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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Blame Reliever

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 22, 2016

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It’s hard not to feel guilty when things go wrong, and guilty feelings may be particularly bad for just those who deserve them the least, i.e., those who are generally self-critical and insecure. If you’re someone who’s gone through a bad stretch and can’t help but feel bad and responsible for letting it happen, learn how to rely on specific information and common sense to figure out what you should really take responsibility for, if anything, and how to use your conclusions to fight a compulsive sense of having done something wrong. Instead of endless punishment, you deserve a fair assessment of the facts.

-Dr. Lastname

I often find myself on a streak of “wellbeing,” then out of nowhere I manage to fuck up whatever I had going for me, royally. Almost like I have a problem committing to something for too long. Just looking for some realistic advice as to why this may be. My goal is to figure out some realistic systems I could improvise to better cope with this dilemma.

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5 Ways To Kill Those Brokenhearted Statements

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 17, 2016

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Sometimes, as with our reader from earlier this week, our brains can ruminate obsessively after a relationship, despite being told by our heart, gut, and feet that it’s time to move on. Here are five examples of the constant regrets your brain can shoot your way after a broken heart, and how to refute them.

1) “I’ll never find anyone else like him.”

“When I look at my list of requirements for a marital partnership—someone who’s dedicated, open, is accepting with accepting parents—I know that not being with him, or someone like him, is actually a good thing.”

2) “Sex will never be like that again.”

“As hot as the make-up sex was with my ex, it would be easier to be with someone I fought with and made-up with less, even without the passion-driven follow through. Better to be out of that hot-but-going-nowhere relationship and moving towards the future I always wanted.”

3) “If I didn’t ask for too much, we would still be together.”

“If I imagine what life would be like if we had married, I can see that he’d frequently be absent, unwilling to share tasks, and unable to explain how he spent his money. In other words, I’d always be asking for what I deserved, and still not getting it, or getting anything but angry.”

4) “If I knew how much I was going to miss him, I would never have let him go.”

“I also know that I can assign more value to relationships than they deserve, and can certainly get too invested in someone who isn’t as invested in me. So, even though I miss him a lot, that doesn’t mean that what I miss is worth trying to get back. It’s more important to get over missing him by moving forward and finding someone who’s better for me, not sinking backwards.”

5) “If I was a better person/more like the girl he now loves, we wouldn’t have split up.”

“I know my ex didn’t want a committed relationship with me or anyone else prior to our splitting up, so as much as losing him hurts, cutting him loose wasn’t personal. I left him because I knew what I wanted in life and he clearly wanted something different. I know it was the right thing to do even if it broke my heart, and even if I can’t stop feeling wrong about it.”

D’oh Regrets

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 15, 2016

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You can’t stop love from making old flames live in your memory and obsessions, and if you have the kind of brain that tends to make personal connections easily, your ex can feel like a phantom limb that you head and heart still feel long after he’s gone. Instead of waiting forever for the memories to fade before dating again, however, learn how to define the kind of future relationship that you think would be good for you, regardless of how much you long for your ex. There are ways to resume your search, even if your heart isn’t in it and your phantom feelings are.

-Dr. Lastname

Like so many people, I am struggling to get over a serious past relationship whose ghost just won’t go away. My ex-boyfriend and I had a five-year-long relationship that I confidently assumed would lead to a life together. We had a very pleasant daily life, enjoyed frequent activities with a circle of friends and shared values, important life events and love. Unfortunately, he was unable to move past the boyfriend/girlfriend stage, was never able to clearly communicate why to me (although I’m sure his parents’ snobbish disapproval of me had something to do with it), and a year ago we made the decision to end our relationship. This was an painful process that I am still not completely over— I feel rejected, insulted and strung along, not to mention robbed of my future with him for unfair and unfounded reasons. In the midst of and despite this grieving, a platonic friendship of mine transformed into more, and became serious rather quickly. This new person loves me in the way I always wanted my ex to love me— makes me a priority over his job and himself when needed, spends time on our relationship, spends time with me and his family together to make sure they understand who I am and enjoy being around me. It’s just … I pine for my old life with my ex daily. I know in my rational brain that there are very good reasons why I am not with my ex anymore. I just can’t seem to remember them. I actively dread the day when I will run into him in town with the new woman his parents finally approve of. I feel guilty when I have these thoughts, because I know I am very lucky to have found a new person who has an open heart that’s full of love for me, but I also can’t help but wonder if I was too hasty with my ex, if we could have compromised somehow. This conflict is distracting on multiple levels and keeping me from moving forward. My goal is to get over these feelings of rejection and resentment as soon as possible, and begin to fully appreciate the new person in my life the way he deserves.

