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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nuclear Over-Reactor

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 29, 2015

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Your brain’s ability to identify problems is a lot like that of a drug-sniffing dog, which is to say, despite its training and experience, it still occasionally confuses flour with cocaine or gives the OK to a cargo ship packed with heroin. In order to avoid overreacting to a non-problem or writing off something dangerous, think carefully about the consequences of problems and your intuitive response before deciding whether you need to act or sit on your hands. That way, you’ll be a more effective problem-assessor (and possibly problem solver) and more than earn a treat.
Dr. Lastname

Since my husband and I divorced, I feel like my daughter is slipping away. The divorce wasn’t bitter, but my daughter has the same sensitive temperament as my ex-husband and just generally takes after him more, so she seems more comfortable with him than with me. She and I love one another, but we don’t have the same natural rapport that she and her father have, so, all things being equal, it makes me feel a little on edge when we’re together. When I try harder to show I care (buy her clothes, take her to concerts, etc.), it seems to make her more uncomfortable. I feel like I’m losing the most important relationship left in my family, and I should encourage her to tell me why I make her nervous. My goal is to find a way to make our relationship work.

It’s natural to think you can get closer to your kid by being more like the person she’s close to. Unfortunately, trying to be like someone you’re not is like a dog trying to walk only on his hind legs; it’s hard work, curious and awkward for everybody nearby, and eventually, you’ll be unable to resist returning to a natural/quadruped state.

That’s why a major requirement for partnership is finding someone who can accept your temperament the way it is, which might also explain why your partnership with your husband wasn’t sustainable. Either way, you can still have a successful partnership with your kid, even if you aren’t 100% compatible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Choice Recognition

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 4, 2015

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Credit, be it personal or plastic, is often given too freely to people or things we’re desperate to hold onto in order to make ourselves feel better. Paradoxically, we also tend to deprive ourselves of that credit too easily, so we end up feeling miserable, anyway. Before letting fear or perfectionism or a the lure of Amazon one-click control your credit decisions, think hard about what you have a right to expect and what’s good enough by your standards. Then you’ll make better decisions about friendship, and have a better appreciation for yourself, others, and for appreciation itself.
Dr. Lastname

I’m a single mother in my late 30’s, two years out of an abusive marriage for which I did get some therapy, but probably not enough. I met a man six months out (way too soon, I know) and we agreed that we would “date” casually as friends. Of course I developed feelings for him and I’ve come to realize that I am not a “friends with benefits” kind of person. The problem is that we have been seeing each other for almost two years. Every couple of month or so he pulls back, but we always end up seeing each other again, and each time the relationship advances a little further. He also has his issues, mostly childhood drama due to losing his parents young. We’re currently on a break of his request, but he has texted me every day, says he wants me as part of his life but he needs space, etc. I want to be in his life, but as a committed partner. Sometimes I feel like he is stringing me along, and other times I think he is afraid to let himself love me. My goal is to figure out if I should I just walk away and try to forget him—which I don’t think I even know how do I do that—or wait for him to take another step forward.

As you know, one of the biggest obstacles to finding a good partner is not being able to lose a less-than-good one. In other words, as long as this guy keeps stringing you along, you’re keeping a better relationship away.

The first thing to decide is whether your feelings for Mr. Off-and-On can work to your benefit; ask yourself whether you enjoy the good times more than you suffer from his absences, and if, during the absences, you can put your pain aside and enjoy life or even dates with other prospective mates. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Bury the Need

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 21, 2015

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Neediness is the fuel that drives most of our truly regrettable decisions. Sure, the need to cure cancer can push you to get a Nobel prize, but you’ll need a lot of other resources and motivations to get there. The need to get fucked up, on the other hand, is a lot stronger and simpler, and you don’t have to get to Sweden for your reward. Mostly, neediness stops you from thinking about long-term consequences and other needs that are just as important but are less successful at grabbing your attention. So, no matter how hard it pushes you, or whether it’s yours or belong to someone you love, don’t pay too much attention to neediness until you’ve considered all your needs, separated the healthy from the unhealthy, and decided what you can do that will actually be useful. Then you and not your needs will be the manager of your goals, no matter how lofty or low.
Dr. Lastname

Since we’re still stuck in the same social and professional circles, I wonder how nice I should be to my ex-boyfriend. He and I were terrific together for ten years, at least when we were out with friends or visiting our relatives. Often times, however, when we were one on one, I’d get the feeling that he didn’t really like having me around, or that I got on his nerves, and that’s why he didn’t want to get married. His coldness would hurt, so I’d get sulky and hate myself for it, which would just make him back off even more. He told me he loved me, but then, one day, when he inherited some money and we had the opportunity to buy a house together, he said it was over. I think I’ve finally moved on in so much as I can stand to be in the same room as him, but my goal is to figure out whether telling him how angry I am will help me with my next relationship.

There’s no good reason to get angry at your ex-boyfriend now for not loving you enough back then. If he couldn’t give you what you needed when you were together, then there exists no possible (or at least legal) kind of confrontation to get what you need from him now.

Certainly, it’s normal to feel angry at someone who’s done you wrong, treated you bad, and left you high and dry, but unless you can translate that pain into a classic country or R&B song, then these emotions are best ignored.

That’s because fixating on your anger at your ex just strengthens a tie that you desperately need to cut. Expressing it doesn’t set you free; to paraphrase Aretha, it tightens the chain-chain-chains. Ultimately, the person who is in charge of your attachments is you. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Frank Checks

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2015

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When you have a specific goal for yourself or someone you care about, it’s useful to imagine that goal as a physical destination, and set limits as the directions for getting there. After all, just nagging someone to do something they wouldn’t instinctively do is like being a GPS that tells the driver to “just get there,” and worrying about making a goal you haven’t considered carefully will leave you driving in circles. If you want to determine those limits, you need to know why your limits are better than the alternative so you can fully explain them, even if it’s just to yourself. If you can properly weigh the value of limits in terms of improvement, then you or that someone you care about can arrive at your goal via the best route possible.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t stand watching my son come home from school everyday, earphone in one ear, and go straight upstairs without acknowledging anyone so he can go hole up in his room and text and play videogames. When I tell him to get his face up and out of a screen before I take every last device away, he asks me why I’m punishing him. He’s a good kid and gets his schoolwork done eventually, but he doesn’t help out around the house or really engage on any level. My goal is to get him to see that it’s not healthy to do nothing but mess around with all this vapid technology without having to fight with him all the time.

It would be nice to have the kind of kid who naturally likes to socialize, chip in, and keep busy with healthy activities, but humans like that at any age are rare. After a long day—and, if he’s in high school, lord knows what horrors his day can include—most of us just want to zone out and relax with a glass of wine/Xbox.

Of course, if you express annoyance, your kid does what most people do when they feel criticized and under-appreciated—he finds a way to do even less. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Control Stop

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 11, 2015

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Humans have long struggled to control strong emotions—to put limits on our heart’s desires or angry thirst for justice—but those emotions can become even more dangerous when they push us to try to control other people. You may want to control someone because you love him, or you may hate someone because she’s trying to control you, but in any battle for control, be it over passions, loved ones, or central Asia, there are very few victories. If you can tolerate those urges without allowing them to drive your priorities and control your mouth, however, you can avoid an epic struggle. You might not be in control, but at least you’ll be free.
Dr. Lastname

My stepfather recently went to the doctor and got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and some other things. This means that he would have to stop drinking and smoking. It’s been a month or two since then though and he hasn’t done a thing. I feel so angry and scared for him whenever I see him making a drink or smoking because it’s like he’s just pretending it will go away. Some of his logic is that some people smoke and drink for years and they live to be 90, but his parents deal with some pretty life-threatening health risks. I think to myself, “doesn’t he realize how serious these issues can get?” I talked to my mother about it and she says that he said he won’t give up drinking entirely, if at all. I feel so incensed because he is making us watch him ruin his body and his health. I know it would be hard for him but I feel like he should just suck it up, because if he doesn’t want to do it for himself, shouldn’t he be doing it for us? We’ve talked to him about it and he just blows us off. I think he is an alcoholic and I don’t know what to do. I can barely look at him but I want to help him. I don’t think he will ever admit to his problem and he won’t ever go get help for it. My goal is to figure out a plan because I can’t stand to see him kill himself like this.

