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Fair' is a 4-letter word.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


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.
Dr. Lastname

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 »

Many Crappy Returns

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 8, 2015

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We spend endless amounts of time wishing happiness on our friends and pain on our enemies, if only because their respective happiness and misery gives us pleasure, as well; there’s at least one German word and a few nighttime soap operas that sum up the concept well. Trouble is, of course, that happiness is a deceptive drug and punishment has unintended consequences, so our cathartic needs are a poor guide for what we should actually do. Even if you can’t help but cheer on friends and flip off villains, don’t take any real action until you can carefully consider the limits of what you actually control and how you wish things to turn out. Then you’re much more likely to get a glücklich ending.
Dr. Lastname

I’m worried about my sister’s recent engagement because she hasn’t known the guy that long and she’s been very vulnerable since her divorce from her unfaithful ex-husband. On the other hand, she seems so happy after such a long period of misery, and I think that’s all that really counts. The guy is probably fine, but we just don’t know much about him, and things have moved very quickly. I know that if I ask her to slow things down, she’ll tell me how happy she is, implying that I’m trying to rain on her parade. My goal is to help her be happy.

As we’ve said many times, a good marriage should provide many things—a trustworthy partner to share responsibilities with, the ability to use the carpool lane, someone to always take the blame—but immediate happiness is not one of them.

Marriage is a forever commitment, and happiness is a fleeting emotion; marrying someone because they make you happy makes as much sense as getting hungry and investing everything in a restaurant. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Evaluation Route

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 1, 2015

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The only thing people are worse at accurately evaluating than “family values” politicians and Marvel movies is their own character. That’s the drawback of judging something using your emotions and expectations, not facts and fairness; it makes us as apt to judge ourselves too harshly as to excuse ourselves too readily. In any case, don’t trust your self-judging instincts until you’ve examined the facts, reviewed your standards, and decided how you would judge a friend under similar circumstances. Then, however you feel, stand by your verdict/review of Ant Man and act accordingly.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve lost a few really close friends over the years, one after the other, and it’s got me wondering whether I’m really a jerk (or “Asshole™”?) but don’t know it. Most recently, my best friend froze me out when he accused me of hating his boyfriend; I swear I kept my thoughts about him to myself, and besides, I didn’t think the guy was so terrible, but either way, I was shocked when my friend dropped me and I had to hear from someone else that he was married. Before that was the friend who was always mad at me but then went nuclear when I suggested spending less time together, then a handful of ex-boyfriends who think I’m the devil, a job or two I was awkwardly let go from without warning…when everything was happening, I thought I was doing the right thing, but with a such a long enemies list, I have trouble trusting my judgment. My goal is to figure out whether I’m just bad at choosing friends or bad at seeing myself for the jerk/Asshole™ I really am.

Since the first rule of Asshole™ club is never wondering if you’re an Asshole™, you probably aren’t one. On the other hand, the first warning sign that someone’s an Asshole™ is learning that they’ve got a list of people who’ve wronged them that’s longer than the list of ingredients on a can of Pringles, so your concern is understandable.

Of course, everyone can act like an asshole sometimes, but that doesn’t an Asshole™ make, especially since you probably regret that behavior while an Asshole™ would expect a trophy for it. What you need then is a reliable, objective way of examining the moral value of your actions (and the value of those friendships, as well). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Messed Friends

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 30, 2015

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When relationships fail—and unfortunately, most relationships are as likely to succeed as a Ron Paul presidential campaign—most people focus on figuring out what went wrong at the end. The more useful insight to search for is what went wrong at the beginning, because the problems probably started when you chose the wrong person to trust or the wrong reason to get attached in the first place. When you need to figure out what went wrong, don’t trust your intuition or your version of events. Instead, assess relationships, past, present and future, according to your standards of decent behavior and moderate expectations. Then you’ll be able to determine what went wrong and whether you need to be more selective or more reasonable the next time you put yourself in the running.
Dr. Lastname

Years ago, I was hired by a wealthy guy to plan one of his big parties, and he really liked my taste, so we hit it off as friends. We enjoyed both working together and socializing with our spouses over the years, so I assumed we were good friends, even though I knew he had been very critical and dismissive of other people who worked for him and had a reputation as imperious and nasty. I don’t know what happened but, shortly after planning for our last event got underway, he started to show me the same nasty side he’s turned on others, blaming me for things that weren’t my fault, not accepting explanations, and making demanding phone calls. When he finally fired me, it was a relief but I also felt hurt and tortured by thoughts of what I could have done to prevent this. My goal is to deal with my feelings and figure out a way of getting some relief.

As a provider of luxury services, you’re probably aware of the “princely patron” syndrome: the wealthy client who acts like a generous big shot in return for attention and admiration. Such people are also known as monsters, Trumps, and, most relevant to your situation, Royal Assholes™.

He may give glowing recommendations for you to famous friends and an intimate position in his life, but if you don’t give him full royal deference in return, you may be headed for the gallows. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Sick Change

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015

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Of the many things out there that people can be afraid of—spiders, heights, gays—the one thing that truly scares the shit out of all of us is change. Whether it’s good or bad, change is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar is inherently frightening. Sometimes, particularly when it’s forced on us, we think change will turn out badly and it doesn’t, but when we really don’t want change, we try to prevent it, and that can be at our own peril. Don’t let neediness or fear control your view of the future (or marriage). Whether you’re facing or adapting to change, think through what’s good for you, and you’ll become better at forecasting its impact and taking pride in your brave response.
Dr. Lastname

After hip surgery, I felt like I was in a fog…it wasn’t just the physical adjustment, but there was a freak complication during the procedure, and my brain might have lost oxygen for a bit. I came out of it with no energy, and my memory was shot. The doctor said that was normal, but now it’s a year later and I still don’t have the energy or mental sharpness that I used to depend on. My husband says I’m different but that he likes the new me just as much as the old one, if not more, because he thinks I’m calmer and a better listener. I think he’s just being sweet, so I’m still afraid to spend time with old friends or co-workers so I don’t frighten them and humiliate myself since I just feel slow and stupid. My goal is to get my old self back and stop being a pale imitation of the smart go-getter I used to be.

When you lose something great about yourself, whether it’s the ability to strike out the side in the big leagues or make it as a supermodel or just remember the names of everyone at the party, it’s hard not to dwell on everything you’ve lost and search desperately for a way to get it back.

Unfortunately, change is inevitable with age and it’s always uncomfortable, even when it’s welcomed. You can find the courage to withstand a career-salvaging Tommy John or Tummy Tuck. When the changes are more mental than physical, however, there’s almost nothing you can do, even though you’d give anything to turn back time.

You’re right to try to get back to your old self, at least at first; that’s what rehabilitation is about, for a limited time. Almost always, however, when there’s a permanent component to an injury, your goal needs to shift from total recovery to management of a permanent impairment. That’s when you transition to becoming a sportscaster, a trophy wife, or, in your case, someone slightly different. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Restraining Day

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 19, 2015

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The issue of control—what you’re responsible for controlling (not much), whether it’s possible (not often), and what happens when you try (not good)—is a frequent topic around here. Our frequent negativity is due to the fact that people often try to control something they can’t, be it in themselves or others, while they should instead be trying harder to control their response to their helplessness. Fact is, the inability to control something doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, but that that something can’t be controlled, period, so redefine your responsibilities instead of pursuing the control you wish you had but never (ever) will.
Dr. Lastname

Since my father died unexpectedly last month, I’ve found myself bursting into tears without warning, and I know it’s upsetting my children. We were all close to him, but he and I had a special bond, and his death has left a huge hole in my life. I’ve never felt anything like this before—he’s the first person close to me that I’ve lost, and lost suddenly—and I’ve never lost control like this in front of the kids. My wife says grief is natural, but I’m worried that I’m really acting crazy and scaring them, and I just can’t stop. My goal is to get a grip before I hurt my kids.

