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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Cast Iron Boundary

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.
Dr. Lastname

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 »

Foe Future

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 15, 2015

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When it comes to navigating through problems in a relationship, you can’t always trust your ability to recognize the difference between major issues that can be worked through and those which mark the end of your journey altogether. Even if you can see what terrain lies ahead, there may still be no clear route to getting past the issue. So don’t assume you should have an intuitive relationship GPS to tell you how to overcome problems and know which are predictable or your fault. When things go wrong, re-analyze your plans and prepare to accept sudden changes to your destination.
Dr. Lastname

After some rocky years, I’ve worked hard to build a supportive relationship with my son, but I’m worried about his new girlfriend. He’s crazy about her, and she seems to like him, but she was so surprisingly critical of him and everyone else at our first meeting that I left feeling very worried. He explained afterwards that she’s very sensitive because she was abused and that she’d made it clear to him that she was sorry that she had lashed out, but that didn’t do much to ease my concerns. Then again, if I asked him why she treats him badly and why he puts up with it, he would just stop talking to me. But if I say nothing, I’m worried I will lose him to a very unhappy relationship with a difficult woman. My goal is to save him from rejection or worse without possibly sacrificing what we’ve struggled to maintain.

Any time parents take on the responsibility of saving their kids, there’s often a huge sacrifice involved, i.e., a savings account, a kidney, or, if you’re literally taking a bullet for your kid, a pulse.

Thankfully, saving your kid from a bad relationship need not be your responsibility, nor must it require a huge sacrifice of any kind, from losing your life to your fragile relationship with your son. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fie, Anxiety!

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 3, 2014

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Sometimes anxiety and depression are not illnesses, though they may feel like it; they’re part of every human’s normal alarm system, warning you that something painful or soon-to-be-dangerous needs your attention. When anxiety and depression randomly tell you that the world sucks, however, that’s when you cross the line from normal to unnecessary, requiring attention. Either way, never rush to discount what anxiety and depression have to tell you about the world, but never believe them until you’ve assessed the alarm and reached your own conclusion.
Dr. Lastname

My anxiety has been better lately, but it kicked up last weekend after my roommate’s friends broke a window in our apartment while they were tossing around a football. My roommate’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t want to pay for the window because he says the landlord doesn’t take good care of our apartment in a bunch of other ways. Now I’m starting to worry about what will happen when the landlord sees the damage and whether it will come out of my security deposit, which seems unfair, since I wasn’t even here. Anyway, my goal is to figure out whether I should up my medication because the stress from this whole thing is really hard to take.

Anxiety, like tiredness or anger, isn’t inherently problematic; if we never felt these things, it would be a big problem, and a probable sign of drug use, lobotomy, or being dead.

The issue, of course, comes with feeling anxious too much, or tired all the time, or angry at trees for being lazy. The current anxiety you’re feeling is the regular kind; it’s your response to your roommate’s actions that need rethinking. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Social Insecurity

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 6, 2014

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Much is made of the inextricable link between trust and love, but the assumption seems to be that you can’t love someone else unless you can trust them (to listen, keep it in their pants, rescue you from a sinking ship, etc.). Just as important, however, is the ability to trust yourself and your own judgment when entering into a relationship; if you have too little confidence, you can sabotage your relationships, and if you have too much, you’ll make commitments that won’t last and will hurt like hell when they break down. Learn to trust yourself by gathering facts, observing carefully, and using common sense to judge your friendships and make smart decisions. Then, regardless of over or under-confidence, you’ll be able to love someone you trust and have trust in whom you love.
Dr. Lastname

I am in a good relationship and have been now for a while (around 9 months). But none of my relationships seem to last more than a couple of years (I’m now in my 40s), and I worry that some of them I have sabotaged myself. I am at a point in this relationship where we have acknowledged that we love each other and have started making plans months into the future (nothing like moving in together, but definitely trips and such), and suddenly, I have this fear I’m going to lose him. But not just lose him—lose him to someone, and that someone is my friend. I had a friend when I was younger that flirted with my boyfriends, and even though nothing ever happened, it bothered me that she never understood these boundaries, didn’t have a sense of loyalty towards me, and used her looks and sexuality to get attention from those that should be considered off limits. Now I have a newer friend who is younger than me—she’s very pretty, smart, and single, and she has a tendency to try to connect with my boyfriend in ways that I am unable to by finding the gaps and honing in and I don’t like it. I am acting as though they have already run away together, or have a secret relationship. Is my own insecurity causing me to worry about this? My goal is to alleviate these fears of betrayal.

