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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Disorder Form, Part 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2015

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Despite all of our attempts to make our lives secure—wearing protective gear, creating a savings account, building a Y2K+X shelter—we’re all subject to nature’s whims. Most of the time, we’re just scrambling to maintain life’s delicate balance between order and chaos. Of course, there are certain, non-weather related natural disasters that can create disorder; namely, those we’re naturally related to. That’s why, in particularly unstable families, any interaction must be planned with a map of the likely fallout and that Y2K+X shelter stocked to the gills. Later this week, we’ll see how shaking things up can sometimes make the family balance stronger.
Dr. Lastname

Even though most of my family are crazy and a pain in the ass to be around, I still love them and have found a way to keep them in my life without letting their bullshit make me miserable. I’m worried though that, if they come to my wedding, then our relationship is going to fall apart. I can’t not invite them, because they know it’s happening and will show up with or without an invitation, but if they do show up, it’s going to be a shitshow. My father is a nice guy but a mean drunk, and there’s no way he’ll be sober. My oldest sister is a compulsive klepto who would probably disappear the wedding gifts, and another sister is well along in following our father’s staggering footsteps (my brother moved far away to get away from them, and I can’t blame him). I’ve told my fiancée I don’t want to spoil the event for her parents, who are very nice, but I’m afraid of what my family will do to create chaos and ruin what we’ve paid for. My goal is to have a wedding that doesn’t blow up on me and hurt innocent bystanders like my wife and her family.

Whatever you decide to do about inviting your family to your wedding, it’s clear that you accept them for who they are, but that acceptance is dependent on certain factors, i.e., where they are, and for how long. When it comes to family, especially awful relatives, better living through boundaries is often the rule.

Even if you’re not interested in punishing, hiding, or changing them, and you can talk about them honestly with your wife-to-be (who is not asking you to disown them), you’re also not interested in inflicting them on the public or your new in-laws. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Action Blues

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015

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Most of the time, you don’t want to try to pay attention to two things at once—the TV and the oven, the road and your texts, your kid and your moody pet alligator, etc.—but other times, it’s more dangerous not to. It’s a problem for those people who pay too much attention to the reaction they have to other people and ignore their own actions, as well as those who pay too much attention to their own actions and ignore how it impacts others. If you’re a single-minded person and want to avoid being blind-sided, learn how to divide your attention and pay it at the same time. That’s the only way to be mindful of relationships and your own priorities (and hopefully oncoming traffic).
Dr. Lastname

I like to be close to people and I tend to fall in love really easily, so, while my relationships are often intense and fulfilling, they never last very long and never end well. Anyway, my life has been going reasonably well, and I’ve been dating a girl I really like who I think would be a good wife, but my roommate is also my best friend and, since he’s started dating someone, he’s stopped being around very much. Neither one of us is gay, and we’ve never technically hooked up, but we’ve always been really comfortable with each other physically, and our bond is really close. Maybe that’s why I really resent his relationship and find myself being very angry at him for no reason and jealous that someone else has his attention. I really don’t think I’m gay, and I love my girlfriend, but I’m freaked out about my feelings. My goal is to figure them out and get back to having a happy relationship with my best friend.

For those who are prone to powerful emotional reactions, having strong feelings can be a lot like getting blackout drunk; you’re very certain where you are now and what you think about it, but can’t seem to remember how you got there. You lose the part where you keep falling into intense relationships and only focus on the fallout when they come apart.

The intensity of your post-entanglement emotions not only blinds you to the pattern of needy behavior and faulty decision-making that repeatedly puts you in these situations, but to the more important reality of how he or your current girlfriend fits into your future partnership plans.

So, instead of focusing on your anger and jealousy, give serious consideration to what you really want from your roommate; better to take a moment to assess your priorities than follow your feelings to another destructive conclusion. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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 »

Disturb Your Enthusiasm

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 2, 2015

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People often try to drum up motivation in the disheartened by repeating the old saying about how even the longest journey begins with a single step. Remember, however, that, whatever your destination, you must also find the right way to get there; there are bad ways to do good things and vice versa, but if your goal or method is off, you’re going to end up stuck. In other words, don’t set out for righteousness in ill-fitting shoes or take a speed-hybrid on the road to ruin. Instead of assuming that the quality of your motivation determines the effectiveness of your methods, evaluate them on their own merit. That’s the true first step you have to take before the journey even begins.
Dr. Lastname

I’m well established as a leader in my department with an impeccable sales record, so I was shook up when our VP suddenly told me he wanted to redistribute some of my accounts to a guy who’s junior to me, and then later promoted him over me to senior administration. While I’ve always gotten along well with my co-workers, I’ve also felt that I’ve been treated a little differently at work because I’m a woman (and one of few), but I’d never been able to put my finger on any specific discrimination until now. I met briefly with someone in HR to ask about this guy’s promotion over me, and he immediately got defensive and accused me of being difficult. Realizing that even approaching the subject of possible sexism would probably make things worse, I instead put together a detailed report for the VP on how taking me away from my regular accounts may decrease sales, but that did nothing but reinforce my “difficult” reputation. I’m clearly being discriminated against, but I’m more helpless and angrier than ever. My simple goal is to be treated fairly.

Getting fair treatment is always a dangerous goal, particularly when you have very good reason to believe you’ve been treated unfairly; even in battles over basic rights, victories are rare, hard-won and sometimes require involvement by the Supreme Court.

No matter how black and white your dispute may seem, you still have little control over how others treat and react to you; most administrators regard accusations of unfairness as a personal insult and potential legal attack. Sometimes, love wins, but more often, fear does. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Nuclear Over-Reactor

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 29, 2015

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Your brain’s ability to identify problems is a lot like that of a drug-sniffing dog, which is to say, despite its training and experience, it still occasionally confuses flour with cocaine or gives the OK to a cargo ship packed with heroin. In order to avoid overreacting to a non-problem or writing off something dangerous, think carefully about the consequences of problems and your intuitive response before deciding whether you need to act or sit on your hands. That way, you’ll be a more effective problem-assessor (and possibly problem solver) and more than earn a treat.
Dr. Lastname

Since my husband and I divorced, I feel like my daughter is slipping away. The divorce wasn’t bitter, but my daughter has the same sensitive temperament as my ex-husband and just generally takes after him more, so she seems more comfortable with him than with me. She and I love one another, but we don’t have the same natural rapport that she and her father have, so, all things being equal, it makes me feel a little on edge when we’re together. When I try harder to show I care (buy her clothes, take her to concerts, etc.), it seems to make her more uncomfortable. I feel like I’m losing the most important relationship left in my family, and I should encourage her to tell me why I make her nervous. My goal is to find a way to make our relationship work.

It’s natural to think you can get closer to your kid by being more like the person she’s close to. Unfortunately, trying to be like someone you’re not is like a dog trying to walk only on his hind legs; it’s hard work, curious and awkward for everybody nearby, and eventually, you’ll be unable to resist returning to a natural/quadruped state.

That’s why a major requirement for partnership is finding someone who can accept your temperament the way it is, which might also explain why your partnership with your husband wasn’t sustainable. Either way, you can still have a successful partnership with your kid, even if you aren’t 100% compatible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Control Stop

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 11, 2015

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Humans have long struggled to control strong emotions—to put limits on our heart’s desires or angry thirst for justice—but those emotions can become even more dangerous when they push us to try to control other people. You may want to control someone because you love him, or you may hate someone because she’s trying to control you, but in any battle for control, be it over passions, loved ones, or central Asia, there are very few victories. If you can tolerate those urges without allowing them to drive your priorities and control your mouth, however, you can avoid an epic struggle. You might not be in control, but at least you’ll be free.
Dr. Lastname

My stepfather recently went to the doctor and got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and some other things. This means that he would have to stop drinking and smoking. It’s been a month or two since then though and he hasn’t done a thing. I feel so angry and scared for him whenever I see him making a drink or smoking because it’s like he’s just pretending it will go away. Some of his logic is that some people smoke and drink for years and they live to be 90, but his parents deal with some pretty life-threatening health risks. I think to myself, “doesn’t he realize how serious these issues can get?” I talked to my mother about it and she says that he said he won’t give up drinking entirely, if at all. I feel so incensed because he is making us watch him ruin his body and his health. I know it would be hard for him but I feel like he should just suck it up, because if he doesn’t want to do it for himself, shouldn’t he be doing it for us? We’ve talked to him about it and he just blows us off. I think he is an alcoholic and I don’t know what to do. I can barely look at him but I want to help him. I don’t think he will ever admit to his problem and he won’t ever go get help for it. My goal is to figure out a plan because I can’t stand to see him kill himself like this.

