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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Self-Rejection

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 6, 2015

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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 »

Pity Limits

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 16, 2015

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For most people, or at least those that aren’t evil, cyborgs, and/or hardcore Libertarians, it’s instinctive to want to help someone close to us when they’re down on themselves and their lives. Unfortunately, it’s also instinctive to want to hurt those same people if they won’t hear your advice or are faking helplessness in the first place. Avoid wasting time, effort, and needless anger by not feeling obliged to repeat help that isn’t really helpful. You may be more helpful by reminding them of their choices, assuming they have the strength to cope with them, and reminding yourself that being a not-cyborg doesn’t mean you can help everyone.
Dr. Lastname

My baby brother is having a tough time with his wife, and he’s willing to tell me how her drinking is screwing up their family, but it’s amazing how quickly he can go from talking shit about her to defending her if I even tried to agree with him. Not that I would ever try or tell him to leave, because he always tends to do the opposite of what I suggest, anyway (just in general, but especially when it comes to her). Plus he really loves her and thinks he can change her, so he keeps on telling me what he told her and how it ended in a big fight, and then I think to myself how not surprising her reaction is and how she’s never going to change, but I just have to bite my tongue. I’m getting really sick of hearing about how crazy she makes him, and even more sick of not being able to say anything. My goal is to get him to see that she’s ruining his life before his endless bitching ruins mine.

You may feel you’re being called on to provide emotional support for your brother, given all the emotion he lays upon you. Unfortunately, given his reaction to your attempts at support, you think he doesn’t want your honest thoughts as much as he just wants a captive audience.

Were he to let you help him with his problems, you could tell him you feel his pain, second his assertions, and, given your level of empathy, tell him what you would do. It would be a win-win reaction, because you could help him to both feel better and change the subject.

Unfortunately, your brother doesn’t seem to want your help or to stop bitching, and, like you said, you don’t want to hear it anymore. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Disgrace Worker

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 5, 2015

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Humiliation may cut like a knife, but it’s more like a double-edged sword when it comes to problem solving. Sometimes it warns you that you’re doing something wrong when you’d be otherwise oblivious, but it can also sometimes frighten you needlessly when you’ve really done everything right. Keep your mind and skin intact by not letting humiliation stop you from judging your own actions, taking credit for your actual accomplishments, and making changes if you think they’re necessary. Only a fool would do otherwise.
Dr. Lastname

I’m in my 40s and in pretty good health, but I’ve had problems with my memory after hitting my head on the ice a year ago, and it’s driving me crazy. At work, I just can’t remember whether I told or asked someone something before, so I hesitate to speak up and then wrack my brain trying to figure out what I actually said and did because I’m so afraid of humiliating myself or looking weak. I’ve gone from being confident and outspoken to quiet and timid, and people wonder what’s wrong with me. I’ve asked my doctor to check out my memory and see if I need treatment, because I’m too young to be going senile. My goal is to do whatever is necessary to function properly and stay on top at work.

Whether you work at a fancy brokerage or the Burger King drive-thru, most of us rely on quick recall at our jobs, particularly if we want to impress a group of fast-talking peers, ace an interview with an employer or client, or just avoid getting reassigned to bathroom captain.

It’s not surprising then that your concussion-induced memory problem has triggered anxiety and self-doubt. From what you don’t say, however, it doesn’t seem like slow recall has impaired your ability to actually hold your job, just to impress while doing it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Shame and Fortune

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2015

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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

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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 »

Prediction Notice

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 29, 2014

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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 »

Hoping Mechanism

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 18, 2014

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The human mind is capable of many complex, inscrutable functions, but when it comes to hopeless situations, they’re processed by a part of our brains that hasn’t evolved since we had tails. That’s why, in those moments, our instincts tend to go one of two stupid ways: either you deduce that nothing’s working and never will, or that nothing’s working but definitely will if you try the opposite of whatever you’re doing now. Thus does our lizard brain control our response to foreign policy, midterm elections, and alcoholism. Better to force some human-level reasoning to what’s rarely an either/or situation and respect what you’re able to accomplish with what you control. When your instincts tell you to give up is when you know you need to give a situation more thought.
Dr. Lastname

I’m an alcoholic (with twenty years of sobriety), so when it became clear my daughter also had the disease, I tried to stay focused on doing my best to help her and not start freaking out and blaming her or myself. I think I did OK because my daughter is trying to stay sober and goes to meetings every day (I know, because she’s living at home now), but every eight weeks or so she stops going and, a couple days later, she’s drinking again. We then have a talk and she gets back on the wagon, but it wears me out and I’m losing hope. My goal is to figure out how we can get out of this rut without something horrible happening first.

It’s tough to see your daughter with an illness you know so much about and yet couldn’t prevent; given the season, you must feel like her ghost of Christmas future, if Christmas was less about Jesus and more about just drinking a lot.

On the other hand, it also sounds like you bring a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to the job of helping her. You don’t get outraged when she slips, and, perhaps as a result, she recovers her sobriety pretty quickly. Then, you manage to keep from losing it when she loses her sobriety all over again. At least until now. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Rout of Character

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2014

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If illness is a painful condition that you don’t choose to bring on yourself, then being an Asshole™ is probably an illness, at least for those born with bad tempers, quick impulses, and no ability to see consequences ahead of time. Depression definitely is an illness, and one that often tricks the sufferer into believing he’s an Asshole™, even though real Asshole™s are incapable of self-awareness. Either way, Assholes™ usually blame others for what’s happening to them, whereas depressed people blame themselves, and neither group can get anywhere unless they can see their problem as a condition, rather than a fault. Then they can take responsibility for managing it without blaming themselves or others; a tall order for Asshole™s, a challenging one for depressives, but a worthy move for anyone.
Dr. Lastname

I think my husband is sick, but he thinks he’s normal. After the last time he got drunk and threw things, he got carted away by the police and hospitalized, but he says the doctors at the psych hospital didn’t think he was depressed and there was nothing they could do to help him. He doesn’t drink every night, and he never hits anyone, but he can be a mean drunk. Even when he’s not drunk, he’s prone to quarrel with authorities, whether it’s a cop giving him a ticket or a waiter. I never know when his evil side will come out, and his mother told me he always had a wicked temper. My goal is to persuade him or his doctors that he has an illness and needs help, before he gets into major trouble.

All too often, either out of fear, denial, or both, people refuse to see symptoms of mental illness for what they are. If someone has wild mood swings, it just means she has an artistic temperament, and crippling phobias means he’s nervous, and hallucinating makes her fun at parties.

Sometimes, however, bad or self-destructive behavior has nothing to do with mental illness, or at least not the kind a doctor can do much about. A lawyer, maybe. Or an exorcist.

Two things might be wrong with your husband, both of which are not his fault, but they differ in the amount of responsibility he can or should take for managing them. It all depends on whether his anger is a symptom of illness, or a sucky part of his personality. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Label Ready

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 16, 2014

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You know that the how/when/why of diagnosis is a loaded topic, not just because you’re either longing to find or determined to reject one, but because those of you who read this site with some regularity know how many letters we get on the subject. A diagnosis is a powerful thing, but, like your authors’ posts, it’s rarely the last word. As always, ask yourself what a diagnosis really means before giving it too much meaning, or too little. We won’t be shocked or disappointed, however, if you want to ask us about what it means, also.
Dr. Lastname

I have severe mood swings which don’t help at all, because some days/weeks I will be normal anxious me, but then I can have periods where nothing scares me anymore, pretty much like I’m ‘on top’, and I’ll have so much confidence. But then I have periods which are the exact opposite, meaning that I’ll be constantly upset and feeling self hatred for the way I am. As a result of this, I researched Bipolar Disorder and I have nearly all of the symptoms, I also took some of the online tests, which I know are not completely accurate but I thought they would give me a brief outline. Each one said that I possibly have moderate to severe Bipolar Disorder. After thinking for a while, I spoke to my mum, but she shunned the idea. I later convinced her to do some research on it and let me know her opinions, which I think she had no intention to let me know her thoughts as I only got a reply one month later as a result of my frequent questioning. She said I am definitely not bipolar. I have now been put on the contraceptive pill to control my irregular periods and mood swings, however they have not altered my moods, nor has the Teen Multivitamins that my mum has been buying me to prove that it’s entirely just my hormones. My goal is to control my moods and lessen my anxiety.

Just as there are eight major levels for classifying biological organisms—from general “life” down to the precise “species”—there are several unofficial levels of diagnoses. The most general level might be by location (e.g., the brain) and the more specific would be by identifying the cause of the disease. Unlike with plants and animals or even more common diseases, however, scientists can’t classify your individual diagnosis beyond basic symptoms. In sum, not surprisingly, it’s hard to classify crazy.

If the characteristics of the bipolar “species” vary greatly, depending on the person experiencing bipolar illness, then the usefulness of the diagnosis is limited, and your own observations and evaluation become much more important. What matters most then is not whether you do or don’t have a certified bipolar diagnosis, but whether your mood swings interfere with your life. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Top Fear

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 9, 2014

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Fear, like high school and colonoscopies, is an uncomfortable-yet-necessary part of life. Problems arise, however, when fear either becomes excessive, thus limiting our life experiences, or insufficient, thus opening us up to dangerous experiences that could end our lives entirely. If your fear level is set too high or too low, draw on your experience and values to decide what actions are necessary, then manage your fear accordingly. You may not be able to change your fear level or the amount of dis/comfort it entails, but you can definitely prevent fear from changing your life for the worse.
Dr. Lastname

I am very afraid of presenting in front of the class. I start to shake and stutter and it really happens automatically and I can’t do anything about it. Even when I don’t have to present, I always feel nervous and shy. I’m actually very afraid to talk to someone at my school even if it’s another student. Do you have any advice I can use? My goal is to be able to talk to people and stand up in from of the class without looking like an idiot.

Talking to people, especially in school, is more dangerous than most people think; one false word, sneeze, or pop culture reference, and before you know it, you’re saddled with a humiliating (possibly sneeze-related) nickname for the rest of your life or an open invitation to get your ass kicked. So, when your brain floods you with nervousness whenever you try to speak up, it’s actually trying to protect you from a dangerous activity.

Unfortunately, that fear may make you shake and stutter, thus attracting humiliation, thus proving your brain is right and making you terrified to open your mouth again, etc., perpetuating the safety/silence cycle.

You haven’t done anything wrong to make yourself nervous; you are just extra sensitive to the risks of embarrassment and rejection in school life, and you may have good reason. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t easy to make severe nervousness go away, and if you avoid class presentations and social contacts until you start to feel better, you may not learn much or talk to anyone for a long time. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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