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5 Ways to Forget Trying To Be A New Person

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 10, 2016

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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you find yourself yearning for a direction in an otherwise meandering, misfit-esque life, it’s not worth trying to get somewhere new by trying to get a new personality or character. Before you try to get on a new track, forget trying to be a new person and take these steps to assess whether and how you need to get your shit together.

1) Figure Out Your Finances

The first step to getting your life in order is figuring out whether you have the funds to stay solvent and stable. It’s not enough to cover each month’s expenses, particularly if you’re using your credit card to do it and have nothing put aside for disasters (e.g., car repairs, months of unemployment, a case of cancer, etc.). Think of worst-case scenarios, figure out what you’ll need, and give yourself an honest earnings target that includes health insurance (see item below and cancer reference above).

2) Get Honest About Your Health

You’ll find it hard to get anywhere if your body isn’t on board, so getting your health assessed is a key part of getting your life straight. Don’t just ask yourself whether you’re eating healthy or are strengthening your immune system; after all, there’s little agreement on how much you should or can use your diet to control your health. What you can do that will have a big impact, however, is to exercise, stop smoking if you haven’t already, stop drinking as much if it interferes with your other important goals, and work at reducing your weight if necessary.

3) Meditate On Your Morals

A moral code can act like a compass that guides you through all of your big life decisions, so figuring one out and sticking to it is necessary if you want to figure out a better way forward. Besides, anybody can act like an asshole if he isn’t careful since all it takes is obliviousness and a few urges that might make you cranky or in need of something belonging to someone else. So ask yourself which qualities you admire in others and would want to emulate yourself, and also ask your nearest and dearest whether you have your inner asshole under adequate control. If you have no nearest and dearest, that might be an answer.

4) Focus on Family

Getting your shit together can’t happen without getting your (ancestral) house in order, so ask yourself what, if anything, you owe your family and what values and relationships you enjoy or not and whether they’re worth holding onto, even if you don’t enjoy them every much. Then score your behavior by how well it matches these goals, giving extra points for participating in family events you don’t necessarily enjoy but believe are necessary for keeping the clan together.

5) Get Real About Your Relationships

If you think you don’t have your shit together because you don’t have a partner, you might have the wrong idea; not everybody is suited for partnership, and there’s no shame in being a hermit if it suits you best. So begin by asking yourself what you want relationships for, i.e., if you’re just looking for some distraction and fun, or if you’re eager for something that involves work, promises, and a tolerance for dirt and unpleasantness. Then rate your efforts to start and maintain such relationships, ignoring what you don’t control, like the behavior and character of others or the feelings they cause. And if you decide that you don’t really care about wanting a relationship, period, then not having one may not be what’s normal, but you can be confident that it’s what’s right for you.

It’s admirable to want to get your shit together, but cleaning up your act doesn’t mean becoming a new, perfect person; your standards for having your shit together should come from your own values and be a reflection of your imperfect self, not what people expect of you. Even so, they aren’t easy to achieve, so be prepared to work hard if there’s a deficiency you decide to work on and give yourself high credit if there isn’t.

Character Factor

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 8, 2016

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While it’s easy to change our outsides—a new haircut here, a gastric bypass there—changing who we are inside can be next to impossible. If you don’t just want to be a better person, but have a different personality altogether, then trying to change yourself can just makes things worse. There are ways, however, to respect yourself even if your personality and personal abilities fall far short of your ideal. You might not be able to change who you are, but you can change your view of who you are and be proud of being a good person, despite your less-than-good nature.

-Dr. Lastname

Briefly, I’m a middle-aged guy, have a decent job in marketing, live with my girlfriend, and try to be a good person. I grew up without a father, and maybe having no male role model has made it hard for me to feel like a grown-up. I’m directionless, single, never married, no children. I haven’t really committed to a career, and I’ve spent a lot of time either unemployed or underemployed and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. So far so good, but here’s where it gets weird. Every time I see a movie with a strong male lead, I find myself starting to imitate the fictional character. I observe their mannerisms, and begin to emulate them for days, weeks, or even months. I even check out the way they dress—the various accessories like clothes, shoes, and hats that they wear—and then I start to accumulate those things as well. As you might imagine, this can get pretty comical when I start walking around looking like Indiana Jones complete with fedora and leather jacket (no whip, I have my limits). Sometimes I’ll watch a TV show in the morning, emulate that character, then see a movie in the evening and want to be that character. The problem is that I don’t know who I am or what to do (as far as making plans, goals, etc.) when I’m not playing a role, wearing a costume, or planning my next purchase. When I’ve tried not to shop or emulate a character (for a few weeks) I feel anxious and directionless. By contrast, when I do shop or have a character in mind I feel full of purpose, even a little manic. The fictional imaginative character acts like scaffolding for my own personality. But buying accessories has gotten to the point of compulsion, where I don’t feel I cannot not have the item and still be okay. My goal is to be myself and start living a real life, but I’m not sure who the hell that is anymore.

