the arrangement is putting so much pressure on you that you’re coming apart at the seams.

If you focus too much on responding to criticism and forget about whether you do or don’t deserve it, you take responsibility for shit you don’t control. And just because your ex can’t control his drinking doesn’t mean you can’t control your reaction to his complaints. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Knowing Pro

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 5, 2015

We’ve written many times about the way mental health professionals especially tend to be either demonized or canonized; nobody expects their dentist to fix their lives or thinks their accountant is a monster and a fraud when s/he’s not perfect, but these are the expectations for those who deal in problems that are frightening and poorly understood, like mental illness. People would like to think therapists can provide control, but they’d also like to think the problem will go away by itself if you return to your usual routine. If you can accept the fact that some problems can’t be solved, however, and that the influence of professionals is always limited, you’ll be ready to learn everything you need to know and become your own expert on tough problems, imperfect professionals, and, if you’ve got the time, your own taxes.
-Dr. Lastname

My fifteen-year-old son does poorly in school whenever he gets depressed, which is fairly often, but his current school’s counseling staff is totally worthless—they haven’t just failed to help him, but so many students that their ineptitude is an open secret amongst parents and teachers—so I’m worried that they won’t do much for him once the depression starts and his grades slip. My goal is to figure out what to do to get his school to provide the counseling services he (and other kids) deserve.

If counseling were a reliably good treatment for depression and was available exclusively through schools, then you’d have a worthwhile fight on your hands. The movie version would win awards and you’d get your face on a dollar coin.

Unfortunately for your Oscar dreams, but fortunately for your son, the stakes for your battle aren’t nearly that high.

In reality, the help that almost all counseling provides is limited, and may have less to offer now that you and your son are knowledgeable about depression and can talk to one another about it. Your school’s counseling staff may be especially weak, but their legendary ineptitude need not get in your son’s way. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Prediction Notice

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 29, 2014

When you’re about to knowingly get involved in an unpleasant situation—job evaluation meeting, lunch with in-laws, childbirth, etc.—it’s natural to mentally prepare yourself in order to make the experience slightly less awful. Sometimes, however, both options—expecting the worst or hoping for the best—can open you to more suffering. So don’t expect to find an antidote to the pain of disappointment, whether or not you can see it coming. Often, bearing it is the only way to carry on, whether that means getting through labor or maintaining flawed but important relationships.
-Dr. Lastname

Please Note: Just as we took a day off on Christmas Day, we’ll be off on January 1st. Here’s to a (mostly) happy and healthy New Year, and we’ll see you in 2015.

My brother drives me nuts, but the sad fact is that I drive myself nuts thinking about how much he’s going to bother me before he and his wife and kids even arrive for family get-togethers. It’s not unjustified; sometimes, he acts like a jerk, criticizes my life choices, and takes my things without asking. Still, in the week or so before I know I have to see him, I find myself imagining all the possible, horrible things he could do or say—some only vaguely possible—and I’m furious with him before he even arrives. Maybe I’m paranoid, or an angry person, but I wish I could stop before I lose my mind or stab my brother for something he hasn’t done. I can’t go through another Christmas like this one. My goal is to not let my brother bother me so much, in my mind and in real life.

Part of you can’t help but love your brother, even if you also hate him, and part of that part hates yourself for hating him so much, or thinking about how you hate him so much, while the rest of you hates thinking about the issue at all. He’s the conflict that just keeps on giving.

The one upside to your emotional clusterfuck of a relationship is that you know better than to attribute your conflict to a single issue that, if you could just talk it out or have a nice, healthy fistfight, would be finally over and done with. You can’t talk out a quagmire, or punch it out, either. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

He Dread, She Dread

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 22, 2014

Freaking out is good for your health in the moment if you’re facing a lion, zombie, or Beyonce, but if the moment passes and the freak-out doesn’t, then you’ve got problems. Some people then freak out about freaking out and see nothing but dark clouds sweeping in, while others shut the world out entirely and create a darkness of their own. In either case, if you don’t want fear to run your life, learn to assess your real risks and actual strengths. Then you can face anything from scary thoughts to American royalty without freaking out too much and feeling like your life is over.
-Dr. Lastname

Over the last few years, my panic attacks have been getting worse and nothing seems to work. So far, I’ve been able to hold it together and do my job, but I often have to hide in the bathroom for short periods in order to catch my breath and talk myself off the ledge. Valium helps a bit, but I have to be careful not to take it regularly or I’ll get addicted, which I’m very frightened of happening because addiction runs in my family. Other medication hasn’t helped, nor have changes to my diet and exercise routine, so I’m getting scared and desperate. My goal is to find a psychiatrist who can help me before anxiety ruins my life.

When you’re prone to experiencing random episodes of intense, meaningless fear that make your heart race, your throat close up, and your brain tell you the world is ending, it’s hard to be optimistic. They don’t call them panic attacks because they make you freak out about how great your future will be.

On top of that, panic attacks have no cure and, as you get older, anxiety tends to get worse. So, while it’s not surprising if you see the light at the end of the tunnel as either a train, a laser cannon, or the fires of hell itself, you have good reason for hope. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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