People Suck. Now What?
I don't remember exactly why I picked up the book F*ck Feelings a few weeks ago. Perhaps I'd been searching for something related to my anger issue and stumbled across it.
Psychiatrist Michael I. Bennett insists: "If you want to make good decisions or get good advice about them, don’t pay too much attention to your feelings."
Why? Well, feelings are flaky, feelings don't match circumstances that well, feelings are the proximate cause of many bad choices and often lead you astray from your values to boot.
I'm aesthetically attracted to another way of thinking in this realist style: man is fallen.
(Whether metaphorically or literally, I don't know).
"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."
Yup - people suck. Everyone recognizes this.
Right until... it's time to deal with some problem like: your bad habit, your broken family, your asshole boss.
Then, on some level, it's all too easy to end up behaving as if there must be some satisfactory solution available.
F*ck Feelings reminds us that life is full of tradeoffs & compromises, many of them feel bad, and often the best we can do is muddle on through with our sanity and dignity (sort of?) intact.
How you can F*ck Feelings
How does this work in practice? Well the book has many (formulaic, repetitive) sections on divorce, family feud, assholes at work and beyond, etc.
I can save you some time with this encapsulation of the basic idea of Fck Feelings*:
Many of your desires and goals are about things you cannot control.
You control much less than you think: not just about other people and the world, but also about your own self.
As such, you should shrink your desires and goals appropriately down to size: meeting your own standards and making progress on your own terms.
Even meeting these revised, realistic goals may not result in happiness or even take away your pain. So do what you can to discount feelings rather than obsessing over them.
Basically, withstand the feelings, don't act on them too much, and then behave realistically - fulfilling obligations without breaking your back to little effect.
What about "locus of control" ?
My initial objection to F*ck Feelings was that it seemed to run afoul of the idea of maintaining an internal locus of control. Which is correlated with some good outcomes in life.
Yet, self-help readers are a strongly self-selected bunch. These readers are likely to have overshot the mark on internalizing locus of control - they are doing things like running themselves ragged trying to please hopeless assholes and spending money they don’t have trying to help a recalcitrant addict in the family.
As such, there may be little risk in telling the type of person who reads this book to give up on controlling some things.
You might suck just as much as everyone else
I kinda liked this book. Many of us could do with a reminder to tell our stupid feelings to get lost, so we can get on with the real stuff of life.
And yet, it's semi-dangerous to tell people to discount other people's reactions as a rule, to abandon the hardest types of self-improvement, to rely only on their own moral standards as a yardstick.
After all, you know you're a good person. But what if a less good person read this book? They'd hear all of this advice in exactly the same way, and carry on in an asshole fashion! Yikes.
The bottom line
I can basically endorse the F*ck Feelings approach for anyone with enough humility to understand that some of these problems may be of her own making, and that her personal standards of conduct might be too low.
But if others reacts poorly to you most of the time, that's not bad luck or cosmic injustice - that's evidence that you're awful.
And if you're awful, you should try to change - even if it's real hard.