While the pain of grief, like depression, is uncontrollable, what you do with it isn’t; some people ease the pain with booze, hibernation, and/or memorial tattoos. It doesn’t make a lot of sense then that you’re beating yourself up for some tears.

You’re not making bad judgments due to your grief, but, instead of expecting to get rid of it or hide it, ask yourself what your goals should be to manage it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »


Posted by fxckfeelings on March 2, 2015

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Human beings have figured out how to get to space, train a dog to recognize letters, and make a sandwich where the bread is actually chicken, but we’re still generally at a loss when confronted with the offer of help. It shouldn’t be that confusing, but accepting help can be necessary while feeling humiliating, or it can be humiliating while feeling necessary, and either way, the answer is remarkably unclear. Once you know what you need the help for and whether it’s necessary for your personal goals, however, then you’ll know whether it’s good for you, regardless of how it feels or looks to anyone else. It might never be easy to accept or refuse help (or eat meat on two pieces of poultry), but it’s easy to figure out whether accepting is the right thing to do.
Dr. Lastname

I know I’ve been a total fuck-up for the last few years, and my family thinks I’ve blown through all my savings and gone into debt besides, but the truth is worse than they think. And because I know it’s all my fault, I get really depressed and angry at myself, which makes it impossible to get the courage and energy to try to get back on track. I’m too afraid and ashamed to talk to anyone, so my friends and work contacts have pretty much disappeared. Insanely, my parents and brothers still care enough to offer to help me get back on my feet, but I know they’re just offering out of pity, and I won’t be able to live with myself when I lose their money and let them down. My goal is to rescue myself without my family having to pick me up.

You might have thought your mom, little league coach, and/or high school girlfriend were full of shit when they tried to console you for a poor result, but they were right when they said that a good effort is more valuable than a great deal of success. Equating success with winning would explain why you feel like such a loser right now.

The higher your standards and/or self-opinion, the deeper the rut when your winning streak ends and the steeper the metaphorical climb back to an acceptable normal. That’s why, at a time you most need energy, focus, and social skills, shame for being less-than-excellent keeps you trapped in an emotional crevasse.

The only antidote to feeling like you’re insanely ungreat is to remember that life is hard, luck is important, and you’re always doing right if you’re ready to work and trying to be independent. Basically, you can’t hold yourself responsible for success or failure, just for the effort you make to achieve the former and avoid the latter. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »


Posted by fxckfeelings on February 26, 2015

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Between for-profit education and for-bullshit accreditation, it’s harder than ever to figure out who’s actually knowledgeable and who just has access to a printer. It’s just as hard to figure out your own level of expertise when you have to weigh in on personal matters; being an outsider gives you better perspective, even if it makes you wonder whether you belong, but being an insider can ruin your perspective, even though it makes you feel connected and close. Either way, take perspective whenever you can get it and don’t blame yourself if you must sacrifice comfort and closeness in the process. You may not be a certified expert, but your opinion will be valuable nonetheless.
Dr. Lastname

My immediate family has never been easy, in part because my parents went in for favoritism— dad adored my sister and mom my brother while I had to fend for myself. Now we are middle-aged and they are old and infirm and my father is ill. This has set off a toxic dynamic between my siblings who are having furious rows and exchanging horrible insults over the burden of our parents’ care. I travelled 400 miles to visit them and my sister walked out of our parents’ home at 2 am and found a hotel after a shouting match (which I stayed out of). Even though I did not have a happy childhood and was nobody’s favorite, I do wish to help them through their final days without being caught up in the warlike dynamic that my father’s impending death seems to have unleashed. My goal is to balance the demands of my own life, be a good daughter to my dying father and confused elderly mother, and avoid being drawn into the rivalry of my younger siblings who were both favored over me.

Kids who feel like losers are often comforted with the promise that it’s the outsiders who grow into the most successful adults; whether you’re talking about surviving high school or a tough home life, the popular kids peak early, and the weirdoes wait longer to achieve much more.

Your outsider upbringing might not have brought you wealth or an Oscar, but it has given you more strength and perspective than your more popular siblings could understand.

Your siblings’ closeness to your parents might have been a gift when you were kids, but it can become a liability at this stage if it also gives them an unlimited sense of responsibility for your parents’ welfare, and also plays into a blaming sibling dynamic. They end up mad at themselves, and at each other, for not doing a better job.

It’s an impossible position for anyone to put themselves in because there are obviously times when you can’t take care of your parents, or when the best care in the world can’t spare them from the pain and deterioration of aging. If you don’t know the limits of your responsibility, there’s no end to the guilt you can impose on yourself or those whom you feel aren’t doing their fair share.

Instead of feeling endlessly burdened by your parents’ decline or angry at your siblings for not doing enough, you can stay focused on helping out and staying civil. Perhaps your parents’ neglect wasn’t heartless, but an ingenious way of preparing you to be the one child able to stay positive and avoid a meltdown at just the time when they most need to feel that the family is calm and united.

Celebrate the wisdom and skills you’ve gained as a family outsider who had to take care of herself. Then share your wisdom with your siblings by respecting your own contribution to your parents’ support and showing little inclination to judge theirs. Show pleasure in their company and regret for the fact that no amount of support can make your parents’ lives much easier.

Being nobody’s favorite seems to have helped you to be kinder and less reactive than your siblings. If you stand by your goals of being helpful and avoiding conflict then your parents will benefit, perhaps your brother and sister will learn from your example, and you’ll achieve more than most people, cool or uncool, ever do.

“I feel like I was never embraced by my family and that what’s left is disintegrating, but I have my own ability to maintain positive relationships and will not let fear and guilt drag me into conflict.”

I love and support my daughter in almost all things—she’s my only child, and the one good thing my piece of shit ex-husband ever gave me—but she and I are fighting all the time these days because I told her that marrying her boyfriend is a bad idea. After the bloodbath of a divorce she lived through with her father and me, I thought she’d never consider marriage, ever, but now she’s really set on marrying this guy and really upset that I can’t support it. I know they’ve been dating for a long time, that he’s never hurt her, and that they aren’t doing this for any obviously stupid reasons. But for whatever reason, I don’t totally trust this guy, and I don’t think it’s worth the risk. My goal is to get my kid to respect my insight instead of fighting with me and ending up heartbroken.

Protecting your child from harm is certainly part of a parent’s job, and your bad marriage gave you good reason to regard marriage as painful and potentially harmful. As kids grow up, however, your ability to protect them diminishes, as does your responsibility to do so. So no, you can’t always stop them from making mistakes and suffering, but you can stop feeling responsible while continuing to help them learn from the things that go wrong along the way.

If you make yourself responsible for your daughter’s marital choice, you will fight with her, hurt your relationship, and drive her into the arms of a guy you don’t trust. Instead, remind yourself that her boyfriend is her business; your job is to teach her how to screen a partner for trustworthiness and learn from mistakes.

Begin by asking yourself what you learned from your broken marriage, putting aside your feelings of anger and betrayal. Pay attention to the information you had at your disposal when you first married your husband: what you knew about his reliability, behavior in past relationships, and trustworthiness. Don’t fault yourself for being overly trusting or foolish back then, just ask yourself whether you were diligent in looking at or uncovering evidence of his trustworthiness.

Without bad-mouthing your ex, share your wisdom with your daughter regarding good methods for doing a complete pre-partnership investigation into trustworthiness and compatibility. Don’t argue with her about whether her boyfriend is a good guy, because she needs to figure that out herself.

Feel free to disagree, if necessary, about her methodology or data interpretation, but don’t close yourself off to the possibility that you may be overly critical of her boyfriend and somewhat biased against the institution of marriage altogether. What was wrong for you might not be wrong for her, especially if she’s given her decision careful thought.

Your goal isn’t to get her to respect your insight into her boyfriend’s character, but to respect her own ability to observe behavior and understand what it means. As long as she can learn from your mistakes, as well as her own, your discussions will strengthen your relationship as her chief coach and booster and help her find a good partner (or at least one much better than her dad).

“I don’t have good feelings about my daughter’s current boyfriend, but I will urge her to gather objective evidence and weigh it realistically without letting our disagreements become personal.”

Stress Direct

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 12, 2015

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We often say that being anxious has its benefits; after all, if you didn’t have nervous genes, your ancestors wouldn’t have been on edge enough to notice that angry mammoth by the watering hole and you wouldn’t be here today. Anxiety doesn’t work, however, if you’re so stressed that you can’t get the nerve to even leave your cave, or if you refuse to see a problem because it’s stressful and insist the charging mammoth is just a big happy dog. In any case, don’t let the unpleasant nature of stress push you to obsess over it or ignore it; learn to evaluate danger, whether you feel stressed or relaxed, and you’ll become better at both protecting yourself and appreciating the security you’ve created. Hopefully, your ancestors will appreciate your efforts.
Dr. Lastname

I feel that nothing in my life is going in a good direction. I’ve learned an immense amount from my former båsusiness partner—she cashed out last spring–but I don’t think I’m that good at sales without her strategy behind me, so I’m short of money, as usual. The business itself is valuable, so I’m not out on the street yet, but I’m not eager to sell because every single one of these jokers making offers can’t be trusted not to ruin everything I worked so hard to create. Basically, I don’t see anything working out, and I don’t see what I can do about it except lose everything and die penniless. My goal is to figure out how to get out of this trap.

If pessimists see the glass as half-empty and optimists see it as half-full, anxious/depressive people see it as evidence that they’re failures who ruin everything they touch. And that’s true even if the glass is full to the brim, because they can see evidence of their worthlessness in anything if they squint hard enough.

My guess is that you’re good at many things, but self-assessment isn’t one of them. You may not feel anxious or depressed, but you’re describing the same sort of distorted perspective. After all, most people who start and own their own successful business feel trapped. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Keep an Even Zeal

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 9, 2015

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Passion, love, and misery are like the rich foods of emotion; trying to banish them from your life altogether is as impossible (and saddening) as attempting to consume them non-stop. Passion especially, like a buttery steak, always gives apparent meaning to life, but too much can push you into taking dumb risks and too little can cause you to undervalue who you are. Ultimately, there are other values that matter more, like thoughtfulness, patience, and fiber, which is why moderation is key. If you can avoid pursuing heavy foods or feelings to excess, and remember the real basics, then they can enrich your life without weighing it down.
Dr. Lastname

What is love? Some might say its a kaleidoscope of happiness, fun, visions coming together of two different personalities to settle for a better future. Love gives you a canvas to paint your future with colors of happiness and joy. For me it was a life changing experience because it happened with someone who was completely different from me. I first thought it could change us for the better¬—two people coming together to create a better future with a scope of mending oneself for the happiness of other, and it didn’t seem a hard task considering the happiness it involved—but I was shattered to learn that it was just a sham. My point of view didn’t matter, the pain didn’t matter, the agony didn’t matter, all that mattered was her nature, her attitude, her look out towards things. It took me four long years to come to this reality but it was too late…all it took was a whisker of a second to wake from that slumber of false hope. When it did it was all too late but for the better of both the individuals because four years of struggle were prevented from turning into a lifelong of pain. My goal is to remain outside the bubble of so-called stigma called LOVE.

To paraphrase the famous Homer Simpson quote about alcohol, love is the cure to and the source of all of life’s problems. It’s given us excellent pop songs, drunk wedding toasts, and, for most people, moments of true happiness. It’s also given us terrible pop songs, sober divorces, and, of course, lessons in true misery.

As such, it’s not unnatural to want to recreate lost love if you feel, as so many do, that it gave meaning and importance to everything you did and do. One way of holding onto it is just expounding on it with all the meaning and emotion the written word can allow, as you’ve done above.

The danger, as you point out, is that love can draw you to someone who has different values, wants different things, and is maybe just not a nice person. It blinds you to dangers and the risk of breakup while offering such a strong illusion of deep meaning. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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