Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2016
Share This Post
We may all hope to be the kind of lucky people bound to our parents by a shared sense of humor, values, and love, but for some of us the only parent/child bond we share is in our genes. For those extra-unlucky group whose parents carry the genes for rage, alcoholism, and selfishness—the building blocks of Asshole™ DNA—reconciliation is all but impossible, and all attempts will leave you needlessly miserable. That’s why you should never satisfy your yearning for a better relationship with your parent until you administer an unofficial Asshole™ DNA test; learn how to size them up realistically and decide whether you can attempt to strengthen your bond or should leave it at the genetic level.
After decades of trying to have a positive relationship with my parents, I finally stopped all contact two years ago after they transferred their toxicity to my children. Therapy has helped me realize that they are narcissists and that it is simply impossible to have a loving relationship with them. That knowledge deepens as my relationship with my own children grows as they grow, and I cherish them. Although we are all much happier without contact, and even though I know that actually things will never change, a part of me still wishes that things could be different. My father’s own brother refuses to see him for similar reasons and he and other relatives are very supportive of me. Recently, my partner lost both of her parents and she was able to be with each of them in their final hours. Now she is worried that I may regret not trying one last time to improve relations. I appreciate her concern but fear that there really is no point and that, if I did make contact, I’d just be laying myself open to another attack. But, what if I do regret not trying..and so it goes round and round in my head. My goal is to determine whether I’ll feel worse about not talking to my parents or, by trying to talk to them again, possibly allowing their toxic presence back into my life.
Given how hard it is for most people to part with their favorite/disgusting jeans from college or prized collection of VHS tapes, it’s not surprising that cutting yourself off entirely from your parents, no matter how necessary, is bound to leave you with lingering senses of sadness and doubt.
You’re right, of course, to give top priority to the protection of your kids, particularly if your parents are likely to become violent or openly express rage or make accusations in their presence. Even so, there’s no way to feel entirely at peace about cutting off all communication, knowing that time and death will someday make the silence permanent. And admitting to yourself how that silence may also provide some relief will just flood you with the kind of guilt that most Catholics, Jews, and people with neck tattoos feel exclusively entitled to.
Before giving into this first wave of guilt and assuming that resuming contact would be a worthwhile step towards improving your relationship and elevating your soul, take stock of past attempts and their results. Don’t expect to be able to mend fences with insight so powerful that it dissolves their mistrust and hostility; your only standard for a good intervention should be to be pleasant, polite, and reasonably conciliatory, regardless of results. If you achieved this standard through a few good attempts with no real return on your efforts—or worse, your efforts were greeted with a blast of hostility and drama—it’s unlikely that trying again will produce a better result.
Once you’ve decided that seeking improvement is probably unrealistic and possibly harmful, ask yourself whether it’s worthwhile or even possible to have a limited non-relationship rather than nothing at all. A limited non-relationship means restricting contact to short, superficial, polite conversations, free of emotional satisfaction, intimacy, and, as such, opportunity for conflict. You may never get that desired (and fictional) catharsis, but you will be able to participate in large family gatherings without threat of conflict and express benign good wishes, however shallow, regardless of past wrongs or recent provocation.
If you’re hoping to reconnect in order to achieve some level of emotional satisfaction, then you’re bound for disappointment; the best result, aside from the confidence that comes from doing your best to do what’s right, is the possibility that it may nurture other good family relationships for you and the kids while showing the kids how to avoid conflict when it’s pointless and destructive.
Don’t hold yourself responsible for or feel guilty about letting go of anything that’s unfixable, be it your beloved first car or your relationship with toxic parents. Don’t assume, however, that total excommunication is your only other option; you can always salvage broken things for parts.
So, if you wish, you can usually maintain civility with uncivil relatives if you first decide that the strategic rewards are worth the unpleasant effort of management they invariably require. But if you decide that it’s unlikely that your efforts will be rewarded with anything but regret, don’t let guilt blind you to all the benefits of letting go.
“Now that I’m a parent, I wish I could improve my relationship with my parents and give them and my children an opportunity to bond and get to know one another. Given that my parents are unimproveable Assholes™, however, I do what’s necessary to protect the kids while keeping things civil and peaceful.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 21, 2016
Share This Post
Dear Fellow Americans,
It has recently come to our attention that “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS” has become an unofficial slogan printed on T-shirts for Donald Trump’s current presidential campaign (see below).
Given that we are authors of a New York Times best selling book whose title shares two outta three words with said slogan, we feel that it’s worth publicly stating that we not only have nothing to do with said shirt (or any political ideology, period), but that this slogan has nothing to do with what our book is about.
- Our book asks readers to “F*CK FEELINGS” when it comes to problem solving and decision-making. We aim to teach readers how to approach life’s major problems by trusting experience and common sense, not just blindly following their emotions.
- “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS” seems to refer specifically to the negative feelings that not-Trump voters may harbor towards their fellow, Trump-supporting citizens. The wearer’s feelings, however—namely the negative ones that may be behind their support for their candidate, like pride, paranoia, rage, etc.—are, apparently, not to be fucked with.
- What we would say to those who wear this shirt, and to voters in general, is, of course, that when it comes to making the extremely important decision of whom to vote for to hold the highest office in the land, F*CK ALL FEELINGS EVERYWHERE FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.
For politicians, appealing to emotions is the easiest way to get a vote; it’s much more effective and efficient to scare support out of voters or draw them in with nostalgia than it is to educate them about policy and strategy. That’s why it’s our responsibility as voters to ignore the endless barrage of emotional manipulation and educate ourselves about what a candidate plans to do, how they plan to do it, and whether those plans are realistic, given how our government’s traditionally worked (or hasn’t).
If that sounds like work, it is, but a vote is an investment; you wouldn’t sink a lot of money into a new car without looking into all the latest models and you wouldn’t make a down payment on a house without checking up on everything from the plumbing to the school district, so you shouldn’t throw your support behind someone who’s going to lead your country without giving their resume and their leadership plan as much consideration as you’d give a possible mortgage.
So please, when it comes to voting for our next president, listen to us, not a garment: F*ck (ALL) Feelings and make your decision based on facts, not emotions. And please buy our book F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems.
Yours in Democracy,
Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett
Authors of F*ck Feelings: F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems and the upcoming Fuck Love: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship (coming out in early 2017, should we avoid the Apocalypse)
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2016
Share This Post
People who aren’t drinking are technically sober, but, like our reader’s ex-husband described in a post earlier this week, many have not developed or just lost the ability to put aside selfish needs for the sake of long-term goals, values, and making relationships work. They’re often good at pleasing you in the short run, which makes you feel things are going well, but you must look closely at how they handle frustration and painful emotions before you know whether they’ve overcome the negative impact of alcohol on character. Here are five ways to evaluate the dry drunk before you get too close and find out the hard way that his sobriety is only booze-deep.
1) See How He Handles Hurt
Because drunks are blind slaves to their needs and impulses, a dry drunk still feels entitled to get back at you when he’s hurt or, at least, to find immediate relief the way he once did from booze. What you hope is that, instead of pouting or sulking, he’ll assume that hurt feelings are sometimes unavoidable, suck up his pain, let the bad feelings pass, and continue to act like a decent human being. If he instead acts petulant and feels entitled to have a good time with his buddies or new girlfriend because you’ve let him down, then he still has a drunk’s habits, just without the bar tab.
2) Mind the Money
Thanks to the same impulse control issues, a dry drunk can also have problems saving money; he means to be financially responsible but winds up spending more than he intended on various virgin ways to feel good and stop feeling bad. Ask yourself whether he really can stick to a budget and save money or whether he can’t stop himself from getting you a flashy present when he worries that you’re mad at him or losing interest. If he can’t, then he’s likely to act twice as bad when he’s the one losing interest in you.
3) Assess Kill-building
Since learning new skills or taking on a new challenge is often a frustrating process, it’s one dry drunks often lack the self-discipline and pain threshold to deal with. Note whether he can make himself take on difficult projects, stick to unpleasant routines involving errands or exercise, and do other boring activities for the sake of a good cause. If he has values of his own, he’ll stay busy even when you’re not there. If his motivation is to make you happy, he’ll look busy when you’re around, but not do much more. That speaks poorly for his ability to learn (or relearn) the skills needed to stay sober, like patience and acceptance.