When you share a strong bond with someone, you don’t just have feelings for them, but with them; it’s hard to watch someone you love suffering because, when you really care about him, you’ll experience his suffering, as well. The pain you feel if you lose him, however, will be yours to bear alone.

Trying to steer him away from possible distress, however, often makes your own distress worse, because you can’t control his decisions, addictions, or decisions about addictions, and pushing usually causes push back. You can share each other’s pain, even if it comes from accidentally hurting each other. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Risked Off

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015

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Most tough decisions involve competing risks of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t variety; tougher still are those that factor in someone you care about, so now they’re damned if you do or don’t. In evaluating risk, however, we often over-fear threats that cause pain but aren’t dangerous and under-fear true dangers because they won’t hurt until they happen. So if you’re realistic about rating risk, and don’t overreact to the risk of emotional hurt, your decisions will often become clearer. That will make it easier to damn your doubts and do the right thing.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t really get into the specifics of my job (for reasons that are about to become obvious), but I work in a partnership with another woman at a job where a mistake could cause serious injury, and my partner is always drunk. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, because I’m an alcoholic myself (two years sober, in the program), but she denies everything and changes the subject. I don’t want to bring it up with the higher ups, however, because, even though her being drunk puts us both in danger and scares the shit out of me, I know she’ll lose her job, which will just make her drinking worse. My goal is to figure out what, if anything, to do about it that won’t get her in trouble or both of us in a dangerous situation.

While Alcoholics Anonymous believes that there are no “former” alcoholics, there are many different kinds, e.g., active, in recovery, functioning, possibly just French, pickled, etc.

As an alcoholic in recovery, you should know that AA also says that we’re only as sick as our secrets. And your secret, about her secret, could make you both very sick indeed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Sick Change

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015

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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 »

Cause and Order

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 9, 2015

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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 »

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 »

Fools of Engagement

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 23, 2015

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Unless you’re a professional football player, litigator, or interventionist (or an amateur Asshole), you probably don’t enjoy confrontation. That’s usually a good thing, since there’s a reason that confrontation and incarceration sound so similar. It’s not good, however, if you’re just putting off a showdown while you try to understand your provocateur’s reasoning, or because you’re too forgiving of confrontation-worthy behavior. Like the football player, self-protection is one of your most important jobs, so learning how and when to take a stand requires the same amount of attention and follow-through as it takes for society to make laws and police to enforce them. If you do your job properly, you’ll know how to get through to someone without having to go pro and/or get into their face.
Dr. Lastname

It took a while for my pizza shop to become successful because I’m an outsider in this very small community, but I’m a friendly person and my pizza is good, so I’m finally starting to get lots of regular customers. My problem is that one of those customers likes to come in for dinner two to three nights a week with his two very hyperactive little kids— they run around the restaurant, yell at one another, and bother all the other customers while dad ignores them, eats his pizza very slowly, and reads the newspaper. He makes me furious because I don’t understand how he can allow his kids to be so rude and obnoxious, and I’m worried about his driving other diners away. I’ve given him dirty looks and cleared his table forcefully, which he ignores. If I say anything, it just sounds angry, random, and, according to my brother who works with me, possibly offensive. My goal is to get this person to either stay away or leave the kids at home.

Whether you’re dealing with customers, relatives, or people who take up an entire overhead bin/park across three spaces/don’t wipe down the gym equipment when they’re done with it, it’s hard not to become over-reactive when people seem to disregard your expectations about personal space.

Unfortunately, the more reasonable you feel your expectations are, the more unreasonable you get when they’re ignored. If you were entirely rational, you’d assume their actions were their problem—evidence of stupidity or insensitivity rather than a personal insult—and do what was necessary to protect yourself. Unfortunately, you are not a robot, and, as such, you know from rage.

To you, rude people should know better and are disrespecting the rules of civilization. If they don’t respond to dirty looks or loud honks—indications that you are on to their willful disrespect—they are defying those rules and deserve punishment. While you, like so many, are tempted to provide that punishment, the result of such feelings, even when you’re dealing with your own kids, is almost always ugly and leads to trouble.

So stop expecting your customers to be civilized, or just knowingly uncivilized, and don’t feel obliged to improve their behavior. Instead, define the limits of bad behavior that you believe are acceptable in the space that’s your responsibility to control, then plan out a safe, polite and effective intervention. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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