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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Action Blues

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015

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Most of the time, you don’t want to try to pay attention to two things at once—the TV and the oven, the road and your texts, your kid and your moody pet alligator, etc.—but other times, it’s more dangerous not to. It’s a problem for those people who pay too much attention to the reaction they have to other people and ignore their own actions, as well as those who pay too much attention to their own actions and ignore how it impacts others. If you’re a single-minded person and want to avoid being blind-sided, learn how to divide your attention and pay it at the same time. That’s the only way to be mindful of relationships and your own priorities (and hopefully oncoming traffic).
Dr. Lastname

I like to be close to people and I tend to fall in love really easily, so, while my relationships are often intense and fulfilling, they never last very long and never end well. Anyway, my life has been going reasonably well, and I’ve been dating a girl I really like who I think would be a good wife, but my roommate is also my best friend and, since he’s started dating someone, he’s stopped being around very much. Neither one of us is gay, and we’ve never technically hooked up, but we’ve always been really comfortable with each other physically, and our bond is really close. Maybe that’s why I really resent his relationship and find myself being very angry at him for no reason and jealous that someone else has his attention. I really don’t think I’m gay, and I love my girlfriend, but I’m freaked out about my feelings. My goal is to figure them out and get back to having a happy relationship with my best friend.

For those who are prone to powerful emotional reactions, having strong feelings can be a lot like getting blackout drunk; you’re very certain where you are now and what you think about it, but can’t seem to remember how you got there. You lose the part where you keep falling into intense relationships and only focus on the fallout when they come apart.

The intensity of your post-entanglement emotions not only blinds you to the pattern of needy behavior and faulty decision-making that repeatedly puts you in these situations, but to the more important reality of how he or your current girlfriend fits into your future partnership plans.

So, instead of focusing on your anger and jealousy, give serious consideration to what you really want from your roommate; better to take a moment to assess your priorities than follow your feelings to another destructive conclusion. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Cheater of the Pack

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 12, 2014

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Everybody knows that trust is a big part of marriage, but that doesn’t just mean trusting your spouse, but trusting yourself to keep both your junk and your doubt in your pants. If you find yourself with major problems in either of these areas, trying to be normal and ignore your misgivings or mistakes will probably make things worse. Instead, accept that you’ve got a screw loose, and then you’ll have a much better chance of gaining the strength you need to manage out-of-control thoughts and/or actions and learn to trust yourself, or at least your limits vis-a-vis the contents of your slacks.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t understand why I cheated on my wife again, not just because it was so painful the first time around, but because I know, for a certainty, that I love her and don’t want to break up my marriage. I never intended cheating, but I fell into a great conversation with an attractive colleague at work, and, before I knew it, we were exchanging messages about how wonderful it was to see one another and when we would meet again. When my wife found out, it was agony for both her and me, as I felt terribly guilty and I didn’t want to lose my marriage. After months and months of couples’ therapy we patched things back together, re-established trust, and I felt happy with her. Then, without warning, it happened again at an out-of-town sales conference, almost exactly the same thing with a different woman, and now my wife wants a divorce. My goal is to know why I do this thing and whether it means I really don’t love my wife and would be happy with someone else or whether I just can’t be monogamous.

Guys who can’t understand why they cheat when they don’t really feel like it are like alcoholics who can’t understand why they got drunk when they weren’t even in the mood to drink. Emotions are the main motivation for infidelity as often as alcoholism is motivated by thirst.

More often, infidelity is, for lack of better words, a character weakness, a deeply ingrained need that you’re neither going to figure out nor get out of your system. That’s why the First Step in both AA (and CA, Cheaters Anonymous) is accepting your helplessness to control yourself. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Pressure Hooker

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 3, 2013

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No one controls the nature of their sexual needs, including their strength, timing, and target, but we all have reason to control what we do with them. That’s why “I couldn’t help it” is never a convincing alibi, for either sexual indiscretion or disinterest, because even the most impulsive and passive people can manage their impulses with enough effort. Sooner or later, the difference between getting sexual satisfaction and being a good partner creates a conflict that tests your ability to remember and act on your values, regardless of where your needs want to take you. That’s when you need to find the strength to “help it,” whether it is your needs, your relationship, and/or yourself.
Dr. Lastname

The last thing I want to do is hurt my wife, but I’ve always had a taste for sex with prostitutes, even though it costs more money than I can afford, and getting married two years ago didn’t made a difference to my bad habits. My wife works hard and we pool our incomes, so she hasn’t noticed that we have less money than might be expected from the salary I make. I hate myself when I do it, and I don’t much enjoy it, so I can’t figure out why I haven’t been able to stop. I guess I’m an impulsive person, because there are corners I cut at work that might get me fired and I haven’t been able to stop that either. I must have a deep desire to get myself into trouble. My goal is to figure out what’s wrong with me and be more normal.

The biggest reason not to waste your time trying to figure out why you can’t stop spending money you don’t have on prostitutes is that you’ve already got your answer; you’re an impulsive guy, always have been, even when it fucked up your self-interest and ran against your moral values. You’re like Columbo, knowing who the perp is all along (but that makes you the guilty party, as well).

Being called impulsive isn’t meant as criticism, just a description of a big problem that usually remains a mystery when anyone tries to explain it, or understand why one person has it and another doesn’t. The question isn’t why–the answer to that is the same as to the answer to “why are whores so pricey?,” because life’s unfair–but what to do about it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Sh*tty Counsel

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 27, 2012

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Giving advice is like taking your pants off in front of someone; there better be some sort of invitation or context, or things are going to get weird. That doesn’t mean giving unsolicited advice isn’t the right thing to do, or that there isn’t a right way to do it; you just have to be prepared to control your emotions, particularly anger, fear, and helplessness, and only speak up when you think it’s necessary, if you wish to prevent harm or enmity. Using the proper procedures for advice giving, you can do right by the ones you wish to help, even if you can’t control or guarantee the results. If you can’t keep your negativity to yourself, however, or you know speaking up will do more harm than good, better to keep your proverbial pants on.
Dr. Lastname

Please Note: We’re off again on Monday for New Year’s Eve. Here’s to a great f*cking 2013!

I talked to my cousin about her son’s guns & isolation, and now she tells me her family is “devastated.” How can I remain at peace with myself? I feel strong at the moment but feel a vague fear that a slow degradation of my strength may occur over time. Her family has been self-devastated for a long time. She divorced years ago. The oldest, adult son has never worked a meaningful job and has developed an intense focus on guns over the past couple of years. He shoots small rodents in their suburban back yard, then cooks and eats them (he uses just a pellet gun for this but with a home-made silencer, which must be illegal). The other son was within one semester of a college degree when he began using heavy drugs. His parents invested a fortune in the best rehab available but the son dropped out with two weeks to go. Start big and quit is one of the family’s MOs—a deeply ingrained pattern. I have often thought they all need “tough love” but now that I’ve provided some, I seem to be a catalyst for further dysfunction. My conscience is clear but I feel sad at what I have set in motion (other sane people encouraged me to raise the warning so I did not operate in a vacuum). Of course, it was heavily influenced by the occasion of the CT school shooting.

When someone you care about appears to be stumbling into deep trouble and letting things get out-of-control, scary, and/or armed, it’s hard not to get scared shitless on their behalf and offer them a piece of your mind.

After all, if they can’t figure out where to draw the line, you figure you can be the one to show them, even though you can’t imagine how a parent could ever, ever allow dangerous behavior to go so far. You want to help your cousin by stopping her from doing something wrong, but telling her that is the wrongest way to go about it.

When someone in trouble doesn’t ask for your help, it’s usually because they’re already worried that they’ve done something wrong and are afraid you’ll think the same. If you confirm their fear of being judged, then they’ll devote their energy away from actually confronting the problem and towards defending themselves against their new problem, you.

You were certainly right to share your worries with her about her weird gun-toting, varmint-eating son, and right to voice your concerns about dangers she may be ignoring. What you shouldn’t do, however, is imply criticism with the words “tough love,” which usually imply that a parent’s over-permissiveness has created a spoiled brat. Even assuming it’s true—which may not be the case if her son is a paranoid schizophrenic—there’s nothing like knocking someone’s parenting to cause a negative, defensive reaction (and nothing like comparing their son to a mass murderer to lay them especially low).

Try starting over, if you can, by telling your cousin what you admire about her parenting and her kids’ good qualities. After all, the older child was obviously hard-working and capable until drug addiction stopped him cold, and, since you don’t describe the younger son as a brat, there’s reason to think he may have been doing well until something went wrong, as well. Tell her you’re sorry if she felt your were criticizing her or her boys, but you just want to be sure she’s safe and offer any help you can.

Then, if she’s receptive, ask her about her older son’s behavior in concrete, specific terms. Don’t ask why he’s changed—that implies that she should have an answer that she obviously doesn’t have and that may not exist—and don’t imply that he’s behaving badly, because you don’t know how much he controls himself. Just ask for the facts, particularly about whatever he’s said or done that’s dangerous or shows his brain isn’t working right. Ask about threats, punches, voices in the head, silence when she asks questions, lost hygiene, and ideas about the FBI or Virgin Mary (it’s funny how they fall into the same category in the psychotic mind).

Whatever facts you uncover, don’t let your fears prompt you to tell her what to do; instead, find out what options she’s tried. If she seems to be ignoring a threat, ask her to consider her reasons for not being more worried. If she seems to be discounting the possibility of mental illness, ask her to read up on the signs and symptoms and consider what to do if they seem to fit.

You can’t tell your cousin how to straighten out her fucked-up family—it would be nice if you could, and even nicer if there was a way she could actually do it—but you can remind her that there are many good parents who can’t stop their families from being fucked up, and many ways of being helpful to your fucked-up kids if you don’t feel like a failure.

Offering help when it isn’t asked for is always tricky, but if you make the tone of the conversation constructive instead of critical, she might not be able to change her family, but she may be able to change her approach. And if she doesn’t, or can’t, you’ll still know you did the right thing, and you did it the right way.

“I feel like my cousin’s son could go postal while she pretends there’s nothing wrong, but I know these things don’t happen because of bad parenting. I will try to make her feel respected before inviting her to share what she knows about her son. If I have an opportunity to advise her, I will encourage her to make rational decisions about what she knows rather than following her emotions. I will not let my helplessness force me to become impatient and critical.”

My 22-year-old daughter is a good kid and deserves to be treated as an adult, but she’s been living at home since graduating college because she needs to save money, and I can’t help but notice how many guys she dates and spends the night with. She often seems disappointed when they don’t call her again, and then seems too eager to respond when someone new asks her out. I know if I use words like “bad choices” or “low self-esteem” she’ll stop listening, and maybe I shouldn’t offer advice unless it’s invited, but I sure wish I could help steer her in a better direction.

There’s an obvious danger to giving unsolicited advice (see above), and don’t think the danger is much less when people pay a shrink for it. All you need do is imply they’re doing something morally wrong and you’ve either crushed their confidence or stirred them to crush yours. Unlike the woman above, however, your concern comes from observations, not suspicion, and it regards behavior that is far more within her own control. You know of what you speak, and as long as you speak carefully, a conversation is not impossible.

Fortunately, you can often engage people in willing discussions about their dating problems if you keep the discussion positive, refrain from showing negative emotion (no matter what you really feel) and focus on the kind of thinking you want someone to do, rather than actions you want them to take. So don’t show fear or disapproval, or do the psychobabble equivalent by talking about low self-esteem.

Instead, tell her you respect her achieving her degree, saving money, and taking on the search for a good relationship. Then let her know that, if she’s interested, you’ve got some good ideas for how she can search for a partner while protecting her heart.

