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 »
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 2, 2015
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People often try to drum up motivation in the disheartened by repeating the old saying about how even the longest journey begins with a single step. Remember, however, that, whatever your destination, you must also find the right way to get there; there are bad ways to do good things and vice versa, but if your goal or method is off, you’re going to end up stuck. In other words, don’t set out for righteousness in ill-fitting shoes or take a speed-hybrid on the road to ruin. Instead of assuming that the quality of your motivation determines the effectiveness of your methods, evaluate them on their own merit. That’s the true first step you have to take before the journey even begins.
I’m well established as a leader in my department with an impeccable sales record, so I was shook up when our VP suddenly told me he wanted to redistribute some of my accounts to a guy who’s junior to me, and then later promoted him over me to senior administration. While I’ve always gotten along well with my co-workers, I’ve also felt that I’ve been treated a little differently at work because I’m a woman (and one of few), but I’d never been able to put my finger on any specific discrimination until now. I met briefly with someone in HR to ask about this guy’s promotion over me, and he immediately got defensive and accused me of being difficult. Realizing that even approaching the subject of possible sexism would probably make things worse, I instead put together a detailed report for the VP on how taking me away from my regular accounts may decrease sales, but that did nothing but reinforce my “difficult” reputation. I’m clearly being discriminated against, but I’m more helpless and angrier than ever. My simple goal is to be treated fairly.
Getting fair treatment is always a dangerous goal, particularly when you have very good reason to believe you’ve been treated unfairly; even in battles over basic rights, victories are rare, hard-won and sometimes require involvement by the Supreme Court.
No matter how black and white your dispute may seem, you still have little control over how others treat and react to you; most administrators regard accusations of unfairness as a personal insult and potential legal attack. Sometimes, love wins, but more often, fear does. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 18, 2015
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At this point in history, when China, North Korea, and the St. Louis Cardinals are out to steal our classified information, it’s hard not to feel a little paranoid a lot of the time. While the healthy kind of suspicion that used to alert us to danger in the jungle now alerts us to possible identity theft, the unhealthy kind spams our brains with plenty of false alerts and often makes us miserable. So if you find yourself excessively afraid, don’t panic about your panic. Do your own investigation, in your own way, and then do what’s necessary to protect yourself. Then you can learn to ignore false worry and focus on the important threats (the Cardinals) instead.
I recently went through an airport screening and got pulled aside for an extra exam. As I waited while the hand swabbing was being processed, a security officer took a long time looking at her computer. Strictly for security purposes, she said, ever since 9/11. Afterwards, I found myself becoming paranoid about whether the government was spying on me, and whether it might include the IRS, FBI, etc. The security area is always being filmed. Now I have a desire to complain to the government about my treatment and the suspicious way they handled me. Common sense says to let it go, but that is what nice people always do. My goal is to figure out whether my common sense should prevail.
We like to think we don’t get paranoid without good reason; as Kurt Cobain once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” On the other hand, the scariest forces conspiring against him turned out to be in his own head.
Like pop culture phenomena and the mythology of dead rock stars, feelings of being watched and plotted against, once triggered, take on a life of their own.
Paranoid thoughts are probably part of a neurological reaction that’s most likely triggered by some situation that is traumatic, spooky, or hard to explain. Once started, however, paranoid feelings don’t stop, no matter how sure you are that the only thing after you is your shadow. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 11, 2015
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While the old saying may be that the best way to make God laugh is to make a plan, there is something to be said for preparedness in the face of uncertainty. Of course, if you’re very nervous, you’ll never feel prepared enough, and if you’re unaware of the real dangers, you’ll risk becoming overconfident. So learn how to be open to doubt when you have a problem to manage. You may not feel as passionately certain about your position, but you’re more likely to be persuasive while side-stepping conflict and making a Higher Power giggle.
After several years of separation, I am now negotiating a divorce settlement to secure my future. My ex has a history of dishonesty and is with a woman who resents his long history with me and uses ultimatums and pressure to influence his rather weak behavior. We are on reasonable terms, however, and I have learned to disengage and put aside strong emotions in my dealings with him. He is all for settling by mediation but I feel vulnerable as trust is lacking and I need to get a good deal here. I am having an experienced divorce lawyer advise me through the mediation process with a back up plan of asking him to take over if I am unhappy with the progress. I am meeting with my lawyer soon and then must negotiate with my ex regarding dividing our assets and dismantling the legal side of our long marriage, and I’m not absolutely confident that my ex and I will be able to get through the process without a lot of unnecessary and destructive hostility. My goal here is to find a way to focus on a secure future, to protect myself from being ripped off and to avoid falling into the trap of high conflict/low resolution angry exchange that was my default setting in the marriage.
When entering a hostile negotiation, it’s always tempting to, in the words of Bull Durham, “assert your presence with authority.” And it might feel smart to set the tone that you’re tough and won’t be fucked with, but more often it makes the other person think that you’re so tough, you’re about to fuck with him, and it’s all downhill from there.
It’s natural to be nervous, but it’s more important to remind yourself of all the smart things you’ve done to keep this process from getting ugly. Or to at least keep an ugly process from becoming a disaster. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 14, 2015
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The best way to test someone’s ability may be to put them in a high pressure situation—a mock trial, dinner with a spouse’s divorced parents, Kobayashi Maru, etc.—but the best way to test their character is to see how much responsibility they’re willing to take for things if they go horribly wrong. The ability to read and take criticism depends far more on personality traits and reflex than reason and judgment; that’s why Assholes are amazingly good at pinning responsibility on other people (which is why therapy usually has so little to offer) and nice people are good at figuring out how they caused it to rain. In any case, if you judge yourself as you would anyone else, you’re more likely to use logic rather than instinct. Then you can figure out whether you owe an apology or not, and to whom, and others can figure out whether you’re solid enough to grant a second chance.
I’m usually OK with being single and childless—I’ve had some bad relationships that were far worse than being single, so being independent seems like a fine alternative, and kids will come when I’m ready. When I look at Facebook on Mother’s Day, however, and see pictures of my friends looking all happy with their kids and happy little families, I start to get depressed and hate myself. I’m sure that part of the problem is that my own mother died a couple years ago. My goal is to figure out why the happiness of others makes me feel like such a loser.
Mother’s Day, like weddings, birthdays (including that of Jesus Christ), and all other days that celebrate someone with gift giving, are usually doomed to cause as much pain as pleasure, and sometimes more.
The intention is to make someone feel appreciated and loved by giving them time, love, and shit they don’t need, but it often winds up making more people, including the honoree, feel worse by forcing them to consider all the time, love, and shit they don’t have. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 11, 2015
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Humans have long struggled to control strong emotions—to put limits on our heart’s desires or angry thirst for justice—but those emotions can become even more dangerous when they push us to try to control other people. You may want to control someone because you love him, or you may hate someone because she’s trying to control you, but in any battle for control, be it over passions, loved ones, or central Asia, there are very few victories. If you can tolerate those urges without allowing them to drive your priorities and control your mouth, however, you can avoid an epic struggle. You might not be in control, but at least you’ll be free.
My stepfather recently went to the doctor and got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and some other things. This means that he would have to stop drinking and smoking. It’s been a month or two since then though and he hasn’t done a thing. I feel so angry and scared for him whenever I see him making a drink or smoking because it’s like he’s just pretending it will go away. Some of his logic is that some people smoke and drink for years and they live to be 90, but his parents deal with some pretty life-threatening health risks. I think to myself, “doesn’t he realize how serious these issues can get?” I talked to my mother about it and she says that he said he won’t give up drinking entirely, if at all. I feel so incensed because he is making us watch him ruin his body and his health. I know it would be hard for him but I feel like he should just suck it up, because if he doesn’t want to do it for himself, shouldn’t he be doing it for us? We’ve talked to him about it and he just blows us off. I think he is an alcoholic and I don’t know what to do. I can barely look at him but I want to help him. I don’t think he will ever admit to his problem and he won’t ever go get help for it. My goal is to figure out a plan because I can’t stand to see him kill himself like this.
When you share a strong bond with someone, you don’t just have feelings for them, but with them; it’s hard to watch someone you love suffering because, when you really care about him, you’ll experience his suffering, as well. The pain you feel if you lose him, however, will be yours to bear alone.
Trying to steer him away from possible distress, however, often makes your own distress worse, because you can’t control his decisions, addictions, or decisions about addictions, and pushing usually causes push back. You can share each other’s pain, even if it comes from accidentally hurting each other. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 23, 2015
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Unlike territorial boundaries, which are marked on maps, with road signs, or even—looking at you Canada—guarded by polite-yet-firm officers in fun hats, interpersonal boundaries are often much more ambiguous and rarely agreed upon. Still, people who worry about invisible boundaries and try in vain to locate them are more likely to blame themselves for an apparent violation, whereas people who don’t notice even well-marked boundaries are likely to blame the guards that reprimands them. Before you become your own, impolite border patrol, get a good idea of what boundaries you think are reasonable, whether you’ve respected them, and whether your can stay on course or rethink your maps in the future.
I can’t stop wondering what I could have done to keep my roommate from angrily breaking our lease at the last minute. He claims it was impossible to live with me because I was a shitty roommate who stayed up too late Skyping with my girlfriend in the living room and making noise (she’s working overseas for six months and the wifi sucks in my room, so it was fairly unavoidable). If I’d known that we were being loud or bothering him, I would have immediately searched for an alternative, but I really didn’t know he could hear us. And I tried to keep quiet anyway, wore headphones, and was always PG when he was home, but it obviously didn’t work. I knew he might have been bothered about something, but the first time he told me what he was pissed off about was when he told me he was leaving in two weeks. I feel like a jerk for what I’ve done, but I’m also terrified about finding someone new so I can still afford to live here. My goal is to figure out what I did wrong so it doesn’t happen again.
Roommate dynamics are often tricky, especially in situations where the only thing you have in common with the person you share your most personal space with is the inability to afford your own apartment.
Even so, when someone whom you’ve lived with departs on bad terms, it’s hard not to feel as if you’ve failed, even if they’re a near-stranger whom you don’t like very much and wouldn’t spend time with in any other context.
Most conflicts in roommate situations arise from the fact that parties often assume that their boundaries are the norm and are thus universally understood and respected, despite the fact that people’s ideas of what’s appropriate in a living space can vary wildly, e.g., some people don’t mind sharing their food while others believe in separate, padlocked fridges. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 16, 2015
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It’s not great to be a parent who is effective at doing the wrong thing any more than it is to be ineffective at doing the right thing; there’s no job out there with less correlation between effort and results, and with such high stakes besides. Yes, you should get credit for good intentions, even when they get you nowhere, and get away from bad intentions, especially when they get you and/or your kids into trouble. Usually, however, when your goals and methods are realistic and helpful, you have a better chance of accomplishing them and getting the job done.
My daughter is about to graduate from a very impressive college after getting great grades, and I’m very proud of her, but I can’t understand why she’s not trying to look for a good job or a reasonable career. Instead, she wants to defend the downtrodden, so she’s looking for work for an NGO in a troubled part of the world or trying to get an internship with the Innocence Project. She’s had a privileged childhood and a great education she didn’t have to pay for—but that I had to work hard to pay for, thanks very much—so I tell her she should be thinking about using her advantages to get ahead and make a future for herself, rather than worrying about people who’ve had all the bad luck I’ve protected her from. My goal is to get her to take care of herself rather than putting herself at risk for the sake of people she’s got nothing in common with.
Aside from the fact that you believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and your daughter is drawn to helping the downtrodden, you’ve got some reason to worry about the risks of her young idealism.
Her heart is in the right place, but her desired work may take her to the kinds of scary places filled with the scary people you feel you’ve worked hard to protect her from.
In addition, you know that life in this country doesn’t provide much of a safety net, so your daughter’s future security will depend a great deal on her ability to find a good job and save money. In other words, if she doesn’t use the advantages you’ve given her to find a lucrative career, she might end up downtrodden herself. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 6, 2015
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Unless you’re a GPS, a chess robot, or a politician, it’s likely that, when it comes to relationships, passion motivates your decision-making more than strategic interests. That’s why we want to reward betrayal with rejection and neediness with nurturing; unfortunately, we forget that caring for and managing our own lives are our primary responsibilities, as well as far more under our control. So put reactive feelings aside until you’ve decided what is most likely to meet your self-responsibilities; that will usually be the more meaningful, most carefully plotted course of action, in the long run, than reacting to what’s been done to you.
I owe my mentor a huge amount—he stuck by me through a long period of unemployment and repeatedly wrote me terrific recommendations—and I thought I’d landed in heaven when he finally arranged for me to work directly for him doing large-company sales, which is what I’ve always wanted, at a time when I needed work more than ever since my youngest daughter got sick. So I was shocked to discover that, once I started working for him, he was often belittling, critical, and frequently humiliating. I’ve asked around (discretely, of course) and found out that other people also think he’s often overbearing and mean; he’s actually been spoken to about it, but he’s so good at what he does that no one is going to fire him. I guess I should feel better that his treatment isn’t personal, but it still feels like a bit of a betrayal to have this man who’s always given me so much support become a source of daily opposition. So my goal is to figure out what to do with him and this job.
Don’t let yourself be distracted by your feelings for what must feel like a betrayal; yes, you should stand up for yourself and you have a right to feel hurt and furious, but standing up for yourself doesn’t mean standing up to anyone else.
That’s an oxymoronic idea that makes your feelings for an abusive Asshole more important than your own values and strategic goals, and thus makes you a slave to their Asshole-ishness. Just because he hurts your feelings doesn’t mean you have to let him hurt your career.
Your goal then isn’t to figure out what to do with your nasty mentor—his views and behavior don’t even matter to management—but to figure out what’s best for yourself, your sick kid, your healthy kids, etc. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »