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Feelings are the true F-word.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

5 Ways To Tune Out The Chaos

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 15, 2017

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When it seems like the whole world is plunging into the abyss, it can be hard not to make like our reader from earlier this week and fear getting swept up in the chaos, giving in to despair, and letting your own little world/entire life get sucked into the black hole. Of course, no matter how hard it can get to find your way in a confusing world, all hope is not lost; if you take the five steps listed below, you can learn to tune out as much chaos as possible and keep your own life from together as the world falls apart.

1) Tune Out the Negative and Unnecessary
Constantly following the news, especially if it’s all scary and bad, may seem necessary in order to stay on top of important information. In reality, it’s more like keeping your tongue on top of a canker sore; a nasty compulsion that only makes you feel worse. That’s why, no matter how frightening and constant the bad news may be, it’s important to step away from TV, periodicals, and Facebook feed, change the subject when people start to go off about world events, and generally avoid the urge to fixate on all things horrible. Yes, you’re part of a greater community and you want to make it better when you have the chance, but when you’re sure that/scaring yourself because no such chance exists, you have to protect yourself from aggravation and fears that you can do nothing about with a bubble of blessed silence.

2) Make Time for (and Merriment With) Those You Care About
When you’re feeling scared and down, being social requires a lot of effort—even more effort than being political—but it also offers much deeper rewards. It’s easy to share intense political feelings and opinions with others who feel the same way, online or in person, but then you’re left with deeper discontents and shallower personal connections. So keep the focus on getting to know people beyond politics as well as doing enjoyable things with the people you already know well and love. Sharing individual concerns, involving yourself in day-to-day realities, and generally reminding yourself there are good, caring people in the world will give you small doses of much needed hope.

3) Don’t Take the Bait From People You Hate
When the world is driving you crazy, then it’s easy for the people around you to drive you crazy and natural to seek ways of expressing and relieving your irritation. Unfortunately, trying to release your rage through picking fights with those you disagree with online is almost guaranteed to backfire. As we always say, nobody has ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty have died (or at least gotten threated or doxed) from unbottling them. Not only do you do more damage to yourself by stirring up fights with people you think are deserving idiots, you don’t even do anything positive for them since verbally attacking someone, online or in-person, isn’t the best way to win others over. Instead of ruminating about your anger until you crave release, remind yourself of your most important priorities, like being a decent person and focusing on the people and things that matter to you, not the morons who ultimately don’t.

4) Mind Self-medication
Aside from seeking relief from anger by getting into fights, it’s also natural to do so by getting high or drunk while giving the finger to all those who claim to reward hard working people like you in what’s supposed to be a reasonable, fair world. Unfortunately, self-medication is also a form of self-destruction that will turn you into a selfish jerk and make you accomplice to what you most despise. So bear your pain without finding chemical shortcuts to alleviating it, continue to fight hard to stay good, and you’ll find yourself refocusing on what you value in life instead of seeking the relief that comes with losing focus altogether.

5) Concentrate on What You Control
It’s not easy to make a living and be a good guy in this world, particularly given all the bad guys out there who find real success and the distractions and disappointments that come from periods of political craziness so nutty that we worry about our ability to continue living, period. It’s not easy, but it’s your responsibility to put your foot down and put a big beautiful wall around your own mind, family, and life; all the other craziness is totally out of your control, but the craziness that can be affected by your own actions and relationships is what you can realistically have a positive impact on. The state of the world matters, but your own life matters more; stay on top of the things that are actually in your control, not on the bad news, so you can make your world, and a small part of the larger world, a better place.

Un-American Captivity

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2017

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It’s hard not to take it personally when your country’s leaders represent values that you despise, making you feel obliged to both renounce all they represent and responsible for making things better. After all, you are expected to make sacrifices for your country, but if you can’t make sacrifices for new national goals you don’t believe in, it’s hard to decide whether to give your all to getting your country back or getting out of Dodge and leaving the leadership to self-destruct. Whether you’re describing personal problems or national ones, however, it’s never fair to hold yourself responsible for righting wrongs that are beyond your control, especially when doing so distracts you from your actual responsibilities. It’s important then to remain in touch with the responsibilities you actually control so you can keep your head up and be proud of doing your best to be a good person, even if you feel your country is headed down the toilet.

