Posted by fxckfeelings on January 29, 2015Share This Post
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.
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.
If your son is that kind of nasty asshole—an Asshole™—then it’s entirely possible that a good relationship is impossible. Trying harder to connect may just expose both of you to the destructiveness of his neediness and the risk of taking another hit.
If you decide it’s necessary to keep your distance, however, don’t do it because you’re angry or afraid. Take time to add up the good times and possible advantages of maintaining occasional contact, being careful to leave out benefits that you wish would happen but won’t. Then weigh the potential benefit against the probability of hurt and harm.
Even if you decide distance is necessary, convey your good will; don’t just continue to passively accept his silent treatment. Let him know where you stand without anger or blame, even though you have a right to both, because it will just add to the unavoidable pain. Let him know that you wish him well, even if your tendency to clash makes it wise for you to stay away from one another. Keep your distance, but keep your anger and disappointment to yourself.
In the end, it’s as pointless to blame an asshole as it is to forgive him. He can’t help it, you can’t fix it, and his behavior is just a sad part of who he is. Keep your distance, and keep your anger and disappointment to yourself.
So, while he’ll never be your pride and joy, you can take greater pride in managing the pain of a bad relationship that can’t be helped (and be joyful that he’s now someone else’s problem).
“I hate having a son I really don’t want to see, but I know his problem isn’t my fault and that it makes him nasty with everyone, not just me. I will maintain a distance, without letting my disappointment cause additional conflict.”
I don’t think I’m getting senile, but I hate the way I get distracted and inefficient now that I’m retired and don’t have to hurry or hustle. I think I’ve always had ADD, but as a hard, determined worker, I found ways to work around my bad attention span and managed to have a successful career without ever missing a deadline. Now that I’m not pressured, however, I just can’t take on a project or task without finding I lose track of what I was doing and becoming very slow. I get so frustrated and feel so angry at myself, I wonder whether I should try medication. My goal is to not let ADD make me stupid.
Getting frustrated with yourself can be helpful to someone who is neurologically distractible (ADD or ADHD) if it motivates you to make an extra effort. Self-frustration is a common trait among ADD high-achievers, and may be an unavoidable result of having high standards that you can’t meet without working harder than others.
On the other hand, if you can’t get a good result or have too much time to think, self-criticism can do more harm than good, particularly if you flog yourself for failure, criticize your own character, or blame yourself for not being as good as someone else. In the end, your performance will suffer and you’ll sink so low as to consult a shrink, even online.
Before you get treatment, however, evaluate the impact of your substandard performance. In all probability, you’re doing a good enough job and don’t have to worry about inefficiency because, now that you’re retired, you’ve got more than enough time and probably need to keep busy. You’re probably kicking yourself because of an old reflex, rather than a real need to work faster.
Remember, being worried about your ability to juggle multiple projects while keeping your boss or client happy generates lots of adrenalin, which is nature’s own stimulant, and that’s why most people are not as efficient once they are retired and relaxed. So take pride in the fact that you are now your own boss, and you don’t need to work more efficiently unless you decide it’s necessary.
Of course, if you decide, for good reasons, that your performance needs to improve, first use the tricks that you developed during your career, like creating on-the-wall timetables and inescapable, alarm-equipped to-do lists. Only if those don’t work should you consider medical stimulants.
Otherwise, rejoice in the fact that you’re retired and have more time and less stress. Instead of lamenting your inefficiency, think more carefully about the other things you wish to do with independence. Transitioning into retirement isn’t easy and requires work, but it can be fun once you start to change your habits, realign your priorities, and start letting yourself feel less frustrated and more free.
“I hate feeling scattered and distracted, but I’m getting my chores done and will do better if I can put more purpose and scheduled activities into my retirement life.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname