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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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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5 Types of Back-to-School Drama Parents Are Likely to Encounter (and How to Deal With it):

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 21, 2015

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Fxck Feelings - Back to School

Back-to-school time can bring emotional issues bubbling up to the surface as personality conflicts and intense power dynamics pop up and throw you and your family off-kilter.

Here are five all-too-common back-to-school issues and our advice for dealing with them.

1) Your Kid Hates His Teacher

It’s terrible to imagine your child feeling miserable for an entire school year, but as your kid’s number one teacher (tenured in perpetuity), you’re the one to help him manage frustrations and make the best of them. So take time, gather facts, and see if there’s something you can do to improve teacher-child communication or their attitudes towards one another, or have a positive talk with the principal about finding a better match for your son. Otherwise, do your best to teach him that learning is more important than any single teacher, that surviving the year is more important than showing your teacher he can’t get away with being a jerk, and that he can get through tough times like these with his family’s support.

2) You Hate His Teacher

Of course, if you hate your kid’s teacher as much as he does then you can at least validate his views, although it will take a lot more discipline and self-restraint to get through the year. If your kid is fine with his teacher but you aren’t, then you’re stuck keeping your feelings to yourself, at least at home. You could try having another positive pow-wow with the principal, listing reasons why a different match would be more successful. If your kid seems happy in the class, however, then you’re probably better off following common logic and avoiding the principal’s office entirely. If your kid can survive a year with this jerk, so can you.

3) You Hate The Other Parents

If you don’t like the values or characters of other parents in your neighborhoodand, given how passionate some parents can be about their specific choices and yours, this is not an uncommon scenario—school can be more alienating for you than for your kid. Your job is to keep your frustration to yourself and help him feel he belongs in class, whether or not you feel you belong. Your hope is that the kids are better than their parents and that your kid will find friends he likes in his class, even if you can’t.

4) The Other Kids Hate Your Kid

If your child is being picked on, definitely try to work with the school and other parents to stop bullying, but be prepared to get a lot of defensive responses because no parent wants to admit that they’ve spawned a bully and schools often lack the resources to really tackle the problem. Coach your child on how to handle bullies or just avoid them, but be sure to let your child know that you think he’s fine, even if he’s a social outcast for the time being. There may currently be no friends at school, but there are always friends at home.

5) You Hate Your Kid

Every parent fears having a kid s/he really doesn’t like, so commend yourself on surviving this living nightmare. You can see a therapist or ask yourself whether you’re overly irritable with everyone and need to improve your behavior and/or try medication for improving your mood, but if the answer is that it’s just your kid that’s a jerk, then you’re stuck. So if you’re burdened with unavoidable negative feelings, build up your ability to be a true professional, regardless of how you feel. Teachers have to spend huge amounts of time with kids they hate, so you can, too.

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5 Ways to Avoid Assholes

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 17, 2015

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Many people seek therapy after dealing with Assholes. They come into appointments racked with guilt and anger, thinking they did something wrong, or think they can change the Asshole in question if they could just understand.

Among the wishes people express when they write to us or come for post-Asshole treatment are:

  • To understand how a former best friend could become so mean and impossible to talk to
  • To get back the relationship they once had
  • To get through to someone who was once so close
  • To get her to stop

But the truth is that sometimes avoiding Assholes in the first place is the best path to peace of mind. Here are our five best tried and true tips for avoiding Assholes in the first place, and therefore completely bypassing the drama they would surely bring into your life.

5 Tips to Avoid Assholes:

1)    Learn Your Red Flags, Make Them Red Lights
Believe it or not, Assholes are very charismatic creatures; remember, they excel at selling cars, stocks, and all matter of bullshit. So if someone’s charming you but also mentions their horrible ex-wife (or wives), former friends, or evil family—and they’re not big on personal boundaries, so they will—politely excuse yourself and run for your life.

2)    Rehearse Your Lines
If you’re forced to work or live with an Asshole with whom you’re just trying to avoid conflict and confrontation, the best way to stay safe is to stick to a script. Practice makes perfect and, if you must interact with an Asshole, knowing what you’re going to say protects you from being bullied, intimidated, or worn down.

3)    Work Where Assholes Don’t
If possible, avoid working in fields like the arts, law, intensive volunteering or charity work, or really any job that’s highly competitive and punishing with huge personal reward for both the participant’s wallet and ego. Assholes like to feel like it’s them against the world, and if you enter their corner of the world, watch out.

4)    At The First Sign of Anger, Play Dead
If someone you considered a friend turns on you/turns out to be an Asshole, you can still minimize the damage if you resist the urge to reason or struggle. As much as you want to reason with your friend, you have to remind yourself that your friend is gone, an Asshole wears her face, and passive resistance is your best bet.

5)    Get Exposed and Inoculated Early
Since Assholes are an unavoidable part of life, try to learn as much as you can as early as you can. That way, you can just have the one Asshole girlfriend/boss/roommate who nearly ruins your life but also teaches you what to avoid in the future. You’ll never be free of Assholes, but, as we always say, you’ll be less likely to be shat upon.

Disorder Form, Part 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2015

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Despite all of our attempts to make our lives secure—wearing protective gear, creating a savings account, building a Y2K+X shelter—we’re all subject to nature’s whims. Most of the time, we’re just scrambling to maintain life’s delicate balance between order and chaos. Of course, there are certain, non-weather related natural disasters that can create disorder; namely, those we’re naturally related to. That’s why, in particularly unstable families, any interaction must be planned with a map of the likely fallout and that Y2K+X shelter stocked to the gills. Later this week, we’ll see how shaking things up can sometimes make the family balance stronger.
Dr. Lastname

Even though most of my family are crazy and a pain in the ass to be around, I still love them and have found a way to keep them in my life without letting their bullshit make me miserable. I’m worried though that, if they come to my wedding, then our relationship is going to fall apart. I can’t not invite them, because they know it’s happening and will show up with or without an invitation, but if they do show up, it’s going to be a shitshow. My father is a nice guy but a mean drunk, and there’s no way he’ll be sober. My oldest sister is a compulsive klepto who would probably disappear the wedding gifts, and another sister is well along in following our father’s staggering footsteps (my brother moved far away to get away from them, and I can’t blame him). I’ve told my fiancée I don’t want to spoil the event for her parents, who are very nice, but I’m afraid of what my family will do to create chaos and ruin what we’ve paid for. My goal is to have a wedding that doesn’t blow up on me and hurt innocent bystanders like my wife and her family.

Whatever you decide to do about inviting your family to your wedding, it’s clear that you accept them for who they are, but that acceptance is dependent on certain factors, i.e., where they are, and for how long. When it comes to family, especially awful relatives, better living through boundaries is often the rule.

Even if you’re not interested in punishing, hiding, or changing them, and you can talk about them honestly with your wife-to-be (who is not asking you to disown them), you’re also not interested in inflicting them on the public or your new in-laws. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Instability Insurance, Pt. 2

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 7, 2015

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On Monday, we discussed how stress can change people and turn a strong, intelligent woman into a bad-boyfriend addict. While stress can push you to pick up bad habits, it can also push you away from good ones. Whichever happens to you, regaining control begins with an acceptance of the fact that you’ve lost it, but that you’re still the same old person inside. Then invite help from friends, build new habits and be patient, and you’ll eventually bring your behavior into line with your character. Just because stress changes you doesn’t mean careful management can’t change you back.
Dr. Lastname

I worry about the way my daughter stops contacting me for months at a time when she gets depressed. At least when she was in high school, she lived with me, so I could keep an eye on her and force her to stay on top of her work and get out of bed. Now she’s out of school and won’t even answer my texts. I worry, but I don’t want to antagonize her or undermine her independence by barging in on her. Meanwhile, I understand from her brother that she has trouble getting out of bed or even checking her mailbox, so it seems like she needs me now as much as she did when she was a kid. My goal is to help her without making her feel that I’m trying to take over her life.

It’s true that actions speak louder than words when it comes to expressing affection or commitment, but some people’s behavior is really impaired, even when their affection and commitment are genuine. Depression notoriously can prevent people from checking their mail, answering their phones, or even showering or leaving the house. No wonder they get more isolated and depressed.

What you’ve learned from watching your daughter endure prior bouts of depression is that her withdrawal doesn’t reflect specific negative feelings or a lack of independence; just a neurological shutdown. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Instability Insurance, Pt. 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015

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Dear Readers,

As you might have noticed, the site’s been going through some changes in the past week or so as we prepare for the release of our book, F*ck Feelings (see pre-order links to the right, it makes an excellent Labor Day gift).

This week, we debut our biggest change—instead of doing two cases per post, we’re going to do two per week. New posts will still go up on Mondays and Thursdays, but those posts will contain just one case, and it’ll be the Monday case and the Thursday case that have a unique and insightful connection, as opposed to two cases within each entry.

We hope you approve of these changes, and we appreciate your patience as we revamp the site and drag it from the WordPress dark ages.

In conclusion, please enjoy FF 2.0, and also, please buy our book. These A/C-bolstered electric bills aren’t going to pay for themselves.
-Dr. Lastname

 

When people are under stress, they sometimes become different people. While nobody aside from Bruce Banner experiences a physical transformation, stress does make some people repeatedly do things they know they shouldn’t. If stress sucks you into a bad habit, learn to accept your loss of control, put shame aside and have faith that the real you is still there and will come back from your mental-Hulk state. Next time, we’ll discuss the strange flipside of stress-induced compulsion.
-Dr. Lastname

I pride myself on being a pretty independent woman, so when I realized I had to give up on a relationship that was going nowhere with a guy I liked, I barely let it phase me. Six months later, however, I fell hard for someone else and, when he dumped me, it seriously messed me up and made me miserable. That’s when I was horrified to find myself calling my previous, going-nowhere boyfriend again. Since then, I can’t seem to stop calling him, even though I feel the same old vague emptiness after we spend time together. I’ve never seen myself as weak, but I feel like an addict every time I get sad and find myself picking up the phone. My goal is to figure out what went wrong with me to make me become someone who can’t stop calling someone whom I know will leave me feeling worse.

 

Experiencing the urge to do something destructive, be it calling a crappy ex, eating your weight in Oreos, or returning to the vodka trough, isn’t always a sign of overall weakness, weirdness, or creepiness. More often, it’s a sign that a part of your brain is possessed, and Oreo-loving demons don’t get up and leave on their own.

That’s because these compulsions often have a life of their own, and sometimes independent people who are proud of their self-control find themselves struggling with the urge to do something they really don’t want to do, whether it’s drinking, eating, or over-connecting. Nobody’s immune to bad habits, not even good people. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Action Blues

Posted by fxckfeelings on

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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 »

Cease Love and Understanding

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 20, 2015

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While a large percentage of the population enjoys live-Tweeting every thought, Instagramming every cloud, and updating their Facebook status with every fart, there are still some people who prefer to keep their lives fairly private and don’t care what you think about “Scandal.” For whatever reason, some people need to be understood by everyone they know, while others would rather be known only by those they specially trust. In any case, don’t let a frustrated need, whether to be understood or ignored, get you to doubt yourself. Judge your behavior by what you know, rather than by how isolated or crowded you feel, and you’ll find the perfect privacy level.
Dr. Lastname

I knew that intravenous antibiotics might not help my Lyme disease, but I appreciated the fact that my internist was willing to try an experimental treatment. Now that it’s clearly not helping, however, she continues to act as if I’m basically pretty well and that I should continue my physical therapy for the muscle pain and be glad it isn’t worse. All that tells me is that she really doesn’t understand how debilitated I feel and how much the disease has affected my life; her lack of understanding makes me feel worse than when I came to her for treatment. My goal is to find someone who hears what I’m saying and can comprehend what I’m going through.

We all want understanding from doctors when illness makes us feel helpless, forces us to reduce our expectations or change our lifestyles. If they don’t understand the depth of our pain—especially when illness has pushed us so far down—then it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to find the treatment that will pull us up.

It’s a lot like wanting a comforting parent when you’re hurting and your life is a mess; without that comfort, everything feels much worse and it’s harder to figure out what to do. You want understanding and nurturing, which is hard to find from somebody who wears a lab coat for a living. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Monster Barrage

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 16, 2015

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Deciding whether or not to accept the challenge to fight an Asshole™ shouldn’t be difficult—whether you’re facing an Asshole™ or an actual asshole, every instinct should tell you to get the hell out of there. Of course, sometimes the Asshole™ seems like the only thing standing between you and justice, so before you go “mano a anus,” consider the validity of your anger, the likelihood of ancillary damage and cost, and the value of whatever it is you hope to win. Then, whether you’re the one who must do the fighting or just counseling someone else, you’ll come up with a strategy for either fighting or fleeing that will have the least-shitty results.
Dr. Lastname

My father died recently and my unmarried younger sister still lives in the family house with our elderly mother who is now struggling with memory loss. Over the years we have been a dysfunctional family with a lot of sibling rivalry, and my brother and I find our sister argumentative and difficult. Being around her for any length of time involves walking on eggshells and she and our mother have a turbulent relationship although she is her favorite child. My parents’ will states we will all benefit equally upon our mother’s death but now our sister is trying to emotionally blackmail us into pledging the house to her. She feels that she deserves it as she is the main caregiver. However, she has been supported by her for years and has always been hesitant to find work. We find it distasteful to be arguing about money with our mother still living and our father deceased just weeks ago. My brother and I are both happy to inherit our fair share when the time comes but worry that our sister will syphon off the funds my mother has and expect to keep the house as well. We feel like vultures in wait and do not wish for bitterness or conflict but our sister is often unreasonable and bombastic and we have problems of our own. My goal is to find a way to withstand manipulation and protect our interests without causing our mother’s remaining time to be made unhappy and stressful.

The feeling of unfairness is like the emotional salt in the psychic wound left by loss. After all, it never feels fair when you lose someone you love, but having that pain exacerbated by an Asshole™ sibling adds extra sting to the agony.

It’s hard to avoid becoming paralyzed by that pain, as well as guilt over the anguish you could cause your mother by arguing with your sister. Before you go to war with your sister, however, give thought to whether winning a victory would be meaningful, or even possible, given her Asshole™ tendencies.

Your sister is being totally unfair and unreasonable, but as with mortality itself, there’s a point when you have to lay down arms and give in to the inevitable. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Wrong Guard

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 13, 2015

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Protectiveness isn’t just a noble family virtue, but a likely evolution-driven behavior, instilled in us to insure the survival of the family genome (or at least another generation of helicopter Neanderthals). Unfortunately, the urge to protect is also usually emotion-driven, thus making it liable to backfire. It’s not unusual then, especially when it comes to your fellow genome holders, for you to have to protect yourself from someone’s misguided protectiveness, protect someone you care about from their own protection-driven behaviors, or both. So use careful reasoning to determine when protection is possible, when it’s not, and when it’s likely to do more harm than good. You’ll actually become a good protector if you react less to feelings and more to what’s truly best for your family’s future.
Dr. Lastname

My father is well-meaning but a little loopy, especially now that he’s older, and somehow he got it into his head that my wife is cheating on me with a handsome, younger co-worker. In reality, my wife and I are very happy, and we like and occasionally socialize with this co-worker and his husband, but clearly, it ends there. Still, every time dad visits he gives my wife dirty looks and tries to take me aside to tell me I can’t trust her. She and I used to laugh about it, but now that my dad’s been harping on this bullshit for over a year, it’s starting to get on our nerves and our kids, while young, are starting to suspect that grandpa’s upset about something and want to know what it is. I’ve tried to reassure my father that it’s just in his imagination and to keep it there, but he can’t stop. My goal is to figure out a way my father can spend time with my family without causing my wife pain and upsetting the kids.

Keeping the peace within a family isn’t always easy; it’s hard under your own roof, but even harder when you’re running interference between the family you’ve created and the family that created you. Sometimes, however, the efforts required to keep everyone happy aren’t just doomed to failure, but to make you (and others) miserable.

Your natural instinct is to work harder and try to meet everyone’s needs—your wife and kids, your job, your misguided old man—but there are times when the demands become impossible, and instead of dedicating boundless energy towards making things work, you have to create boundaries and instruct others to work around them. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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