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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mind Your Voice

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 31, 2014

Some pressing problems are like mosquito bites or cravings for bags of Kit-Kats; the amount of urgency they inspire is inverse to the amount of attention they deserve. Other problems, like that angry rash on your arm or the spreading leak under the toilet, would be much easier to bear if you did not have to think or talk about them, but they’re the ones that often require careful discussion and negotiation. So don’t let your problems tell you when to talk or keep silent. Ask yourself what’s necessary, and, exactly like an adult who can deal with problems responsibly, you’ll often find yourself doing the opposite of what’s comfortable, and knowing you’re doing a good job.

Please Note: This is our last new post until 9/4, since we’re taking August to focus on finishing our book. We’ll refresh the front page with older posts while you get refreshed in the sun, and we’ll see you (and your sunburns) in September.

-Dr. Lastname

I have awful OCD symptoms that I can’t find the right treatment for. For years, I’ve had graphic, uncontrollable thoughts about killing the people I really care about (my parents, my husband), and even though I have no reason to harm the people I love, the thoughts are so persistent that I genuinely fear I’ll hurt one of them. I started psychotherapy in my twenties, and it’s always felt good to have someone I could tell about it so I felt less pressure and fear, but after all these years and communication (and a couple attempts at medication), nothing’s ever really changed. Now I’m in my forties and I’m happily married, but my husband rolls his eyes when I bring up the subject and try to relieve my fear by airing it out. My goal is to end these thoughts once and for all.

Not surprisingly, the best way to get control over obsessive thoughts isn’t to obsess over them. Airing these thoughts might provide temporary relief, but instead of releasing them, you’re empowering them; they’re like a plant, and you’re giving them the air and sunlight they need to grow and grow.

You’ve clearly tried everything, including medications, which sometimes reduce the intensity of obsessional thinking. If nothing has worked, however, then you probably also know that there isn’t a cure. That means it’s time to practice acceptance, as well as restraint. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

‘Nuff Love

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 28, 2014

Tough love is always a tricky option; it’s never clear when it’s appropriate, if it’s ever appropriate, or when you’re so fed up that you’ve actually crossed the line into “easy dislike.” This is especially true when you can’t seem to get through to a troubled loved one and aren’t sure whether you need to do more or “toughen up” and do less. Instead of letting fear or frustration control your involvement, ask yourself what prevents him or her from getting help, then try different strategies, and observe what happens. Sometimes more is more and sometimes more is less, but you can be sure, no matter how helpful you can be, that you’re doing your best with what in unquestionably a tough situation.
-Dr. Lastname

Please Note: After this Thursday, we are taking time off to finish our book and won’t have a new post until 9/4. Please have a fun and problematic August, and we’ll be back to help in September.

My brother is sinking into an economic mess and he won’t let me help him. He’s a good guy who’s worked for years at the kind of manufacturing jobs that are now being shipped overseas, and his last position was just eliminated. I’m good at managing problems like this and discussed his options—selling his place, cutting back on expenses, getting employment counseling—but he doesn’t follow through, or even seem to pay attention. Sometimes I think he’s got some brain issues or something, because he invited me over to dinner recently and when I showed up he was asleep on the couch after eating fast food. He’s depressed, but he can laugh and enjoy himself, so it’s more that he spaces out whenever he has to do something complicated. My goal is to get him to get moving before he goes deep into debt and can’t pay his bills.

Some people don’t respond to good advice because they’re stubborn or lazy, while others appear stubborn or lazy because their brains are failing to process information normally. There’s a big difference between having a damaged personality and a damaged brain.

