Advice

On sharpening other people’s axes

Started a PhD program a few months ago. I’m surrounded by people with an ax to grind. Insecure, trying to find ways to look down on the people around them (especially regarding intellect). It’s also almost entirely men, and the toxic masculinity is palpable. Is there any way to influence these guys, make them see themselves and others differently? In other words, can I help people to grow the fuck up? Believe that they’re worth something and that the people around them are worth something too– even if they can’t see it right away?

Can you help people grow the fuck up? Yeah. Should you? Fuck no. You’re not their mommy, and you should never give away emotional labor for free, especially in a PhD program where you’re surrounded by narcissists with inferiority complexes who have neither status nor money.

You’re going to get eaten alive if you don’t recognize your environment for the shark tank that it is. These guys are not your friends. They are your colleagues and your competition. If you don’t believe me now, that’s fine, but I guarantee that one day you’re going to look back on this question and laugh at how naive you sounded.

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Advice

On solidarity

Regarding your “Fuck Bernie Sanders” tweet, would you vote for Bernie if he won the nomination, or stay home?

If Bernie won the Democratic nomination for President, I would donate all of my time, money, and bodily fluids to help get him elected. I would vote for him. I would kill for him.

That said, Bernie should sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. His time has passed. He’s not the fresh voice anymore. His platform will be better articulated by younger, stronger candidates, and his nomination would all but guarantee a third party independent who would split the vote and get Trump elected to a second term.

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Advice

On what to do next

I finish grad school at Harvard in May and will be living in D.C. I am lost. I will be well positioned to work in the nonprofit sector. What should I do?

Pick your favorite Democratic candidate for President, apply for a job with her campaign, and spend the next twenty-two months saving the world.

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Advice

On forgiveness

He told me I’d amount to nothing and I’ve believed him ever since. I can’t seem to shake it and hate that any success I have will feel like revenge. I don’t want to live in constant reference to him. Is meditation the only way to deal with this?

 

Nah, boo. Meditation is lovely, but forgiveness is the weapon you need. Forgiveness will allow you to rise above him. Forgiveness will let you move on. Forgive that pathetic piece of shit for everything he put you through. Forgive every abusive word or deed.

Just forgive him.

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Advice

On failing

You say you’re here to relax, and I believe you, but how do you manage to not feel or become involved with how your words impact the life of others? I’m doing my PhD in clinical psychology. While my life has constantly provided me with evidence to believe I can sit in front of another human and be present with them, I can’t help but feel an incredible amount of anxiety in regards to the possibility of failing them. I’m 36 thousand dollars deep into student loans, and I’m terrified I’ll fail my future patients. Yet, I look at you, and maybe you’re free of certain anxieties because you’re anonymous, but I am convinced that you have a heart and soul that beats to the pain or vanity of those who write to you. I guess I’m trying to ask, how do manage to believe you won’t ruin those you answer to?

 

You won’t fail your patients. You won’t break them. You won’t ruin them. It’s not like that. You will have a responsibility to your patients, but you are not responsible for your patients. They are the ones who will do the work. You will not do it for them. You will help. You will guide. Maybe sometimes it won’t be as efficient or as tidy as you would like, but that’s not failure. It’s how you will grow as a clinician.

The anxiety you feel is perfectly normal, and it can be quite useful if you channel it towards self-improvement. It can keep you frosty in the room and hungry for the latest research, but don’t let it paralyze you. Don’t allow your anxiety to become a false belief about failure.

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Advice

On being pursued

If a guy doesn’t offer to pay for the first date I never see him again, even if the date was really good. After about a month of dating it’s fine to split the bill, but until then it’s a deal breaker for me. My friend says it’s because I think they owe me for my time and I consider my time more valuable than theirs. It’s probably true and I’m embarrassed to be that kind of person. Thoughts?

 

Your friend is a closeted misogynist who thinks that all women are inherently prostitutes, and not in a cool way. Don’t listen to them.

The simple truth is that you were taught this rule, and you’ve never really bothered to question it. As you mature, you’ll start to realize that you were taught a whole bunch of rules that you’ve never really questioned. Some of them are useful. Some of them are shit. This one is a mix of both.

Courtship rituals are constantly evolving, but it is still reasonable to expect the guy to pay for the first date if he is the one who asked you out. That’s the underlying rule here: whoever does the asking out is the one who pays. It’s not about him “owing” you. It’s about a pursuer/pursued relationship dynamic implicit in the initial phase of the courtship ritual. It’s about you believing pretty strongly that you should not have to pay to be pursued.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking like this, but it’s a lot better if you understand why. The useful part of this rule is in respecting the relationship dynamics of a healthy courtship ritual. The shit part of this rule is that you can too easily make it about the money and not about the fact that your date isn’t pursuing you properly.

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Advice

On how to stop dissociating during sex

Every time I go to sleep with someone, or when it becomes evident that it’s a real possibility, something in my body always recoils and shuts down. It’s less shame and more abject terror. Even if I’m the one who initiated. Something in me can’t handle the reality of sex with another person. I always fake it through and give it my best shot, but my shit is numb and it doesn’t feel like anything for me. And there’s no connection; it’s like my head is at the bottom of a well somewhere. Then before I know it I’m some dirtbag’s sexual servant because he catches on to the fact that I’m never gonna get off while he’s in the room, and he stops caring. Therapy isn’t helping. If you have any advice for me, I would greatly appreciate it. Love you.

 

You’re describing two distinct problems. The first is that you dissociate during sex. The second is that you fuck dirtbags. These problems are interrelated, and you have to solve them both or you’ll stay stuck in this larger pattern of unhealthy intimate behavior.

Here’s the question: Do you feel safe enough with any of your current or potential sexual partners to openly discuss the terror, recoil, and shut-down you experience during sex? If the answer is no, then do yourself a favor and stop having sex until the answer is yes. If the answer is yes, then do the hard thing and have the discussion. Be vulnerable and ask for help from your safe partner.

To be clear, a safe partner is one who cares about you enough to help you work through this, one who is willing to set his needs aside and do what takes to slow things down, remain connected, and allow you to experiment through your sexual response cycle until you figure out how to stay present.

One place to start might be allowing your safe partner to be present while you masturbate. Literally see if it’s possible to get off while he’s in the room. Start out with him just laying next to you with no physical contact. If that works, move on to masturbation with some kind of physical contact. Keep testing your ability to stay present with ever increasing amounts of intimacy throughout each stage of your sexual response cycle until you figure it out.

Now, if you’ve read this far and you think that sexual experimentation with a safe partner sounds like a ridiculous impossibility, that’s fine. After all, you do have a problem fucking dirtbags, so I can imagine how that level of intimacy and vulnerability sounds like advanced math in a foreign language. I promise you, though, it’s not impossible. This is the part where you’ll need a damn good therapist to help you understand your process of sexual parter selection.

You say therapy isn’t helping, but I wonder, are you doing the hard work? Are you addressing any past history of trauma that might be contributing to your problematic partner selection and subsequent sexual dissociation? Would you feel comfortable talking with your therapist about how best to discuss your dissociation with a safe partner? Be brutally honest about how much effort you’re putting into the process, and if you really are doing your part, then be willing to go find a different therapist who is a better fit.

This is a complicated question with lots of ways it can go, so feel free to meet me in the comments section for a deeper discussion about how to move forward.

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Advice

On pretending to know things

I get the feeling that you’re really good at pretending to know things, but you don’t actually know anything.

 

Well, yeah. I’ve said from day one that I am completely full of shit. That’s not really the same as pretending to know things, but it’s close enough to what you meant. I’m also totally cool with the Socratic paradox, which is to say I agree with you that I don’t actually know anything.

So, now what? Are you done coming at me like I owe you some lengthy treatise on Camille Paglia’s brand of feminism? Are you done being butt hurt that I called you a child for suggesting that I support the worst politicians?

I don’t owe you anything. You seem to think you’re entitled to me, but you aren’t. You don’t know me. I’m just a figment of your imagination. Every single opinion you have about me is pure, uncut projection. Every single emotion you have about my work is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

This ain’t about what I know, honey. It’s about what you know to be true when you look in the mirror.

(And of course, feel free to meet me in the comments section. I know you’ll have plenty more to say.)

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Advice

On pumping your fuck brakes

Being told that the reason men leave is because I sleep with them fairly quickly. A therapist told me to wait months before fucking. It’s the hardest thing I have never done. I just want to know what you think because you’re smarter and funnier.

 

God, I hate this myth, that a woman’s value as a long-term partner is arbitrarily determined by whatever length of time she waits to have sex. It’s nothing more than an outmoded, patriarchal notion of sexual virtue, and it is so fucking gross.

Men do not stay or leave based upon when you sleep with them. They stay or leave based upon their phase of life, their emotional availability, and how much they’re into you. You’re probably dating immature, emotionally unavailable men who run for the hills regardless of how much they’re into you. Waiting to fuck them would only delay the inevitable.

If your therapist is telling you to pump your fuck brakes, she’s either a shitty therapist or she recognizes that you’re the type whose judgment gets cloudy once you let a dude cum inside you. I don’t know what your deal is, so I can’t say for sure. Maybe ask your therapist. If she says something moralistic about sex, fire her on the spot. If she expresses concern about your dating patterns and the type of men you consistently choose, maybe listen.

Even if you have legitimate reasons for changing up your fuck patterns, that still doesn’t mean that men are leaving you because you sleep with them quickly. There may be a correlation between the speeds at which you’re having sex and getting dumped, but that doesn’t imply causation.

Again, this is more about the type of men you’re choosing to fuck, not how quickly you’re choosing to fuck them. Honestly, I doubt that men leaving you is even the underlying problem. After all, you want the wrong men to leave you. That’s a good thing. The problem is likely that you’re a crush-junkie who mistakes big swoony emotions for good judgement.

If you want a long-term relationship, be more discerning. Learn how to spot maturity and emotional availability in men, and place more importance on a relationship’s health than its length.

 

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Advice

On your piece of shit father

My father has turned into an absolutely horrible bigot in the last couple of years and I can no longer stand to be around him. He is blatantly racist, homophobic, transphobic, and of course a lover of Trump. The most common words out of his mouth are “n*igger” and “f*ggot”, which he says aloud, in public, regardless of who is around. He becomes infuriated if he sees an interracial couple, gay couple, or even a person of color in the neighborhood. He thinks everything he says is right and everyone else is wrong, often saying “you’ll see how right I am one of these days”. He makes statements like “we stole this land fair and square from the Indians and now we got people coming to try and steal it from us and we should just kill them all”.

He’s called me everything from a stupid bitch to an “overeducated liberal idiot”. Moreover, he’s ruined several important moments for me, including my masters graduation get together and my wedding rehearsal dinner with his selfish, hateful attitude. I used to take the bait and argue with him, which is what I think he wanted, but the convo quickly turned petty and childish. So now when I visit I stare blankly ahead, bite my tongue, and just ignore it. I feel like I should try to make him see my point of view, but I also know it’s a lost cause. Not visiting isn’t an option because I want to see my mother.

I also think it’s important to mention that he often tries to idealize our father-daughter relationship in his mind (as he boohooed all over me during our dance at my wedding). We’ve never been super close and I’ve always gone to my mom for anything rather than my dad. He also believes that because he is my father, I should respect him and accept everything he says without question. I guess I am just ranting. Any advice on dealing with this?

 

Disown him.

Stop visiting your parents. Do not speak to your father. Let him know he is dead to you in his current form. If your mother wants to visit, she can come to you. Your father is not invited. I know you think your mother is innocent in this, but she isn’t. She has spent decades enabling your father, and you are blind to the fact that she has picked him over you all these years.

If there is any hope that your father will change, you will need your mother’s help, and she has no incentive unless her relationship with you is contingent upon that change. To put it plainly, if your mother isn’t willing to help you modify your father’s behavior, then she deserves to lose her relationship with you as well.

The problem is bigger than you think. Your father is more than just a racist asshole. He is emotionally and psychologically abusive. Our culture used to dismiss men like him as “mean old bastards,” but he is an abuser, and both you and your mother are his victims. He will only change if he absolutely has to, and the only thing that might work is if his wife and daughter team up against him.

This isn’t about your father’s politics or worldview. That shit is just a sideshow. This is about his malignant narcissism and abusive behavior. Do not allow it into your life. Do not allow him into your life, even at the expense of your relationship with your mother.

I know this seems harsh, but if you really disown your father, your mother will finally have to make a choice between him and you. She will resent being forced to change, but tough shit. Any mother worthy of the title will pick her child, and if she doesn’t, at least you’ll finally recognize her for who she really is.

Worst case scenario, you become an emotional orphan (which you already were and simply didn’t know it.) Best case scenario, you and your mother exert enough pressure on your father that he breaks, and you wind up with some version of him where he learns to act right and bite his fucking tongue.

The most likely outcome is that you read this, feel momentarily inspired to enforce your will on the family, but then quickly fall back into old patterns of behavior. After all, real change is incredibly fucking difficult.

I hope you’ll go hard, though. Your dad is a real piece of shit, and you deserve better. Maybe you can make it happen.

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