Posted by fxckfeelings on August 17, 2015
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Self-improvement is hard and sometimes impossible, even when we’re strong-willed and well guided.
In other words, we’re often fucked.
Neuroscience seems to show that many emotional and behavioral problems we thought were caused by bad parents or trauma are also caused by wiring that isn’t reversible. This explains why self-improvement is hard and sometimes impossible, even when we’re strong-willed and well guided. In other words, we’re often fucked.
On the other hand, while there’s much pain in incurable dysfunction, the joys of self-improvement are overrated. Strength and confidence may give you a wonderful feeling and a license to walk around in a cape and tights, but big fuckin’ deal. Real confidence comes from knowing you’ve used what limited strength you have to do what’s important. If your strength isn’t great, and as a result you have to strain harder, you deserve even more credit, assuming you’ve got the values to do something worthwhile.
If you accept that self-improvement has its limits, then you can begin to discover the nature of these limits, which you need to know if you’re going to manage them well. So the goal of pushing your potential isn’t just to improve your performance but to improve it as much as you reasonably can, given your resources, while discovering what your limits are. That way, you’ll know how much help you need and how much to compromise when you can’t do everything yourself.
Addiction isn’t the only self-destructive behavior that seems like it should be controllable but isn’t. Eating disorders, hair picking, hoarding, and procrastination are similar in that they seem like bad habits that should improve with steady effort and strong willpower, but are actually very hard to change. It’s no one’s fault, not even your mother’s. The only conclusion to draw is that many people have less control over their basic behavior than they deserve, and that it’s often hard to know how much responsibility they should bear for their actions.
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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.
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.
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 »
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015
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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.
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.
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 »
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).
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 27, 2015
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Obviously, accidents are, well, accidental, but if we purposefully avoid identifying relative responsibility, then we risk putting ourselves and others through them again. After all, if we don’t take responsibility for accidents that are not largely accidental, we miss an opportunity to prevent them. And if we do take responsibility for accidents that are entirely accidental, we compound the misery unnecessarily, which may make more accidents happen. So, instead of getting swept up in shame or guilt, add up the facts and seek second opinions. Accidents happen, but if you don’t learn from them you’re deliberately setting yourself up for more mistakes.
My sister drinks because she says it’s the only way to make her anxiety go away—her anti-depressants don’t do it—but she’s been hospitalized three times now because of blackouts caused by drinking and taking extra medication. She gets mad when they try to keep her at the hospital for observation because she always says that she didn’t want to kill herself, she was just trying to get some relief for depression and screwed up by drinking, and being at the hospital makes her more depressed and then she signs out as quickly as possible. She’s mad at me and the rest of the family for insisting that she has a problem with alcohol and needs help, because she thinks we’re just freaking out over a few stupid mistakes and we’re doing this because we like to make her feel worse. My goal is to find her the help she needs.
As you already know, the only problem your sister will admit to having is the one she has with you and your insane overreacting, and maybe also one with your family, who should love her the most but are making her difficult life even more excruciating. You almost can’t blame her for turning to the bottle.
What’s hard for you to accept, of course, is that you can’t get through because, from what you’ve described, her mind is focused entirely on the way she feels in the moment, and in most moments, it’s lousy.
She might have even felt suicidal at the time she almost died, but since she doesn’t afterwards, what was a suicide attempt is now, in her estimation, a silly mistake. As such, she’s not lying, she’s just incapable of seeing the big picture. Shrinks call people whose depressed and angry feelings distort things this way “borderline personality disorders” and, when their distortion is as severe are your sister’s, there’s nothing much that can help them, at least not for the time being.
So don’t try to argue or tell her how much she needs help. Instead, simply trust yourself and act according to what you see and believe. You can’t promise her that she’ll feel better if she stops drinking, particularly not at first. You can promise her, however, that treatment and sobriety can help her think more positively, act more carefully, and reduce the risk of accidental overdose and death if she truly wishes to build a better life.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 23, 2015
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While the whole concept of “shoot first, ask questions later” sounds cool to many of us, it obviously has some detractors (namely, those who were shot before they could have been vindicated through question-asking). In reality, as always, you need to strike a balance, because, while asking questions can sometimes interfere with action, taking action can be a way to avoid asking difficult questions. So, instead of assuming that either is good without the other, learn how to limit your questions to those that are necessary and how to take action, hopefully unarmed, even when you’re not sure how things will turn out.
I’ve been taking a medication for several years that has been very good for my depression, but now I’m having obsessive thoughts and my doctor thinks I should take a larger dose and see if it reduces the OCD. She says there’s always an advantage in taking one medication instead of two, and that a month of taking a larger dose every day will tell me whether this medication can help all my symptoms or whether I need to try something else. It’s hard for me to take the same dose every day, because the medication makes me jumpy, so I always take less when I need sleep and then I take more when I need to be awake. In addition, I read on the internet that larger doses might make me fat, or, in some cases, suicidal, so I have a lot of doubts about this increased dose, and a lot of questions that nobody seems able to answer. My goal is to find somebody who has the answers (you?) and figure out the best way to deal with my obsessive thoughts.
If you’re having obsessive thoughts, and both you and your doctor acknowledge this to be a problem, then maybe you shouldn’t take your endless doubts about medication at face value. You can’t alleviate obsessive thoughts by entertaining them, which is what you’re doing here.
It’s valuable, of course, to make careful decisions about medication, and your questions would be useful if your medication were really designed to work quickly and help you stay awake. Instead, it’s designed to help you stop obsessing about factors like these, and to do so at its own pace. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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.
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 »
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.
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 »