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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Instability Insurance, Pt. 1

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015

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Dear Readers,

As you might have noticed, the site’s been going through some changes in the past week or so as we prepare for the release of our book, F*ck Feelings (see pre-order links to the right, it makes an excellent Labor Day gift).

This week, we debut our biggest change—instead of doing two cases per post, we’re going to do two per week. New posts will still go up on Mondays and Thursdays, but those posts will contain just one case, and it’ll be the Monday case and the Thursday case that have a unique and insightful connection, as opposed to two cases within each entry.

We hope you approve of these changes, and we appreciate your patience as we revamp the site and drag it from the WordPress dark ages.

In conclusion, please enjoy FF 2.0, and also, please buy our book. These A/C-bolstered electric bills aren’t going to pay for themselves.
-Dr. Lastname

 

When people are under stress, they sometimes become different people. While nobody aside from Bruce Banner experiences a physical transformation, stress does make some people repeatedly do things they know they shouldn’t. If stress sucks you into a bad habit, learn to accept your loss of control, put shame aside and have faith that the real you is still there and will come back from your mental-Hulk state. Next time, we’ll discuss the strange flipside of stress-induced compulsion.
-Dr. Lastname

I pride myself on being a pretty independent woman, so when I realized I had to give up on a relationship that was going nowhere with a guy I liked, I barely let it phase me. Six months later, however, I fell hard for someone else and, when he dumped me, it seriously messed me up and made me miserable. That’s when I was horrified to find myself calling my previous, going-nowhere boyfriend again. Since then, I can’t seem to stop calling him, even though I feel the same old vague emptiness after we spend time together. I’ve never seen myself as weak, but I feel like an addict every time I get sad and find myself picking up the phone. My goal is to figure out what went wrong with me to make me become someone who can’t stop calling someone whom I know will leave me feeling worse.

 

Experiencing the urge to do something destructive, be it calling a crappy ex, eating your weight in Oreos, or returning to the vodka trough, isn’t always a sign of overall weakness, weirdness, or creepiness. More often, it’s a sign that a part of your brain is possessed, and Oreo-loving demons don’t get up and leave on their own.

That’s because these compulsions often have a life of their own, and sometimes independent people who are proud of their self-control find themselves struggling with the urge to do something they really don’t want to do, whether it’s drinking, eating, or over-connecting. Nobody’s immune to bad habits, not even good people. 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 »

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 »

Control-Option-Complete

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 15, 2015

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It’s strange that, as children, we’re pushed to declare what we want to be when we grow up, and then get disappointed with ourselves when we can’t achieve that goal, even though most kids want to grow up to be king or a dinosaur. If you get to adulthood without an idea of what you want to be, plausible or no, you may feel doomed if uncertainty and indecisiveness make such decisions difficult or illness makes your chosen path impossible. In reality, what matters most is not choosing a career or doing well at it, but being a decent and independent person as you find your way in life. Then, whether a career appears or, like the dinosaurs themselves, comes to a premature end, you will grow to be a strong person who can be proud of your choices.
Dr. Lastname

I’m in my mid-20s and struggling from some choice-paralysis in regards to my career. I went to college on the other side of the country a few years ago and obtained an arts degree (I know, I know – bad move), and am doing administrative work. I find it deeply unsatisfying but it pays quite well, considering. I also know that if I wanted, I could build a solid career here in something practical, I would just have to decide which career. On top of that, my family is here, and I’ve taken up meaningful volunteer work. I have some friends with their masters that are starting up serious careers, and then some that are doing things like buying houses and getting pregnant, which makes me feel like maybe I should just find a boyfriend and start settling too. On the other hand, I deeply want change, a bigger city and different industry options. I got into a program at a college in a bigger city on the other side of the country, and it’s probably as useless as my current degree, but I would love to go back to school and be more qualified in something. Also, this city I would be moving to has more varied industries. But leaving my job and going back to school on the other side of the country means I would have to take out more student loans which just seems stupid. I know there is no right answer and that everyone goes through this in a way—if I go, I can always come back—but the part of me that wants to be pragmatic knows that with my current debt, moving would actually set me back a lot. My goal is to reconcile my desire for a cool arts job in a bustling city with my growing desire to be practical and either make a decision to find something that works for me here, or move, explore other options, and not look back.

Like marriage, a career is about the long game and shouldn’t be judged by its immediate rewards, be they to your mood, wallet, self-esteem, etc. Besides, while marriage is hard work, a career is just hard work; the only way to get the same kind of bliss from a new job as you would as a newly wed is to start working in porn.

Once you take that into account, it’s becomes easier to simplify your career choices, particularly when it comes to work, going to school, or change in general. Right now, in your mid-twenties, you have a great opportunity to explore career options, new cities, even sexualities if you’re so inclined, all without having to worry too much about pay or security. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Evaluation Route

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 1, 2015

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The only thing people are worse at accurately evaluating than “family values” politicians and Marvel movies is their own character. That’s the drawback of judging something using your emotions and expectations, not facts and fairness; it makes us as apt to judge ourselves too harshly as to excuse ourselves too readily. In any case, don’t trust your self-judging instincts until you’ve examined the facts, reviewed your standards, and decided how you would judge a friend under similar circumstances. Then, however you feel, stand by your verdict/review of Ant Man and act accordingly.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve lost a few really close friends over the years, one after the other, and it’s got me wondering whether I’m really a jerk (or “Asshole™”?) but don’t know it. Most recently, my best friend froze me out when he accused me of hating his boyfriend; I swear I kept my thoughts about him to myself, and besides, I didn’t think the guy was so terrible, but either way, I was shocked when my friend dropped me and I had to hear from someone else that he was married. Before that was the friend who was always mad at me but then went nuclear when I suggested spending less time together, then a handful of ex-boyfriends who think I’m the devil, a job or two I was awkwardly let go from without warning…when everything was happening, I thought I was doing the right thing, but with a such a long enemies list, I have trouble trusting my judgment. My goal is to figure out whether I’m just bad at choosing friends or bad at seeing myself for the jerk/Asshole™ I really am.

Since the first rule of Asshole™ club is never wondering if you’re an Asshole™, you probably aren’t one. On the other hand, the first warning sign that someone’s an Asshole™ is learning that they’ve got a list of people who’ve wronged them that’s longer than the list of ingredients on a can of Pringles, so your concern is understandable.

Of course, everyone can act like an asshole sometimes, but that doesn’t an Asshole™ make, especially since you probably regret that behavior while an Asshole™ would expect a trophy for it. What you need then is a reliable, objective way of examining the moral value of your actions (and the value of those friendships, as well). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Bury the Need

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.
Dr. Lastname

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 »

Censure Track

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 14, 2015

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The best way to test someone’s ability may be to put them in a high pressure situation—a mock trial, dinner with a spouse’s divorced parents, Kobayashi Maru, etc.—but the best way to test their character is to see how much responsibility they’re willing to take for things if they go horribly wrong. The ability to read and take criticism depends far more on personality traits and reflex than reason and judgment; that’s why Assholes are amazingly good at pinning responsibility on other people (which is why therapy usually has so little to offer) and nice people are good at figuring out how they caused it to rain. In any case, if you judge yourself as you would anyone else, you’re more likely to use logic rather than instinct. Then you can figure out whether you owe an apology or not, and to whom, and others can figure out whether you’re solid enough to grant a second chance.
Dr. Lastname

I’m usually OK with being single and childless—I’ve had some bad relationships that were far worse than being single, so being independent seems like a fine alternative, and kids will come when I’m ready. When I look at Facebook on Mother’s Day, however, and see pictures of my friends looking all happy with their kids and happy little families, I start to get depressed and hate myself. I’m sure that part of the problem is that my own mother died a couple years ago. My goal is to figure out why the happiness of others makes me feel like such a loser.

Mother’s Day, like weddings, birthdays (including that of Jesus Christ), and all other days that celebrate someone with gift giving, are usually doomed to cause as much pain as pleasure, and sometimes more.

The intention is to make someone feel appreciated and loved by giving them time, love, and shit they don’t need, but it often winds up making more people, including the honoree, feel worse by forcing them to consider all the time, love, and shit they don’t have. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Risked Off

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015

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Most tough decisions involve competing risks of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t variety; tougher still are those that factor in someone you care about, so now they’re damned if you do or don’t. In evaluating risk, however, we often over-fear threats that cause pain but aren’t dangerous and under-fear true dangers because they won’t hurt until they happen. So if you’re realistic about rating risk, and don’t overreact to the risk of emotional hurt, your decisions will often become clearer. That will make it easier to damn your doubts and do the right thing.
Dr. Lastname

I can’t really get into the specifics of my job (for reasons that are about to become obvious), but I work in a partnership with another woman at a job where a mistake could cause serious injury, and my partner is always drunk. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, because I’m an alcoholic myself (two years sober, in the program), but she denies everything and changes the subject. I don’t want to bring it up with the higher ups, however, because, even though her being drunk puts us both in danger and scares the shit out of me, I know she’ll lose her job, which will just make her drinking worse. My goal is to figure out what, if anything, to do about it that won’t get her in trouble or both of us in a dangerous situation.

While Alcoholics Anonymous believes that there are no “former” alcoholics, there are many different kinds, e.g., active, in recovery, functioning, possibly just French, pickled, etc.

As an alcoholic in recovery, you should know that AA also says that we’re only as sick as our secrets. And your secret, about her secret, could make you both very sick indeed. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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