4) Look for Lies
Of the average drunk’s propensity for dishonesty, Stephen King once said that, “Ask an active alcoholic what time it is, and 9 times out of 10 he’ll lie to you.” Similarly, a dry drunk will also lie with ease, usually to avoid conflict, regardless of whether the lie is easily discovered and the consequences are much worse than if he told the truth. Don’t avoid checking on the facts because you want to show him you trust him and build up his confidence; look for honesty as a sign of real sobriety.
5) Track the True Source of Blame
In the absence of morals or values, the main belief held by any addict, aside from the importance of getting high, is the absolute importance of quid pro quo. As such, a dry drunk also feels you should make him feel good if he made a good effort to make you feel good, and any unwillingness to hold up your end of the bargain is the ultimate betrayal. So, whether he’s bored, angry, or hurt (see above), he’ll find reasons to blame you for his bad feelings. Don’t think that expressing such blame will improve your relationship; instead, recognize it as a sign that a good relationship may be impossible, at least until he realizes that he’s got a lot more work to do on his sobriety beyond staying sober.
Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2016
Share This Post
There are many ways to be hurt by an alcoholic partner, even if he’s in recovery, but figuring out who’s responsible for that hurt can be a lot more complicated. That’s because alcoholics, be they sober for ages or still steadily soused, are well-practiced in victimhood, which makes them very good at explaining hurt in terms of what you’re doing to make them unhappy and very bad at taking responsibility for their actions. So if you consort with addicts and want to avoid undeserved blame, you’d better know how to tolerate hurt, tell right from wrong, and stand up for your own convictions. Otherwise, you’ll also end up with a lot of unnecessary heartache.
I married my recovering alcoholic ex after he’d been sober for three years. We went through hell and back together and I stuck by his side through it all, but our marriage only lasted six months— it took that long for him to tell me he isn’t attracted to me anymore and kick me out. Of course, I smelled the booze on him as he said it, because he’d actually relapsed. I’ve moved on somehow, but still feel angry, especially since I just got off all my anti-depressants. My goal is to figure out how to get over this massive, mind-blowing disappointment.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2016
Share This Post
If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have your eyes on a very specific prize, second place can feel like a first class ticket to Loserville, even if it’s just a coach ticket to whatever goal you had in the first place. If your drive is making it so hard to appreciate your efforts that it’s really just driving you crazy, here are five ways to deal with that perceived failure.
1) Get Your Goals In Line
Putting aside the performance goals that you don’t really control, like a particular salary, promotion, or degree, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Usually, with goals that are work- or education-related, you’re ultimately trying to find a way to make a living and develop your skills and abilities. The kind of grades you get or job you finally land—the feel-good outcomes—are never completely under your control, so don’t hold yourself accountable for them.
2) Set Effort-Based Standards
Instead of reaching for those feel-good outcomes, measure your success by how much time, effort, and overall feel-bad hard work you put into your goal, like the number of hours you studied and whether you asked for help when you needed it. If you found yourself avoiding the work, ask yourself whether you faced that problem and tried to do something about it. Be objective in grading your efforts, using the same standards as you would for anyone else, and if you find yourself falling short, avoid self-incrimination and aim for self-improvement instead.
3) Fight Negative Thoughts
Unless you’re a massive jerk/Republican presidential nominee, you wouldn’t tell someone who’d tried hard and put in the work that he was a failure, so don’t be that mean to yourself. If you’re a natural-born perfectionist who tends to get down on himself, learn how to talk back to your self-criticism and give yourself positive encouragement, getting help from a positive coach/therapist if necessary. Otherwise, your negative thinking will make your performance worse, cause you undeserved pain, and put you at the mercy of the world’s meanest critic, who happens to live in your head.
4) Get Motivation From Your Good Values
Ditch outcomes-based motivation, looking inward instead to find drive in your own positive ideals, like the importance of being independent, helping others, and doing your share. Yes, you’re also motivated by good results, competition with others, and the ecstasy of the victory lap. When your career goals reflect positive values, however, regardless of whether you’re getting the glory, it’s much harder to feel negative about the outcome of your efforts, even when those outcomes are negative themselves.
5) Reject Failure And Rethink Success
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t listen to old clichés and keep trying the same thing over again and again. Step back, seek advice, and ask yourself whether there’s an obstacle you can’t control, like a skill you can’t acquire or a relationship you can’t make work. If that’s the case, accept your helplessness, don’t take it personally, and try to find another way forward. You may need to compromise or eat some crow, but as long as you’re acting in accordance with your basic values, you’re on the right path to some kind of success you can be proud of.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 30, 2016
Share This Post
When we’re desperate to push ourselves to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, drive and doubt can combine to create an inner drill-sergeant: a loud, insulting voice in your head that screams all the insults of a military commander but much less flying spittle. Unfortunately, that balance of drive and doubt can be precarious, so if you push yourself too far you may go from driven to too depressed and full of self-hate to do much of anything. As with a new recruit, you may have no choice over your commander/the kinds of emotions that get you going, but you can learn how to manage those emotions so they don’t cause you to give up and go AWOL.
I’m a 23-year-old man who spent my formative years as this retarded socially awkward mute and at some point after visiting hospitals for work experience I decided I wanted to be a physician really fucking badly. The only problem was I was a moron who spent his formative years playing video games instead of taking the right science classes or getting good grades. I then spend an extra year working my ass off and taking the right classes at night and volunteering in health care during the day. Since the start of the whole ordeal, my academic advisor has been telling me it’s never going to happen and I should go for nursing, and I’m thinking, “fuck you, I’m going to be a doctor!” Then I don’t actually get the grades to get into med school—they’re all a grade below what I need—and in order to fix them I would have to repeat another 1-2 years, which isn’t a possibility. I then think about going to the nearest bar to drink myself to death, but I don’t, so off I go to study psychology with some health studies thrown in. I’m now in the 2nd year of course and need to get interested in becoming a clinical therapist, otherwise I won’t have the motivation to get a good grade. My goal is to figure out how to become interested in becoming a therapist other than gritting my teeth, giving up on my dream/accepting that I’m stupid, and getting on with my shit.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 4, 2016
Share This Post
As illustrated by our reader from earlier this week, it’s hard to trust a partner who leaves you out of the loop sometimes, even if, in almost every other way, you love him or her very much. Before letting either suspicion or your special emotional connection be the key factor in whether or not to stay together, ask yourself these five questions to determine whether or not your spouse is telling the truth and worth taking a chance on.
1) Examine His Honesty Experience
Think back on whether or not he has a solid record of truth-telling, not just by looking at your own history but by seeking out the opinion of family, friends, and, depending on the level of commitment at stake, his exes and even his possible- court records. Ignore anger or hurt in favor of the facts, and give extra weight to crimes, credit card debt, and infidelity. Don’t pay much attention to white lies unless they seem indicative of worse offenses.
2) Assess His Lies’ True Effect
After getting a complete history of his truths and falsehoods, consider whether you’re bothered more by his lies because of the way they impact your life, finances, or future, or by the way they affect your feelings and inspire paranoia. Look at his worst lies to you and their impact on your relationship, paying more attention to how they damage your security, wealth, and family relationships than how much they piss you off. Define for yourself the kinds of impact you can’t afford to tolerate, even from someone you love.
3) Determine His Ability To Divulge Honest Answers to Direct Questions
One good way to distinguish the liar from the truth-evader is to see how he responds to questions about his hidden dealings, because if he makes up lies to cover up previous lies of omission, you’ve got a problem. If he doesn’t and easily tells the whole truth, then develop your own system for reminding yourself to pin him down on a regular basis. Your system must protect you from any real danger to your security or that of your family in order to be effective.
4) Figure Out His Ability to Own His Dishonesty
If he agrees that his lying is a serious problem, you still have to figure out whether he genuinely agrees or if he’s just going along with you in order to make you happy. If he truly owns his lying, he will take the same steps as an addict in recovery; he’ll talk about it, own up to his slips, and examine triggers that get him into trouble by working with a support group or therapist. What you’re seeing then isn’t just apology, but an honest effort at improvement and reparation and, hopefully, a good result.
5) Given His Dishonesty, Make A Choice
If your safety and security are endangered by staying with your less-than- forthcoming partner, then your only choice is to end it, but if they aren’t, then make your decision by listing whatever you value about the relationship. As we always say, think less about what you like about this relationship than what you want a relationship for in general, i.e., how much you require from a partner for companionship, co-parenting, sex, etc. Then ask yourself whether your current partner’s contribution to those goals outweighs the impact of his truth-impairment, taking into account what you can and can’t expect to change about his behavior. If it is worth it, then learn to ask a lot of questions and become better at forgiveness. If it isn’t, then learn a valuable lesson in what your relationship standards are and you’ll be better at finding someone new who meets them.
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 19, 2016
Share This Post
Because trust between people who know one another well usually depends on how well they treat one another (and their cars, pets, and fancy coffee makers) over time, we tend to assume that mistrust would not flare up in a close relationship without good reason. Unfortunately, some apparently normal people are sometimes prone to limited bursts of paranoia, so mistrust can also arise spontaneously for reasons that we don’t understand. That’s why it’s important to develop objective methods for assessing the causes of mistrust, whether it’s your own or others’, and whether it’s broken-espresso- machine-related or not.
I love my partner very much— he makes me very happy, and I feel very cherished. Despite that, however, I cannot trust him because there have been a few times that he has neglected to tell me very important things that affected us. He will keep me informed for a week or so, and then neglect it again. If I cannot trust him, can this relationship work? Can someone who behaves like this change? My goal is to figure out whether I can stay with someone I love, even if I can’t take his word. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 7, 2016
Share This Post
If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re often plagued with uncertainly that’s beyond problematic and into the realm of downright paralyzing, here are five tools you can use to fight crippling self-doubt.
1) Compose Your Personal Code of Conduct
Pretending you’re judging the work or moral conduct of a friend, define standards for deciding whether his or her performance and character are good enough, avoiding the impossible standards of perfection you usually impose upon yourself. Spell out the standards you’re using to making your decision, and make sure to account for you/your friend’s circumstances, shortcomings, etc. when deciding how high those standards should be set.
2) Generate An Internal Judge Judy
Become the judge in your own internal court of perfection, using your new code to consider and rule on whatever nasty accusation your brain throws your way. Don’t hesitate to confer with a friend or therapist, but remember, once you’ve rendered a decision, it carries the weight of the Authority of your Code. As in Judge Judy’s court, all decisions are final.
3) Push Back Against Persistent Doubt
If your inner-Judy disagrees with persistent accusations made by the Prosecuting Center in your brain, use that gavel to talk back. Don’t expect the prosecutor to shut up or go away, but do take the time and effort to state your own opinion and do so with sincerity, confidence, and conviction. Your job is to stand up for yourself and the firm values that you’ve established (and not tolerate any nonsense).
4) Shut Out the Ceaseless Retorts
Having done what you should to discredit your brain’s unfair accusations and criticisms, and knowing that your mental prosecutor never sleeps (which is why your nastiest doubts appear in your nightmares, and why people still show up to Judy’s court in ripped dungarees), don’t give your doubts more attention than necessary. Whenever you recognize an old criticism you have previously reviewed, judged, and declared invalid, ignore it using whatever technique works for you, e.g., meditation, exercise, a distracting binge watch, etc.
5) Self-Respect is Your Standard
Keep in mind that your primary goal is not to quell your self-doubts but to meet life goals despite them, which can include educating yourself, working your dream job, building friendships, finding the right partner, and possibly raising kids. If you’re able to do those things while dealing with the pain of self-doubts and the extra work required to manage and deal with them, then you deserve respect and should consider yourself a success, no doubt about it. On to the next case on the docket.
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 27, 2016
Share This Post
Like pooping our pants, biting our enemies, and enjoying Disney Channel shows, self-doubt is a regrettable aspect of childhood we’re supposed to grow out of. If, however, years of learning, practicing, and getting older don’t keep persistent self-doubt from pestering you on into adulthood, it’s usually taken as a sign of low self-esteem and possible failure in normal maturation. In actuality, it can also be a trait that, for reasons we don’t understand, afflicts mature people who have worked hard, gained skills, and deserve much more confidence than they ever experience. We don’t think these traits can be changed by treatment, prayer, or, as always, anything short of lobotomy, but we have many ideas on how you can manage self-doubt almost as well as you do your bowels.
I am constantly plagued by negative self-talk. Most days I lack confidence in nearly everything I do. No matter what it never seems to be enough for me. How can I let go of the constant self-judgment and self-criticism? These mental habits sabotage my day–stirring anxiety, panic, and impulsiveness. My goal is to change this internal negativity into something positive, nourishing, and/or helpful. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »