It’s become an article of faith in our modern world that if you’re feeling depressed, unmotivated, angry, or anxious, what you need to do is think really hard about why you’re feeling that way. The idea is that once you figure out the roots of your problems, they’ll magically disappear.
But what if thinking about your feelings all the time actually makes your problems worse?
Well, that’s the argument my guests today make in their book. It’s called F*ck Feelings, and yes, that “F” stands for what you think. Michael Bennett is a psychiatrist, Sarah Bennett is a comedy writer, and together this father and daughter teamed up to write, despite the controversial title, one of the most straightforward, practical, and hopeful books about managing your psychology and your emotional life that I’ve read.
Today on the podcast, Michael, Sarah, and I discuss why you shouldn’t think about your feelings so much, what to do about anger, what to do about anxiety, and how to approach self-improvement so that it’s actually productive and not masturbatory. And don’t worry — even though the book is called F*ck Feelings, we don’t swear in this podcast.
- Why a psychiatrist father and comedian daughter decided to write a book together
- Where the phrase “F*ck feelings” came from
- Why you should stop focusing on your feelings so much
- Why trying to get to the root of your emotional or psychological problems is often counterproductive
- Why you should focus on managing negative emotions instead of eliminating them
- The differences between wishes and goals and why we often confuse the two
- Why expressing your feelings to people can often make things worse
- How much of our personality can we actually change?
- Why good psychotherapy involves simply abiding by ancient philosophical principles
- How to become process-oriented instead of focused on whether you’re happy or not
- How the self-improvement industry makes people miserable
- How you bootstrap yourself to do the things that are good for you even when you don’t feel like it
- Why thinking that life should be fair just leads to anger
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast
- Sigmund Freud
- “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”
- The origins of depression
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- The Psalms
- Process oriented; not results oriented
- Fight Club
- The Serenity Prayer
- The Temple of Delphi
- “Just world” fallacy
F*ck Feelings is a humorous yet practical guide to dealing with your emotional life. It’s a quick read, but covers a lot of topics. If you’re feeling stuck in life or are dealing with depression, anger issues, anxiety, or addiction, you’ll find something in this book that will help you.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Indochino offers custom, made-to-measure suits at an affordable price. They’re offeringany premium suit for just $399. That’s up to 50% off. To claim your discount go toIndochino.com and enter discount code MANLINESS at checkout. Plus, shipping is FREE.
Freshbooks. FreshBooks is offering a month of unrestricted use to all of our listeners totally free right now. To claim your free month, go to FreshBooks.com and enter “Art of Manliness” in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.
Read the Transcript
Brett: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. It’s become an article of faith in our modern world that if you’re feeling depressed, unmotivated, angry, anxious, well what you need to do is think about why you’re feeling that way, or go talk to a therapist and try to figure out why you’re having these emotions, or these feelings. Then once you do that it’ll magically solve things. What if doing that, thinking about your feelings all the time actually makes the problem worse?
Well that’s the argument my guests today make in their book. It’s called, Eff Feelings, and yes, that eff is what you think it stands for. It’s a father and daughter team. The father is named Michael Bennett. He’s actually a psychiatrist. The daughter is Sarah Bennett and she’s a comedian writer. They teamed up to write, despite the title, the controversial title, it’s there on purpose … it’s one of the most straightforward, practical, no foo-foo books about managing your psychology and your emotional life that I’ve read.
Today on the podcast, Michael and Sarah, and I discuss why you shouldn’t think about your feelings so much, why it can be unproductive, what to do about anger, what to do about anxiety, how to approach self improvement so that it’s actually productive and not masturbatory, what to do about addiction and things like that. A really great podcast with a lot of practical information. Take notes. I think you’re going to like this. After the show’s over, make sure and check out the show notes for links to resources, studies that we mention in the podcast you can find that at aom.is/efffeelings, just eff feelings, all one word. As always, I’d appreciate it if you’d give us review of the podcast on iTunes, or Stitcher if you’ve enjoyed it, and just a heads up, don’t worry, even though the book is called, Eff Feelings, we don’t swear in this podcast. You don’t have to bleep it out or anything like that, or not listen to it if that sort of thing offends you. We keep it pretty straightforward and practical.
