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The only way to truly change a person is by killing or maiming them, so stop.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

5 Ways to Manage the Need for Validation

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 9, 2015

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If, like the reader in our previous column, you have a need for validation—that quest for the evasive “gold star”—that can never be satisfied, therapy probably doesn’t have magic curative powers. With the following methods (and possibly a different kind of therapy), however, you can manage those needs without letting them control you.

1. Be a Good Friend, Not an Enemy

Make a list of the values you expect from a good friend or roommate, like honesty, responsibility, dedication, loyalty, and an ability to keep promises. If you don’t want to make a list as a friend would, create a report card as if you were a boss or Chemistry professor rating your possible protégés, whatever works.

2. See How You Measure Up

Use those criteria to rate yourself, focusing on your behavior and ignoring other people’s opinions as well as your own inner doubts, fears and insecure thoughts. The goal here is to be objective and fair; your inner-judge is a friend, not TV talent show judge.

3. Make It Right

If you assess yourself fairly and make the grade, then give yourself an A/high-five and proceed to validation rehab. If you find there are areas that need improvement, use your drive for excellence to set reasonable goals and devise methods for achieving them, using a therapist if necessary.

4. Harness Your Habits

Identify validation-hungry behaviors like smiling too much, over-praising, or over-apologizing. Again, create a report card if necessary to rate yourself in social situations, ignoring inner doubts, fears and insecure thoughts. Try for a zero score, regardless of urges to brighten your smile, express extra interest, or beg for reassurance that you’re actually a good person.

5. Power Through

No matter how hard it is to go cold turkey from getting a warm reception, ignore the depression/anxiety of validation withdrawal. Give yourself a medallion or a gold star after every noteworthy milestone of consecutive validation-free days, and keep giving the negative, needy thoughts the attention they deserve (none).

Gold Stars, Validation, Fxck Feelings

5 Types of Back-to-School Drama Parents Are Likely to Encounter (and How to Deal With it):

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 21, 2015

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Fxck Feelings - Back to School

Back-to-school time can bring emotional issues bubbling up to the surface as personality conflicts and intense power dynamics pop up and throw you and your family off-kilter.

Here are five all-too-common back-to-school issues and our advice for dealing with them.

1) Your Kid Hates His Teacher

It’s terrible to imagine your child feeling miserable for an entire school year, but as your kid’s number one teacher (tenured in perpetuity), you’re the one to help him manage frustrations and make the best of them. So take time, gather facts, and see if there’s something you can do to improve teacher-child communication or their attitudes towards one another, or have a positive talk with the principal about finding a better match for your son. Otherwise, do your best to teach him that learning is more important than any single teacher, that surviving the year is more important than showing your teacher he can’t get away with being a jerk, and that he can get through tough times like these with his family’s support.

2) You Hate His Teacher

Of course, if you hate your kid’s teacher as much as he does then you can at least validate his views, although it will take a lot more discipline and self-restraint to get through the year. If your kid is fine with his teacher but you aren’t, then you’re stuck keeping your feelings to yourself, at least at home. You could try having another positive pow-wow with the principal, listing reasons why a different match would be more successful. If your kid seems happy in the class, however, then you’re probably better off following common logic and avoiding the principal’s office entirely. If your kid can survive a year with this jerk, so can you.

3) You Hate The Other Parents

If you don’t like the values or characters of other parents in your neighborhoodand, given how passionate some parents can be about their specific choices and yours, this is not an uncommon scenario—school can be more alienating for you than for your kid. Your job is to keep your frustration to yourself and help him feel he belongs in class, whether or not you feel you belong. Your hope is that the kids are better than their parents and that your kid will find friends he likes in his class, even if you can’t.

4) The Other Kids Hate Your Kid

If your child is being picked on, definitely try to work with the school and other parents to stop bullying, but be prepared to get a lot of defensive responses because no parent wants to admit that they’ve spawned a bully and schools often lack the resources to really tackle the problem. Coach your child on how to handle bullies or just avoid them, but be sure to let your child know that you think he’s fine, even if he’s a social outcast for the time being. There may currently be no friends at school, but there are always friends at home.