The fact that your brother forgot he invited you to dinner suggests he’s having trouble with attention and maybe memory. The bad news is that he might have some serious cognitive issues, but the good news is that, with a little time and effort, you might be able to help him with his financial situation after all. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Family Fuel

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 24, 2014

All of us suffer from a Cassandra complex at one time or another, where we see something so clearly—from how your brother will regret eating that gas station sushi to why your wife will wish she’d never paid for a year of intensive aerial Pilates up front—but can’t get anyone to heed our vision. Sometimes you can see a disaster looming because people are too angry and agitated, and sometimes it’s because they’re complacent and don’t give a damn. In either case, before you try to sound the alarm, give thought to the reasons for their feelings and the probable impact of your attempts to warn them so that your attempts to change opinions don’t accidentally cement them. Provide wise counsel if you can, but don’t expect anyone to listen until events, even painful sushi-related ones, put them in a more receptive state of mind.
-Dr. Lastname

As long as I avoid certain (mostly political, mostly right wing) topics, I get along with my in-laws pretty well. The problem is that such topics sometimes become unavoidable, usually when they get really wound up about a specific current event, and right now, they’re very vocal about being rabidly pro-Israel. I’m Jewish (they aren’t), so they assume I feel the same way as them and shower me with links and e-mail forwards that are nothing short of anti-Palestinian propaganda, but I don’t agree with them necessarily, and that kind of thing makes my skin crawl. They see the issue as black and white, and let’s just say I just see it as complicated, infuriating and heartbreaking, and their warmongering just angers and depresses me. I want to find a way to respond to them that gets them to see how damaging and foolish their angry rhetoric is, or to at least find some consensus in getting them to agree that killing isn’t answering anything. My goal is to get my in-laws to drop the subject in an enlightening, non-provocative way, even if I can’t change their minds.

One reason it’s hard to stop angry war rhetoric, particularly if it comes from nice people who aren’t particularly angry in non-political situations, is that they feel that aggressive action is necessary to prevent or overcome a dangerous threat. From annoying e-mail forwards to amassing an arsenal, fear rarely leads to thoughtful, positive action.

So if you suggest that your in-laws are advocating useless conflict with and killing of Palestinians, you’re questioning their morality at a time that they’re calling for moral sacrifice. You’re not just spilling blood in front of a shark, but a shark who thinks he’s being chased by a kraken. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Psyched Ward

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 21, 2014

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 »

Job Affliction

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 17, 2014

No matter what drew you to your current job—having to pay rent, wanting to fulfill a lifelong passion, being forced step up where no one else can or will—you do the work because it’s got to be done, and if it didn’t, it would be called play. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t refuse to do work that you believe is not required, or that feeling underappreciated and overworked is always a good excuse to take a break. Instead of reacting to the pressure of your job, be objective in examining your job description. Then, whether you have to say no to someone who expects too much of you or deny your own wounded feelings, you’ll know you got the job done right.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m a photographer, so when my father asked me to take some portraits of a cousin and her husband as an anniversary present, I was happy to contribute. I went all out for them, and they seemed to really enjoy the results. Unfortunately, they enjoyed them so much that my cousin asked me to do more pictures, this time with their kids and grandkids, with the assumption that the next session would also be free. I tried to explain to her that I’d be losing too much money if I did another session—not just on rentals, but on my time—but she just took it as a personal offense, like I was breaking a promise to her and to my father. I’ve done everything I can to explain my position, but she won’t believe me, and while my dad seems to understand, he’s still pretty upset. My goal is to resolve this issue and get her to see that I’m not a liar, just someone who needs to make a living.

Whenever you have a dissatisfied client or customer, never tell yourself that the customer is always right. If your services are in demand, you’re going to meet many customers, and some of them, even if you’re related to them, are bound to be Assholes™.

An Asshole™ customer is rarely right because they’re rarely happy; no matter what you do, you’re dealing with someone who has inflated expectations and no sense of their own responsibilities or obligations. You cannot do right by someone who cannot be pleased. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Venerable Intelligence

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 14, 2014

You lose a lot of important things as you get older—hearing, memory, life—but you also lose the ability to give a crap about things that really don’t matter. That’s why, if you’ve suffered from insecurity, either about work performance or the amount of commitment in relationships, being old can give you a more solid perspective and new management opportunities. So, if you’re old enough to have lots of experience, don’t get too worried by old fears. Rely on your own perspective to tell you what you need to do, regardless of what others think and your anxiety tells you. Just don’t rely on your ability to read small print.
-Dr. Lastname

I’m in a very specific line of consulting work—lots of research, long hours—that I’m very good at and enjoy doing, but I also wind up driving myself crazy with anxiety about doing the job just right. I formally retired a few years ago after many years in the business, when I was 55 and didn’t need the money, but I took a contract a few months ago because the specific assignment interested me. After all these years, however, I’m still having panic attacks, tightness in my chest, and shortness of breath. I even had to dig out the valium. I’m just obsessed with doing a perfect job, even though I know this stuff cold and my clients love me. My goal is to figure out what’s wrong with me and stop making myself sick.

Anxiety often causes symptoms that feel like sickness or even a heart attack (chest pain, tightness in your chest, shortness of breath, sweating), but that doesn’t mean that, like those other illnesses, it also shortens your life. A heart attack can kill you; a panic attack just makes you feel like you’re going to die.

So, while it’s natural to think that you’re making yourself sick every time you allow yourself to get anxious, anxiety isn’t deadly, or even totally detrimental; in regular doses, it helps you by making you worry about survival, making a living, and avoiding danger. Anxiety’s a lot like wine; a small amount everyday is helpful, a large amount everyday can make you feel helpless. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Messed Friend

Posted by fxckfeelings on July 3, 2014

One of the common mistakes in one-sided relationships is that the wrong side—the jilted side—tends to feel responsible. People tend to blame themselves when the other person doesn’t do their share, act respectfully, or just return a damned text. In any case, talking about it doesn’t usually change character, behavior, or interpersonal chemistry, so trust your judgment and do what’s necessary to find friends whose commitment meets your standards and drop those who don’t. When you use good judgment in relationships, there’s no need to blame yourself for someone else’s bad behavior.
-Dr. Lastname

Please Note: In honor of both Canada Day and Independence Day in the US, we’re going to take Monday off so we have the time to celebrate most of North America. We’ll be back on Thursday, 7/10.

I’ve been going out with a girl I get along with pretty well, and we’ve been comfortable about making it exclusive for the past eight months. I always have the feeling I shouldn’t push things too far though, and the other day, I really needed her help because I was moving into a new place. When I asked her, she said sorry, but she needed the time to see some friends and take it easy. It pissed me off, but now I wonder whether I’m just being needy. My goal is to figure out whether I should say something or whether her behavior means a whole lot.

There’s a world of difference between being needy and simply needing; being needy usually causes nothing but anger and bickering, but needing a little deserved help is nothing unusual, and nothing your average friend would refuse. Unfortunately, this friend is not average (and might not be a girlfriend for much longer).

Instead of mistrusting your standards of give-and-take in a good friendship, you should wonder whether your girlfriend knows how to be a friend, and whether it’s time to tell her to take a walk. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Desire Exit

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 30, 2014

Unless your sexual relationship began with a matchmaker, a bet, or a promise to a dead sibling, it probably started out with the spark of mutual attraction. Being wanted by someone you love is part of the high, but when lust becomes love and love becomes the boring reality of commitment—i.e., when people are too tired and/or comfortable to lie about being in the mood—the high turns into a new kind of emotional low. Sexual frustration feels like love is over, and encountering sexual resentment feels like your prince is a whiny brat. If, however, you can put sex into perspective and value what you’ve found in someone beyond the spark, then you can manage those feelings, which is the true test of love.
-Dr. Lastname

I hate the way my husband isn’t interested in sex as much as I am, and doesn’t want to talk about it; it’s as if he has no respect for my needs, doesn’t appreciate all the hard work I’m doing to support the family, and doesn’t find me attractive anymore. I feel like he got me to marry him by pretending to love me and be interested in me but then just changed his mind. I thought he was cheating on me, because what gay man isn’t interested in sex, but even now that I believe him when he says he’s just stressed about a million things right now (he even cries about it sometimes), I still feel like he should put me first once in a while. Of course, sulking doesn’t exactly make me sexy, so I’m aware I’m being stupid, but having an affair seems like justified payback. My goal is to find a constructive way of responding, getting laid, or at least not having to get a divorce.

Nothing lasts forever, but it’s not clear which eventual loss will pain you more: the end of your marriage, or the decrease in your now-rabid sexual desire. Just because your husband is first to lose his sexual appetite doesn’t mean you should be so quick to sacrifice your partnership for your boner.

No matter who you are, libido is fragile and easily affected by a million factors, from age to illness to humidity level. If, like many men, you’re sexually needy, then you can’t allow yourself to think that true love and a marital commitment guarantee sexual availability. People and circumstances change, which is the only thing you can count on. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Character Factor

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 26, 2014

Character attacks, like drive-by shootings and lottery winnings, never seem to go to the right people; sensitive innocents are often used as pawns (and attacked, and tortured) in battles between those close to them, and clueless and insensitive idiots refuse to accept any criticism as valid. Whatever emotional hurt you experience, dish out, or deny, your moral judgment of the behavior being criticized counts most in the end. Hurt fades quickly if you see no wrong in what you’ve done, and if you see wrong in the actions of others, what you do to avoid them is more important than calling them out and getting to their feelings, certainly if you have something of a drive-by nature in mind.
-Dr. Lastname

I feel ashamed that my weaknesses are opening my son to a vicious attack by his ex-wife’s lawyer. She’s a monster and her lawyer is trying to make my husband and I look like we’re incompetent and even dangerous grandparents when it comes to caring for their kids. His ex-wife’s lawyer told the judge that, because I’ve been hospitalized for mania and alcoholism, I shouldn’t be allowed to care for my grandchildren, and then demanded my medical records. I can’t defend myself, because it’s true, even though I’ve been sober and doing well for the past year and have never endangered those kids. My goal is not to let my illness jeopardize my son’s custody of his kids or prevent me from helping him care for them.

If there’s anything positive you can take from the experience of being attacked in court for having mania and alcoholism, it might be that, as a grandparent, you’ve been given the chance to feel like a kid again; specifically, like a child being attacked in the schoolyard for something you can’t help but are sensitive about. Everyone laughs, it hurts, and the bully gets a win.

Since you are an adult, however, and not a nervous little kid, you can recognize that, just because you’re ashamed of something, and someone attacks you about it, doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. Unfortunately, bullies often grow up to be Assholes™, and some of those Assholes™ trick nice men into marrying them (or just get law degrees). WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Ice Cold Fear

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 23, 2014

Of all the instinctual emotions the deserve to be second guessed—i.e., lust, hunger, blind cooperation with the statement, “holy shit, this milk must be a decade old, smell it!”—fear deserves the most examination and contemplation before fully giving in. That’s because sometimes we feel very threatened when we’re actually stronger than we think, and sometimes the threat is, indeed, immense, but we’ve done much more to fight it than we recognize. Whenever you’re threatened, don’t let anxiety tell you that you’re helpless and have done nothing worthwhile. Assess your actual options and accomplishments before you let anxiety control your choices or self-respect. In other words, think before you jump (or get a nose-full of bad dairy).
-Dr. Lastname

I’m afraid my father-in-law is going to destroy my marriage. He gets insulted over nothing, and holds grudges forever, so spending time with him is torture. My wife has no trouble admitting her father is like that, and while she doesn’t exactly take his side, she wants to maintain some kind of relationship with him. I want to keep him away from our home and kids completely because he makes me very nervous—it’s already hard enough to take care of them while also trying to manage my business—but she won’t cut him off. My goal is to protect my family without letting him break up my marriage.

Your father-in-law sounds like the kind of Asshole™ who would make anyone nervous; very quick to anger, slower to get over it, and never to stop blaming are the ultimate Asshole™ trifecta.

It’s understandable that he makes you so nervous and uncomfortable that your first instinct is to ban him from your house (or, ideally, shoot him into outer space), but your first instinct isn’t always your logical best choice. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

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