Without further ado, Michael Bennett, Sarah Bennett, and why you shouldn’t really worry about your feelings so much.
Okay, Sarah and Michael Bennett, welcome to the show.
Michael: Thanks for having us.
Brett: You all are the daughter/father team who wrote the book called, Eff Feelings. It’s a book about dealing with life’s problems from a shrink’s perspective. I’m curious, why did you 2 decide? Michael, you’re the shrink, Sarah, you are a comedy writer. What was the genesis? How did you guys decide? Was it over Christmas dinner one day you decided we’re going to write a book about psychotherapy or psychiatry?
Sarah: Well, it was over many childhood dinners, actually. Both my parents are psychiatrists and they would bring their work home. They would talk about cases with each other, obviously within the HIPAA guidelines, but they would always ask for advice. What would you do with this patient? Do you think I did the right thing, et cetera. I was raised around talk of mental illness and problem solving, really, because after my parents worked in a mental hospital, they both worked more in private facilities. My mother ran an inpatient program. My father was in private practice. It was more about hearing 2 professional advice givers talking shop.
This phrase, blank feelings, is something my father would say both around the dinner table and to his patients. At one point, as an adult, I was living in LA and trying to work, but there was a big writer’s strike so there was no work for anybody, and I was looking for something to do and I realized finally maybe it’s time to help my dad write some of his ideas down. He’s had a lot of patients over the years. He’d say, tell him I’d wish I’d written that down. A lot of them were pretty ADD and wouldn’t remember once they left his office, or in the heat of an argument with a spouse or a parent, they wouldn’t remember his advice.
I just saw this opportunity to help him put that advice down on paper and make sure that his sense of humor remained in tact because if you don’t know that he’s trying to be funny, you might just think he’s a massive jerk. That’s my job, to make sure that you know he’s being funny. He’s not really saying that he’s the smartest person in the world because he went to Harvard, he’s just trying to make you laugh and make you think to knock you out of the rut that you’re probably in that’s sending you to talk to a shrink in the first place.
Brett: Right. Let’s talk about the title, or that catch phrase that your dad would say at the dinner table, “Blank feelings. Eff feelings.” It’s an interesting take because it flies in the face of traditional psychotherapy, self help literature that says, “No, feelings are the most important thing. You should work on managing your feelings, work on being positive, work on being happy.” Why should we give up on worrying about our feelings so much?
Michael: Well, the expectation that you could make yourself happy, or that you could work out your feelings, sometimes you can, but usually by the time people came to see me, it was very clear that they couldn’t, that there was something about their lives at that time, or their personalities, or the people they were living with, maybe people they had to live with, that wasn’t going to get better. The expectation that they should be able to control that was making them worse. Shocking them into the idea that maybe as painful as their situation is, was, that it wasn’t going to be controlled. They would have to think more about making the best of it would often lead to a very good, if, both a funny and a sad conversation.
When those conversations took place, I, and usually patient, felt they’d been very helpful. That’s what Sarah and I were trying to capture. It was more a segment of conversation, including a lot of what patients brought to the table.
Brett: Right. I’ve noticed that in my own life, too. Whenever I start focusing, like when I’m down, I’m feeling kind of in the dumps like an Eeyore, and I start focusing like, “Why? Why do I feel like this?” I just end up feeling worse instead of better, which is so weird because I think we’ve been conditioned in our culture to be like little Freuds to ourselves, and try to figure out the cause of these feelings, but it might not be that productive is what you’re arguing.
Michael: Maybe it’s worth trying once or twice because sometimes it is productive, but what we don’t seem to have is an off switch that says, “No, this is not working. This is one of those mysteries that goes beyond what I’m going to figure out or what my shrink is going to figure out. I need to turn this off and figure out what I’m going to do about it.”
Sarah: People seem to get this notion that if I can get to the root of why I do something, I can stop it, because that’s how we’re conditioned to solve problems, but just if you are someone who has trouble being faithful in relationships and you figure out, “Well, it’s because my father was unfaithful. That was easy.” That doesn’t then flip a switch and make you somebody who is now faithful in relationships. Maybe then ruminating on that problem will give you an excuse, almost, to be unfaithful from here on. Maybe now you’re going to get frustrated because you feel like, “But I figured it out. I should have control over this,” but it’s not that simple.
Getting to the root of problems feels like then you could find a solution there, but that’s not always the case when it comes to bad habits. It’s more about learning to manage the problem on a daily basis than trying to find an answer to the problem that will make it go away entirely.
Brett: In the beginning of the book you talk about, and you just talked a little bit about this, Michael, sort of the expectations people have, and you discussed that there’s a difference between wishes and goals, and that often people make goals that are really wishes for their lives. Can you give some common examples of goals people set for themselves when it comes to their emotional life, or just living that are actually wishes?
Michael: Well, the most common one is that they want to make a relationship happier, or smoother, without stopping to think of why it’s not happy, or not smooth, and whether it is really in their hands at all. I’m often saying to people, “Look, it’s understandable that you wish this were better, but it’s like your goal is to have good weather. What’s the difference?” They say, “Well, I don’t control the weather.” That’s it. There’s an element here you don’t control and you need to think about that.
Brett: Basically you have to be a little stoic, right? Not being deterred by things that are outside of your control.
Michael: Well, you can’t exactly help the way you feel about it. If it really hurts, it really hurts. Yeah, you have to be stoic, but it also helps to have values so that you really appreciate that when you’re being stoic in a good cause, that that really deserves respect. You’re not just sitting there and taking it and being passive. You’re sitting there and taking it often because you believe in something. You’re really trying to make the best of something and that means sitting still.
There was Milton’s old line about, “They also serve who only stand in wait.” Well, a lot of times there’s nothing you can do so your highest moral moment, sometimes, is just enduring the hard time without making it worse.
Brett: A wish would be like, “I wish my relationship was better or smoother.” How can we turn that wish into a more productive goal where we actually can do something, recognize what we have control over and don’t have control over, and focusing on the things we do have control over.
Sarah: Well, especially in family relationships, people often say, “I wish I got along with my mother better,” and think that the way you do that is to have a confrontation, or to let her know exactly how she hurt you, and what you need from her in the future. Odds are if you’ve had a parent, the same parent for 30 years and you’ve never gotten along, you’re not going to get along now. What you can control is where the conversation goes, what you’re willing to talk about, how much time you spend together, whether you’re going to take the bait and get into arguments. That’s what my father’s talking about and what you were talking about in terms of the stoicism. It doesn’t feel great to have your mother berate you for something you haven’t done, but instead of fighting back you can calmly change the subject, you can calmly excuse yourself from the room, or from the house in general, and it doesn’t feel good to not fight back, but if your goal is to have a peaceable relationship, then there’s certain sacrifices that are worth making to keep the peace.
Also because you know that if you go to war, if you get into this fight, nobody’s going to win. You’re never going to change her mind and she’s never going to change yours. Your greater goal is just getting along, not trying to change each other, not trying to win each other over to your point of view because that’s never worked in the past. That means making those sorts of limits, creating those sorts of boundaries, and accepting I’m never going to have a lovey dovey, sitcom parental relationship, but I can have one that isn’t World War III every time a holiday rolls around. There are ways to do it that aren’t excruciating, like just setting limits, setting time limits, whatever you need to do, then it’s worth doing what you need to do to make that possible.
Michael: We’re big ones for inviting people to look for patterns. Usually if somebody is causing you a lot of trouble, or even if you’re caused a lot of trouble by some personal habit of your own, there’s lots of evidence that it’s ingrained. It’s not easy to change, but there’s good reason to not take it too personally and not to hold yourself too responsible so that you can switch over to, “Okay, I don’t understand it, but it’s bigger than I am. How could I manage it so that it will do the least damage?”
Brett: Right. I think this understanding that some temperaments are inborn and there’s not much you can do about it, except for managing it, and I know people who have suffered from depression and I feel like they actually beat themselves up even more because they’re thinking, “Why? Why can’t I be happy?” They do all these things and I guess a more productive approach would be like, “Well yeah, maybe I’m just by nature an Eeyore, but there’s some things I can do to manage it and not be insufferable around people and have a good productive life despite that.”
Michael: Scientifically that has been almost a revolution in thought over the time of my career. When I started out, we were really thought the cure to depression was to understand the issues what were bothering you, or get you to stop turning your anger inwards, something like that. That was what a lot of movies were about, but then all this evidence came out that linked it to genetic factors, and the epidemiology of it was that if you had a really bad depression or 2, you were almost certain to get another one sooner or later. It didn’t matter whether you got the greatest psychotherapy, or had a terrific life, it was still the odds were that you could get another depression. We have so little control over something that can cause a lot of pain. The good news was that we’ve been taking much, too much responsibility on ourselves for depression and its recurrence, and that we can site the negative thoughts of depression by treating it more like it’s an attack of Lupus, or an attack of Colitis.
Brett: I’m wondering if you’re suggesting is what you do, Michael, sort of cognitive behavioral therapy, or do you even think that can be problematic for people because I guess the underlying assumption is that you can do something about your thoughts with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Michael: I think it’s cognitive behavioral therapy, or cognitive therapy in the sense that I think philosophy is supposed to be, or good thinking about ethics, or studying Palman. You’re trying to do what’s right and gain self esteem from that. When you know you’re doing the best to be a decent person, to live a life while you’re suffering from pain and disability, and humiliated, and are having trouble making a living, that deserves so much respect. I always thought that’s at the center of a lot of ethical and religious thinking. That part of it is very, very therapeutic. It’s about how to feel better inside when life really sucks.
Brett: Right. It’s very Jovian, very Greek tragedy like.
Michael: Yes, and the Psalms, too.
Sarah: There’s some confusion over in terms of people saying, “Well if you resign yourself to the fact that you get depressed, are you then being apathetic?” That’s not true at all. It’s saying that when you accept that you have this disease in your life, that you don’t just take it lying down, actually. If the depressive voice tells you you are worthless, you don’t then ignore your feelings, or hate yourself for having them, or try to change them, you just answer back to them. I think that’s more what cognitive behavioral therapy is about in terms of saying back to that voice, “I know I’m not useless because today I did get out of bed and I was a good parent,” or, “I was a good sibling,” or, “I was a good daughter, or son to my parents,” and then the other important part is taking pride in what you can accomplish when you know that you’re dealing with an illness.
It’s a huge deal sometimes just to put your pants on when you’re going through a bad period of depression. To put a brush through your hair and leave the house and go to work, and you deserve to give yourself credit for accomplishing those things. Other people do them everyday without thinking about it, but when you’re sick it can feel like it takes all the effort you have down to your bones, and you need to give yourself a pat on the back for being able to accomplish those things. To find the positivity in all the negativity.
Brett: It sounds like we should be focusing on the process, not so much on the results in terms of feelings because feelings are fleeting and they can change, and you don’t have much control over that.
Michael: I think you put your finger on it. We tend to focus on results like happiness, or wealth, that have a huge amount of good luck in them, and a lot of the essence of pulling back from that, a lot of the essence of cognitive therapy is to ignore the results, as much as we want good results, and focus on the process, and literally doing your best according to your values.
Brett: You have a chapter called Blank Self Improvement. Very Tyler Durden, Fight Club title there. I think it’s interesting. I do think that we live in a culture that’s very focused on self improvement. There’s self improvement blogs, self improvement books, podcasts, I guess you can kind of say we might be a self improvement podcast, I’m part of the problem, but is this culture actually making us miserable in a way?
