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

Monday, October 16, 2017

5 Ways To Like Being Alone

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 24, 2017

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If, like our reader from earlier, your best efforts to find someone to be friends with, let alone date, are constantly fruitless, it can be hard to deal with both loneliness and the desperation that comes with it. So, instead of letting loneliness push you to lower your standards and reach out to the wrong people, let yourself embrace being alone a bit more. While you keep searching for connections, here are five ways to like being alone so you can’t be spooked by being lonely in the meantime.

1) Seek Out Activities You Can Enjoy Solo…
Take up hobbies that you can enjoy alone or in groups, like crafting, gardening, or running. If it makes you stronger, wiser, or richer on Etsy, so much the better, but the main goal, after getting used to your new hobby, is to actually like it and look forward to it. What you’re after is not a Fortress of Solitude but a well-stocked zone in your house, well-tilled corner of the back-yard, and well-established running path where you look forward to spending time of your own and/or with some other people who enjoy the same yarn/plants/stride lengths that you do.

2) …While Soaking In Activities You Can Enjoy Solo
As smart as it is to find solo activities that can also be done in groups, it’s also worth pushing yourself to try things alone that you’re used to doing with others; from going to the movies alone to driving cross-country by yourself, take on tasks that you might be wary of doing without a partner in crime. By doing so, you’ll gain a sense of independence that will help you overcome the fear of loneliness and teach you to enjoy your own company. Plus, you will often find that people are more eager to chat with you when you’re by yourself and the best adventures are more likely to happen when you’re not part of a couple or crowd.

3) Volunteer Your Time
You may think that being alone is pathetic, but there’s nothing less pathetic than contributing your otherwise solo time to a good cause, like teaching or caring for others. Even if you don’t meet like-minded people, you’ll feel useful, not just social, and build meaningful relationships with those you help. If they happen to be people in your community, you can stay in touch over many years, but if they’re not you can learn about other cultures and widen your view of the world. In any case, you’ll start to see your non-working, not-friend-filled time as a gift, not a burden.

4) Get A Damn Dog
Cats may be fine pets (for some people, who aren’t the authors), but they tend to encourage anti-social, house-bound behavior; even if you force your cat to go out for walks, most people are keen to avoid someone with a pissed off cat on a leash. Dogs, on the other hand, aren’t just loyal in-house companions; walking them forces you to be active and, if you live near a dog park, even social, although they also allow you to talk to yourself in public without seeming crazy. Most importantly, they oblige you to think about the needs of others (particularly when it comes to their need to eat, poop, not eat something that will make them sick and poop way too much, etc.), which is really what having a family, or any loving relationship, is all about.

5) Never Stop Looking For A Better Match
Just because you’ve learned to love your own company doesn’t mean you should then give up on finding someone who appreciates it as much as you do. For many people, finding worthwhile friends doesn’t result from trying to be more friendly or sociable; in most cases, there was nothing wrong with their social approach in the first place, but, for lots of reasons beyond their control, there was something wrong with the ability of their personality to mesh well with the people who happened to be around them. If you can pursue your own path until you finally meet a person or group that is a good match for you, and then enjoy, then you won’t need to fear loneliness while finding your own kind of fulfillment.

Nixed Company

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2017

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When you’ve searched high and low for companionship with no results, it’s easy to conclude that, as you’re the only constant factor in your search, you must be the problem/cause of your own loneliness and misery. And of course, trying harder, especially when you aren’t actually doing anything wrong, will only wind up making you feel more unlikeable and hate yourself more. In reality, of course, much of friendship depends on factors you don’t control, like chemistry, the kind of personality you got at birth, and the way you mesh with your local pool of friend candidates. So if love and friendship don’t come easily to you, despite good strong efforts, never assume you’ve failed. You may have found something in life that won’t come easily, but a weakness in relationships need never stop you from finding ways to leading a full and independent life until you discover the right person or people or share it with.

-Dr. Lastname

 

I’m a (maybe over-)educated female in my late 30s who just broke up with what seemed like an emotional/verbal abuser after a very rocky three year relationship. My major issue is that the past many years (20 in total with bursts of good-ish relationships) I’ve been very lonely, mostly because I move around a lot for work and making friends is very hard in new cities. I keep bumping into deadbeats and weirdos, and at my age, most people (especially good people) are too busy with their lives to be looking for friends. So I’m busting my ass to be social, going on hikes with lots of depressing divorcees, to eco-festivals, to any group activities I’m interested in…progress is very slow and shaky. And I’m making a go at dating again (yet once again in my life), this time with more courage than my previous/difficult breakup with the same guy. I quit therapy because it was too expensive and slow, and besides, what I’ve been sorely lacking these past years are FRIENDS. Instead, despite all my efforts, I’m dealing with empty weekends, sending messages (text, FB, etc.) to people who said let’s have a coffee and never respond. I am getting a few replies but with people busy things often get cancelled, especially by the most interesting folks, and I wind up hanging out with the outsiders and deadbeats I should probably avoid. It’s hard, but I’m trying to hang in there and keep pushing. And BOY do I drop everything if I get a chance to see people that I consider worthwhile. My goal is to figure out if there’s something, *anything* I can do—from trying a new way to expand my search to moving to a whole new country—to find the kind of relationships that will make my life feel whole.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Ways To Launch An Anxiety Counter-Attack

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 18, 2016

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When you’re deep in the throes of anxiety, it can be hard to manage your breathing, let alone your thoughts. Still, for some people, like our reader from earlier this week, anxiety can find a way to take over. Here are five ways to manage anxiety and launch a preemptive counter-attack before things get out of control.

1) Learn to Recognize Real Catastrophe

Tame your inner “Chicken Little” and learn how to appreciate how easily a fear of catastrophe can make you feel a catastrophe has actually occurred. Once you get better at reining in the overreacting, you can respect the way fear can help you run faster, and avoid the way it can run you into a wall.

2) Work with the Worst Case

If you’re stuck fixating on every possible impending disaster, then try using your almost-Casandra-like abilities to prepare instead of just giving yourself an ulcer. Do what you can to improve your odds, taking pride in your ability to act and make rational risk management decisions despite the urge to run and hide.

3) Gain Anxiety Expertise

Instead of looking for the one treatment that will work, become knowledgeable about all of them (which, given the limited number of treatments, is not too hard). Then try them out, looking for several partially effective treatment to provide some relief some of the time. Learn enough about treatments so you know what to do if it gets worse and your usual attempts to manage it stall out.

4) Reject Relief

Whatever relieves your anxiety—work, drink, hiding out and playing RPGs for days at a time—may become addictive, so be prepared to limit your favorite relief activities if you have to. Limiting them will, of course, make you more anxious in the short run, so relief can never be your biggest goal, because then you’re just replacing one issue with another.

5) Get Back To Your Goals

If you dropped certain goals figuring that anxiety would make reaching them impossible, pick them back up again and keep trying. Success isn’t based on how normal you feel or how much you were or weren’t able to achieve compared to your healthy self, but how well your life reflects your usual values, and how much you can still accomplish, in spite of the distracting, painful burden of anxiety.

Parental Warning

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2016

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Many parents know what it’s like to hate their kids at some point in the long, close process of living together as a family, be it during the early years when they eat, break or crap on something you really care about, or during the teen years, when they metaphorically do the same. Unfortunately, some parents don’t know it does no good to hate yourself for the way you feel, so instead of trying to feeling loving all the time or running away when you’re angry, remember what you want to accomplish as a parent, whether you like your kid at that moment or not. Then learn how to keep hate to yourself while pushing the relationship in the direction you think it should go, namely towards mutual respect and away from destruction.

-Dr. Lastname

I’m a single mom in my 40s, and I am in complete awe of kids today and their sense of entitlement. My teenaged daughter down-talks to me constantly and is always arguing about every little thing. Tonight I told her to do the dishes, and when she gave an attitude about it, the fight escalated until we started hitting each other. She talked down to me and called me crazy, and I ended up putting her in a headlock and saying, “You think this is crazy, you haven’t seen crazy!” Eventually, I even said the words I will go to hell for saying–“I hate you”—and I hate myself right now. All I have ever wanted was the best for my daughter. Her father was in and out of her life and that devastated me because I know how important a father is since I didn’t have one myself. I have done everything to show her love and build her up so she would have the self-esteem to make better choices for herself, yet here I am acting like my mother, which makes me want to go play in traffic. She has been stubborn and strong willed since day one and everything I thought about having a little girl has been shattered. A factor to consider is I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago. I can’t work (but I take care of the household), am in pain a good percentage of the time, and my cognitive skills are most effected, so I can’t multi-task at all (and I have explained to her that if I am doing something and she comes in and starts talking, my brain can’t shift that fast, but she still gets annoyed when I ask her to repeat herself). I feel like my life is fucked and over and I’m depressed about a shitload of things, but mainly our relationship. What the hell do I do to change our relationship before I have a stroke? My goal is to get my daughter to see that I love her so much instead of just seeing my resentment.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Steps To Build an Independent Life

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 3, 2015

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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have to rely on someone who’s reliably unpleasant, that doesn’t mean you should count on your whole life becoming just as miserable. Here are five ways to build an independent life while dependent on someone you don’t get along with.

1. Inventory Your Incentives

At least once every day, review the good reasons you have for staying together, e.g., for the kids, your health, the wish to avoid bankruptcy and living beneath a bridge, etc. Remind yourself that life is hard and you’re making the best choice you can in a tough situation. Go one step further and take pride in the fact that you’re not a victim; you’re managing what life has given you, at least until something better comes along.

2. Gather Your Goals

Draw up a list of everything you would like to have in your life, aside from a better spouse/live-in caretaker, a clean bill of health, and/or your independence. Include what you think is good for you, like, exercise and education, as well as what gives you pleasure, like seeing friends and going to the movies. Don’t dwell on what you can’t afford or can’t physically accomplish.

3. Seize a Schedule…

Translate those priorities into actual, frequent, regularly scheduled activities, getting coaching from a friend or therapist to help you, if necessary. Don’t shy away from challenging goals (i.e., ones that may be physically demanding), but if they turn out to be too difficult, don’t be ashamed of having to step back and adjust your expectations. Never let feelings of helplessness or failure slow you down or scrap your plans.

4. …And Stick to It

To overcome fatigue and procrastination, put your scheduled activities into an appointment book, app, helper monkey—whatever it takes to put a daily schedule and to-do list on your body in a device that can’t be ignored, lost or forgotten, whether it’s electronic or pre-industrial.

5. Amass New Allies

Look for potential close friends, but don’t get close by sharing woes about your husband or medical problems; don’t confuse becoming someone’s friend with becoming a victim that someone feels compelled to save. Instead, get close by sharing good times and mutual interests. With time, you can have a full life and not see yourself as stuck in a failed marriage, but rather in a highly functional and prosperous partnership, whether your partner appreciates (or just realizes) it or not.

Marriage of Inconvenience

Posted by fxckfeelings on December 1, 2015

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Regardless of whether a marriage is happy or not, it takes work to maintain your own priorities and point of view. In a happy marriage, pleasing your partner may interfere with your agenda as an individual.  In a less happy marriage, feelings of failure may deprive you of energy and confidence, but it’s all the more important for you to remember who you are and what you value.  As long as you do, an unhappy marriage need never prevent you from being successful as a person.

-Dr. Lastname

I have a chronic illness that may or may not go away. For now I am disabled to the point that I cannot take care of myself and I have to depend on my husband. We have been married for over 20 years, the first decades of which were spent raising two children who now live away from home. It seems the children were and are all we had in common, because as soon as child #2 left home, all hell broke loose and it’s been pretty bad since then. I know he will never change and become the person I want him to be, and why should he? He should be with someone who appreciates him just as he is, but I am the one stuck with him and I need to have a better attitude towards living with him because I have no choice. He still drives me crazy, even if It’s a little better since I figured out he cannot change. I am as kind and nice as I can be and I don’t think he really knows that I am staying with him because I have to. My goal is to find a better attitude for myself to make this unavoidable situation less unbearable. 

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Social Strife

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 3, 2015

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In a society where all the spoils seem to go to the outgoing, being shy or anxious can feel like being cursed. Just because you can’t make direct eye contact and small talk, it’s easy to feel like a failure, clam up even more, and become convinced you’re doomed to a life of banishment. In reality, however, some people are shy and self-critical, no matter how hard they try to become outgoing, and many shy people still find ways to get ahead, no matter how much they hate getting trapped at parties. There may be no real cure for shyness, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a curse, either.

-Dr. Lastname

I’m terribly self-conscious. It makes me extremely shy, self critical and lonely. I don’t talk to people much. I’m terrified to speak to a group of people. It takes me too long to do projects since I’m avoiding mistakes. I’d love to say f*ck my self-consciousness, self-criticism and self judgment. It comes over me, however, like a wave and I don’t overcome it. These negative feelings affect me both emotionally (panic, frustration, resentment) and physically (sweating, shaking, shallow breath). I’d rather be social, self-accepting and a more agile and accomplished performer at work. My goal is to be able to tell my problem to f*ck off and become the person I’d rather be.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Foe Outlet

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 19, 2015

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The anger people feel when a relationship makes them feel helpless, whether it’s from disappointment or abuse, is often so painful letting the feels out seems like the only form of relief. Unfortunately, angrily releasing those feelings doesn’t make them go away; instead, it gives them life outside of your head, where they can do even more damage. So don’t vent anger before first thinking carefully about the impact it’s likely to have on relationships you may continue to need and/or value. Then, if you decide it’s worth taking a stand, compose a positive way to negotiate for what you want (elaborated upon later this week). The relief won’t be as immediate, but the possible fall-out won’t make the pain worse.

-Dr. Lastname

 


I guess you’d tell me I shouldn’t focus on the sexlessness of my nine years of marriage and instead focus on the positive experiences we have had and learn to keep my mouth shut—not release the “verbal farts” you talk about—but if letting people get away with mistreating me is what you think I’m supposed to do, then I’d rather have chronic verbal gas. I tell my friends when they are fake and shallow, my husband that our sexless marriage is emotionally corrosive and my parents that I will despise them for physically abusing me when I was a child. In other words, I tell the truth, but according to you, I should “man up” and move on and keep my feelings to myself. I don’t see how that’s better or fair. My goal is to see your point.


 

If your marriage turns out to be sexless, you’ve been the victim of child abuse, or you’ve generally had and unlucky and unhappy life, then you certainly have the right to feelings of resentment. There’s no benefit from telling yourself that you should feel good about experiencing so many bad things.

On the other hand, as you’ve already guessed, we wouldn’t tell you to express those angry feelings unless they can do you some good in the long run, and, usually, they can’t. As we say in our fart metaphor, beyond the immediate relief, venting ugly feelings then poisons the air for you and everyone around you.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Empty Mess: Distant Daughter

Posted by fxckfeelings on September 15, 2015

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Every parent knows that one day their kid will grow up and make a life of their own, but if your child grows up and seems to make a life that excludes you entirely, it can make you feel rejected, insulted, and helpless. No matter how independent your child becomes, however, you never stop being a parent. While that should never stop you from protecting yourself, it also obliges you to spell out a positive direction and push your child forward with whatever limited powers you possess. So don’t let hurt feelings cause you to forget your parenting values or powers; as long as you keep those feelings from controlling your actions, you can do a good job as a parent even if your kid does a bad job appreciating it.

-Dr. Lastname

I’m not sure what my expectations should be regarding my relationship with my twenty-something daughter. Since she left for a college out of state, I feel as though she simply puts up with me, and never seeks out my company or is concerned or curious about my life. She was always respectful to me when she was growing up, but last year she actually rolled her eyes at for the first time ever, in response to something I said. That has been her general response to me since she graduated from college, and it really hurts. I haven’t spoken to her in two months. She recently came to town to attend her grandmother’s (my ex’s mother’s) 85th birthday and never made an effort to see me. I have been living my life and missing her terribly, but I feel that maybe because she’s a perfectionist, and her career is experiencing fits and starts, she doesn’t want me to see her in this mode. My goal is to figure out how to keep from losing both of my kids entirely.

Reacting to your kids as if they’re your friends is dangerous because uncontrollable forces can interfere with friendship without ever changing the fact that you’re their mother. There’s a huge difference between losing touch with someone you used to run with versus someone you used to raise. 

We all want to wind up as friends with our kids once they’re grown up, if possible, but if that doesn’t seem possible, chastising and nagging them in the manner of a parent isn’t going to help. So rather than dwelling on the normal but negative feelings of hurt and disappointment with kids who don’t try to get along with you, focus on the one thing you always controltrying to offer the best parenting possible.

Life is Unfair.

Good parenting for a dismissive, self-centered daughter includes teaching her that you expect reasonably good behavior if she wants something in return, like periodic efforts to keep in touch. You’re not a Giving Tree; she shouldn’t treat her mother that way, and if she treated her friends that way, her only companion would be a tree stump.

Before anger gets you focused on what she’s doing wrong, ask yourself whether you did a good job—not perfect, but good enough—as a parent. Use the same rating system you would use to judge the parenting ability of a friend or hired nanny, ignoring irrational voices of doubt, second-guessing, and regret. If you fall seriously short, particularly in attending to her needs, prepare to apologize.

At that point, having done what you can to square your own conduct with your ideals, give thought to your daughter’s job description and her major shortcomings.

Without necessarily sharing it with her, write a brief, positive description of the change your daughter should make in order to do her job and keep up her side of the parent-child relationship. Make sure to praise her assets and describe change as an important improvement, not a crime that requires atonement, and don’t make it personal. By articulating your thoughts, even if it’s just for your own eyes, you’ve created a manifesto to guide your attitude.

If your daughter rejects you or wants to punish you, try not to blame or apologize. Let her know you’re proud of your parenting and believe that, if she accepts you and behaves reasonably, you can have a good relationship.

When she does get in touch, don’t talk about sadness or sound like a victim; if you do, you may inadvertently reward their urge to punish you. Instead, convey hope that things will improve and optimism about your future relationship. In the meantime, stay patient, positive, and steadfast, i.e., be a good friend to yourself.

STATEMENT:

“My lack of a decent relationship with my kids makes me feel like I failed as a parent, but I have good reason to believe it has more to do with them than me. I will continue to look for what is good and healthy in them and stand by my belief that, if they’re willing to behave decently, we can develop a positive relationship.”

How to MOVE ON.

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 25, 2015

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What to say when you can’t let go!

Not surprisingly, ending an important relationship—be it with a person or even a job—usually stirs up negative feelings because the circumstances requiring the relationship to end are rarely pleasant, agreeable to all parties, or completely without alternatives and drawbacks. The way to make the best of moving on is to do your own assessment of whether it’s necessary and whether you lived up to your obligations and kept your promises before walking away. Then prepare a statement of your thoughts about the ending, omitting any mention of anger, doubt, or guilt.

Moving on is hard. Don’t make it harder by expressing all you feel. Make it easier for yourself and others by celebrating the positive and accepting what can’t be helped.

Life is Unfair.

Breaking up with a boyfriend after not getting along for far too long

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • you can’t make the fighting go away by talking about issues with him, a shrink, or anyone else
  • major, possible steps to make things better between you two, like cutting back on your hours at work or moving house, aren’t likely to be worth the hassle
  • his good character traits and ability to function as a partner don’t outweigh the bad chemistry

Script: “You know how much I value our relationship and the many good things about you as a person, but after everything we’ve tried, I can’t see a way to stop the fighting, and I think it’s better for both of us to admit defeat and move on.”

Leaving a hated boss on not-hateful terms

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • you’ve done everything possible to make the relationship work well enough to make working there bearable.
  • there’s no possible way to stay at the company under different management
  • you’ve got a better opportunity or can survive unemployment

Script: “I’ve learned a great deal from this job and your leadership, and I’m sure what you’ve taught me will be of great help in my new position [without mentioning that what you’ve learned is how to survive a bad boss].”

Breaking up with a girlfriend who expects commitment you can’t deliver

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • her good character traits and ability to function as a partner don’t outweigh your belief you can’t give her what she needs in the foreseeable future
  • you aren’t just panicking in the face of a possible (and terrifying) life-long commitment
  • you will be strong enough to resist the urge to still see her occasionally and string her along

Script: “I know how happy we are together, but you’re looking for the kind of commitment that, sadly, I can’t provide, and I’d rather end things now before you get more invested and a separation would be even more painful.”

Distancing yourself from an alcoholic parent or sibling

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • providing him or her with close support doesn’t have enough positive impact on his or her health and welfare to justify the amount of pain and distress the relationship causes you
  • you have made every reasonable attempt to get him or her to consider getting sober
  • there is nothing you can do to change him or her, period

Script: There is no script at first you because you just have to distance yourself without declaring that you’re doing it or apologizing for it. Then, if he or she’s upset, say, “I know we’ve had so many good times together, but I need to focus more on my own well-being now by spending more time with kids/job/baking hobby, and I look forward to you getting more involved in those aspects of my life once you become sober and more independent.”

Distancing yourself from a friend who has gradually become someone you don’t like

You must be able to assure yourself that:

  • there’s nothing positive or helpful you haven’t already said
  • you’ve been a good friend and done your share; otherwise, try to even the scales
  • s/he’s not going to change and that whatever you like about this friendship does not outweigh the dislike

Script: Again, forego an announcement in favor of just returning calls and messages less and gradually fading away. If challenged, say, “I think you’ve been a great friend, but chemistry sometimes changes, no matter what you or I might want, and I think right now we’re both better off spending more time apart.”

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