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5 Ways To Build A New Life When Yours Goes To Shit

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 25, 2016

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After experiencing unimaginable injustice, it’s understandable if, like our reader from earlier this week, you also can’t imagine how you can go on with life. If you can accept the reality of your loss, however, you can learn to refocus on what’s important and imagine new possibilities going forward. Here are five ways to build a new life after a general disaster and avoid ruminating about reclaiming what you can’t get back.

1) Restart and Reset

Working hard to ignore the effect your loss has had on your life, remember what your priorities were when you were starting out for the first time, before everything went south. Include financial independence, meaningful work, worthwhile relationships, and everything a normal, moral, not-screwed person would aim for.

2) Edit Your Environment

Since your circumstances have probably forced you to move (or made moving a good idea, to give you a fresh start), fix up your new place the way you like it. It may not be as nice or big as where you used to live, but it’s yours, and making the effort won’t just make it homier, it will create a refuge where you can also feel comfortable hanging out with new friends.

3) Don’t Resist Relying on Relatives

Instead of isolating yourself and sharing pain when you socialize, choose your favorite relatives and re-invest in those relationships; your new friends might not be comfortable hearing you vent, but when it comes to finding an ear for your bitching and moaning, that’s what family is for. Invite yourself to family dinners where you’re welcome, and don’t focus on the family that might not invite you or want you around.

4) Harken Back to Healthy Habits

In the wake of a tragedy, it’s hard to find the time, money, or just the will to keep up your old exercise routine. You don’t need a gym, trainer, or intense training schedule to get in shape, just the determination to set aside some time everyday to stay healthy. And the benefits of working out aren’t just physical; exercise helps fight depression, and setting and sticking to a routine does wonders for one’s peace of mind.

5) Deter Depression

Don’t be surprised if depression creeps into your head, saps your strength, and convinces you that you’re a loser and to blame for everything’s that gone wrong. Do whatever’s necessary (internet research, shrink consultation, friend survey) to decide whether depression is what’s blocking your recovery. If so, there are many treatments that may help, some require no cost or professional intervention, and medication poses little risk, even if finding one that’s effective requires long periods of patient evaluation and some luck.

5 Ways To Build Pride When You’ve Lost Your Cashflow

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 11, 2016

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Unlike with love, ‘tis better to have always been broke than to have known big bucks and lost them all. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you find yourself in the latter situation, you don’t need to find yourself poor in both cash and self-respect. Here are five ways to build pride when you’re poorer than you used to be.

1) Forget Myths About Former Success

You probably think your prior success was due to hard work, strong ability and perhaps some unique talent/chosen one status. If you re-examine the role of luck and remember the people you know who worked just as hard and got nowhere, it’ll become clear that you weren’t quite so chosen as you recall. When you realize you don’t control success, failure becomes less personal, and future success, should you be lucky enough to find it again, becomes that much sweeter.

2) Judge Job Quality Objectively

Since we’re often far too hard on ourselves, evaluate your employment situation as if you were considering a friend in the same position, using objective criteria to define good performance (and being a friend to yourself, as well). Never use criteria like how much you’re making, whether it’s more or less than before, or whether it’s more or less than your friends or, worse yet, enemies.

3) Don’t Avoid Downsizing Decisions

Cutting back has undoubtedly required painful and sometimes humiliating sacrifices, not just for yourself, but for your family, and often within judging distance of the neighbors. As much as you’d like to forget them, list them instead to remind yourself you had the courage to do what was necessary, even though it hurt.

4) Value Evaluation

Using the friend POV again, ask yourself how much you respect someone who is hardworking, happy, and rich versus one who lost his dough and is now hardworking but unhappy and poor, perhaps to the point of suffering. Remember your answer whenever you feel like a loser, and don’t hold back from reprimanding yourself for being a judgmental jerk.

5) Rate Effort, Not Outcome.

Without comparison to your former self or dreams of obscene wealth, evaluate your efforts to do a good job using the mental equipment and other resources that you actually have, not what you wish you had. If you’ve prevented discouragement from diminishing your effort, give yourself a high score. Just because you lost your good luck doesn’t mean you’ve lost your ability to work hard, try hard, and value what you do; you may have lost your wealth, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your worth.

Test of Luck

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 9, 2016

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If you find yourself going from a higher income bracket to a lower one, you don’t just lose income; you also find yourself changing where you live, whom you socialize with, and how you feel about yourself as person. So don’t allow the lingering humiliation of downward mobility make you feel like a failure. Work hard, not just to climb back up, but to remember what success really is.

-Dr. Lastname

Although I know that the best thing to do is to live in the present, I have been reliving and brooding over my past mistakes (mainly professional ones) quite a bit recently. I had a much better financial situation in the past than I do now, what makes it almost impossible not to beat myself up since I keep comparing the “today me” with more successful “past me.” My goal is to be able to start again, fresh, having learned the lessons of such mistakes.

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5 Reasons To Stand Up For Yourself

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 28, 2016

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Everybody knows that they should think before they act, but most people ponder whether they should act or not, not why they want to act in the first place. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re someone with a natural inclination to keep the peace at any cost, thinking before you act may still tell you that it’s best to placate an aggrieved party, even if doing so causes harm in the long run. So, before you think yourself out of doing anything at all, here are five good, non-feelings reasons for standing up for yourself and taking responsible action.

1) Constant Criticism

Since there will always be nasty, negative people out there (or not-normally- nasty people being negative due to stress or depression), it’s often not worth trying to stop someone from criticizing you, even if when you’ve done nothing wrong. On the other hand, it’s not good to listen to undeserved, repeated criticism indefinitely without giving yourself the right to calmly speak up, declare your self-acquittal, and refuse further discussion.

2) Rampant Risk to Self

When someone’s abusing drugs or alcohol or generally determined to endanger themselves, there isn’t a lot you can do, short of hog-tying them or freezing them in carbonite, to keep them safe. What you can do, however, is coolly voice your concern to them and offer your help. If they refuse it, you’ll know that you’ve tried, at least once, to stop them, and at this point you need to step back and protecting yourself from their destructive impact.

3) Serious Slack

If someone at home or work isn’t doing her share, there’s usually no amount of nudging, nagging, or passive aggressive notes that will get them to step up or even admit they’re not pulling their weight. What you can do, however, is have a reasonable discussion with them about what constitutes a fair contribution, ask them to examine their own actions, and then take whatever protective action you can if they’re still obstinate, e.g., reducing your share or finding someone else to share with, period.

4) Anger and Abuse

Obviously, if you have good reason to believe that someone is abusing their kids, you have a moral (and sometimes legal) obligation to take action. Instead of holding yourself responsible for personally stopping the abusive behavior, however, specify to the abuser what’s intolerable, what you’ll do about it if it continues, and what the repercussions will be for everyone involved.

5) Committing Crime

As a civilian, stopping someone you know from doing bad things and breaking the law isn’t something you should attempt on your own. What you can do is inform the offender what you can and can’t accept and then what you can do to stop being an accomplice or a victim.

Taking a stand doesn’t mean telling someone off, but calmly telling them where you stand, what you’re willing to tolerate, and what the possible consequences are for their bad behavior. You can’t make them stop, but you can make them see where you’re coming from and make things right with your own conscience.

Diplomatic Lies

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 26, 2016

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Avoiding conflict is an important part of making a long-term relationship work, but going too far to placate your spouse in order to avoid arguments doesn’t diffuse the conflict so much as internalize it. Not surprisingly, if you keep eating shit in order to keep your partner happy, that’s how you’re going to feel, and it’s what your marriage is going to turn into. It’s important then to know when and how to draw the line on agreeableness without being disagreeable; if you can avoid a big fight without compromising your integrity in order to do it, you can make your relationship last.

-Dr. Lastname

Early on in my relationship with my wife I fell into a pattern where almost every time we got into a big fight, I’d end up apologizing and admitting total fault, even if I didn’t feel that it was all my fault, basically because I didn’t want to continue the argument. She can be a dirty fighter who is great at playing on my guilt, but also, I’m not very good at being assertive and dealing with conflict. And now, as we have had more complex problems to sort through in our life, and the stakes have gotten higher (kids, in-laws issues, mortgage, etc.), it’s even harder to break this habit, which has resulted in me feeling resentful towards her and emotionally withdrawing at times, which is not something I want to continue. I do get her to “compromise” at times but often those compromises are still tilted strongly in her favor. I’m not a total doormat, but I’d like to stand a little more upright. My goal is to be more assertive, and not fear the outcome of being more assertive with her, which I imagine (based on many past experiences) is her losing her temper (rage, blame, etc.), sometimes making threats (divorce) and making me the bad guy, until I play by her rules.

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