Posted by fxckfeelings on July 16, 2015
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Deciding whether or not to accept the challenge to fight an Asshole™ shouldn’t be difficult—whether you’re facing an Asshole™ or an actual asshole, every instinct should tell you to get the hell out of there. Of course, sometimes the Asshole™ seems like the only thing standing between you and justice, so before you go “mano a anus,” consider the validity of your anger, the likelihood of ancillary damage and cost, and the value of whatever it is you hope to win. Then, whether you’re the one who must do the fighting or just counseling someone else, you’ll come up with a strategy for either fighting or fleeing that will have the least-shitty results.
My father died recently and my unmarried younger sister still lives in the family house with our elderly mother who is now struggling with memory loss. Over the years we have been a dysfunctional family with a lot of sibling rivalry, and my brother and I find our sister argumentative and difficult. Being around her for any length of time involves walking on eggshells and she and our mother have a turbulent relationship although she is her favorite child. My parents’ will states we will all benefit equally upon our mother’s death but now our sister is trying to emotionally blackmail us into pledging the house to her. She feels that she deserves it as she is the main caregiver. However, she has been supported by her for years and has always been hesitant to find work. We find it distasteful to be arguing about money with our mother still living and our father deceased just weeks ago. My brother and I are both happy to inherit our fair share when the time comes but worry that our sister will syphon off the funds my mother has and expect to keep the house as well. We feel like vultures in wait and do not wish for bitterness or conflict but our sister is often unreasonable and bombastic and we have problems of our own. My goal is to find a way to withstand manipulation and protect our interests without causing our mother’s remaining time to be made unhappy and stressful.
The feeling of unfairness is like the emotional salt in the psychic wound left by loss. After all, it never feels fair when you lose someone you love, but having that pain exacerbated by an Asshole™ sibling adds extra sting to the agony.
It’s hard to avoid becoming paralyzed by that pain, as well as guilt over the anguish you could cause your mother by arguing with your sister. Before you go to war with your sister, however, give thought to whether winning a victory would be meaningful, or even possible, given her Asshole™ tendencies.
Your sister is being totally unfair and unreasonable, but as with mortality itself, there’s a point when you have to lay down arms and give in to the inevitable. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 28, 2015
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Just as some people believe that any illness can be cured with Robitussin and everything improved by a healthy dollop of ranch dressing, there are too many people who think that the solution to any conflict is found through promptly and randomly placing blame. Unfortunately, this belief is as smart and healthy as the ones involving ‘tussin and tangy fat, because we tend to find blame in all the wrong places. We like to blame others for our own faults, either out of self-protection or because we’re really blind to our own mistakes. Then other times we unfairly blame ourselves because we can’t stop feeling responsible for shit we can’t possibly change. In any case, don’t blame anyone just because your feelings tell you to. Examine your standards, the nature of the problem, and what people are actually capable of doing before you decide whom to blame and what to do about it. The answer may involve ranch dressing, after all.
I thought I’ve been doing well in my new actuarial job at an insurance company, so I was shocked when my boss dressed me down for missing a deadline that I thought he didn’t really care about and implied wasn’t that important, anyway. He also told me that one of my colleagues was pissed at me, which came out of nowhere and was just as upsetting, especially since I thought that colleague liked to joke around with me. My goal is to figure out what’s wrong with my boss that he would randomly lash out at me in that way.
When someone you thought was happy with you suddenly and plainly makes their unhappiness known, it’s at best confusing, and at worst, it’s evidence that one of you has had a stroke. And, given your history of not smelling burnt toast, it’s easy to see the other guy as the problem.
In the wake of this revelation, you’re forced to figure out what really happened—you have to take the lead on a CSI: Tantrum—so you have good reason to first wonder if the person who lashed out at you was in a bad mood or tends to do this kind of thing regularly. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 21, 2015
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Neediness is the fuel that drives most of our truly regrettable decisions. Sure, the need to cure cancer can push you to get a Nobel prize, but you’ll need a lot of other resources and motivations to get there. The need to get fucked up, on the other hand, is a lot stronger and simpler, and you don’t have to get to Sweden for your reward. Mostly, neediness stops you from thinking about long-term consequences and other needs that are just as important but are less successful at grabbing your attention. So, no matter how hard it pushes you, or whether it’s yours or belong to someone you love, don’t pay too much attention to neediness until you’ve considered all your needs, separated the healthy from the unhealthy, and decided what you can do that will actually be useful. Then you and not your needs will be the manager of your goals, no matter how lofty or low.
Since we’re still stuck in the same social and professional circles, I wonder how nice I should be to my ex-boyfriend. He and I were terrific together for ten years, at least when we were out with friends or visiting our relatives. Often times, however, when we were one on one, I’d get the feeling that he didn’t really like having me around, or that I got on his nerves, and that’s why he didn’t want to get married. His coldness would hurt, so I’d get sulky and hate myself for it, which would just make him back off even more. He told me he loved me, but then, one day, when he inherited some money and we had the opportunity to buy a house together, he said it was over. I think I’ve finally moved on in so much as I can stand to be in the same room as him, but my goal is to figure out whether telling him how angry I am will help me with my next relationship.
There’s no good reason to get angry at your ex-boyfriend now for not loving you enough back then. If he couldn’t give you what you needed when you were together, then there exists no possible (or at least legal) kind of confrontation to get what you need from him now.
Certainly, it’s normal to feel angry at someone who’s done you wrong, treated you bad, and left you high and dry, but unless you can translate that pain into a classic country or R&B song, then these emotions are best ignored.
That’s because fixating on your anger at your ex just strengthens a tie that you desperately need to cut. Expressing it doesn’t set you free; to paraphrase Aretha, it tightens the chain-chain-chains. Ultimately, the person who is in charge of your attachments is you. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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.
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 »
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 24, 2014
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All of us suffer from a Cassandra complex at one time or another, where we see something so clearly—from how your brother will regret eating that gas station sushi to why your wife will wish she’d never paid for a year of intensive aerial Pilates up front—but can’t get anyone to heed our vision. Sometimes you can see a disaster looming because people are too angry and agitated, and sometimes it’s because they’re complacent and don’t give a damn. In either case, before you try to sound the alarm, give thought to the reasons for their feelings and the probable impact of your attempts to warn them so that your attempts to change opinions don’t accidentally cement them. Provide wise counsel if you can, but don’t expect anyone to listen until events, even painful sushi-related ones, put them in a more receptive state of mind.
As long as I avoid certain (mostly political, mostly right wing) topics, I get along with my in-laws pretty well. The problem is that such topics sometimes become unavoidable, usually when they get really wound up about a specific current event, and right now, they’re very vocal about being rabidly pro-Israel. I’m Jewish (they aren’t), so they assume I feel the same way as them and shower me with links and e-mail forwards that are nothing short of anti-Palestinian propaganda, but I don’t agree with them necessarily, and that kind of thing makes my skin crawl. They see the issue as black and white, and let’s just say I just see it as complicated, infuriating and heartbreaking, and their warmongering just angers and depresses me. I want to find a way to respond to them that gets them to see how damaging and foolish their angry rhetoric is, or to at least find some consensus in getting them to agree that killing isn’t answering anything. My goal is to get my in-laws to drop the subject in an enlightening, non-provocative way, even if I can’t change their minds.
One reason it’s hard to stop angry war rhetoric, particularly if it comes from nice people who aren’t particularly angry in non-political situations, is that they feel that aggressive action is necessary to prevent or overcome a dangerous threat. From annoying e-mail forwards to amassing an arsenal, fear rarely leads to thoughtful, positive action.
So if you suggest that your in-laws are advocating useless conflict with and killing of Palestinians, you’re questioning their morality at a time that they’re calling for moral sacrifice. You’re not just spilling blood in front of a shark, but a shark who thinks he’s being chased by a kraken. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
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.
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 »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 10, 2014
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Family members can push us harder than anyone or anything else, probably because the family tree literally roots us in place so we can’t escape. Sometimes you seethe while you suffer, and sometimes worry while you do rescue work. In either case, you can’t gain freedom without shaking up the branches and the way you think about them. Once you ask yourself how much good you can really do, either by fighting or protecting, you’re well on the way to managing your feelings and finding the strength to branch off on your own.
I have returned to a very personal habit that I have never admitted to a counselor since I worry about what they might think. To calm myself, I daydream about getting my hands around my ex-husband’s throat and not letting go. The more detail and the more I replay the scene in my head, the calmer and happier I feel. In reality, my ex-husband is a gold medal, abusive Asshole who always wins, but our sons are teenagers who seem able to stand up to what they regard as verbal abuse and bullying and they’ve been telling a family counselor about it. Meanwhile, my life has been going well and I have a nice boyfriend. I’m not a violent person and my ex is in no danger from me. My goal is to find a new, less violent coping strategy that will promote calm, healthy thoughts and reduce my anger and frustration.
Fantasy can be a powerful tool; it’s what fuels imagination, keeps our spirits up in dark times, and makes LARPing possible. It lets us escape the everyday and find freedom, even if it’s only in our heads. Unless, however, it’s a strangle-the-bastard fantasy like yours, which keeps you bound both to your ex and the fear and anger he inspires.
You probably felt weak when you were married to your ex, partly because of his bullying manner and worry about the kids, but getting yourself away from him made you strong. You left him, moved on, and provided the kids with a stable foundation that apparently gives them good perspective on his nastiness. You liberated yourself in a very real sense. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 9, 2014
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When your kid is a teenager, every decision you make has the potential to cause drama, whether you’re insisting they retake the SATs or refusing to buy them $200 pants. One issue that will have a powder keg quality right into adulthood, however, is whether you think a family relationship should have more together-time or less. More time together may feel like crowding, and less time together may feel like rejection or loss, but either way, be prepared to encounter strong emotions, including your own, when you go to discuss it. First, ask yourself why a change is necessary or beneficial, rather than why your feelings want it. Then prepare to ignore criticism, anger and hurt feelings while you stand by your views and do what’s best, just as you did with the pants.
I know that my ex and I put the kids through a rough divorce fifteen years ago, and the roughest part, at least from my point of view, was that my ex convinced a judge that the kids shouldn’t see me without supervision. I couldn’t afford that, so the kids basically didn’t see me for about fifteen years, but understanding the problem hasn’t helped me deal with my oldest son now that he’s twenty-one and free to start seeing me again. He’s reached out to me several times, which was wonderful and had me hoping we could rebuild a relationship, but then he’d set up a time to come over for dinner, and I’d cook up something special, and he wouldn’t show up or call for several months. There’s nothing I want more than to re-establish some kind of relationship with him and his younger sister, but I can’t stand setting up times to meet and knocking myself out and then getting stood up. I’m afraid his mother has poisoned his mind against me and I don’t like getting treated like shit. My goal is to be his father, not his doormat.
Whether it’s from a boyfriend, university, or a home loan, rejection is rejection, and even if you know why it’s happening and know there’s nothing you did wrong, it hurts like hell. You could know you’re the most important person in your child’s life, and it would still be hard to be stood up, ignored, disobeyed, and shut out.
When, on top of that, you’re yearning to resume a relationship years after it was stopped by divorce, you’re even more vulnerable and helpless. You already know what your child has discovered; that your need for one another is mutual, as is your ability to hurt one another. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 16, 2013
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While the “fight or flight” response seems ingrained in most any living thing with legs or wings, your average human’s response to aggression is slightly more nuanced; instead of “fight or flight,” it’s more like, “flight or stay put and become a dick or a doormat.” If, however, you give yourself time to think through your moral priorities, risks, resources, and the ends you want to achieve, there’s always a third, non-dick or –doormat option, which is, stay and decide to set limits. Instead of trying to intimidate or placate, you learn to protect yourself from the chaos of conflict by doing what you think is right and encouraging others to use their complex human brains to do likewise.
My family is lucky that I’ve always been a peacemaker, because my husband is very opinionated and overbearing. I know there’s no point in trying to reason with him or oppose what he’s saying, because he’s never going to change his mind and opposition just makes him angrier, and when he’s angry he just berates me until I stop talking and yells until I beg him to stop because it’s upsetting the kids. He’s never, ever been physically violent, just loud. Sometimes, however, I find myself feeling helpless, depressed, trapped, and full of resentment and anger. My goal is to feel better about my husband’s behavior without rocking the boat.
Although rocking the boat may feel painful and like the wrong thing to do—it is, after all, one of the best ways to tip over and sink—there is usually a possible benefit in family situations. And not just because a sinking ship will drown most rats.
For instance, it may stop you from having to go along with a bad or dangerous decision, or protect you from toxic exposure to prolonged criticism. In actuality, your husband is the real boat-rocker who insists on his right to yell you into submission and you have to decide what action will best keep it afloat, even if that action triggers threats and loud voices that make you feel like you’re drowning. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »