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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Disorder Form, Part 2

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 13, 2015

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Finding equilibrium in your life is hard; as we discussed earlier this week, creating balance in a family of unbalanced people is nearly impossible. In other families, however, you can coach someone into a new, more positive direction. In doing so, you can help them create more security in their own lives, improving their balance and strengthening your bonds instead of risking them.
Dr. Lastname

I worry about my son because he’s had a hard time getting his life started since he graduated from college a few years ago. He’s very bright and was always a hard worker, but, right after he graduated, it took him a long time to get going and find a job, probably due to a combination of depression, anxiety, and no focus. In any case, he’s now working, but he needs a graduate degree if he wants to make a decent salary in his field and have any sort of financial security, and he never gets around to applying or even looking into possible local programs. He’s not touchy about being pushed, but I hate the idea of nagging him. My goal is to get him to see that he needs to do more if he really wants to be independent.

Helping kids get organized does not require nagging, just administration. Remember, a good boss doesn’t nag, just sets a clear direction for a good reason, assumes that’s what you want to do, and helps you get there. Take that approach as a parent, particularly when, as in your case, your son doesn’t get angry about being advised, encouraged, or incentivized. 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 »

Many Crappy Returns

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 8, 2015

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We spend endless amounts of time wishing happiness on our friends and pain on our enemies, if only because their respective happiness and misery gives us pleasure, as well; there’s at least one German word and a few nighttime soap operas that sum up the concept well. Trouble is, of course, that happiness is a deceptive drug and punishment has unintended consequences, so our cathartic needs are a poor guide for what we should actually do. Even if you can’t help but cheer on friends and flip off villains, don’t take any real action until you can carefully consider the limits of what you actually control and how you wish things to turn out. Then you’re much more likely to get a glücklich ending.
Dr. Lastname

I’m worried about my sister’s recent engagement because she hasn’t known the guy that long and she’s been very vulnerable since her divorce from her unfaithful ex-husband. On the other hand, she seems so happy after such a long period of misery, and I think that’s all that really counts. The guy is probably fine, but we just don’t know much about him, and things have moved very quickly. I know that if I ask her to slow things down, she’ll tell me how happy she is, implying that I’m trying to rain on her parade. My goal is to help her be happy.

As we’ve said many times, a good marriage should provide many things—a trustworthy partner to share responsibilities with, the ability to use the carpool lane, someone to always take the blame—but immediate happiness is not one of them.

Marriage is a forever commitment, and happiness is a fleeting emotion; marrying someone because they make you happy makes as much sense as getting hungry and investing everything in a restaurant. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Ministrations Cycle

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

Industrious Engineering

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 16, 2015

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It’s not great to be a parent who is effective at doing the wrong thing any more than it is to be ineffective at doing the right thing; there’s no job out there with less correlation between effort and results, and with such high stakes besides. Yes, you should get credit for good intentions, even when they get you nowhere, and get away from bad intentions, especially when they get you and/or your kids into trouble. Usually, however, when your goals and methods are realistic and helpful, you have a better chance of accomplishing them and getting the job done.
Dr. Lastname

My daughter is about to graduate from a very impressive college after getting great grades, and I’m very proud of her, but I can’t understand why she’s not trying to look for a good job or a reasonable career. Instead, she wants to defend the downtrodden, so she’s looking for work for an NGO in a troubled part of the world or trying to get an internship with the Innocence Project. She’s had a privileged childhood and a great education she didn’t have to pay for—but that I had to work hard to pay for, thanks very much—so I tell her she should be thinking about using her advantages to get ahead and make a future for herself, rather than worrying about people who’ve had all the bad luck I’ve protected her from. My goal is to get her to take care of herself rather than putting herself at risk for the sake of people she’s got nothing in common with.

Aside from the fact that you believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and your daughter is drawn to helping the downtrodden, you’ve got some reason to worry about the risks of her young idealism.

Her heart is in the right place, but her desired work may take her to the kinds of scary places filled with the scary people you feel you’ve worked hard to protect her from.

In addition, you know that life in this country doesn’t provide much of a safety net, so your daughter’s future security will depend a great deal on her ability to find a good job and save money. In other words, if she doesn’t use the advantages you’ve given her to find a lucrative career, she might end up downtrodden herself. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fixed Signals

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 13, 2015

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As we often say when pontificating about Assholes™, the great paradox of self-awareness is that those who worry most about whether they’re bothering other people mainly bother themselves, and those who don’t worry at all are a huge bother to anyone unlucky enough to cross their path. You can find a happy medium, however, by using reasonable tools for managing your social behavior, like keeping things friendly and superficial and pursuing goals you’ve defined for yourself. Trust in your own rules of etiquette, pursue your social goals, and you will find the sweet spot between obsessive and oblivious.
Dr. Lastname

I’m a divorced mother of three with a nice job who would like to get married again, so I was very interested when I got a message on Facebook from an old high school crush whom I hadn’t see in twenty years. He and I never dated, but we were good friends, and I was pleased to hear he was also divorced and happy living in a nearby city I often have cause to visit. So after we had a great time catching up, I suggested that we have dinner next month when I’ll be there, and he seemed eager but also a little unsure about whether or not he’d be free. We’re still messaging each other, but he hasn’t said yes or no to meeting up yet, so I find myself thinking a lot about what he’s thinking, and whether I’m reading his signals correctly or if I’m just nuts. My goal is to figure out what he’s really thinking and if he’s “just not that into me” or taking it slow because of where we are in life and what’s at stake.

Given that this guy is a teenaged crush, it makes sense that you’d revert to your younger self and worry about what people are thinking about you and whether the boy you like is going to ask you out or ignore you on Facebook or maybe even take you to the prom.

