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Saturday, February 24, 2018

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 »

Sick Change

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015

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Of the many things out there that people can be afraid of—spiders, heights, gays—the one thing that truly scares the shit out of all of us is change. Whether it’s good or bad, change is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar is inherently frightening. Sometimes, particularly when it’s forced on us, we think change will turn out badly and it doesn’t, but when we really don’t want change, we try to prevent it, and that can be at our own peril. Don’t let neediness or fear control your view of the future (or marriage). Whether you’re facing or adapting to change, think through what’s good for you, and you’ll become better at forecasting its impact and taking pride in your brave response.
Dr. Lastname

After hip surgery, I felt like I was in a fog…it wasn’t just the physical adjustment, but there was a freak complication during the procedure, and my brain might have lost oxygen for a bit. I came out of it with no energy, and my memory was shot. The doctor said that was normal, but now it’s a year later and I still don’t have the energy or mental sharpness that I used to depend on. My husband says I’m different but that he likes the new me just as much as the old one, if not more, because he thinks I’m calmer and a better listener. I think he’s just being sweet, so I’m still afraid to spend time with old friends or co-workers so I don’t frighten them and humiliate myself since I just feel slow and stupid. My goal is to get my old self back and stop being a pale imitation of the smart go-getter I used to be.

When you lose something great about yourself, whether it’s the ability to strike out the side in the big leagues or make it as a supermodel or just remember the names of everyone at the party, it’s hard not to dwell on everything you’ve lost and search desperately for a way to get it back.

Unfortunately, change is inevitable with age and it’s always uncomfortable, even when it’s welcomed. You can find the courage to withstand a career-salvaging Tommy John or Tummy Tuck. When the changes are more mental than physical, however, there’s almost nothing you can do, even though you’d give anything to turn back time.

You’re right to try to get back to your old self, at least at first; that’s what rehabilitation is about, for a limited time. Almost always, however, when there’s a permanent component to an injury, your goal needs to shift from total recovery to management of a permanent impairment. That’s when you transition to becoming a sportscaster, a trophy wife, or, in your case, someone slightly different. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Fools of Engagement

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 23, 2015

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Unless you’re a professional football player, litigator, or interventionist (or an amateur Asshole), you probably don’t enjoy confrontation. That’s usually a good thing, since there’s a reason that confrontation and incarceration sound so similar. It’s not good, however, if you’re just putting off a showdown while you try to understand your provocateur’s reasoning, or because you’re too forgiving of confrontation-worthy behavior. Like the football player, self-protection is one of your most important jobs, so learning how and when to take a stand requires the same amount of attention and follow-through as it takes for society to make laws and police to enforce them. If you do your job properly, you’ll know how to get through to someone without having to go pro and/or get into their face.
Dr. Lastname

It took a while for my pizza shop to become successful because I’m an outsider in this very small community, but I’m a friendly person and my pizza is good, so I’m finally starting to get lots of regular customers. My problem is that one of those customers likes to come in for dinner two to three nights a week with his two very hyperactive little kids— they run around the restaurant, yell at one another, and bother all the other customers while dad ignores them, eats his pizza very slowly, and reads the newspaper. He makes me furious because I don’t understand how he can allow his kids to be so rude and obnoxious, and I’m worried about his driving other diners away. I’ve given him dirty looks and cleared his table forcefully, which he ignores. If I say anything, it just sounds angry, random, and, according to my brother who works with me, possibly offensive. My goal is to get this person to either stay away or leave the kids at home.

Whether you’re dealing with customers, relatives, or people who take up an entire overhead bin/park across three spaces/don’t wipe down the gym equipment when they’re done with it, it’s hard not to become over-reactive when people seem to disregard your expectations about personal space.

Unfortunately, the more reasonable you feel your expectations are, the more unreasonable you get when they’re ignored. If you were entirely rational, you’d assume their actions were their problem—evidence of stupidity or insensitivity rather than a personal insult—and do what was necessary to protect yourself. Unfortunately, you are not a robot, and, as such, you know from rage.

To you, rude people should know better and are disrespecting the rules of civilization. If they don’t respond to dirty looks or loud honks—indications that you are on to their willful disrespect—they are defying those rules and deserve punishment. While you, like so many, are tempted to provide that punishment, the result of such feelings, even when you’re dealing with your own kids, is almost always ugly and leads to trouble.

