Posted by fxckfeelings on March 24, 2016
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As our reader from earlier this week made clear, it’s sometimes easier to blame yourself for bad luck than accept how little power we have over our luck in the first place. So before needlessly beating yourself up for false mistakes or claiming innocence and blaming fate entirely, take these five steps to evaluate whether you’re causing your bad luck or whether you’re caught being fate’s bitch.
1) Find the Facts
Do the detective work to gather any objective details that connect your actions and responsibilities with what went wrong; facts aren’t based on opinion, so if you hold yourself responsible because you were stupid or lazy, then you aren’t being a smart detective on the case, just a big jerk to yourself. Be specific about what your responsibilities were, what actually happened, when it happened, and how much damage occurred. If the facts show that your actions were, in fact, destructive, then it’s worth looking for larger patterns and help in managing your behavior.
2) Mind Your Motives
It’s easy to tell yourself something bad wouldn’t have happened if you had simply done something differently, e.g., if you’d only left the house ten minutes later or not stayed for that second cup of coffee, you could have prevented all this trouble. Before you go down the black hole of hypotheticals, however, ask yourself whether your choices were intentionally harmful or made you feel good but were thoughtless and potentially dangerous. If the answer is no, then your regrets are pointless, but if you did make knowingly bad choices, you have to work to manage negative impulses.
3) Think In the Third Person
If your friend were in the same situation and asked you whether she had done anything wrong, odds are you wouldn’t judge her as harshly as you judge yourself and blame her for being negligent, stupid or mean; even a stranger would be more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, with only an enemy rushing to condemn you so unforgivingly. Remember, friends don’t decide whether you’re super-smart or perfect, just whether you made reasonable decisions as an imperfect-but-trying-hard human being. So be a friend to yourself and judge accordingly.
4) Spell Out Your Standards
If you can’t get over a guilty feeling simply because things turned out very badly, ask yourself what specific rule you broke. Pretend you’re writing out five rules for people who have to manage the situation that caused you problems, for posting on the wall in the office kitchen of your mind, right near the sign about labeling your food in the fridge and not putting fish in the microwave. If you can’t spell out a rule that you broke, chances are the only rule you broke was, “don’t have bad luck.”
5) Seek Out Smart Opinions
Don’t let shame stop you from telling your story to a friend or professional, like a therapist or even a lawyer, whom you can trust to be impartial. Don’t choose someone who just wants to make you feel good or someone mean, but someone who likes you but is willing to tell it like it is. Present all the facts, asking whether you should have done things differently and, if so, is there a lesson to learn other than that sometimes life sucks. If, after all your opinion seeking, you find that the blame isn’t yours, it’s your responsibility to find a way to move on. If it becomes clear that there are things you could have done differently, your path forward involves finding ways to manage that behavior so it doesn’t mess with your luck in the future.
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 22, 2016
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It’s hard not to feel guilty when things go wrong, and guilty feelings may be particularly bad for just those who deserve them the least, i.e., those who are generally self-critical and insecure. If you’re someone who’s gone through a bad stretch and can’t help but feel bad and responsible for letting it happen, learn how to rely on specific information and common sense to figure out what you should really take responsibility for, if anything, and how to use your conclusions to fight a compulsive sense of having done something wrong. Instead of endless punishment, you deserve a fair assessment of the facts.
I often find myself on a streak of “wellbeing,” then out of nowhere I manage to fuck up whatever I had going for me, royally. Almost like I have a problem committing to something for too long. Just looking for some realistic advice as to why this may be. My goal is to figure out some realistic systems I could improvise to better cope with this dilemma.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 11, 2016
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Unlike with love, ‘tis better to have always been broke than to have known big bucks and lost them all. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you find yourself in the latter situation, you don’t need to find yourself poor in both cash and self-respect. Here are five ways to build pride when you’re poorer than you used to be.
1) Forget Myths About Former Success
You probably think your prior success was due to hard work, strong ability and perhaps some unique talent/chosen one status. If you re-examine the role of luck and remember the people you know who worked just as hard and got nowhere, it’ll become clear that you weren’t quite so chosen as you recall. When you realize you don’t control success, failure becomes less personal, and future success, should you be lucky enough to find it again, becomes that much sweeter.
2) Judge Job Quality Objectively
Since we’re often far too hard on ourselves, evaluate your employment situation as if you were considering a friend in the same position, using objective criteria to define good performance (and being a friend to yourself, as well). Never use criteria like how much you’re making, whether it’s more or less than before, or whether it’s more or less than your friends or, worse yet, enemies.
3) Don’t Avoid Downsizing Decisions
Cutting back has undoubtedly required painful and sometimes humiliating sacrifices, not just for yourself, but for your family, and often within judging distance of the neighbors. As much as you’d like to forget them, list them instead to remind yourself you had the courage to do what was necessary, even though it hurt.
4) Value Evaluation
Using the friend POV again, ask yourself how much you respect someone who is hardworking, happy, and rich versus one who lost his dough and is now hardworking but unhappy and poor, perhaps to the point of suffering. Remember your answer whenever you feel like a loser, and don’t hold back from reprimanding yourself for being a judgmental jerk.
5) Rate Effort, Not Outcome.
Without comparison to your former self or dreams of obscene wealth, evaluate your efforts to do a good job using the mental equipment and other resources that you actually have, not what you wish you had. If you’ve prevented discouragement from diminishing your effort, give yourself a high score. Just because you lost your good luck doesn’t mean you’ve lost your ability to work hard, try hard, and value what you do; you may have lost your wealth, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your worth.
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 9, 2016
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If you find yourself going from a higher income bracket to a lower one, you don’t just lose income; you also find yourself changing where you live, whom you socialize with, and how you feel about yourself as person. So don’t allow the lingering humiliation of downward mobility make you feel like a failure. Work hard, not just to climb back up, but to remember what success really is.
Although I know that the best thing to do is to live in the present, I have been reliving and brooding over my past mistakes (mainly professional ones) quite a bit recently. I had a much better financial situation in the past than I do now, what makes it almost impossible not to beat myself up since I keep comparing the “today me” with more successful “past me.” My goal is to be able to start again, fresh, having learned the lessons of such mistakes.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2015
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Earlier this week, we gave a reader advice about how to decide what to do about his broken marriage. Given the disconnect between the way you feel about a marriage and its true potential for benefit or harm in your life, it’s not an easy choice, so here’s a list of questions that will help you find its true value, regardless of your current feelings.
- Can I keep putting up with [habit that makes you nuts]?
Ask yourself whether there’s something specific about your partner you can’t tolerate—from the way he never replaces an empty roll of toilet paper to the way she never replenishes your shared bank account after spending too much money on booze—and whether it’s ever likely to change. Remember, people don’t change unless they decide they want to, for their own reasons, and, even then, trying hard is no guarantee. If it isn’t likely to change, consider whether it’s something you can put up with or not.
- Can s/he keep putting up with my [habit that makes your partner nuts]?
Ask yourself whether there’s something about you that your partner can’t stand—again, anything from just leaving your dishes in the sink to leaving for days on end without warning—and whether it’s in your power to change. If it is, decide whether you’re willing to change if changing might make the marriage work.
- Can I stop overreacting?
Ask yourself whether, under pressure from marital conflict, you’ve done things you think are wrong, passive-aggressive, or generally petty and destructive to your union. If so, consider whether you can clean up your act. Otherwise, you won’t know whether your bad behavior is responsible for ruining your marriage.
- Can I figure out the point of marriage in general?
Ask yourself, in a business-like way, what your goals are for a marriage, like companionship, acceptance, support during hard times, strengthened family ties, lower taxes, etc. Then rate your marriage according to these goals, and assess how your ability to reach those goals will be better/worse if your marriage ends, i.e., he might be a good companion and listener, but he’s not around when I really need him, so it might be better to find someone more reliable who’s less chatty and talk to a cat.
- Can I see through my rage?
Ask yourself whether your perspective is tainted by anger; a good partner may be infuriating, but also worth sticking it out with, while a bad partner may just make you sad. Instead, pay attention to your rating system, based on all the objective assessments above, which will tell you whether your marriage is good for your life, or whether you should start a new life as a single person.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 13, 2015
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Finding equilibrium in your life is hard; as we discussed earlier this week, creating balance in a family of unbalanced people is nearly impossible. In other families, however, you can coach someone into a new, more positive direction. In doing so, you can help them create more security in their own lives, improving their balance and strengthening your bonds instead of risking them.
I worry about my son because he’s had a hard time getting his life started since he graduated from college a few years ago. He’s very bright and was always a hard worker, but, right after he graduated, it took him a long time to get going and find a job, probably due to a combination of depression, anxiety, and no focus. In any case, he’s now working, but he needs a graduate degree if he wants to make a decent salary in his field and have any sort of financial security, and he never gets around to applying or even looking into possible local programs. He’s not touchy about being pushed, but I hate the idea of nagging him. My goal is to get him to see that he needs to do more if he really wants to be independent.
Helping kids get organized does not require nagging, just administration. Remember, a good boss doesn’t nag, just sets a clear direction for a good reason, assumes that’s what you want to do, and helps you get there. Take that approach as a parent, particularly when, as in your case, your son doesn’t get angry about being advised, encouraged, or incentivized. 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 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 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 »