Equally juvenile, however, is this notion of writing him off simply because he’s “just not that into you.” He might not be—hell, he might be too tired after football practice—but as an adult woman and mother of three, you’re old enough to decide whether his wishy-washy flirtation means you shouldn’t be that into him. 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 »

Knowledge is Sour

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 2, 2015

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When faced with a seemingly insurmountable issue—an illness, personality flaw, really ugly feet—most people think that getting to the bottom of that issue and finding an answer of some kind is their ultimate goal, when in reality, it’s just the beginning. Too often, they’re actually looking for someone to blame or focusing on one small problem and ignoring the big picture. So don’t let helplessness guide your assumptions, your searches, or your choices in footwear. Ask yourself what answers you’re really looking for and whether you actually know more or less than you think you do and, given that knowledge, whether anything other than life is really to blame.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t stand seeing how depressed my husband is, and no medication seems to help. Several things he tried were very promising at first but then pooped out or quickly caused side effects that made him even more miserable. I can’t get a straight answer from his doctors as to why they’re not working or whether his symptoms are from his illness or being over-medicated. No one seems to know what they’re doing, or what to try, or why the medication isn’t working, or when to stop when they’re not working…I feel really lost. My goal is to find some way to get his treatment on track.

When treatment doesn’t work, it’s natural to feel helpless and look for an explanation. Both fortunately and unfortunately, for most psychiatric problems, the answer is simple– treatment often doesn’t work.

Remember, the scientific meaning for “effective” is “better than nothing,” not “usually works.” And when “better than nothing” translates to “maybe less terrible than normal,” it’s easy to feel effectively screwed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fool to be Kind

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 26, 2015

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Despite whatever’s going on in the Middle East, at the merge onto the Holland tunnel, or in your average Costco on a Saturday, people are often very kind to each other. We rarely feel we’re being kind, however, because we get bogged down with guilt about something we didn’t do wrong in the first place. That’s why, depending on whether you feel guilty or not, what feels kind can be mean and what looks unkind can actually be thoughtful. Think hard about what you don’t control before you decide whether you’re doing a kindness or not, and remember, if you let yourself off the hook for problems you didn’t cause, you’re doing a kindness for yourself.
Dr. Lastname

I try to help my brother, but my wife says I yell at him too much. He was always a little slow, mentally, and doesn’t realize that he talks too loud and at the wrong times. Since we took him in a year ago, I’ve tried to improve his social skills by telling him to shut up when he interrupts a conversation and getting him to lower his tone. My wife says I sound rude and nasty, and other people have said that about me, but my brother is getting the message and he says he doesn’t feel insulted. Sometimes you have to be harsh to get through to people. So my goal is to get my wife to understand that being mean is sometimes necessary.

There’s no doubt that it is sometimes helpful to correct other people’s behavior, especially when your intentions are good and their perceptive abilities are as bad as your brother’s. What you might ask yourself, however, is whether setting him straight with his social skills requires such a “Scared Straight” approach.

After all, it is possible to sound assertive without also sounding angry and overbearing, and without losing any of your effectiveness. Skilled animal trainers are called whisperers and not screamers for a reason.

If you can’t do assertive without turning into a drill sergeant, then you might share a little bit of your brother’s obliviousness when it comes to the harsh tone of your voice and the response it evokes from others. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Sourced Exposure

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 9, 2015

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Telling the unadulterated truth can be an intoxicating experience; revealing a dangerous secret can give extreme sport-levels of exhilaration, and the thrill of hearing a secret exposed is why most people watch any locale of The Real Housewives. Unfortunately, also like extreme sports, the adrenaline rush of secret-sharing is often followed by a painful, embarrassing crash. Sometimes you can be more helpful by keeping private information to yourself, and sometimes you can acknowledge a secret while being respectful. In any case, think carefully about consequences before you decide how much exposure is necessary and prepare to explain this necessity with respect. Then you’ll be a good judge of when to shut up and how to share and keep your friendships/bones/dinner party invitations intact.
Dr. Lastname

I don’t know when my depression started, but the symptoms became pronounced when I was in high school. I started seeing a doctor and taking medication when I was in college, and twenty years later, that’s still what I do for treatment. I told my wife about my depression while we were dating, and my close family know about it, but I’m not very open about it besides…I’m a private person overall, and I don’t want to deal with being judged by others. Now that my son is in high school, exhibiting the same symptoms that made my adolescence so difficult, I’m worried that keeping quiet about my own illness wasn’t the right thing to do, and I’m not sure what advice to give my son, either. I think I should tell him about my own experiences, because I want him to know that he’s not alone or weird, and that he shouldn’t be ashamed of being sick, but I don’t want him to be totally open about his illness, given how the other kids might treat him. Then again, I worry that keeping quiet about our illness just perpetuates the stigma…one of my brothers is gay, so it reminds me of what he went through when he came out, if that makes sense. Then again, my brother didn’t want to be a poster child, and neither do I, but maybe, for my son’s sake, I should be? My goal is to figure out how to talk to my son about his depression, and how and if to talk to others about my depression, also.

Some people feel liberated by sharing all their secrets, but most people, especially those of us who came of age before Facebook, enjoy our privacy. If you’re an especially private person—you don’t feel compelled to tell the world what you ate for lunch, let alone what your prescriptions are—then sharing information about illness is an especially uncomfortable prospect.

Even when an illness is stigmatized, however, there are unique criteria for making your decision, with specific benefits to both disclosure and privacy. It’s your job to figure out which is more important given the unique facts of your situation and your son’s.

If you were a celebrity, then being totally open about your disease would give you the chance to reach out to and help others, but as a regular guy, the only person who will consider you a role model is your son. You can find the level of openness that works for you without having to be a poster child (which, for the depressive community, means being down-and-out and proud). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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