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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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 »

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 »

Anger Banishment

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 10, 2014

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Family members can push us harder than anyone or anything else, probably because the family tree literally roots us in place so we can’t escape. Sometimes you seethe while you suffer, and sometimes worry while you do rescue work. In either case, you can’t gain freedom without shaking up the branches and the way you think about them. Once you ask yourself how much good you can really do, either by fighting or protecting, you’re well on the way to managing your feelings and finding the strength to branch off on your own.
Dr. Lastname

I have returned to a very personal habit that I have never admitted to a counselor since I worry about what they might think. To calm myself, I daydream about getting my hands around my ex-husband’s throat and not letting go. The more detail and the more I replay the scene in my head, the calmer and happier I feel. In reality, my ex-husband is a gold medal, abusive Asshole who always wins, but our sons are teenagers who seem able to stand up to what they regard as verbal abuse and bullying and they’ve been telling a family counselor about it. Meanwhile, my life has been going well and I have a nice boyfriend. I’m not a violent person and my ex is in no danger from me. My goal is to find a new, less violent coping strategy that will promote calm, healthy thoughts and reduce my anger and frustration.

Fantasy can be a powerful tool; it’s what fuels imagination, keeps our spirits up in dark times, and makes LARPing possible. It lets us escape the everyday and find freedom, even if it’s only in our heads. Unless, however, it’s a strangle-the-bastard fantasy like yours, which keeps you bound both to your ex and the fear and anger he inspires.

You probably felt weak when you were married to your ex, partly because of his bullying manner and worry about the kids, but getting yourself away from him made you strong. You left him, moved on, and provided the kids with a stable foundation that apparently gives them good perspective on his nastiness. You liberated yourself in a very real sense. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Panic Glutton

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 23, 2014

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Sadly, there’s a simple equation when it comes to confronting someone about drug use; the more you panic during the confrontation, the more they panic and then seek chemical relief by using more drugs. So, whether you’re trying to get through to others, or taking up the topic with yourself, it’s best not to focus on negative emotions. Instead, ask yourself to create your own definition of drug abuse, based on what you think would compromise your safety or ability to keep your promises and be who you want to be. Then compare your behavior with your standards and, if it doesn’t measure up, consider a positive way forward. Your confrontations will be less dramatic, but your conclusions and efforts will have stronger roots, more staying power, and the relief won’t be so chemical.
Dr. Lastname

My twenty-year-old son did well for a couple months after his last detox, but then I got a call from his girlfriend that he’s taking the same tranquilizers again that he was addicted to before. I asked him about it and he denied it, but I believe his girlfriend and now I don’t know what to do…tell him to get help, take him to the emergency room, have an intervention, or what? If he admits it at all, I know he’ll say that his anxiety is unbearable and he just can’t stand it without medicating himself. My goal is to get him real help.

Most people know that the first of the Twelve Steps is to admit your lack of power over addiction, but few realize that this applies as much to the loved ones of addicts as to addicts themselves.

As the parent of a young son, you may feel you have additional power and responsibility, but you also have additional handicaps, such as the huge cost of treatment, its notorious ineffectiveness, and the difficulty of winning cooperation from a defiant child. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Help Reviews

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 20, 2014

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We often warn readers about the dangers of being too helpful, but for every person who gives without thinking, there are plenty of others who want to help someone they love but are too paralyzed to act. Whether someone you love rejects your help or asks for it, your ability to be helpful doesn’t depend entirely on their motivation or yours, but also on the nature of their problem and what kind of help, if any, is likely to be effective. So don’t make it your business to push or provide help until you know more about their problem. Then you’ll have a better idea of how to focus your efforts and limit your responsibility to providing what will actually work. That way you can find the right balance of helping, which involves doing the most good with the least harm to everyone involved.
Dr. Lastname

My sister got arrested last weekend for dealing drugs, and even though I wasn’t surprised, it brought back all my angry, helpless memories of the many times when we were growing up that she would get into trouble and then get into treatment, tell everybody she was feeling better and going straight, and then fuck up again. This time she’ll probably go away for 10 years and the state will take custody of her kids. My parents are devastated and wonder where they went wrong, and I’m also thinking hard about whether I was a good brother. A few months ago, after she stole from our parents, I told her I’d never trust her again and I wonder whether that caused her to give up hope. I can’t stop thinking about her and I can’t sleep or focus. My goal is to figure out how to get over these feelings so I don’t ruin my life as well.

When people we love do bad things, we usually give them two options: punishment or help, with help sometimes coming in the form of punishment, and vice versa. Even when intentions are good, good is not what necessarily results.