It’s true, you may be unacquainted with online dating or be one of those lucky individuals who stumbled into a good partnership without first having had many bad dates and a first marriage. Nevertheless, you can draw on other life experiences, like hiring someone for a job or working out a business partnership.

In the non-emotional, business-like manner of a professional matchmaker, ask her what sort of person she’s looking for and what criteria she uses to screen out deadbeats, heartbreakers, and baggage-bearers. Find out how she gathers factual information about a person’s reliability, work, credit card debt, and dumped-girlfriend history so she can head off trouble before she starts to feel attached. Discuss methods for keeping her distance while doing research.

If she feels unattractive, remind her that making herself more beautiful may get her more candidates, but also requires more careful, tougher screening. Help her list her strengths, which you know well.

If you respect the privacy of her heart while offering to coach her on a head-hunt, you can talk frankly without making her feel threatened. Then she can benefit from your wisdom while you enjoy the pleasure of being her friend (and avoid the mess of accidentally become a grandma).

“I hate to see my daughter expose herself to rejection and self-doubt as she looks for love, but I know that criticism of her poor choices will add to her self-blame. She has good values, many strengths, and much to offer. By inviting her to think about search tactics and techniques, rather than about feelings of wanting, needing, and being dumped, I will make my love and experience available to her in a way that she can use.”

Fate of the Union

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2012

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People often like the idea of change—they diet for it, dream of it, vote for it, etc.—but in reality, change is actually pretty scary, unpleasant, and hard to do, which is why people often resist it when given the chance. This is most often true in marriage, where habits get built from deep needs and feelings, and don’t always reflect the way you’d like yourself to be, be that desire to be faithful or just single. If you’re willing to build up your strength and do the work, you can win the battle for control over your decisions and make those changes reality.
Dr. Lastname

Since I’m someone who tends to get both restless and depressed, I have a habit of cheating on my husband more often than I should…I love him and our family and don’t want to break it up, but there’s a certain excitement to having an affair that satisfies my restlessness. They also make me feel alive and admired, which helps with my depression. My husband said he’d leave if I didn’t get into couples counseling, so I did, but I still can’t seem to stop the affairs and he always winds up finding out. Anyway, my goal is to feel less depressed so I won’t have to have affairs and I can keep my marriage.

Like many people with a feel-good, do-bad habit, you want to stop the habit without feeling additional pain, and it’s just not possible. Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake (your marriage) and eat it too (other men, pardoning the unintentionally dirty use of “eat it”).

Sure, stopping the affairs would ease your guilt, your fear of being found out, and your uncertainty about where you stand with your family. On the other hand, habits like this are hard to stop and killing the thrill would leave you at the mercy of your depression. Then again, so would losing your marriage. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Attention Addict

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 13, 2012

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We’re not the first to say that love is a drug, strong enough to either addict you to the wrong person or to keep you chasing one new person after another. Your friends will attempt countless interventions, but the only way to get clean is to figure out what’s good for you and seek the strength to pursue it. Otherwise, you’ll be a bitter ex who has trouble letting go of past dreams, or a compulsive cheater who leaves a trail of bitter exes who call you liar, always longing for your next fix.
Dr. Lastname

After three years with my boyfriend, everything went in a downward spiral in the past week. He was talking to a girl who hated me and was bent on breaking us up for a while. When I talked to her about it to get answers, she replied that my boyfriend no longer loved me and liked her. That made me suspicious, so I started snooping around—I found messages to girls where he would give a compliment and then ask for their number, a secret twitter where he only followed female friends, a secret Facebook where he had only female friends (a couple of which have tried to get with him) and messaged them asking for phone numbers. I also found on that Facebook that he had went with a female friend to the movies the same day he told me he was broke. He admitted that he had female friend numbers in his phone under male names, but he said they were all just friends and he didn’t know why he hid everything, just that he was scared of how I would react. I know that I should just let him go—at least I think I should—but I don’t know how I’ll cope. I feel like there was something wrong with me for him to hide everything from me. I don’t understand why he created this other life for his female friends. I know most people would read this and say he was trying to get with someone, and maybe that’s true, but I don’t think so. I know he is extremely insecure about his image, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. I know I’m over thinking but I feel like I can’t have closure until I know what was going on in his mind, but he says he doesn’t know.

You say you need to understand what’s wrong about your compulsively lying boyfriend before you decide whether or not to dump him…which, unfortunately, is just one more lie.

Of course, the two of you would like to understand why he’s a liar (you probably more than him), but you also know by now that there are no answers to questions like this that ever make a difference. Whether he got his lying habits from being abused, misunderstood, or beset by impulses, he’s got what he’s got.

The truth is that your quest for understanding, in a situation like this, avoids and postpones hard choices that you don’t want to make. In order to avoid the pain of losing him, you’re stifling that part of your personality that is supposed to protect you from being screwed and help you find a good, honest partner. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Love’s Slaves

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 22, 2011

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No matter how many times we say that no love is so powerful that it should render one powerless, we keep getting emails about broken hearts, broken promises, and the resulting broken lives. When love pushes you to fuck up your life and/or someone else’s, it’s your choice to either fight to stay in control or say, well, love is all you want, so whatever happens must be worthwhile. You might be in love, but you’re not without choices. And if/when you make the wrong choice, you can always choose to write us.
Dr. Lastname

When my son was born 30 years ago, I met two other moms and we became friends. Although with partners, we shared the same interests and our kids got along well, and we spent the next years as very good friends doing lots of things together and with the children-one of those friends even married my brother (one son and three years later, they divorced). At the same time, I met a new partner (I was now separated from my son’s father), and we spent the next 27 years having a very on-off relationship. It’s difficult to sum up all those years but I think I can say that I probably cried through most of it! I should have left, I didn’t, he wasn’t committed, I was, I wanted a family life, he didn’t. I’m not perfect and I didn’t always behave well. Five years ago he had a son by another, not partner, woman and when that didn’t work out he and I got together again. Then last year, I invited my friend/ex sister-in-law to lunch with us, and they got together. The shock was immense … and it’s not so much the loss of either but this terrible feeling that I have been used as a sort of dating service by my friend and I just can’t get rid of this feeling of betrayal. It’s now a year on and I haven’t seen them since, and the emotional hurt is a lot less– I have done lots of new things, made new friends, and life is rosier, but I have this constant anxiety that this friend is going to take someone else from me – my sister? my other brother? and, worst of all, I have this strange fear that it will be my son. I would like to be happy for my ex and my friend, but I can’t. I protect myself by staying away but I have this huge sense of loss that I have lost this whole part of my life. I need to let go of this underlying anxiety that I am going to lose someone to her again.

When it comes to kids, we expect parents not to expose them to unnecessary rejections and losses from adults they’ll get attached to, who will then go away. When it comes to how parents protect their own hearts, however, the same standards don’t seem to apply, even though, as your experience shows, they really should.

Yes, I understand, you’ve loved a guy for 27 years, but it was always off-and-on, causing you intermittent heartache and wasting your opportunity for something better. You wouldn’t have needed a shrink, psychic, or your average plumber to predict a sad end to all you invested in him and his family.

That doesn’t mean your love was meaningless or less than real. It was powerful, at least for you. Like a good mother, however, your job is to protect yourself from real attachments that can’t work, and you haven’t done that. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Disrespect Misdirect

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 20, 2011

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Common wisdom says to react to disrespect by “standing up for yourself,” but the phrase “common wisdom” itself is usually an oxymoron. After all, no matter how personal it feels to be slighted, most victims of disrespect aren’t chosen for personal reasons, but because they happen to be the closest person to someone who’s wired to act like a jerk. If you push for an apology, bouquet, animal sacrifice, whatever, the problem that caused it won’t go away. Take time to know what you want from a relationship and why you’re there, and disrespect will matter less. What will matter more is the value of your own conduct, which, while not putting a premium on whether you stand up for yourself, does mean holding your head high.
Dr. Lastname

Well, I’ve been with my boyfriend for 5 years, and during our third year I got into his Facebook account and saw that he’d cheated on me by talking online with girls saying he loved them. I walked away for about 4 months. He tried everything to get me back and after he showed me he changed I thought I should give it one last chance since he is my first everything. I’m trying to move past this but I feel there is something inside me that wants to explode every time I am with him. What advice can you give me to forget this incident or should I not forget?

You’ve given this guy one more chance because he’s your “first everything,” which is understandable. At this point, however, he’s also your first lesson in how character, unlike love, is forever.

He didn’t do this to hurt or disrespect you, because that would imply he thought his actions through before taking them. Instead, he acted on his very flawed set of instincts, which is what brings his character into question. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Rehab Redux

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 4, 2010

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We all have different standards for bad behavior; some people hate themselves for eating more than 1000 calories a day, while others don’t understand why you think it’s such a big deal that they drive drunk. While the opinions of those close to you are worth considering, the only true judge for what’s right and wrong is, surprise, you. Just as long as you weigh all the risks and benefits (and eat a cookie and/or call a taxi).
Dr. Lastname

Do you think sex addiction is a real disease that needs therapy, or is it a way to make a big deal out of nothing that helps cheaters and the people they cheat on feel better while people in your business get paid? I love my wife—we’ve been together for almost 20 years—but I don’t think anyone would say I have an disease because I grab a little extra action if the opportunity comes along. I don’t think she knows I’m not faithful, it doesn’t happen that often, and I don’t think it hurts our marriage at all. It’s not like I have a steady mistress; I just end up going home with women I meet when I’m traveling sometimes, because it’s nice to feel young and like I haven’t lost it, whatever it is. As far as I can tell, everyone wins, because I feel better and my wife is less annoyed by my constant begging for sex. So my goal is to figure out if the way I live my life, which seems to be A-OK, is actually reason to go into rehab.

To rehab, or not to rehab. That is the question.

You’re raising the timeless question, and obviously, we’re not going to tell you to let your feelings be your guide, or, for that matter, your daddy, your minister, your rehab counselor, or your parakeet, Ray.

As to the validity of sex addiction, it either doesn’t matter, or it depends on your definition of illness. I define illness as something wrong with your body that’s personal, important, and out-of-control, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s cellular or behavioral, neurological or psychiatric. Or kinky.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

You’ll Be Sorry

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 10, 2009

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Most of us make a big deal out of apologies, but the sad truth is that “sorry” doesn’t serve as a guarantee of lessons learned or absolution, just a band-aid on our hurt feelings until one party messes up again. For all our emphasis on forgiveness, it’s hardly a virtue, Christian or otherwise, if it requires you to assume that people have more choices than they really do.
Dr. Lastname

My daughter is turning into a petty criminal. She’s getting kicked out of school again, she won’t stop messing around with drinking and drugs, she has unprotected sex, and her boyfriend is probably the guy who broke into our house and stole our TV, though she refuses to believe it. My husband and I have tried so many times to get her to see what she’s doing wrong and steer her in a better direction—we’re our own private “scared straight” program at this point—but every time we confront her about where she’s headed, she says she feels terrible, that she’s sorry, that she never wants it to happen again…and then she gets wasted and everything repeats itself. If only we could get her to understand the harm she’s doing, maybe we could get through to her and turn her around. Meanwhile, it’s killing us. We try to forgive her, but it’s hard. My goal is to forgive her and get her to see what she’s doing to herself and everyone who loves her.

There’s no point in getting your daughter to see what she’s doing wrong if she can’t really stop herself from doing it, and she really, really can’t. You can’t scare straightness into a boomerang.

Regret and remorse will make her feel bad, and you might think that will stop her from fucking up next time. Well, au contraire, my dear unHarvard-educated sap. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it works. You should know that since you’re the one missing a TV.

According to Christmas movies and sentimental parts of the Bible, repentance leads to redemption, but I say, goddammit, that’s just wishful bullshit.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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