Michael: You know, we don’t care if it makes you miserable, but we think it makes you sick. It’s natural to want to improve, but you always hit a limit. There’s some things you just don’t do well. I watched my friends at a certain age, whatever their timing in their running, or their weights, or whatever, is going to get worse, not better. Sooner or later, you really need to focus on the process, what you do with what you’ve got. That’s a much deeper moral dimension. Again, I think it’s what you said earlier. We tend to focus, by human nature, on the result and to really judge ourselves fairly and constructively, we have to continually force ourselves to think about what we’ve got to contend with. It’s just another way, really, of saying the Serenity Prayer and trying to turn it into a procedure.
Sarah: Also, the problem with so much written self help seems to be that it puts the onus for improvement squarely on the reader and asks you to take responsibility for so many things you can’t control so that when you’re not then happy after reading the advice, it feels like your fault. As we’ve been saying, happiness isn’t something you control entirely. An example we always use is you can wake up early, exercise, work on your aspiration collage, or whatever The Secret calls it, decide that day you’re going to be happy and meet goals, take one step out of the house and then a bird craps on your head. Now you’re not happy, but you didn’t tell the bird where to eat breakfast, or use the toilet that morning, it’s not your responsibility that you don’t feel happy anymore, but you can feel like, “Why can’t I be happy? I did all these things today. Why am I letting this bring me down?” You’re letting it bring you down because it’s gross. It’s a terrible start to the day.
It seems like so many self help books make it seem like your happiness is in your own hands and that’s so not fair to people, to readers, to anybody to take that on. Your happiness is mostly linked to luck and you can be the best person you can, and you can do the best you can, but expecting to be happy, to be able to make yourself happy, is probably just going to make you miserable.
Brett: Listening to you 2 talk about this, I want to go back, Michael, you kind of refer to this. This isn’t really so much cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s just good philosophy towards life. Hearing you guys talk it reminded me of those inscriptions on the Temple of Delphi. “Know thyself,” and then, “Moderation in all things,” it sounds like that’s what you’re advocating. It’s like know what your limits are, know that you’re not going to be able to get thinner at a certain age, or you’re not going to be as fast, or athletic past a certain age, and then working with what you’ve got. Don’t try to exceed beyond what you’re capable of doing possibly.
Michael: Well we certainly think you need to try to stretch your limits and that so many great things in life that younger people achieve, I think they have a real interest in talent and take it to the limit, but I think it’s equally true that there is always a limit. Again, it’s how you shift gears. How you recognize when you reach that limit and shift gears and decide, “Okay. This isn’t my fault. I’d like to take it further. Everybody has told me … “. It’s sort of like what they say about the Red Socks, especially around spring training and all the sports writers are talking about everybody’s potential, it must drive those guys crazy.
Brett: Going back to this idea where people have a tendency to psychoanalyze themselves and trying to figure out the root of their problems, like we ask “why” questions. “Why do I cheat? Why do I eat that chocolate cake? Why do I have an anger problem?” You guys argue that we should be asking, instead of “why,” we should be asking “how.” What do you all mean by that?
Michael: We just mean that you ask how do you deal with it. If there is some cause that you can manage, and somebody discovers a pill that will change your fat metabolism and you gain weight from that cake because of some biochemistry that’s known, give me that pill. I’d love it, but until that arrives, some people gain weight, and some people don’t. At some point or other it was probably a survival trait that the people who gained weight would get through the winter famine better because their bodies hang on to fat. A lot of it seems to link up to evolutionary things that mean a trait may cause you a lot of misery, but still if it helps a large number of people survive, it tends to remain in the gene pool.
Well, whatever it is, it’s a mystery and it’s usually beyond us at some point, particularly in medicine. Now doctors, too, and therapists, have a lot of trouble with that point. We feel responsible for finding an answer and coming up with answers. What is harder for us, for everybody, I think, it’s to recognize when there is no answer and shift to the, “So what do you do then?”
Sarah: Also when people, especially people that have problems with addiction and want to ask why, it’s usually a tactic to delay doing anything that’s actually constructive. You can try and figure out why you drink forever. You might not come up with an answer. What’s more important is you figure our how to manage your drinking now. At a certain point, too, you can try and get to the bottom of why can’t I eat as much as other people I know. Why is it that one bite of cake will cause me to gain 25 pounds?
It might be because, like my dad said, you have peasant genes that hold onto weight, it’s a metaphorical white whale, but if you’re someone who has those issues, you have to come to a point where you think, “I can either manage my diet better. I can either have a crazy diet where I only eat 500 calories a day so I can be the weight that I want, or I can have a healthy diet that works for me and accept what is the best I’m going to look. What is the best weight I can achieve that doesn’t make my schedule crazy and make it impossible to spend time with friends because I’m on a cleanse every other day of the week.” That’s the limit that you have to determine for yourself, but at a certain point it’s not worth trying to figure out why anymore because it’s probably just letting you procrastinate. You just have to make your own decisions about what’s best for you, what will work best for you, and what will help you get your problem to a point that you feel comfortable with.
Brett: I imagine there are people who are listening who might be in a funk of some sort and they know what they need to do, right? They know that things, the processes they should focus on to manage it, but again, that emotion is like a motivating factor in our lives. If you don’t feel like doing something then it’s hard to do something you know you’re supposed to do even though you don’t feel like it. I’m curious, do you have any advice on bootstrapping yourself? Even though you might not feel like getting out of bed, how do you get yourself to do that because it’s the right thing to do, or it’ll help you out and help you have a functional life.
Michael: What I think we’ve learned from the behavioral therapists is that you try to do it with other people. You try to let other people into your life, whether it’s a friend, or a spouse or a therapist, and work with them to create a schedule. Get very, very specific about what you need to do and then check with them through the day about whether you’re doing it. If it’s really severe that’s about all they do in day hospital treatment is they walk with you through your day doing their best to get you up, out, eating, and doing things one after the other, and very often just having that person at your elbow is just what you need. You really want to do it, you just can’t quite get up the energy and that other person gives you the energy, and then you start to build a habit, and do it at the same time, with the same person everyday, and before you know it, you’re moving.
Sarah: It’s important, too, not to beat yourself up and say, “Come on. Get yourself out of bed. Don’t be a loser,” let that negativity seep into motivation you might have. It’s more thinking of, “What are the important goals for me? What kind of person do I want my actions to reflect?” If getting out of bed means providing for your family, then that’s the motivation that you can use. By getting out of bed, like I said, you give yourself an enormous amount of credit, but it’s acknowledging, “Yes, I’m very sick right now. I feel really down. This is going to be really hard, but these are really important goals for me to set. It’s very important for me to be this kind of person, both for myself, or for my family, as an example for my kids. If I can’t meet those goals, I know that I did my best to meet them. I’m not going to beat myself up, but there’s a very good reason for me to meet these goals and to ignore what my mood is telling me, and press on either way.”
Brett: You have a chapter called Blank Fairness. I think in a lot of people there’s this very ingrained idea that life should be fair. I think this could be the cause of a lot of frustration, depression, cause of anger, because even, I think, a lot of people make these hidden bargains with people, like saying, “If I did this for you, then you should do something for me,” then when that person doesn’t do something for you, you get upset and angry. How do you get rid of that ingrained idea in your head that life should be fair because it seems like that could be the root cause of a lot of angst and anger in people’s lives.
Michael: Well, one thing we all do, is we watch a lot of TV and movies where the bad guy really gets it. One reason I think we do that is that’s the only place we’re going to get that satisfaction. The rest, you know, getting philosophical with somebody else who understands why you’re angry, and why you’re outraged, but also understands that if you do anything it will make things worse, that helps. That’s about the only way you can do it. I mean I think we run the risk everyday of our yearning for justice getting us into trouble.
Road rage is the most obvious example and it builds up and I guess one of the less constructive things we do is harbor resentments and we blame whoever the authority is for not giving us a better world, usually the President, or the Governor, or somebody, which is why even the most popular politician has usually become a goat after 8 or 12 years in office, but it’s hard for us to step back. I think that one of the reasons it’s good to study philosophy or study scripture as a way of contemplating the unfairness of the world, and thinking positively what does a good person do with that since we can’t often do good by taking arms, or even sometimes by speaking up. How can we do good? I think that was something Monahan raised when he said, “Sometimes helping poor people with money in certain situations won’t do any good. It’ll do more harm than good.” How do you do good when you’re helpless? Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting until the right opportunity. You can’t do anything right now, but you don’t give up, you’re waiting.
Brett: Going back to this idea of relationships and, I think Sarah, you mentioned it too, this idea that if you have a bad relationship with your parent you decide one day this Thanksgiving I’m going to have an intervention with them and just let them know how they’ve made me feel. I think that’s a very popular idea that this will solve problems, having that open and frank discussion with folks, but it seems like in the book you all argue that sometimes that might not be productive at all, and maybe you should just not do that.
Sarah: My favorite joke in the book, and it’s not mine, it’s my dad’s, is in the context of describing couple’s therapy, which is a little crass, but nothing describes it better. Where he says that people often go to couple’s therapy because they feel, essentially having a fight with the referee where you get to unload everything about your spouse that bothers you, but that doing so, venting like that is a lot like venting intestinal gas in that it provides you with a moment of intense catharsis, but then poisons the air for you and everyone around you.
In having venting to a parent is exactly the same. You can feel this amazing catharsis if I finally let him, or her know what he did to me, how he made me feel, but it’s just going to make that person defensive and angry. If it’s the kind of parent who feels like a victim all the time, you’re reinforcing that narrative of, “My child is always attacking me and doesn’t appreciate me.” It’s not going to further your goal, certainly, of creating peace. I don’t think ever in the history of time has a parent said, “Oh my goodness. I realized I’ve been wrong this whole time. I’m a terrible human being.” That’s not what occurs. It’s more, “I realize you’re a terrible human being because you’re so cruel to me, and you would say these things to me,” and it just sends things off of a cliff.
People would like to believe that the airing of feelings makes for a more peaceful relationship, but it’s, again, like the airing of gas, it just makes for a poisonous atmosphere.
Michael: What Al-Anon helps people to do is so they can control the negative feelings, is to share more positive observations. You can have a fairly even tempered and more pleasant discussion about somebody’s alcoholism if you’re really raising it as an issue that you’re asking them about. You’re asking them to define their own standards, to look at it themselves. You’re not using phrases like, “bad choices,” or, “How do you think that makes people feel?” You’re trying to stay away from negative emotions and run a forceful seminar on how you think about this so that you can take proper care of yourself that a good intervention can be fairly punchy if it’s not angry.
Brett: I like that. Michael and Sarah, this has been a great conversation. We can get into more because you guys, I love how, I mean the brash irreverent humor of the book is funny, but I love the practical tips in it. Where can people find out more about your work and the book?
Sarah: Well we have a website that is fxckfeelings.com where we answer reader questions for advice, not as frequently as we’d like to because we’ve been first working on the first book, and now working on another book. People can, through the website, contact us and we will answer your questions eventually, I promise. We’re also on Facebook, which is Fxckfeelings and Twitter, and somebody more savvy than me is probably running an Instagram, or a Tumblr. I always say if there is such a thing as antisocial networking I’d be all over it because I’m basically a hermit, but we do have people that help us out with these things. We should be all over the place.
Brett: Great. Well, Sarah and Michael Bennett, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Michael: Thank you for the questions. We really enjoyed them.
Brett: My guests today were Michael and Sarah Bennett. They’re the authors of the book, Eff Feelings, and you can find it on amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. You can find out more information about their website at fxckfeelings.com.
As I said earlier, if you want to check the show notes out, you can find that at aom.is/efffeelings all one word.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com and if you enjoy this podcast, I’d appreciate it if you’d give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher that helps spread the word about the show. As always, I appreciate your continued support, and until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.