Posted by fxckfeelings on March 6, 2014
The math of human instinct tells us that self + unfair victimization = a right to punish the person to blame, even if that person is a blood relative with the best of intentions. In a fair world, the justice equation would check out, but in this one, the person who appears responsible often had no choice, and just happened to be a conduit for life’s random misery. So whether you’re a blamed parent who is helpless to stop your kid from hitting and running, or a blamed child who can’t escape unfair punishment, judge yourself carefully and fairly. Then, instead of fighting for justice, stand up for what you believe while waiting for blame to fizzle and an equation that adds up.
My fifteen-year-old daughter, whom I used to be close to, was always a sensitive, over-reactive kid. I was still shocked and hurt, however, when she suddenly spoke up, in the midst of her first visit with me and my new husband, to say to him, “Who the fuck are you?” She stopped talking to me for a year after I left her father, but eventually relented and then we started spending regular time together (though he has full custody, and I get weekend visitation). Now that she’s insulted my husband, however, I don’t know what to say— to not talk like that to her stepfather? To go to her room until she’s ready to behave? My goal is to figure out what to say that will address the nastiness and inappropriateness of her speech and let her know she can’t treat my husband with disrespect.
As hard as reality TV tries to find us the Cesar Milan of adolescent girls, as of yet, there is no such person as the “Teen Whisperer.” The closet thing we have is that woman on “Dance Moms,” and she’s really just an all-purpose bellower.
The reason no such teen expert exists, on TV or off, is because there is nothing you can say, in any volume, that will persuade your daughter to behave better. You have little influence and she wants you to be angry and hurt, so, as with any breach of the law anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of teen self-entitlement. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on March 3, 2014
After dispensing advice on this website for five (five!) years as Dr. Lastname, we’re happy to announce that we’re about to put our advice in print, and under our actual names. The book, tentatively titled F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All of Life’s Impossible Problems, was recently acquired by the esteemed geniuses at Simon & Schuster, and is due for release in 2015.
Furthermore, it will be credited not to Dr. Lastname, but to Dr. Michael Bennett (he of the two Harvard degrees), and his daughter, Sarah Bennett, a comedy writer in New York (who has a BFA from not-Harvard, and can be read here and there on the internets).
More about us and the book as the release date approaches, but for now, we have to write the damned thing, which means taking off some time this summer. Until we can tell you more details, please continue to tell us about your problems, and we’ll keep answering, no matter what we call ourselves.
-Dr. Lastname, aka, Dr. Bennett and not-Dr. Bennett
Posted by fxckfeelings on
Most crises, be they familial or international, involve so many moving parts and wildcard personalities that any one person’s power to keep the peace is limited. That’s why, no matter what the family crisis, or whether it’s in the development or fall out stage, don’t make yourself too responsible for running clean up and sustaining or restoring family peace. If you do, you’ll probably fail, because assuming too much responsibility will just make you mad and wind up adding to the conflict. So, instead of trying to save the day/family name from your own personal Putin, give thought to what you actually control and, within that limit, do what a good person should do for his/her family. You will seldom help your family as much as you’d wish, but you’ll come away satisfied that you did your part in the rescue effort and can ignore the rest.
I get along OK with my sister, but she’s always been socially retarded with a special ability to always say the wrong thing. She’s been a visiting professor abroad for the last year, but she’s back in this country on a sabbatical, where she’s spent most of her time with a guy down south whom she met online, and I don’t much like. Now she suddenly wants to come up to visit me, but she chose the weekend I was going to hang out with my younger brother, whom I also rarely get to see. Plus, I know my brother had something he wanted to talk over, and I hate the old feeling of having my sister come by when she wants to, leaving me with no choice, though she’s been in the country for a month with some sketchy jerk in Florida. My parents want me to see her because they hate the idea of our family not spending time with one another and they don’t want her feelings to get hurt. My goal is to figure out what to do with her that will satisfy family obligations without ruining my time with my brother, whom I want to see, and he has things to say I want to hear.
You may think your sister is socially retarded, but she has some serious skills if she’s able to create, for you, a good ol’ emotional perfect storm; she’s managed to make you feel angry, guilty for feeling angry, and angry for feeling guilty, all at once. If anything, she’s an anti-social savant.
