February 29, 2016
Finished: F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems by Michael I. Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett
OK, let’s just get this out of the way: Pretty much any book with F*ck in its title is getting read by me. (A favorite: Go The F**k To Sleep). Indeed, “F*ck Feelings believes profanity is a source of comfort, clarity, and strength. It helps to express anger without blame, to be tough in the face of pain, and to share determination without sentimentality.” Can I get a Hell Yeah?!
Just as the oft-disparaged F-bomb in the title bucks publishing convention, the premise of this book bucks the think-yourself-positively-out-of-sadness-and-pain-and-into-happiness-wealth-love-and-everything-else-you-could-possibly-yearn-for-your-entire-life mentality we are regularly inundated with.
The author is a Harvard trained psychiatrist (along with his co-author comedian daughter) who submits that by accepting that life is hard and often unfair, rather than relentlessly pursing a non-existent clear path to happiness, we can construct realistic expectations, cope with difficult feelings, and manage our behavior more effectively.
Music to this realist’s ears.
At my day job, I am constantly having to break the news to people that spinal stenosis is something that can only be managed, not cured (no matter how hard you pray, I add in my head). I go on to offer what I believe to be hope in the form of tools they can put in their box to do so: myriad medical and alternative therapies, lifestyle changes, and assurance there will be periods of relief in between painful flare-ups. I can’t tell you how often this is met with surprise, disbelief, and flat out denial.
I know all too well that it can (and often, should) take time for the reality of a condition or medical diagnosis to sink in, but I regularly have to have the same conversation with the same patients over and over and over again because they naively refuse to grieve a healthy spine and move forward with more realistic expectations, coping techniques, and strength. “Can’t you just fix it?” It is fucking exhausting for me, and it’s futile for them. And as painful and debilitating as back pain can be, mental anguish is all the more so, and I agree with Dr. Bennett that people would generally better serve themselves with a more pragmatic approach to building a better life.
This is not to say I don’t think we should strive for more, push to feel better, or embrace positivity when we can find it. (F*ck Feelings draws a harder line against this than I do.) Realism is not the same as pessimism, and I am nothing if not determined and perseverant. But sometimes you have to admit you’re in a fucking riptide and no amount of positive thinking is going to part the sea and deliver you smoothly back to shore; only by doing the really hard thing of swimming with it—no matter how unnatural and scary it feels—is going to ultimately free you. F*ck Feelings is an extra pair of fins.
Also Just Finished: Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman
Written by the author of Queen Bees & Wannabes, the book on which the movie Mean Girls was based, Masterminds & Wingmen is the boy counterpart striving toward a better understanding of the way boys think and experience their world. My son, 9, is a bit younger than the main population of this book, but I still took some good insights from it (when I have to chase my son around for a hug, to him the chase is the affection), and will likely refer back to it over time.
Next Up: The Pursuit of Motherhood by Jessica Hepburn