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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Instability Insurance, Pt. 2

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 7, 2015

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On Monday, we discussed how stress can change people and turn a strong, intelligent woman into a bad-boyfriend addict. While stress can push you to pick up bad habits, it can also push you away from good ones. Whichever happens to you, regaining control begins with an acceptance of the fact that you’ve lost it, but that you’re still the same old person inside. Then invite help from friends, build new habits and be patient, and you’ll eventually bring your behavior into line with your character. Just because stress changes you doesn’t mean careful management can’t change you back.
Dr. Lastname

I worry about the way my daughter stops contacting me for months at a time when she gets depressed. At least when she was in high school, she lived with me, so I could keep an eye on her and force her to stay on top of her work and get out of bed. Now she’s out of school and won’t even answer my texts. I worry, but I don’t want to antagonize her or undermine her independence by barging in on her. Meanwhile, I understand from her brother that she has trouble getting out of bed or even checking her mailbox, so it seems like she needs me now as much as she did when she was a kid. My goal is to help her without making her feel that I’m trying to take over her life.

It’s true that actions speak louder than words when it comes to expressing affection or commitment, but some people’s behavior is really impaired, even when their affection and commitment are genuine. Depression notoriously can prevent people from checking their mail, answering their phones, or even showering or leaving the house. No wonder they get more isolated and depressed.

What you’ve learned from watching your daughter endure prior bouts of depression is that her withdrawal doesn’t reflect specific negative feelings or a lack of independence; just a neurological shutdown. 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 »

Cease Love and Understanding

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 20, 2015

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While a large percentage of the population enjoys live-Tweeting every thought, Instagramming every cloud, and updating their Facebook status with every fart, there are still some people who prefer to keep their lives fairly private and don’t care what you think about “Scandal.” For whatever reason, some people need to be understood by everyone they know, while others would rather be known only by those they specially trust. In any case, don’t let a frustrated need, whether to be understood or ignored, get you to doubt yourself. Judge your behavior by what you know, rather than by how isolated or crowded you feel, and you’ll find the perfect privacy level.
Dr. Lastname

I knew that intravenous antibiotics might not help my Lyme disease, but I appreciated the fact that my internist was willing to try an experimental treatment. Now that it’s clearly not helping, however, she continues to act as if I’m basically pretty well and that I should continue my physical therapy for the muscle pain and be glad it isn’t worse. All that tells me is that she really doesn’t understand how debilitated I feel and how much the disease has affected my life; her lack of understanding makes me feel worse than when I came to her for treatment. My goal is to find someone who hears what I’m saying and can comprehend what I’m going through.

We all want understanding from doctors when illness makes us feel helpless, forces us to reduce our expectations or change our lifestyles. If they don’t understand the depth of our pain—especially when illness has pushed us so far down—then it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to find the treatment that will pull us up.

It’s a lot like wanting a comforting parent when you’re hurting and your life is a mess; without that comfort, everything feels much worse and it’s harder to figure out what to do. You want understanding and nurturing, which is hard to find from somebody who wears a lab coat for a living. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Monster Barrage

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.
Dr. Lastname

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 »

Breaking Sad

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 9, 2015

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People often have simple, easy expectations about complicated, difficult feelings; grief should resolve itself with time, and overwhelming guilt should be resolved by redeeming actions. Of course, grief doesn’t always disappear on schedule, if ever, and guilt shouldn’t become overwhelming unless you’ve actually done something wrong. So don’t grieve for persistent grieving and do feel guilty for over-reacting to guilt. Adjust your expectations, hold on to your values, and get used to the simple fact that painful feelings have a logic of their own.
Dr. Lastname

I lost my son ten years ago when he was hit by a drunk driver, but I still think about him every day, and sadness comes back periodically. I’ve always liked to stick with the things I liked—I’ve had the same job for many years, the same friends and hobbies, and I’m often reasonably happy—but he was my only kid, I never remarried after his father left us, and I just sometimes wonder whether I should still be thinking about him and feeling sad so frequently, even after all these years. My goal is to learn to accept his death in a healthy way so I don’t grieve forever.

Like rage and exhaustion, grieving is one of those feelings that you’re only “allowed” to experience for a limited amount of time; otherwise, everyone around you wants to kill you, and that’s only if your emotional-overdose doesn’t kill you first.

While rage and exhaustion really can burn you out, grieving over a death, even for ten years, isn’t necessarily unhealthy or unusual, and it certainly isn’t guaranteed to hasten your own demise.

In reality, people differ in the depth of their attachments and life doesn’t always offer second chances. So your experience with prolonged grief after losing your only son may be unavoidable, if uncomfortable, and, of course, sad.

After all, you’re the type of person who experiences strong, lasting attachments, so your relationship with your son would probably have been central to your life if he were still alive. Based on your long history with the same job and friends, it seems that you’re also the sort of person who values continuity and relationships over adventure, change, and new experience.

The pain of prolonged grieving could have become destructive if it caused you to lose interest in relationships or the values that shaped your life, but that isn’t the case. You’re living the life you want to lead; you just miss your son.

It’s hard to live with grief, so don’t make it worse by wondering why you can’t make it stop. Certain kinds of grief never end, but that’s what comes of loving, having children, and being fully committed to them. You wouldn’t want to be a different person; you’d just want life to less cruel to people like you.

So don’t question lasting sorrow. It’s a reflection of the loving relationship you had with your son, it hasn’t stopped you from leading a meaningful life, and it’s a key part of that meaning and of who you are. You have moved on in so many ways, even if your heart hasn’t.

Don’t feel bad about feeling bad; feel good about having a good relationship with your kid, even if he isn’t here anymore.

STATEMENT:
“When I find myself still grieving for my son after many years, I wonder if I’ve really moved on. I know, however, that I’ve made the most of what life has offered me even when it’s been unbearably painful, and grief hasn’t changed what I care about or have tried to achieve.”

I can’t stop feeling like I screwed up because an executive I hired a year ago feels I hired him under false pretenses. It’s true, his prospects changed recently when I relocated our company, but, when I hired him, I didn’t know that was going to happen. He doesn’t accept my explanation, however, and feels I’ve derailed his career, or at least uprooted his life. The situation reminds me of my mother, who always lamented how becoming a parent sidetracked her career, and I hate the idea of making anyone feel that way. My goal is to stop feeling guilty all the time.

As a manager, your job is to allocate responsibility fairly after considering a person’s job description and workload, and to avoid making anyone responsible simply because you need someone to blame. That might be emotionally satisfying, but it’s bad management. Especially if the person you’re mindlessly assigning blame to is yourself.

Don’t let yourself become responsible for an employee’s unhappiness, or even your mother’s unhappiness, without first stopping to examine the facts.

You suggest that you did nothing wrong, but you continue to blame yourself because he does. Forget about him then and consider your job description and what you could or couldn’t do about his career. Then ask yourself whether you treated him properly. If you met your own standards, then give yourself the right to disagree and to decline responsibility for ruining his life.

It’s hard to watch someone feel his life is ruined. Even though life sometimes takes a turn for the worse, however, it’s seldom helpful for anyone to see himself as a helpless victim who can do nothing to improve his situation but blame his problem on someone else. Taking on responsibility for other people’s problems doesn’t just hurt you; it also hurts them by giving them an excuse not to look for a solution.

So don’t take responsibility you don’t deserve and don’t listen to whining; you have a responsibility to protect yourself. Maybe you acquired the habit of feeling responsible for the sad lives of others as a child, but you’re an adult now, and a boss, and the blame stops with you.

STATEMENT:
“I feel terrible to hear someone say I’ve ruined their lives. I know, however, that I haven’t done anything wrong and that, if someone’s luck is bad, it’s their job to make the best of things without complaining. I will no longer accept undeserved blame or listen to unhealthy complaints.”

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 »

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 »

Unspoken Word

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 22, 2015

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Private health issues heal the same way that visible open wounds do; bind them up for too long out of shame and they’ll fester and get oozy, but if you put them out there too much they also risk getting oozy, as well as scaring away everyone, including those who want to help. When it comes to hidden problems, never assume that communication is the equivalent to antibiotic, but always fight unjustly negative thinking, whether you voice it silently or publicly. As long as you credit yourself for what you do with what you can’t help, rather than blaming yourself for bad performance, you’ll communicate well with yourself and others and keep scarring to a minimum.
Dr. Lastname

I was never a bad mother, but I’ve always got weird thoughts in my head about how I’m going to harm members of my family. I’ve never, ever acted on these thoughts or purposefully hurt anyone, but the thoughts’ persistence made it so that I was never able to just relax and enjoy my daughter when she was growing up. So when she recently told me that she and her boyfriend, whom I really like, are going to get married, I looked gloomy because I was immediately swamped with thoughts about how I was also going to harm him now, too. My daughter told me she was hurt because I seemed unhappy about her decision, but I didn’t want to let her know how crazy my thinking is (I’ve never told anyone but my doctor about it), so I just told her I was sure I was going to be very happy with him and was just bad at showing it. My goal is not to ruin my kid’s happiness with my craziness.

It’s easy to understand why you might feel ashamed of having murderous thoughts, even if they have nothing to do with how you really feel and have zero influence over what you do. Involuntary thoughts are like a terrible roommate that lives in your own head; they’re slobs that are always around, pestering you for attention and refusing to take the hint and leave.

The major thing that makes mental illness so hard to describe, comprehend, or, for some people, even believe in, is the way it can make your own brain turn against you. We’re used to our stomachs, joints, and even prostates turning against us, but our brains are literally supposed to know better. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Mistrust Fund

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 18, 2015

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At this point in history, when China, North Korea, and the St. Louis Cardinals are out to steal our classified information, it’s hard not to feel a little paranoid a lot of the time. While the healthy kind of suspicion that used to alert us to danger in the jungle now alerts us to possible identity theft, the unhealthy kind spams our brains with plenty of false alerts and often makes us miserable. So if you find yourself excessively afraid, don’t panic about your panic. Do your own investigation, in your own way, and then do what’s necessary to protect yourself. Then you can learn to ignore false worry and focus on the important threats (the Cardinals) instead.
Dr. Lastname

I recently went through an airport screening and got pulled aside for an extra exam. As I waited while the hand swabbing was being processed, a security officer took a long time looking at her computer. Strictly for security purposes, she said, ever since 9/11. Afterwards, I found myself becoming paranoid about whether the government was spying on me, and whether it might include the IRS, FBI, etc. The security area is always being filmed. Now I have a desire to complain to the government about my treatment and the suspicious way they handled me. Common sense says to let it go, but that is what nice people always do. My goal is to figure out whether my common sense should prevail.

We like to think we don’t get paranoid without good reason; as Kurt Cobain once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” On the other hand, the scariest forces conspiring against him turned out to be in his own head.

Like pop culture phenomena and the mythology of dead rock stars, feelings of being watched and plotted against, once triggered, take on a life of their own.

Paranoid thoughts are probably part of a neurological reaction that’s most likely triggered by some situation that is traumatic, spooky, or hard to explain. Once started, however, paranoid feelings don’t stop, no matter how sure you are that the only thing after you is your shadow. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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