Having fun friends with fickle boundaries may damage your calm, but you do yourself more damage by letting them distract you from the real issues surrounding your boyfriend and your future together. Instead of worrying about whether your gal pals have good intentions, focus on doing the necessary homework to find out whether your boyfriend is a good match.

Assuming you’re not able to stop yourself from being insecure about your friends and boyfriends, use your insecurity to assess your boyfriend’s trustworthiness. Maybe you can also use it to get better at screening friends in the future, but for now, believe it or not, your best weapon against your paranoia is paranoia itself.

Instead of trying to feel better by talking about your fears and asking for reassurance, use them to review your boyfriend’s history with women and your girlfriend’s history as a femme fatale. Your anxiety will drive you to ask the right questions, and, with any luck, the right answers will allow you to tell that anxiety to shut up. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Messed Friend

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 3, 2014

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One of the common mistakes in one-sided relationships is that the wrong side—the jilted side—tends to feel responsible. People tend to blame themselves when the other person doesn’t do their share, act respectfully, or just return a damned text. In any case, talking about it doesn’t usually change character, behavior, or interpersonal chemistry, so trust your judgment and do what’s necessary to find friends whose commitment meets your standards and drop those who don’t. When you use good judgment in relationships, there’s no need to blame yourself for someone else’s bad behavior.
Dr. Lastname

Please Note: In honor of both Canada Day and Independence Day in the US, we’re going to take Monday off so we have the time to celebrate most of North America. We’ll be back on Thursday, 7/10.

I’ve been going out with a girl I get along with pretty well, and we’ve been comfortable about making it exclusive for the past eight months. I always have the feeling I shouldn’t push things too far though, and the other day, I really needed her help because I was moving into a new place. When I asked her, she said sorry, but she needed the time to see some friends and take it easy. It pissed me off, but now I wonder whether I’m just being needy. My goal is to figure out whether I should say something or whether her behavior means a whole lot.

There’s a world of difference between being needy and simply needing; being needy usually causes nothing but anger and bickering, but needing a little deserved help is nothing unusual, and nothing your average friend would refuse. Unfortunately, this friend is not average (and might not be a girlfriend for much longer).

Instead of mistrusting your standards of give-and-take in a good friendship, you should wonder whether your girlfriend knows how to be a friend, and whether it’s time to tell her to take a walk. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Shrug It Out

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

Protected, Vexed

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 29, 2014

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Much is made of the Mama/Papa-bear protective instincts that so many humans purportedly have—that blind drive that kicks in for parents when their kids are in danger—but even if said bear instinct is real, it has a “Three Bears” quality. Some parents protect too much, others protect too little, and only a fraction provide a protection level that’s “just right.” In any case, before helping or not helping your kids, ask yourself whether it’s going to make them stronger or just stir the pot (of porridge) further, because frequently, the only person you can protect is yourself.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve always encouraged my kids to deal with their own problems when they felt someone treated them unfairly, but I was really upset, recently, when the young daughter of old family friends, who was rooming with my daughter (they were acquaintances, not friends), refused to pay for the parking tickets she got when she borrowed her car. She said she didn’t notice any tickets, and maybe somebody removed them, but they clearly happened at the time she had the car and the places she took it. After my daughter got nowhere, she wrote the girl’s parents, feeling that they would not want to leave a debt like this unpaid, but they took their daughter’s side. Now I want to write my old friends to let them know I think this is unfair and a poor lesson for their daughter, but everyone else (my husband, even my daughter) says I should just leave it alone. My goal is to show my daughter that it’s important to stand up to injustice and let people know that they can’t get away with shit like this.

Most people assume that close family friends share their values, but in this case, your friends’ values appear to stay within the family—they agree with their daughter, not you—and this is a family that might as well share values with the Sopranos.

Your daughter was able to assert herself and make it clear to both her former roommate and her parents why she thought she should pay for the parking tickets. Given their reaction so far, adding your voice to hers is unlikely to get the fines paid or change how this family tends to see themselves, just annoy them into retaliation, which could take you to court/the mattresses. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Heavy on the Fault

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 21, 2014

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We’re all familiar with the ol’ break-up mantra, “it’s not you, it’s me,” which can also apply when you’re having repeated issues with a loved one. Sometimes, however, it’s worth considering whether it’s not you, but them; sure, sometimes there’s nothing wrong in a relationship other than the feelings they leave you with, but other people who look normal have subtle problems that can’t be changed. Instead of responding to your instincts about normality, weirdness, and responsibility, learn to accept your observations, discount your feelings, and think hard about where you think things need to go. Then you’re much more likely to come up with action or non-action plans that will best serve your needs, and turn them and you into a more functional “us.”
Dr. Lastname

My ten-year-old daughter is sloppy about her homework, but I don’t let her watch TV until she’s done it properly, so it’s past her bedtime so she never gets to watch her programs and she’s mad at me. At that point I’m mad at her, because I don’t like being the evil mother and she could easily do her homework in a fraction of the time if she was just a little more careful in the first place. Her teachers also say she blurts out answers before she thinks and makes herself look foolish. My goal is to get her to take care with her homework and get it done properly the first time, so we don’t have to struggle through the rest of the evening.

Both you and your daughter seem dedicated to getting through this homework situation, as evidenced by the fact that you’ve both made the ultimate sacrifice; you’ve given up your precious evening relaxation hours, and she’s given up prime time television.

What you need to ask yourself, however, is whether her sloppiness and foot-dragging are due to low motivation and stubbornness or a glitch in the way she learns new information, because your sacrifices—your time on the couch with wine, her “Vampire Diaries”—may be in vain if her brain doesn’t do homework well and she’s feeling like a failure. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

In Ickness and Health

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 17, 2014

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Everybody has a limit as to how much they can bear to differ and share with their partner; it’s just as difficult to be with someone who agrees with you too much as with someone with whom you can never see eye-to-eye, no matter what James Carville and Mary Matalin say. Distinguishing between acceptable and irreconcilable differences is tricky; some differences need not threaten a partnership, but it’s not good for either of you to stay together if one of you believes the other is bad and beyond redemption. So weigh everything you know about a person’s reliability and loyalty before deciding what to make of your ethical, religious, or cable news differences and your partnership.
Dr. Lastname

I think my husband is much happier about our moving to a new town since he joined a local church, and I thought I’d feel welcome there too, but I was not pleased to hear that they recently expelled a woman from the congregation because she’s lesbian. My husband believes it was the wrong thing to do, but he loves the way the congregation makes him and others feel valued and at home, so he’s not about to let go of his new friends. I’ve objected publicly, and no one argues with me, but they treat me with kindly disagreement, making it clear I’m welcome even if I can’t understand where they come from. I still have trouble understanding how my husband can be OK with this under any circumstances when in my eyes it’s bigotry, plain and simple. My goal is to honor my principles while not letting the church come between me and my husband.

Although there’s an apparent difference of principle standing between you and your husband, you have no reason to doubt his honesty, fidelity, or any other character issue that would interfere with his being a good partner. The difficulty is reconciling that with your new impression that he might not be a good person.

You’ve been together, I assume, for a number of years and have weathered storms, so you have good reason to respect him as a person and husband. You don’t expect his continued membership in a church that rejects gays and lesbians will make him less honest and supportive. He did not ask you to stifle your opinion, even though it differs from his, so weigh these considerations before you decide to reject him. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Frienders’ Game

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 3, 2014

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Outside of the cold world of Facebook, friendships are not just about liking and/or disliking. They can also be good or bad for you and necessary or unnecessary for the real-life social network you’re trying to exist in. So don’t pass up on learning valuable lessons from friendships, be they strongly moved by feelings of kinship or personal dislike. You’ll discover how to be a good friendship manager as well as a good friend. And hopefully you’ll friend fxckfeelings.com on Facebook.
Dr. Lastname

How do I treat friends who are selfish and self-absorbed? I know I can be self-absorbed, in fact I am right now, but I’m at the point where I just don’t know what to do or say anymore. One friend constantly complains about her life and when I try to help her, she just makes excuses and goes on complaining without ever asking how I am. She lives to have people feel sorry for her. Another is completely oblivious to other people, so when she does things that are hurtful, she doesn’t understand why so I end up just dropping the issue because I feel like there’s no point. I love them, but I feel like I just can’t anymore. I also feel like maybe I should be “killing them with kindness,” because I’ve always felt kindness was the answer, but now I’m out.

Unless they hire you as a tennis coach, personal trainer, or plastic surgeon, your job with friends isn’t to change or improve them, but accept them. That’s why there’s no pay and more time spent at bars than gyms.

Accepting them doesn’t require you to continue as friends, but it does mean that, whatever you decide, you take the whole package. If you find all your current friends basically unacceptable, you may gently dump them and take some time to catch up with your other friends, Netflix and books, while you take a more selective approach in finding new human companions. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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