So stop expecting your customers to be civilized, or just knowingly uncivilized, and don’t feel obliged to improve their behavior. Instead, define the limits of bad behavior that you believe are acceptable in the space that’s your responsibility to control, then plan out a safe, polite and effective intervention. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »


Posted by fxckfeelings on February 26, 2015

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Between for-profit education and for-bullshit accreditation, it’s harder than ever to figure out who’s actually knowledgeable and who just has access to a printer. It’s just as hard to figure out your own level of expertise when you have to weigh in on personal matters; being an outsider gives you better perspective, even if it makes you wonder whether you belong, but being an insider can ruin your perspective, even though it makes you feel connected and close. Either way, take perspective whenever you can get it and don’t blame yourself if you must sacrifice comfort and closeness in the process. You may not be a certified expert, but your opinion will be valuable nonetheless.
Dr. Lastname

My immediate family has never been easy, in part because my parents went in for favoritism— dad adored my sister and mom my brother while I had to fend for myself. Now we are middle-aged and they are old and infirm and my father is ill. This has set off a toxic dynamic between my siblings who are having furious rows and exchanging horrible insults over the burden of our parents’ care. I travelled 400 miles to visit them and my sister walked out of our parents’ home at 2 am and found a hotel after a shouting match (which I stayed out of). Even though I did not have a happy childhood and was nobody’s favorite, I do wish to help them through their final days without being caught up in the warlike dynamic that my father’s impending death seems to have unleashed. My goal is to balance the demands of my own life, be a good daughter to my dying father and confused elderly mother, and avoid being drawn into the rivalry of my younger siblings who were both favored over me.

Kids who feel like losers are often comforted with the promise that it’s the outsiders who grow into the most successful adults; whether you’re talking about surviving high school or a tough home life, the popular kids peak early, and the weirdoes wait longer to achieve much more.

Your outsider upbringing might not have brought you wealth or an Oscar, but it has given you more strength and perspective than your more popular siblings could understand.

Your siblings’ closeness to your parents might have been a gift when you were kids, but it can become a liability at this stage if it also gives them an unlimited sense of responsibility for your parents’ welfare, and also plays into a blaming sibling dynamic. They end up mad at themselves, and at each other, for not doing a better job.

It’s an impossible position for anyone to put themselves in because there are obviously times when you can’t take care of your parents, or when the best care in the world can’t spare them from the pain and deterioration of aging. If you don’t know the limits of your responsibility, there’s no end to the guilt you can impose on yourself or those whom you feel aren’t doing their fair share.

Instead of feeling endlessly burdened by your parents’ decline or angry at your siblings for not doing enough, you can stay focused on helping out and staying civil. Perhaps your parents’ neglect wasn’t heartless, but an ingenious way of preparing you to be the one child able to stay positive and avoid a meltdown at just the time when they most need to feel that the family is calm and united.

Celebrate the wisdom and skills you’ve gained as a family outsider who had to take care of herself. Then share your wisdom with your siblings by respecting your own contribution to your parents’ support and showing little inclination to judge theirs. Show pleasure in their company and regret for the fact that no amount of support can make your parents’ lives much easier.

Being nobody’s favorite seems to have helped you to be kinder and less reactive than your siblings. If you stand by your goals of being helpful and avoiding conflict then your parents will benefit, perhaps your brother and sister will learn from your example, and you’ll achieve more than most people, cool or uncool, ever do.

“I feel like I was never embraced by my family and that what’s left is disintegrating, but I have my own ability to maintain positive relationships and will not let fear and guilt drag me into conflict.”

I love and support my daughter in almost all things—she’s my only child, and the one good thing my piece of shit ex-husband ever gave me—but she and I are fighting all the time these days because I told her that marrying her boyfriend is a bad idea. After the bloodbath of a divorce she lived through with her father and me, I thought she’d never consider marriage, ever, but now she’s really set on marrying this guy and really upset that I can’t support it. I know they’ve been dating for a long time, that he’s never hurt her, and that they aren’t doing this for any obviously stupid reasons. But for whatever reason, I don’t totally trust this guy, and I don’t think it’s worth the risk. My goal is to get my kid to respect my insight instead of fighting with me and ending up heartbroken.

Protecting your child from harm is certainly part of a parent’s job, and your bad marriage gave you good reason to regard marriage as painful and potentially harmful. As kids grow up, however, your ability to protect them diminishes, as does your responsibility to do so. So no, you can’t always stop them from making mistakes and suffering, but you can stop feeling responsible while continuing to help them learn from the things that go wrong along the way.

If you make yourself responsible for your daughter’s marital choice, you will fight with her, hurt your relationship, and drive her into the arms of a guy you don’t trust. Instead, remind yourself that her boyfriend is her business; your job is to teach her how to screen a partner for trustworthiness and learn from mistakes.

Begin by asking yourself what you learned from your broken marriage, putting aside your feelings of anger and betrayal. Pay attention to the information you had at your disposal when you first married your husband: what you knew about his reliability, behavior in past relationships, and trustworthiness. Don’t fault yourself for being overly trusting or foolish back then, just ask yourself whether you were diligent in looking at or uncovering evidence of his trustworthiness.

Without bad-mouthing your ex, share your wisdom with your daughter regarding good methods for doing a complete pre-partnership investigation into trustworthiness and compatibility. Don’t argue with her about whether her boyfriend is a good guy, because she needs to figure that out herself.

Feel free to disagree, if necessary, about her methodology or data interpretation, but don’t close yourself off to the possibility that you may be overly critical of her boyfriend and somewhat biased against the institution of marriage altogether. What was wrong for you might not be wrong for her, especially if she’s given her decision careful thought.

Your goal isn’t to get her to respect your insight into her boyfriend’s character, but to respect her own ability to observe behavior and understand what it means. As long as she can learn from your mistakes, as well as her own, your discussions will strengthen your relationship as her chief coach and booster and help her find a good partner (or at least one much better than her dad).

“I don’t have good feelings about my daughter’s current boyfriend, but I will urge her to gather objective evidence and weigh it realistically without letting our disagreements become personal.”

Birth of a Notion

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 19, 2015

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Traditionally speaking, young people have always been impulsive by nature, but only recently have they given their philosophies acronyms, e.g., YOLO, FOMO, etc. (If you’re over fifty, these mean “You only live once” and “Fear of missing out.”) While it is true that you don’t live twice and that missing out on things is sad, focusing on these thoughts is often not helpful, particularly if you’re trying to make a mature decision. Sometimes you need to make up your mind and stick to it, FOMO be damned, and other times you should rethink a decision that feels right and consider standing down, because YOLO has a point. Either way, don’t feel guilty if a decision doesn’t come to mind or if later events cause you to reverse yourself. What counts in the long run is not whether you appear decisive; if your decisions promote good consequences that reflect your values, then you need not fear possible regret.
Dr. Lastname

For the last eight months or so leading up to my 40th birthday, I have been bugged by the awareness that although I am not sure if I want a kid or not, the clock is ticking, and it worries me that the decision will be taken through lack of decision-making. Yes, I should discuss it with my husband but somehow I can’t get the words to come out. Perhaps I am stalling because of what he might say (I have imagined it either way and both are scary). I think we both have the makings of good parents, but we’ve never really been like other “proper grown-ups.” We have talked about it a few years ago and he was like “it’s up to you”… I think neither of us wants to be the one to pressure the other. Now I am just confused and mildly panicked. My goal is to find the courage to have a big grown up conversation and move forward, whatever decision we arrive at.

There are a lot of fun, contradictory human instincts, i.e., the way people feel compelled to get others to smell or taste something bad, or the way they merge at the last second to avoid traffic, thereby creating yet more traffic and filling less evil drivers with rage (ahem).

Less insidiously, there’s the way people avoid dealing with the most important decisions and leave them up to fate, the least reliable arbitrator of all.

You’re so spooked that you can’t even come up with an opinion on the subject; deciding how you feel about having children shouldn’t begin with a conversation with your husband, unless you want him to make up your mind for you, particularly since he’s told you he’s OK with whatever you decide. With the pressure of having a major decision on behalf of two people, it’s no wonder you’re stuck. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Forced Perceptive

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 13, 2014

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“Sensitive,” like “funny,” “nice,” and “enjoys long walks on the beach,” is one of the many superficially-bland-yet-possibly-dangerous qualities women say they look for in a mate (even the beach thing, since that long walk may be to his kill-room). Since sensitivity basically means “is comfortable talking about feelings,” it’s not surprising that we don’t value it, but even objectively, it can be problematic; being in a healthy long-term relationship depends on supportive actions as well as the freedom for two people to go about their business without always feeling close or grateful. So don’t overrate words or even helpfulness. Look for a guy who enjoys spending time with you, on the beach or elsewhere, but isn’t hurt when you want time to yourself.
Dr. Lastname

My boyfriend is absolutely reliable and adores me in his quiet way, but he never seems that interested in what I’m doing and has little to say about himself. I know he always likes to see me and that he cares about me a lot, but he never wants to talk or suggest fun things to do, so I wind up sharing and doing more information with people I hardly know, or do know, but who aren’t as important to me as he is. He’s a great, reliable guy, but he’s also kind of boring and closed off. My goal is to figure out what kind of future I have with someone who seems so uninterested in finding out more about me, and yet also seems to love me.

Most of us warm to attention and feel better when someone shows an interest in how we think and what we ate for lunch; if we’re needy or in pain, the absence of such attention may feel like neglect. The need to share thoughts and lunch are why Facebook is so successful, but it’s not what should drive a relationship.

It’s easy to forget that attention is cheap and that supportive actions are more important than encouraging words. It’s like the difference between a friend and a “Friend;” the former shows you he cares by what he does, the latter “cares,” and often doesn’t remember who you are. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Re: Liable Source

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2014

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Along with avoiding conflict, favoring calm, and having taste that’s too sophisticated to tolerate Michael Bay, human beings are also notoriously bad at correctly placing blame or finding the true source of an issue. We punish ourselves for problems that we have no control over and indict others for creating trouble that it’s our job to prevent. Instead of rushing to judgment, we should ignore our thoughts, dreams, and tempers and consult our values first. Then we can decide whether we’ve really done wrong and need to do better, or whether someone else has erred. Either way, we’ll know where the blame truly lies and be able to buck our nature to calmly find a solution.
-Dr. Lastname

I have done a pretty good job of keeping things together through a very tough few years. I have mostly come to terms with the break up of a long and unhappy marriage and become a stronger person as a result. In my waking life I have learned to choose my thoughts and control my feelings and behavior to good effect. The trouble is my dreams, which are frequent and often disturbing. In dream-life I am still very emotional and out of control and tied to past experiences. I will dream I am dancing with my ex or that we have reconciled happily and wake up feeling sad. Or I dream that my new partner is cheating or being an asshole when he has given me no cause to doubt him. Sometimes I wake up in a state of distress after reliving painful events without the benefit of rational thinking and wish I could sleep without being invaded by the bizarre and the uninvited. Are dreams just random or a result of what lurks in the subconscious mind? My goal is to have faith that I have coped quite well with very difficult circumstances and to understand the message behind my restless nights.

It’s a good thing we can’t be held legally responsible for our thoughts or dreams, or we’d all be in jail, riddled with STDs, or kicked out of school due to failing exams we didn’t know we had or excessive public nudity. If the law can’t punish you for your dreams, there’s no reason to punish yourself.

We also know that depression floods us with irrational, negative thoughts, causing us to blame ourselves for everything that has gone wrong and assume that everything will go wrong in the future. So making a big deal about dreams seems like a sure way to magnify the impact of negative thoughts and self-doubts that we neither deserve nor control. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Social Insecurity

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 6, 2014

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Much is made of the inextricable link between trust and love, but the assumption seems to be that you can’t love someone else unless you can trust them (to listen, keep it in their pants, rescue you from a sinking ship, etc.). Just as important, however, is the ability to trust yourself and your own judgment when entering into a relationship; if you have too little confidence, you can sabotage your relationships, and if you have too much, you’ll make commitments that won’t last and will hurt like hell when they break down. Learn to trust yourself by gathering facts, observing carefully, and using common sense to judge your friendships and make smart decisions. Then, regardless of over or under-confidence, you’ll be able to love someone you trust and have trust in whom you love.
Dr. Lastname

I am in a good relationship and have been now for a while (around 9 months). But none of my relationships seem to last more than a couple of years (I’m now in my 40s), and I worry that some of them I have sabotaged myself. I am at a point in this relationship where we have acknowledged that we love each other and have started making plans months into the future (nothing like moving in together, but definitely trips and such), and suddenly, I have this fear I’m going to lose him. But not just lose him—lose him to someone, and that someone is my friend. I had a friend when I was younger that flirted with my boyfriends, and even though nothing ever happened, it bothered me that she never understood these boundaries, didn’t have a sense of loyalty towards me, and used her looks and sexuality to get attention from those that should be considered off limits. Now I have a newer friend who is younger than me—she’s very pretty, smart, and single, and she has a tendency to try to connect with my boyfriend in ways that I am unable to by finding the gaps and honing in and I don’t like it. I am acting as though they have already run away together, or have a secret relationship. Is my own insecurity causing me to worry about this? My goal is to alleviate these fears of betrayal.

Having fun friends with fickle boundaries may damage your calm, but you do yourself more damage by letting them distract you from the real issues surrounding your boyfriend and your future together. Instead of worrying about whether your gal pals have good intentions, focus on doing the necessary homework to find out whether your boyfriend is a good match.

Assuming you’re not able to stop yourself from being insecure about your friends and boyfriends, use your insecurity to assess your boyfriend’s trustworthiness. Maybe you can also use it to get better at screening friends in the future, but for now, believe it or not, your best weapon against your paranoia is paranoia itself.

Instead of trying to feel better by talking about your fears and asking for reassurance, use them to review your boyfriend’s history with women and your girlfriend’s history as a femme fatale. Your anxiety will drive you to ask the right questions, and, with any luck, the right answers will allow you to tell that anxiety to shut up. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Psyched Ward

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 21, 2014

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Despite what the Ramones (R.I.P.) once declared, most people do not want to be sedated, especially if it’s for reasons involving “going loco.” Some people can’t think about psychiatric hospital admission as other than a form of kidnapping, and others as a failure that should never have happened if they took proper care of themselves. In reality, it’s good to think about psychiatric admission as something that can happen again regardless of how well you take care of yourself, and will rarely happen for reasons that you won’t ultimately agree with. The more you accept the possibility of hospital commitment and consider your own views about what makes hospitalization necessary, the more skilled you’ll be at managing the situation if it occurs again, even if it’s something you’re never going to wanna do.
Dr. Lastname

I’ve got depression that is usually controlled well by medication, but I had one bad episode three years ago when I got really down, couldn’t leave the house for a month, and was on track to starve myself to death. My parents were right to pull me out and take me to the hospital, but it was a horrible experience; there were some scary, sick people there, and staying there was traumatizing. Now my shrink wants me to put together a crisis plan that will tell my parents how to decide when they should take me to the hospital, if it ever becomes necessary again—a sort of “advance directive”—and I’m trying to figure out how to make sure that I don’t have to go back unless it’s really, really necessary. The last thing I want is to visit an emergency room where they like to lock people up, so I end up trapped in the nightmare ward again. My goal is to figure out how to minimize the possibility that I will get admitted again.

As traumatic as it felt to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, you are familiar with the bigger trauma that you would have experienced if you weren’t admitted. The scary people you say in the psych ward were probably fairies and pussycats compared to the hellscape that your own home had become.

You know how painful your depression was, how it interrupted everything important in your life, including work, relationships and your ability to care for yourself, and how it endangered your health and your life. That’s the trauma it’s now your job to manage, and avoiding the job because you’d like to avoid the hospital is a foolish move. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Guile

Posted by fxckfeelings on May 5, 2014

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While they don’t have to deal with diapers, tantrums, or the mysterious stains of adolescence, childless adults have major child-related problems of their own, namely the longing for children or the longing for people to stop bugging them about not having kids. In either case, whether you’re fending off potential disappointment or unavoidable disapproval of any nature, make sure you believe in the value of your goal. Then prepare yourself to accept your lack of control of everything else and to respect yourself for going ahead anyway, with or without a baby on board.
Dr. Lastname

All I’ve ever really wanted is to get married and have a family since my parents had a messy divorce and my dad left. Despite that, I feel like I’m constantly single and constantly being rejected. I’m getting older and feel like the only thing I really want in life I can’t have. I don’t feel like I have a purpose. How do I stop feeling sad about this and enjoy my life for what it is?

Your wish to raise a stable family of your own is the best way imaginable of trying to make the world a better place, particularly when you know the pains and burdens of growing up with nasty conflict, insecurity, and uncertainty about the future. You’re doing everything you can do, despite repeated rejection, to make your wish come true.

The problem of course, is that it’s just that—a wish. Which means you just don’t control whether or not it will actually happen. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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