5) You Hate Your Kid

Every parent fears having a kid s/he really doesn’t like, so commend yourself on surviving this living nightmare. You can see a therapist or ask yourself whether you’re overly irritable with everyone and need to improve your behavior and/or try medication for improving your mood, but if the answer is that it’s just your kid that’s a jerk, then you’re stuck. So if you’re burdened with unavoidable negative feelings, build up your ability to be a true professional, regardless of how you feel. Teachers have to spend huge amounts of time with kids they hate, so you can, too.

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5 Ways to Avoid Assholes

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 17, 2015

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Many people seek therapy after dealing with Assholes. They come into appointments racked with guilt and anger, thinking they did something wrong, or think they can change the Asshole in question if they could just understand.

Among the wishes people express when they write to us or come for post-Asshole treatment are:

  • To understand how a former best friend could become so mean and impossible to talk to
  • To get back the relationship they once had
  • To get through to someone who was once so close
  • To get her to stop

But the truth is that sometimes avoiding Assholes in the first place is the best path to peace of mind. Here are our five best tried and true tips for avoiding Assholes in the first place, and therefore completely bypassing the drama they would surely bring into your life.

5 Tips to Avoid Assholes:

1)    Learn Your Red Flags, Make Them Red Lights
Believe it or not, Assholes are very charismatic creatures; remember, they excel at selling cars, stocks, and all matter of bullshit. So if someone’s charming you but also mentions their horrible ex-wife (or wives), former friends, or evil family—and they’re not big on personal boundaries, so they will—politely excuse yourself and run for your life.

2)    Rehearse Your Lines
If you’re forced to work or live with an Asshole with whom you’re just trying to avoid conflict and confrontation, the best way to stay safe is to stick to a script. Practice makes perfect and, if you must interact with an Asshole, knowing what you’re going to say protects you from being bullied, intimidated, or worn down.

3)    Work Where Assholes Don’t
If possible, avoid working in fields like the arts, law, intensive volunteering or charity work, or really any job that’s highly competitive and punishing with huge personal reward for both the participant’s wallet and ego. Assholes like to feel like it’s them against the world, and if you enter their corner of the world, watch out.

4)    At The First Sign of Anger, Play Dead
If someone you considered a friend turns on you/turns out to be an Asshole, you can still minimize the damage if you resist the urge to reason or struggle. As much as you want to reason with your friend, you have to remind yourself that your friend is gone, an Asshole wears her face, and passive resistance is your best bet.

5)    Get Exposed and Inoculated Early
Since Assholes are an unavoidable part of life, try to learn as much as you can as early as you can. That way, you can just have the one Asshole girlfriend/boss/roommate who nearly ruins your life but also teaches you what to avoid in the future. You’ll never be free of Assholes, but, as we always say, you’ll be less likely to be shat upon.

Accident Prevention Reassurance

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.
Dr. Lastname

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 »

The Rational Inquirer

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 23, 2015

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While the whole concept of “shoot first, ask questions later” sounds cool to many of us, it obviously has some detractors (namely, those who were shot before they could have been vindicated through question-asking). In reality, as always, you need to strike a balance, because, while asking questions can sometimes interfere with action, taking action can be a way to avoid asking difficult questions. So, instead of assuming that either is good without the other, learn how to limit your questions to those that are necessary and how to take action, hopefully unarmed, even when you’re not sure how things will turn out.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve been taking a medication for several years that has been very good for my depression, but now I’m having obsessive thoughts and my doctor thinks I should take a larger dose and see if it reduces the OCD. She says there’s always an advantage in taking one medication instead of two, and that a month of taking a larger dose every day will tell me whether this medication can help all my symptoms or whether I need to try something else. It’s hard for me to take the same dose every day, because the medication makes me jumpy, so I always take less when I need sleep and then I take more when I need to be awake. In addition, I read on the internet that larger doses might make me fat, or, in some cases, suicidal, so I have a lot of doubts about this increased dose, and a lot of questions that nobody seems able to answer. My goal is to find somebody who has the answers (you?) and figure out the best way to deal with my obsessive thoughts.

If you’re having obsessive thoughts, and both you and your doctor acknowledge this to be a problem, then maybe you shouldn’t take your endless doubts about medication at face value. You can’t alleviate obsessive thoughts by entertaining them, which is what you’re doing here.

It’s valuable, of course, to make careful decisions about medication, and your questions would be useful if your medication were really designed to work quickly and help you stay awake. Instead, it’s designed to help you stop obsessing about factors like these, and to do so at its own pace. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Task Asker

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 25, 2015

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Taking on responsibility is like drinking fine wine; the right amount will make you feel pleasant and, as of the latest study, improve your health, but the wrong amount will either leave you flat or flat on your face. Unfortunately, how much responsibility we decline or assume is too often a matter of thoughtless emotion and habit rather than reasoned consideration. So develop your own procedures for examining the responsibility that you should really claim. Your result will always reflect your best efforts if you drink/choose responsibilities, well, responsibly.
Dr. Lastname

My girlfriend is very nice to her father, who doesn’t like to let her out of his sight during her visits (which are every weekend, rain or shine). He’s always had weird mood swings though, going unpredictably from doting to totally paranoid, so she does her best never to rock his boat. I thought she’d be happy when I offered to come along—given that the visits take up most of her weekends, going with her would make it easier for us to see each other—and initially, she was excited for me to join her. As his mood started to change during that first visit, however, she became very controlling and nasty with me. She said she wanted to protect me and also make sure I didn’t upset him, but she was just plain rude, and I felt she needed to know how abusive she’d become, which then triggered a big fight. My goal is to see her father get some help, because if he can work out his issues, maybe she will have no reason to become so unpleasant.

It’s not unusual for people who bend over backwards with kindness to snap into rage; bend anything too far and it’s bound to snap eventually. Unfortunately, the person who gets snapped at isn’t always the person who was doing the pushing in the first place.

These types knock themselves out to be unselfish and meet the needs of others, but instead of getting thanks and cooperation, they get obstruction, demands and criticism, which, understandably, can make them a bit testy. Then they feel guilty for their nasty words, and have to try even harder to do the backwards-bending Pilates. If they didn’t snap, they end up twisted into a human Cinnabon. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Ministrations Cycle

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2015

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People often assume that psychological problems require treatment, but they don’t stop to think about what treatment requires from the psychological problems/person with them, namely, a willingness to weigh choices, make decisions, and take action. Otherwise, people can get pushed into talking about problems they’re indifferent to or being overwhelmed by problems they’re actually familiar with. So ask yourself how treatable a problem/person is before urging them to get help. Remember, you can lead a person to therapy, but you can’t make them think.
Dr. Lastname

I wish my husband could be happier, but therapy doesn’t seem to be helping him. He hates his job, but he can’t bring himself to look for a new one or find ways to do more with his free time. I was hoping therapy would get him to decide what he wanted to do, so he could be more active and happy, and even though his therapist has given him some good advice, my husband is just as miserable. He says he enjoys speaking to the therapist, and I’ve told him and his therapist what I think the problem is, but there’s no change. My goal is to see my husband be happy and not be a victim of his work, and maybe decide whether he needs a different or better kind of therapy.

Unlike most other treatments out there for what ails you, therapy is a two-way street; you can get dragged to the dentist or hassled into seeing the hemorrhoid doctor and, even if you didn’t want to go, you can still walk away feeling better. If you only go to a therapist to please others, however, you’ll usually just be wasting your time.

That’s why, despite your good intentions to ease your husband’s unhappiness, don’t assume that therapy has much to offer unless he’s the one offering to go without being coaxed. That means he seems willing to weigh his alternatives and consider the impact of his choices, not let someone else choose for him. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Cause and Order

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 9, 2015

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Looking for insight into how your mind works is like giving your brain a colonic; it’s uncomfortable, and while it feels like it should be beneficial, it usually just creates an unnecessary mess. Skip the mental probe and instead assess the risks and benefits, which is an unavoidable and valuable part of every treatment decision. Be prepared to distinguish between the kind of analysis that makes problems worse and the kind that you can’t do without. Then you’ll be ready to use your head, not waste time getting it out of your ass.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t understand why I keep a friendship going with this rather self-centered woman at work. I’m always vaguely resentful about the one-sidedness of our relationship, but she doesn’t realize it and thinks she’s a wonderful friend and things are great between us. I know better than to make an issue of the inequality—everyone knows she’s self-centered and clueless—but what bothers me is why I keep on inviting her over for dinner and investing in a friendship that always leaves me unhappy and resentful. My goal is to understand my needs better so that I can finally let go of someone I know can’t really give me what I want.

Unfortunately, having a superior understanding of something doesn’t give you greater control over it; then meteorologists could have kept this past winter from being record-breaking-ly miserable in New England, Billy Beane would win every world series, and the “Grizzly Man” would still be alive.

That’s why understanding why we want something unhealthy is usually a huge waste of time; not only doesn’t it stop us from reaching for it, but the quest for further understanding becomes one more excuse for not stopping our pursuit in the first place.

So ask yourself whether you’ve been chasing one-sided relationships with self-centered people for many years. If the answer is yes, and you’ve been wondering why for almost as many years, then the answer is that you’ve got a bad habit that’s hard to break. It doesn’t matter why you do it, only that you stop doing it as soon as possible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Pairing Strife

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 5, 2015

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It’s remarkable how often people are blind to the true nature of their relationships; even more remarkable than the resulting number of bad conflicts, really bad romantic comedies, and truly horrific divorces. The only thing more frustrating than being blind is having to act as a seeing-emotion guide to one or both of the parties involved, either because you want them to ignore their differences or wise up to them. In any case, telling them how you feel about how they feel will probably make things worse. All you can do is remind them of their duty to do what’s right for themselves and hope that experience helps them see their way out of a horrible, unremarkable outcome.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve got two guys working in my warehouse who both do their jobs, but they can’t get along with one another, and their squabbling puts everyone on edge. The younger guy is very motivated and hardworking, but he feels the older guy is stupid and slows him down, and he gives him crap about it. The older guy isn’t lazy, but he is a little stupid and slow, plus he’s sensitive and he feels the younger guy doesn’t respect him, which is true. I’m their boss, so they both complain to me, but I don’t want to lose either of them because it’s a pain to train someone new. Plus I like them both, I just can’t stand how much they hate each other, and I can’t get them to sit down and work it out because it’d make things worse. My goal is to get them to get over this bullshit and get back to work.

As their boss, you have a right to insist that people working for you treat one another with respect and leave it to you to judge whether or not they’re competent. More realistically, however, bosses really just have the right to mediate between childish employees and absorb animosity. All this for better benefits and your own parking space.

Of course, being that you’re more like a father than an enforcer to your employees, you have as much power to make them get along as you do to get your kids to stop bickering in the minivan. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Knowing Pro

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 5, 2015

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We’ve written many times about the way mental health professionals especially tend to be either demonized or canonized; nobody expects their dentist to fix their lives or thinks their accountant is a monster and a fraud when s/he’s not perfect, but these are the expectations for those who deal in problems that are frightening and poorly understood, like mental illness. People would like to think therapists can provide control, but they’d also like to think the problem will go away by itself if you return to your usual routine. If you can accept the fact that some problems can’t be solved, however, and that the influence of professionals is always limited, you’ll be ready to learn everything you need to know and become your own expert on tough problems, imperfect professionals, and, if you’ve got the time, your own taxes.
Dr. Lastname

My fifteen-year-old son does poorly in school whenever he gets depressed, which is fairly often, but his current school’s counseling staff is totally worthless—they haven’t just failed to help him, but so many students that their ineptitude is an open secret amongst parents and teachers—so I’m worried that they won’t do much for him once the depression starts and his grades slip. My goal is to figure out what to do to get his school to provide the counseling services he (and other kids) deserve.

If counseling were a reliably good treatment for depression and was available exclusively through schools, then you’d have a worthwhile fight on your hands. The movie version would win awards and you’d get your face on a dollar coin.

Unfortunately for your Oscar dreams, but fortunately for your son, the stakes for your battle aren’t nearly that high.

In reality, the help that almost all counseling provides is limited, and may have less to offer now that you and your son are knowledgeable about depression and can talk to one another about it. Your school’s counseling staff may be especially weak, but their legendary ineptitude need not get in your son’s way. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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