Unfortunately, some lack the ability to respond to either; neither additional help nor punishment will give them the self-control, moral compass, or whatever it takes to stop themselves from doing bad things. What they do deserve, and won’t get, is better genetic luck, and what their families deserve is protection from their bad behavior. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Marital Dis

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 25, 2013

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If you truly want to believe in the old saying, “There’s someone for everyone,” you have to add the caveat, “assuming that many of those people aren’t exactly right for each other.” Some people think they’ve found “the one,” but then can’t see their partner’s faults because of the wishful optimism of love. Others sour on their spouses because of the tired pessimism of long-married irritability So if it comes time to make a tough decision about a marriage, be sure to ask yourself what continuing your partnership is likely to do to your finances, parenting, and security given what’s happened so far and what you now know about the character of your significant other. Once you figure out whether your someone is actually Mr. Wrong or Mrs. Will-Suffice, you’ll have a much better idea of whether you should hire a therapist to help you get along or a lawyer to preserve your assets.
Dr. Lastname

Please Note: There will be no new post on Thursday due to American Thanksgiving. As always, we are grateful for our families and your misery. We’ll be back next week.

I’m living a nightmare and feel totally helpless. I thought my wife had overcome the drug habit she was struggling with before we got married (otherwise I wouldn’t have married her). Normally, she’s the sweetest person in the world. Recently, she went back being the evil witch I remember her being when she was on drugs, blaming me for everything and threatening to take me to court for abusing her. When I asked whether she was on drugs again, she said I was a crazy asshole. Two hours later she said she was sorry, that I was right, but she felt ashamed of using drugs and was taking it out on me. She said treatment just didn’t work for her. My goal is to get her to get help so she goes back to being the amazing woman I love.

There’s a reason that “addict” is a term you live with forever. That’s not to say it has to be a horrible stigma—college graduate and Torontonian also qualify as life-long labels—but no matter how much you wish addiction would be behind you or someone you love for good, it’s always there.

You thought your wife had overcome her drug habit because you loved her sweet, kind side and wanted to think ugly, addict side wasn’t real. She’s not a bad person, but she has a bad side and a bad disease that she doesn’t seem ready or willing to deal with. Even when she’s being kind, her evil side is always going to be there, and she’s doing nothing to stop it. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Valued

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 28, 2013

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It’s easy to disagree with a stranger—if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have road rage, Judge Judy or the internet—but it’s both difficult and painful when you find yourself unable to find common ground with someone you love. Whenever you feel pressured by someone you love to do something you hate, whether they’re motivated by destructive needs or idealistic ones, don’t feel obliged to end the pressure by changing their minds. Instead, accept the pain of unbridgeable differences and protect yourself from unnecessary conflict. Then, when you take action, you will have the confidence and optimism of someone who does not have to explain or persuade, even if the person you can’t relate to is a relative.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve always known my father can be a little weird, but he’s generally a decent guy and I know he loves my kids. The trouble is, he’s got it in his head that my wife is an evil person who has serial affairs and doesn’t really care about our kids, and that I can’t see it because she’s got me fooled. Whenever he visits, he gives her dirty looks and takes every opportunity to whisper about how insincere she looks and how badly she manages the kids and, of course, my wife picks up on it, which is what he wants. I can’t impose him on my wife, the tension is not good for the kids, and I can’t get him to see that he’s wrong, because he feels he’s on a mission from God. My goal is to find a way to persuade him to stop so that we can spend time together as a family.

If you’re a parent, you‘ve been told that it’s important that you and your spouse are in agreement and present a united front. In reality, the wish to overcome and erase disagreement, be it between parents or families in general, causes lots more trouble than disagreement itself.

Your father should know by now that, by openly expressing hostility towards your wife, he does nothing but cut himself off from both you and his grandchildren, hurting everyone and reducing whatever positive and protective influence he wants to have. He is cutting off his family to spite his fact-less assertion. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Mood

Posted by fxckfeelings on August 26, 2013

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Dealing with a loved one who is fucking up his life or with his family who are the captive victims of his behavior is a lot like being held hostage and being your own hostage negotiator; it’s hard not to become both helpless and emotionally pushy. If you are careful to remember what you don’t control, however, you can give good, strong advice without feeling guilty about not doing enough or causing conflict by voicing blame. You may first need to get coaching from experts, particularly those who’ve been through the process themselves, before you can negotiate well, but, once you’ve picked up the skill, you’ll be as helpful as possible. You can certainly free yourself, and you might do much to help your captor, as well.
Dr. Lastname

My 30-year-old daughter got married late last year to the father of her baby and they bought a house, have jobs and seemed to be doing well. I was concerned about the brevity of his previous marriage, his jealousy, his attitude to money and a niggling voice in my head, but I tried to be positive and support her choice. I put her unhappiness down to post natal depression until she admitted that he has huge debts, is a liar and a bully, and she suspects be is having an affair. He has spent all her money so she can’t afford a lawyer. Now his mother is getting involved—she covers up for him and called his last wife “evil,” but we have discovered that her experience was similar and that he has a long trail of debt, infidelity and general chaos. I am willing to give my daughter and grandchild a home but am going through my own divorce so it’s tough. My soon-to-be ex is worried but subject to the demands of his new partner so most of it falls on me, and we’ve already lent them money. How do I give support without taking over when my daughter seems overwhelmed and doesn’t take my advice?

Unfortunately, your daughter suffers from a very specific colorblindness—the kind that impairs the ability to see red flags—and now she feels very stuck in a situation that only she could not see coming.

Even as you swoop in to guide her through the aftermath, that doesn’t have to mean that you’re taking control of her life, though her dependence on your resources means you’ll have a strong influence. You can be a good teacher and firm manager and also respect her independence and choices; she’s not totally blind, so your guidance need not be absolute. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

For Closure Proceedings

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 8, 2013

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Sometimes goals that appear meaningful, like speaking your mind, getting closure, or getting an art degree, are excuses for pursuing feel-good results we damn well know will turn out badly. If you put aside your yearning for a better world while examining the probable results of your actions, however, you’re much more likely to do actual good, even when it doesn’t feel so hot, rather than let good intentions draw you into making the same old mistakes. No matter how right it feels to try, getting the last word, closure, and/or a BFA just aren’t worth it.
Dr. Lastname

It really isn’t my ex-girlfriend’s fault that I got paranoid and couldn’t work for two months—she didn’t make me start using meth with her (she’s was a heavy user when we met). I used because I wanted to, not just because I loved her and the chemistry between us was amazing. Eventually, though, the meth made me unbelievably paranoid (I’d never been into drugs before) and I thought she was putting the smell of cat piss in my apartment. I also couldn’t sleep, think straight, or pay attention to anything for more than two seconds, so it wasn’t long before my boss told me to get help or else. Months of treatment have almost put my brain back where it was before and I’m almost ready to return to work, but I want my ex-girlfriend to know I don’t blame her and I want us to part on good terms, so I think we should meet once more, just to get closure. My goal is to erase the negativity caused by my bad reaction to meth and close the book on the situation for good.

After month of treatment, you should be well-versed in how to approach your addiction one day at a time; while there might be a rehab out there that preaches having one last meth binge hurrah “for closure,” it probably won’t be open for long.

The search for closure is the broken person’s version of the Holy Grail; long, dangerous, and ultimately futile. You might think you’re trying to put things right, but you’re really just picking a scab, so if you think it’ll help you heal, the opposite is true. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Best Self-Exam

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 28, 2013

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Addiction is easier to understand if you picture it as a mental squatter, the way advertising for nasal decongestants depicts mucus as a working class family that happens to be gooey, green, and getting by in your sinuses. Even when people are strongly motivated to stop compulsive or addictive behavior, their addiction is often one step ahead of them, distorting their thinking to undermine their efforts and stay put. In some cases, they are so obsessed with the self-perceived ugliness of their bad habit that they can’t consider more important reasons for stopping, while in other cases, they are so obsessed with finding their addiction’s ultimate cause that they wind up blaming people who care the most and could offer the most help in their recovery/to send the addiction packing. If you’re ready to quit, avoid stoking up feelings of self-disgust or blame; instead, prepare to tolerate pain without blame while looking for positive reasons to manage lingering inner demons and keep them from setting up house.
Dr. Lastname

I think I meet the clinical definition of having an eating disorder (at least, according to the all-knowing and all-powerful Wikipedia). For the past four years I have been binge eating and semi-purging through excessive laxative use. Before that, for about two years, I was probably somewhat anorexic, although I say this in retrospect as I don’t think I either realized or would have admitted it at the time. (5’2” and less than 90 lbs. is pretty thin, though). My goal is to stop binge eating, and I don’t know how. My eating and obsession with food have basically taken over my life, and though I fight it and things have gotten better than they were a year or two ago, I’m constantly afraid of when I will binge next. I don’t trust myself at all. It affects my professional life, and I need to stop letting that happen. I miss the self-control and feelings of power and self-worth that my thinness used to give me. I realize that going back to that is not exactly a healthy goal, though. I’d frankly be pretty pleased if I could just stop binging and get on with my life.

It’s hard to underestimate how all-consuming an eating disorder can be; as you obsess about the ways to keep food out of your body, it becomes the main occupant of your mind. Every moment spent avoiding the act of eating requires twice as many moments of mental torment on the subject.

Then there are endless concerns about your appearance, feelings of worthlessness, compulsive behaviors, and the intense ties between them. Eating disorders foster a kind of self-obsession, a dependence on your own thoughts and secret behaviors that devalues other goals and relationships.

It’s not surprising then that managing an eating disorder requires, not more self-control, but an acceptance that you’ve lost control and a willingness to admit other people, like family and therapists, into your private, obsessive relationship with food. It’s not unlike the so-called First Step of managing an addiction—admitting your helplessness and recognizing the importance of values other than your needs and shame. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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