When you share a strong bond with someone, you don’t just have feelings for them, but with them; it’s hard to watch someone you love suffering because, when you really care about him, you’ll experience his suffering, as well. The pain you feel if you lose him, however, will be yours to bear alone.

Trying to steer him away from possible distress, however, often makes your own distress worse, because you can’t control his decisions, addictions, or decisions about addictions, and pushing usually causes push back. You can share each other’s pain, even if it comes from accidentally hurting each other. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Self-Rejection

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 6, 2015

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Unless you’re a GPS, a chess robot, or a politician, it’s likely that, when it comes to relationships, passion motivates your decision-making more than strategic interests. That’s why we want to reward betrayal with rejection and neediness with nurturing; unfortunately, we forget that caring for and managing our own lives are our primary responsibilities, as well as far more under our control. So put reactive feelings aside until you’ve decided what is most likely to meet your self-responsibilities; that will usually be the more meaningful, most carefully plotted course of action, in the long run, than reacting to what’s been done to you.
Dr. Lastname

I owe my mentor a huge amount—he stuck by me through a long period of unemployment and repeatedly wrote me terrific recommendations—and I thought I’d landed in heaven when he finally arranged for me to work directly for him doing large-company sales, which is what I’ve always wanted, at a time when I needed work more than ever since my youngest daughter got sick. So I was shocked to discover that, once I started working for him, he was often belittling, critical, and frequently humiliating. I’ve asked around (discretely, of course) and found out that other people also think he’s often overbearing and mean; he’s actually been spoken to about it, but he’s so good at what he does that no one is going to fire him. I guess I should feel better that his treatment isn’t personal, but it still feels like a bit of a betrayal to have this man who’s always given me so much support become a source of daily opposition. So my goal is to figure out what to do with him and this job.

Don’t let yourself be distracted by your feelings for what must feel like a betrayal; yes, you should stand up for yourself and you have a right to feel hurt and furious, but standing up for yourself doesn’t mean standing up to anyone else.

That’s an oxymoronic idea that makes your feelings for an abusive Asshole more important than your own values and strategic goals, and thus makes you a slave to their Asshole-ishness. Just because he hurts your feelings doesn’t mean you have to let him hurt your career.

Your goal then isn’t to figure out what to do with your nasty mentor—his views and behavior don’t even matter to management—but to figure out what’s best for yourself, your sick kid, your healthy kids, etc. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Pity Limits

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 16, 2015

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For most people, or at least those that aren’t evil, cyborgs, and/or hardcore Libertarians, it’s instinctive to want to help someone close to us when they’re down on themselves and their lives. Unfortunately, it’s also instinctive to want to hurt those same people if they won’t hear your advice or are faking helplessness in the first place. Avoid wasting time, effort, and needless anger by not feeling obliged to repeat help that isn’t really helpful. You may be more helpful by reminding them of their choices, assuming they have the strength to cope with them, and reminding yourself that being a not-cyborg doesn’t mean you can help everyone.
Dr. Lastname

My baby brother is having a tough time with his wife, and he’s willing to tell me how her drinking is screwing up their family, but it’s amazing how quickly he can go from talking shit about her to defending her if I even tried to agree with him. Not that I would ever try or tell him to leave, because he always tends to do the opposite of what I suggest, anyway (just in general, but especially when it comes to her). Plus he really loves her and thinks he can change her, so he keeps on telling me what he told her and how it ended in a big fight, and then I think to myself how not surprising her reaction is and how she’s never going to change, but I just have to bite my tongue. I’m getting really sick of hearing about how crazy she makes him, and even more sick of not being able to say anything. My goal is to get him to see that she’s ruining his life before his endless bitching ruins mine.

You may feel you’re being called on to provide emotional support for your brother, given all the emotion he lays upon you. Unfortunately, given his reaction to your attempts at support, you think he doesn’t want your honest thoughts as much as he just wants a captive audience.

Were he to let you help him with his problems, you could tell him you feel his pain, second his assertions, and, given your level of empathy, tell him what you would do. It would be a win-win reaction, because you could help him to both feel better and change the subject.

Unfortunately, your brother doesn’t seem to want your help or to stop bitching, and, like you said, you don’t want to hear it anymore. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Disgrace Worker

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 5, 2015

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Humiliation may cut like a knife, but it’s more like a double-edged sword when it comes to problem solving. Sometimes it warns you that you’re doing something wrong when you’d be otherwise oblivious, but it can also sometimes frighten you needlessly when you’ve really done everything right. Keep your mind and skin intact by not letting humiliation stop you from judging your own actions, taking credit for your actual accomplishments, and making changes if you think they’re necessary. Only a fool would do otherwise.
Dr. Lastname

I’m in my 40s and in pretty good health, but I’ve had problems with my memory after hitting my head on the ice a year ago, and it’s driving me crazy. At work, I just can’t remember whether I told or asked someone something before, so I hesitate to speak up and then wrack my brain trying to figure out what I actually said and did because I’m so afraid of humiliating myself or looking weak. I’ve gone from being confident and outspoken to quiet and timid, and people wonder what’s wrong with me. I’ve asked my doctor to check out my memory and see if I need treatment, because I’m too young to be going senile. My goal is to do whatever is necessary to function properly and stay on top at work.

Whether you work at a fancy brokerage or the Burger King drive-thru, most of us rely on quick recall at our jobs, particularly if we want to impress a group of fast-talking peers, ace an interview with an employer or client, or just avoid getting reassigned to bathroom captain.

It’s not surprising then that your concussion-induced memory problem has triggered anxiety and self-doubt. From what you don’t say, however, it doesn’t seem like slow recall has impaired your ability to actually hold your job, just to impress while doing it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Shame and Fortune

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2015

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Like dental surgery, high school, and Bar Mitzvahs, humiliation can be pretty painful, but it’s not always a good thing to avoid. Sure, it sometimes makes you reactive to people and values that don’t really deserve your attention, but other times it alerts you to the fact that you’ve been acting like a jerk and need to change. So, before fighting the fact that you looked or done bad, judge your own behavior to know whether it’s time to clean up your act, or just pay attention to doing what you think is right. Then you’ll gain something from your suffering, even if it’s just knowledge and not passage into manhood.
Dr. Lastname

Christmas day turned into a nightmare this year because I failed to set a clear boundary with my adult kids, and the fall out has set me back on antidepressants. My soon-to-be ex-husband chose to spend the entire holiday with the family of the woman he had a long affair with. I have tried to be civil to her and my kids have met her for the sake of their father, but when my daughter wanted to set up a Skype session with her dad from my house, it was a step too far for me. My protests were overruled, and it all got worse when one of my other kids became angry and refused to participate, which led to un unpleasant atmosphere and bickering. I intervened only to realize that the woman and my ex could see me and hear what was going on. I felt humiliated and very angry to be put in this situation in my own home. The day was wrecked for all of us and I did not help by getting drunk and overturning the tree. I wish to be able to have minimal contact with my ex while accepting that my kids want him in their lives. My goal is to avoid triggers like this by setting firm and clear boundaries, knowing my limits, and having a coping strategy to maintain self-control.

It’s always hard to set boundaries if you don’t know what you’re setting them for; most middle eastern countries were given fairly arbitrary boundaries, so it’s not surprising that that region and your Christmas experience have an eerily similar level of conflict.

Your intended boundaries may be more purposeful than those given to Pakistan, but if your purpose is to avoid humiliation, then you’re giving top priority to the way you look to other people. Particularly to your ex-husband’s soon-to-be new wife, and she’s the last person whose importance, or even streamed image, you want to amplify. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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