-Dr. Lastname

A year ago I knew what I wanted to do for the next 30 years, but then, after a series of challenges, including a re-valuation of my nine-year romantic partnership and Donald Trump getting elected President of the United States, I don’t know what I want to do next. I want to get as far away from my current life as possible as it’s based heavily on the American Dream (TM)—I just bought a house and I own my own business with my spouse, and it’s a decent life, at least hypothetically, even with the financial stress of a large amount of debt. But after America made a really bad choice, I don’t want to have anything to do with the country, its ideals, or its empty commercialized promises. I don’t want the American Dream, or even to live here. I’ve never fit in well and now I realize just how mismatched my entire life philosophy is with American culture. Maybe this shouldn’t be a traumatizing experience, but I’m having serious trouble shaking this off— I am a planner without a plan, I don’t know my purpose, and I’m still trying to work through anger at the people who voted for the current President, many who are my friends and family. I want to move out of the country partly just to say “fuck you all, you voted for him and now you never get to see us because we live on the other side of the Earth.” Now, I think once I get out of this hole I will be better for it, with a more complete view of myself and my place in the world, but I’ve been struggling to get out of this hole for months now and not seeing any progress. I take meds for chronic depression but this is a serious dip even for me. My goal is to find a smart sensible plan, even though I’m depressed as fuck, everything feels meaningless, and all I really want to do is get away from my life and the American nightmare. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Fault Setting

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2014

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No matter what the talking heads say, a bleeding heart is not a partisan trait, nor is it always a negative one. You don’t even have to be a registered voter to be a good, caring person, and party affiliation doesn’t determine whether you’ll care too much and take responsibility for problems that you can’t really help. Learn how to assess your responsibilities realistically, whether you embrace or reject the problem at hand. Then, when a problem comes within range of your heart, you’ll be able to decide what to do without having to blindly follow any party line.
Dr. Lastname

My girlfriend’s father is a widower in his mid-eighties who is still physically fit and able to drive. He is a difficult man, socially awkward and uneasy in company. He fills his days by going round thrift shops and yard sales buying old books and large quantities of stuff which he does not need or use. He used to sell it, but the dealers he supplied have died or long been retired so it just mounts up, particularly since his wife died. Now his house is a mess and a lot of living space is now uninhabitable. He cannot bathe or shower as the tubs are used to store stuff. My girlfriend feels guilty and stressed, but is too busy to do anything about it. I wonder whether I can move in with her if this is a family trait. I find this sort of lifestyle depressing and off putting. She is a kind and reliable person with many good qualities. My goal is to work out a coping strategy.

Caring about other people’s problems is a good trait if you can do something to help them, but otherwise it’s a good way to cause yourself trouble you don’t need. It’s just like hoarding, except with anxiety instead of expired food and dead cats.

Before taking on responsibility for an unsolvable problem, ask yourself whether that problem is likely to cause you trouble, or whether there’s anything that really needs to be done about it. Unless your girlfriend’s father wants to use your house as a storage unit, living with his hoarder status might not be too much for you to bear. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Shrug It Out

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 5, 2014

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The need to talk out a problem is one of those unfortunate instincts, like walking off an ache or steering out of the skid, that’s intended for survival but is more frequently sabotage. If somebody doesn’t want to talk out a conflict, either because they can’t own up to it or just don’t want to, you should resist the urge to press for negotiations and take a moment to ask yourself whether talking would actually help, or just stir up trouble. Most of the time, it’s better to shut up and make the best of flawed relationships, because usually, if somebody refuses to talk it out, they’re not being difficult, they’re doing you a favor.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve been very supportive with my brother when he was first getting sober, which is why I was so surprised and hurt when he recently attacked the way I manage the family business, which he usually has very little to do with. He implied I’d been keeping him in the dark and cheating him out of his share. I kept my cool and decided to just let it lie and wait for him to come to me calmly, and now it’s a month later and he’s acting like nothing happened. Looking back, I know he’s done this before–attacked me verbally, then forgot about it entirely, including apologizing—but I don’t see how we can be friends if we don’t have a talk about this and try to clear the air. My goal is to try to get through to him this time, because I can’t tolerate this level of nastiness.

Since you know your brother’s habit of venting and vanishing all too well, perhaps it’s time to see your brother’s behavior as less temperamental, and more like a version of Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s not a nice habit, but it certainly isn’t personal.

After all, you and others have tried and failed to get him to see that he has nasty spells hurt people and drive them away. For you, it means you can never fully trust him or let down your guard. For him, it means he’s always going to be damaging relationships and there’s nothing that friends or shrinks can do about it. If he could keep his venom to himself, he would, but the venting is beyond his control. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Behold A Nudge

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 8, 2013

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What’s a reasonable demand on some isn’t so reasonable for others, i.e., asking someone to hit a baseball 500 feet isn’t fair unless that someone is David Ortiz. You might think it’s more acceptable to ask someone who wasn’t raised by wolves to do their dishes, or to not have to ask someone with a phone to use it once in a while. Unfortunately however, the people who don’t treat you properly, can’t, and aren’t going to, for one reason or another, so trying to set things straight makes them worse. Instead, learn to screen people for their ability to treat you (and others) in what you consider a reasonable manner. Then, once you become friends, roommates, or partners, you won’t have to worry too much about whether they do their share, since you agree on a set of standards for behavior (and not baseball talent).
Dr. Lastname

Admittedly I like things neat and clean, but I don’t expect too much from a roommate—she’s got to be a real slob to get me upset, which, unfortunately, my current roommate is, and has. She dumps dishes in the sink without rinsing them, never fills or empties the dishwasher, never tidies up, and doesn’t pay the rent until I’ve nagged her 2 or 3 times. The last time this happened with a roommate, I tried leaving notes taped to the dishwasher and sink saying, “Please don’t leave un-rinsed dishes in the sink. Thank you.” And “Please run the dishwasher whenever it’s full. Thank you.” I thought polite reminders would be helpful, but she seemed to resent the notes and stopped talking to me. My goal is to get my roommate to do her share without starting a war.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a “polite reminder,” just passive nudges, put into writing. To a bad roommate, you’re a nagging parent, making the rules of the house, and to you, as we always say, a bad roommate is like a crappy pet, like a lizard or hamster, who needs you to feed them and clean their cage while they nap in the sun.

What you’re looking for is a fair world, and to get that, you need magic, not Post-Its. Parents, of course, have magical superpowers at their disposal—overwhelming muscular superiority, tight fiscal control, and a stranglehold on the entire food supply—and they are often reduced to tears. So give it your best, but be prepared for failure/splitting the rent with an angry humanoid ferret.

You’ve already discovered the risk of offering reminders and suggestions to someone who is always fucking up; you feel you’re putting in extra work to help her do what shouldn’t require reminding. She feels her parents are criticizing her for being the poorly mannered, lazy fuck-up she’s always been. In our weaker moments, we shrinks call that “transference,” as a way of explaining why some of our patients hate us when we’re just trying to help. Now that you’ve been a transference-butt (technical term), you know why you should drop the notes idea. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

I Fought The (In-)Law

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 19, 2012

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If your relationship feels threatened by your partner’s attachment to a difficult, intrusive parent, you may well feel that you have to fight for his/her time and loyalty, but going to war over an in-law is like getting involved in a land war in Asia; a classic blunder, per “The Princess Bride.” Instead, remember that, while a partnership requires a mutual commitment of time and energy, it also must leave room for work, exercise, and time with friends the one party doesn’t like. So draw up a schedule that minimizes three-way togetherness and maximizes stiff-upper-lip politeness and the repression of negative feeling. It might occasionally be painful, but of course, life is pain, and anyone who says differently is selling something.
Dr. Lastname

My partner and I are both in our 60s with difficult marriages behind us. We have separate homes dozens of miles apart but meet often, share many interests, have a healthy sex life and enjoy meals out, daytrips or just being together. His elderly mum lives some distance away and is socially awkward with a serious hoarding issue that escalated when her husband died. Part of her house is uninhabitable due to this, and she goes without hot water rather than let someone in to repair her broken boiler. We used to get on OK until last year when she started coming to stay with my partner on a frequent basis for visits of indeterminate length. She would be included in everything we did and be a real pain. I tried to be understanding but tension mounted and came to a head on her sixth visit of last year when, without discussion, she began getting into the front car seat with her son leaving me to take the back. He denied and defended her behavior and blamed me. I feel I am being cast in the same role as his ex-wife whom he also blamed for “being difficult” with his mother. Her needs were put first over the Christmas holiday and there was another furious row when she wanted to extend the visit and he felt guilty for saying no. To be fair he is now trying to set boundaries and consider my needs but she is about to arrive again. How do I protect the relationship and what is left of my sanity from her manipulations without looking like the bad guy?

While the mother-in-law-from-hell has been around since the dawn of time—they provided the motivation for a daughter-in-law fish to escape onto land and evolve into human kind—this mother-in-law has created problems for her son before. Just ask his “difficult” ex-wife.

That means your situation is twice as challenging, because you’re not only dealing with an extremely sensitive situation, you’re dealing with one that’s been a deal-breaker in the past.

The only way you can avoid falling into the traditional trap of becoming a bad guy is to figure out what you think is reasonable and acceptable, according to your own needs and standards, in terms of how much you’re willing to share his time with his mother, and under what circumstances. After all, you can never be a bad guy if you know you’re doing the right thing. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Missed Manners

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 9, 2012

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One of the great mysteries in human thinking is why we think pointing out a rude person’s rude behavior will lead to improvement, instead of just elicit a (way more logical) rude response. So, instead of drawing a rude friend or co-worker’s attention to their bad-manners, decide whether your relationship, personal or professional, is worth sustaining in spite of their overbearing behavior. If it is, respond politely to whatever you think needs attention and refuse to talk about anything you think does not; you can be firm if you know what your own standards are, without having to defend or retaliate. If it’s not worth it, then feel free to sever ties (politely and with the utmost tact).
Dr. Lastname

I have a long time friend who has OCD about feet and cleanliness. Her OCD is so bad that whenever she sees someone’s bare foot touch the ground, they have to immediately wash their feet before entering her house. She recently accused me of having smelly feet when I’m in her car wearing clean socks and boots during winter. In addition, when I got a little irritated with her accusation she said, “I’m only helping you out because someday you will meet a man and he won’t like your smelly feet.” I don’t think I have smelly feet and have not gotten complaints from former boyfriends about it, nor have my other friends or co-workers complained about smelly feet. How do I tell her she’s being rude and that her OCD is getting out of control?

Wondering how to correct a friend’s rude behavior was the topic of many letters sent to the late, great Dear Abby. That said, I’m not sure she would like my answer.

Back in those days, calling friends and family on their rude behavior was the way civilized people policed the quality of social civility, like telling kids on the bus to give up their seat to an elderly person and expecting they would bow to public judgment (and not give you the finger).

The trouble is, unsolicited advice, no matter how tactful and well intentioned, is often a hard sell, even when presented to adults that aren’t naturally rude. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Assive, Aggresive

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 31, 2011

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Every asshole is a pain in the ass, but not every pain in the ass is an asshole, and sometimes, a pain in the ass is better than the alternative. In other (less ass-centric) words, don’t write someone off without a fair evaluation, and don’t hang on to someone who’s all pain, no gain. Deciding that you’ve got your own reasons for putting up with pain is what shields you from humiliation, defeat, and, well, assholes.
Dr. Lastname

I cannot accept the fact that my boyfriend looks at porn and it’s a specific kind (hentai and very tall women). For some reason, for it to be a certain type for some reason hurts me more. I grew up looking at porn and still do off and on, so I guess I am hypocritical about this whole situation. My therapist thinks I am madder at myself than him. He feels ashamed about it and said he will discontinue, but unfortunately, if he stops or not, I will still feel the same way which is not good enough for him. Am I a terrible person for having such double standards? I want to achieve self-worthiness, take things less seriously, and confront jealousy in a productive, less destructive manner, but my compulsive thoughts get the best of me. Your advice would be of great value to me.

I’m not sure which is likely to cause you more trouble: the impact of your boyfriend’s porn-watching on your feelings and the chemistry that holds your relationship together, or what his attachment to porn says about his character and ability to be a good partner.

In other words, he could be an asshole, or he could just like to look at animated ass. Figuring this out maybe be a very tall order (pun definitely intended). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Ugh Couple

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 13, 2011

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Very often, love gives you tough decisions and charming clichés. For example, better an old man’s darling than a young man’s fool. Or, to make one up, better a fascinating man’s lover than a dull man’s one-and-only. These days, the dilemmas apply equally to men and women, but the answer is the same. Accept the facts of age, character and biology before making your decision, remember that love doesn’t change people, you can’t get all that want, and clichés exist for a reason.
Dr. Lastname

Is infidelity a sign of some problem in a relationship or just a natural and inevitable part of relationships? I feel it as a betrayal and my partner feels it has nothing to do with us and has no effect on our relationship. Is it possible to have a relationship between two people who feel differently about this issue?

There’s not much point in having a partner if you can’t count on him (and we’ll assume it’s a him); what doesn’t work for cops doesn’t work for civilians, either. First, however, you gotta figure out what you want to count on him for.

There are partners—admittedly, they’re rare—who have compulsively wandering weenuses but are reliable when it comes to covering the kids, the bank account, and your back. They won’t keep secrets from you, other than the tales of their penis’s travels.

It may be humiliating to be married to a guy like that, but the lifestyle and dinner table conversation may be worth it, particularly if he’s rich and famous. It’s fun to be king, and fun to hang out with him (at least until the press catches on to his shenanigans).

At least you know, from what they do, that it’s not personal. Your partner, for instance, is telling you that he is who he is, not that you’re not lovable. For you, relationships include monogamy, and for him, they don’t, no matter whom he’s partnering with.

So, as usual, the person you really need to consult is yourself. You want to know whether your heart can stand the strain, not to mention the ability of the rest of your body to fend off STDs. 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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