Originally published November 2015
“The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!”
You gotta hand it to Frank Costanza. He just puts it out there. If you think about it, George’s dad is probably the most grounded person in the history of dysfunctional Seinfeld characters. Why? Because he OWNS it. There isn’t an emotion that man has that he doesn’t embrace. With gusto.
It’s that kind of no-nonsense sentimentality that is at the heart of “F*ck Feelings,” by Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett.
I came across this book at the intersection of a job change, my grandmother’s passing and the onset of the holidays – high season for an emotional crash of one sort or another. And underneath that mountain of upheaval runs a steady current of anxiety, perpetuated by the day-to-day stress of marriage, parenthood, work, the household and did I mention parenthood?
It’s so, so easy to get bogged down in the suckitude. Yours, or everyone else’s. I bet social workers and therapists have a hell of a billing run from November through January. (Well, more like March – who doesn’t bitch incessantly about winter weather?) You want to fix yourself. You want other people to change. You want to stop whining. You want others to stop their whining. Fix me. Fix them. How, for the love of Oprah, can I ever feel joy again when my boss goes red-faced screaming at me, my kid just pulled a total jerk move and the grocery store IS OUT OF CILANTRO?
“F*ck Feelings” is a self-help mantra that on the surface, appears to be the antithesis to self-help. But it’s probably one of the most honest advice books I’ve read in a long while. Life isn’t and was never designed to be fair, sometimes our shitty behaviors are hard-wired and thus more difficult to control, and despite your Herculean efforts, changing other people’s behaviors is pretty much out of the question. But none of that excuses a lack on our parts to at least attempt to act human.
And that’s what is great about this particular self-help tome. The authors, a father/daughter duo, offer up advice by breaking down what we wish for and can’t have, what we can aim for and actually achieve, and how to do it. For example, in the chapter, “Fuck Helplessness,” the authors address our innate need to ease the pain of others. Rather than wishing for “confidence in your ability to make someone better,” the authors suggest you aim for “tolerating unhappiness without flinching or blaming” and instead “find out what can be done to help and do your proper share.”
Or, in the “Fuck Parenthood” chapter, the authors suggest losing the wish “The kid you used to know,” and aiming for the ability to “learn not to respond to small provocations” by not attacking “differences in values or loyalties that you can’t change.”
Granted, these examples are taken out of the context in which they’re presented, which is with a healthy dose of humor. If you can’t laugh at a chapter devoted to “Fuck Assholes,” then I don’t wanna know you. (I especially like the information on determining whether or not you are an asshole. Simple enough — if you have to ask, you probably are not an asshole. Why? Because assholes are never that self-reflective. Their problems are always someone else’s fault.)
If you’re looking for a humorous check on life’s challenges that’ll reframe your mindset heading into the new year, “F*ck Feelings” is definitely worth a read.