The path out of the storm, of course, is to think hard about your own standards for deciding what’s right, rather than stewing on how various people are going to feel, including yourself. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 27, 2014
Dating is one of those painful, hard-to-control activities, like losing weight and fighting cancer, where the only way not to feel like a total failure is not to have to do it at all. For daters, success means landing a good partner, but, until that happens, you will probably find yourself being too passive about letting go of a bad partner and/or feeling rejected when it doesn’t work out, or being too sensitive to hurting bad candidates, even with good reason. Instead of letting the dating process get you down, review your standards for dating honestly and safely. Then, when things don’t work out, you’ll do what’s best for you and your non-partner, and achieve a little success, even if the struggle continues.
I’m almost 40 and I’ve never had a relationship. I’ve been in love three times, but none of these relationships were ‘real’ relationships. Love number 1 was when I was in my 20′s I was seeing a guy for 10 years, on and off, but our relationship never got off the ground (no real dates or romance, just drunken hook ups every weekend). He turned out to be gay, so no major surprise there I suppose. Number 2 was a close friend who asked me to wait for him while he got through the pressures of work and nursing a parent through a fatal illness. After waiting two years, and still hopelessly in love with him, he told me he changed his mind and didn’t want to get together with me. Finally, love number 3 is a childhood friend of mine who I reconnected with a few years ago and who has liked me for years. He wanted a relationship with me but I wanted to wait because I was still a bit burned from number 2. We remained friends however and over time our friendship deepened and grew and I started to see him as more than a good friend, but when I told him I was interested in more than just a casual hook up, he disappeared! I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I can’t seem to move past the casual into a real relationship with someone. I was sexually abused as a child and I’ve had psychotherapy to address that, then again after the gay ex-“boyfriend.” Basically I’ve been in therapy for about 12 years. I’m really at the end of my tether now because something must be causing me to choose men that cannot commit and I really want to be in love, married and with children and time is running away from me now. I don’t date lots of men and I’ve never been one for one night stands. The one thing all three “boyfriends” had in common was I was friends with them first and my feelings developed into a deeper love from there so I know it could be years before I meet someone and fall in love again seeing as I’m the type of girl that needs this basis of friendship to build on. I’ve tried dating agencies for the past year and I haven’t had any luck, plus I socialize every weekend and I have no problem meeting and chatting to guys, it’s just none of them interest me too much. My goal is to change this pattern.
Being unlucky, be it in love or business or the lottery, always feels personal, but never really is. Bad luck can happen to anyone, no matter how old you are, what you deserve, and how gay your ex might be.
You have lots to offer and, from what you’ve said, weren’t too far off the mark in the people you chose for love or how you behaved with them. Unfortunately, dating guys is always like playing musical chairs with a substantial chairs shortage. The sad news about the birds and bees is that human females often have to deal with the inverse suitable male-to-female ratio that bees have. Even then, it’s lonely being queen. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 24, 2014
Like Middle Eastern oil and cronuts, love may lose its value if it’s treated as an overly available commodity or if it’s made too scarce to sustain its market. Whether you’re someone who loves love without regard to quality or finds it too hard to get from someone with little to give, knowing what goes wrong doesn’t mean you can make it better. If you think you can improve market conditions, present your proposals positively. without triggering the fear and anger that cause extremes. Otherwise, do what you can to preserve the value of the love you offer, regardless of market influences.
I’ve been in several long-term relationships, and am in one currently. Each time, I’ve started out very in love with the guy, but eventually this goes away. Then I get bored, I start looking around, and I cheat on then dump the person. I’ve had friends tell me that I need to “just say no,” but I can’t seem to do it. I just go with impulse without thought of consequence. In my current relationship, I started the same way. I became a little disenchanted once I really got to know him, and then one night while I was out and kind of pissed at him, made out with a mutual friend of ours. I felt really guilty, but not bad necessarily. A week later, I broke up with my boyfriend. Usually in the past, I break up and never look back. This time, however, I found myself completely torn up… and a few days ago we got back together. I know I really love this guy, and I hate that I can’t seem to remain faithful to anyone. Am I just a completely selfish, shitty person at my core? Why do I feel the need to explode every good relationship I have? I ask myself these kinds of questions, but what I really want to know is, how can I stop getting bored, cheating, and living in guilt and self-hatred?
You’ve made progress in your relationships if you can truly say you still have feelings and care about your latest boyfriend, but your awareness of your boyfriends’ feelings, assuming that they run deeper than yours, is still a bit lacking. Not lacking is your ability to get frustrated with or hurt by someone you love without having to have sex with someone else.
If, as seems probable, you’re the kind of person who is sensitive to the excitement of love and new relationships but doesn’t form deeper attachments easily, or resonate to those feelings in others, then it’s natural for you to get bored and restless with your lovers. Hating yourself won’t help; it will only make you more self-centered and likely to do the stuff you’re least proud of. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 20, 2014
Some parents are gluttons for responsibility and guilt, while others are just regular gluttons for video games and donuts, but neither instinct necessarily leads to good home management. To raise a child while both honoring other responsibilities and occasionally indulging some pleasures requires you to create priorities and stick with them, whether they feel good or not. You may sometimes need to frustrate those who depend on you, and sometimes yourself, but your goal—as with any diet, nutritional or behavioral—is to figure out a balance that will work and just stick with it.
About a year ago, I found a rental for my parents, sister, spouse, and my baby to live in. My parents and sister were living with my aunt prior to the move, but things were not going so well there and I was a new, panicked mother seeking support, so I thought all of us living together would be the perfect solution. Before getting into it, I was fully aware that my mother had a gambling addiction and my stepfather was in and out of a job. They have always been financially irresponsible and neglectful in general when it came to other responsibilities. Well, I feel miserable here and I want to leave, but there is this overwhelming amount of guilt I feel. I know I shouldn’t feel responsible in any way, but I am the only person here who wants to build a better future, and I feel like they cannot have one without me. My mom works 40 hours a week with terrible health issues and has lost some of her teeth, so she feels sick all the time and has very low self-esteem. Because I love her so much, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sympathy. She hasn’t gambled as much as she use to. Probably because I started to when we moved in together, had a small gambling addiction myself, then I banned myself from the casino. It may have woken her up a bit, but we are still broke. My spouse and I have to constantly pay for what they can’t with the bills and do all the grocery shopping. Everyone here but my spouse is passive aggressive, and when I get the courage to speak up, my family gets very emotionally wounded. I’m fed up with myself because I can’t find the strength to leave, and I am confused because there are times when I want to stay, but that is only when things are going well, which is rare. I need advice on how to handle my over excessive guilt and how to speak up when it’s needed.
At a certain point, all parents are confronted with their own, special chicken/egg dilemma; they don’t have to figure out which came first, but who comes first, given the conflicting needs of their parents versus their kids, and their duties to both. It’s painful enough to make you wish you were poultry.
After all, there’s nothing wrong with helping your mother or seeking her help with childcare. As a married mother who runs her own household, has a child to support, and is obliged to share decisions with a spouse, however, it’s your job to ask yourself if you can withstand the harm it might do to your new family if you live with your mother and her entire damaged entourage. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 17, 2014
Marriage requires a lot of sacrifice, and while surrendering some independence and half your Netflix subscription fees are worth it, the ability to keep strong emotional reactions from screwing up rational judgment is not. Sometimes, marital conflict will cause you to blame yourself unfairly, just to restore peace, and other times, you’ll blame your partner unfairly, to head off a situation that scares you. In any case, don’t forget that you can make an independent judgment without blaming or demeaning your spouse. Give yourself time, use normal business practices, and you’ll always find a positive way to discuss your differences and stand by both your vows and your own vision of what’s right and wrong.
My husband stormed out of our house last night because I just can’t seem to meet his needs or understand where he’s coming from. He’s needed more help lately because he hurt himself falling on the ice, and it’s hard for him to do the chores. I could make excuses for myself and tell you I have a full-time job and I try to be sympathetic, but obviously I’m not succeeding. My goal, if I could only achieve it, is to be better at understanding my husband and making him feel valued so he comes home.
Certain marital complaints are impossible to judge, the most common being that you sounded nasty or uncaring. Until a smartphone app is invented that will scientifically judge the negativity and/or offensiveness of a spouse’s tone of voice, this is a complaint about which no one can be objective.
Then again, in the absence of smartphones, there are always plain old smarts, which means creating standards of your own to compare his complaints with. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 13, 2014
If you could ask Mary Cheney or A.J. Soprano, they’d tell you that inheritance, be it material or psychological, is always tricky. That’s because it’s easy to hate yourself when you can’t get rid of an inherited personality trait, like constant anger or depression, which makes it hard to ever feel happy or express love and affection. What life teaches you, however, is that many people find ways to take care of one another and contribute to the world, even when they’re not fully functional or in full control of their dark thoughts and sharp tongues. They deserve respect for whatever good they do when their feelings give them no relief or reward, and their genes don’t give them much of a choice.
I grew up in a horrid family. My father worked long hours at a couple of jobs leaving my (very young) mother alone with my brother and me. My mother had no clue about parenting and raising children. My home was a miserable cesspool of put-downs, depression, negativity, and yelling. I get that my mother probably grew up herself with a “Mommy Dearest”/”Carrie” mother, but as we all do, I vowed to myself never to torture my children as my mother had done to me. But guess what, I now find myself yelling and haranguing my daughter (but not my son…hmmm?). I think the yelling and disrespectful attitude toward my daughter has been programmed into my DNA. It is my default reaction when I get angry (or when my daughter does anything–wrong– pretty much). I’ve done the anger management, self-help books, etc. I can’t stop. Please give me some advice on how I can stop the “bad psycho mother” cycle. I already see the signs of damage in my daughter.
It’s painful to grow up with an angry, critical parent, but it’s even worse to grow up with a parent who can’t provide for his/her family or care enough to try. Despite the pressures on your immigrant parents, they were able to survive and provide you with a home. Even if it was horrid, it beat the alternative.
So, even if you see yourself as a bad psycho mother, you’re also a caring, providing mother, and you need to remember that. That’s why you need to respect what you do right before picking at what you do wrong, because if you can’t see the big picture, you can’t get at the big issues with your parenting. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 10, 2014
As the main motive for most of life’s poor decisions—shotgun weddings, gift cards as birthday presents, matching tattoos—guilt can cause us to avoid responsibility that is ours and impose responsibility that’s undeserved. So don’t let your conscience be your guide until you’ve carefully considered what you actually control, rather than feeling bad because there’s pain and you’re involved. Then, if your conscience won’t listen to reasonable judgment, learn to ignore it and pay more attention to what you believe is right instead of what makes you feel wrong.
I don’t know how to help my son deal with a crazy high school relationship. He’s been dating a very troubled but pretty girl who now says she’ll kill herself if he ever breaks up with her. He’s a sweet kid and always likes to help people, but he also feels drained by all the attention she requires and he tells me he really would like to break up with her. I think it’s an unhealthy relationship and I’m delighted he’s ready to move on, but, like my son, I’m worried about what will happen if she tries to kill herself. I can’t speak with her parents because my son won’t let me—he says that would break his promise to her and make it even more likely she would hurt herself. My goal is to figure out a way to protect my son and this girl.
Unfortunately, whenever a soon-to-be rejected, needy lover threatens suicide, there’s no way you can protect anyone from pain and potential guilt. It’s effectively a hostage situation, which means, by design, it can’t end well for everyone, will always end badly for someone, and may well end with irreversible disaster.
No matter what happens, your son’s girlfriend is going to get hurt and maybe hurt herself, whereupon your son is going to feel guilty, and so will you, if your son accuses you of violating his confidence. So forget about who’s going to suffer for what and just focus on doing the right thing and getting everyone out as safely as possible.
Your first priority, of course, is doing what you can to reduce his girlfriend’s risk of self-harm. If her parents, shrink, and/or school officials know she’s at risk and are monitoring her closely, then there’s nothing you can add and nothing further to do, but the only way to find out is to tell them. It’s true, your son might not approve, but you have a duty to make sure those who care for her know what they need to.
Don’t expect to stop feelings of guilt simply by doing the right thing. All it takes to feel guilty is to be the type of person who feels responsible for the feelings of others—a description that fits most of us shrinks—or to be told by someone you care about that you’ve made them suffer, disappointed them, or let them down. For most of us, guilt isn’t rational and there’s no escaping it. We may try to feel better by bending over backwards, but this usually just causes a sore back, a bigger sense of responsibility, and even more guilt.
What you can do, however, for your son and yourself, is not accept that this guilt is deserved. Begin by asking yourself, and your son, how much responsibility a loving person should take for the feelings of someone who is needy and sensitive to rejection. You’d like to think that your love can protect them, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The more you nurture them, and the closer you get, the greater the chance you’ll trigger their sensitivity, and then it’s all down hill. It’s no one’s fault, so it’s best you keep your distance until they develop tools for managing their sensitivity, if that’s what they’re able to do.
Do what’s necessary to protect his girlfriend’s life, and give your son the tools to judge his responsibilities apart from guilty feelings. Initially, of course, they will control how he judges his actions and yours. You can then show him, however, that, regardless of guilty feelings, you have better methods for making decisions that make the best of situations that can’t be good for anyone, and that he can learn your methods when he’s ready.
Learn to negotiate, not just with his emotional captor, but with your own emotions, and with luck you can help everyone emerge safely.
“I hate to think how my son is likely to blame himself, and possibly me, when his girlfriend blames her breakdown on his dumping her, but this is a life dilemma he needs to learn how to deal with. I will show him how to use ethical reasoning to define his actual responsibility, apart from guilty feelings, and do the right thing.”
I’m having trouble getting over my mother’s death in a car accident because it was so sudden and we never had a chance to make up after a nasty argument the night before. She had a fiery temper, and we had a stupid argument that really meant nothing, but I hung up on her while she was yelling at me and I can’t stand the idea that that was our last interaction and that the stress of our fight may have caused her to drive mad and get into the accident that ended her life. My goal is to find a way to live with my guilt.
As noted above, guilt seldom has anything to do with actually doing wrong; if you feel guilty about your mother’s death, it’s because people usually feel responsible for protecting those they love, whether or not they actually have the power to do so. It’s an instinct that probably helps us look out for one another and is thus mostly helpful, except in situations like yours, when it can tear you apart.
Instead of trying to ease your guilt by kicking yourself, ask yourself how you would weigh a friend’s responsibility under similar circumstances. Give your friend a small share of blame if he was particularly cruel to his mother before her death, but give his mother responsibility for managing her own sensitivity, protecting herself from hurt, and controlling her anger.
Then think of how you would like to be remembered after your death; not by the circumstances of your last few years, days, or minutes, but by the sum total of what you built, who you were, and the good things you left behind. So spend some time assessing the value of what your mother did for you, and you for her, during those times when you weren’t having screaming fights.
Write out a statement that does justice to your whole relationship. Don’t try to diminish guilt through apology or confession, just ignore it by honoring values that are more important and using them to build a view of your relationship that is truer to what matters. The unexpectedness of her death shouldn’t teach you to avoid ever being mean, but to remember that life is short and most aggravations don’t really matter.
Honor your temper and where it came from. Remember that arguments never really drove you and your mother apart, as painful or stupid as they were, and they never really interfered with your relationship, which could only be cut short by accident and death. Now, your job is to prevent guilt from interfering with the relationship that you will continue to have with her for the rest of your life, and to protect yourself, and that bond, from being devalued.
“I can’t help feeling guilty over not having made up with my mother before her death, but that’s not how I really value our relationship. I will cherish her memory for the things that mattered, and carry on what was best about her values, while ignoring guilty feelings that I can’t stop having, but that are unimportant.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on February 6, 2014
Whether you’re eager to get in the game and fall in love or hate the idea of going out, doing what comes naturally leads you nowhere. What you need instead is thoughtful, self-protective awareness and discipline. So take time to think about what you really need from a prospective friend or partner and how to make sure it’s there. Then, whether you need to rein yourself in or push yourself forward, conduct your search at a safe, deliberate pace that’ll keep you reigned in, out of your shell, and ultimately, on top.
I split up with my boyfriend a while ago. He started the relationship at a time when he didn’t want one (wasn’t really over his ex and was having major work problems). Anyway, we really hit it off—enjoyed each other’s company, had massive sexual chemistry, seemed to have the same values—and then I got really stressed and he got really stressed very soon into our relationship and I couldn’t handle his withdrawal reaction, especially because I didn’t feel that secure in anyway, so I finished it. Months on I’m finding it extremely difficult to get over him even though I’m trying to think it was for the best. I’ve never missed anyone this much and think he was probably the only person I’ve ever really been in love with. I don’t think he feels the same. I think he’s very selfish, thinks he’s the only one with problems, and hasn’t let anyone in since his ex. Or he never liked me that much, which he says is bollocks. No one measures up in a weird kind of way. And the people who are less selfish are boring and I don’t want to spend time with them. How do I get over him when I don’t want to?
Before deciding whether to get over your ex-boyfriend, give more thought to whether or not he was worth having as a boyfriend in the first place. Yes, there was lots of mutual magnetism; given how quick he was to vanish, however, maybe those magnets actually had like poles.
After all, he did a major, painful flip-flop soon after you got together, and two major requirements of most healthy relationships are one, that the other person isn’t prone to flip-flops and two, that he doesn’t tend to flip-flop on you.
That requirement is so important, and so out of your control, that it’s a major reason for going slow, gathering information, and trying to keep from getting too close until you’re confident it’s not going to happen. Everyone preaches safe sex, but less attention is given to the importance of safe love, and this is definitely a case where you left your heart unprotected. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »