Posts Tagged ‘advice column

16
May
17

My Response to “Self-Esteem Issues in Ohio” (Dear Abby)

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[Letter titled “Being Lifelong Target of Ridicule Eats at Self-Esteem.]

“Self-Esteem…in Ohio” is in their 30s and coming to terms with social/dating difficulties stemming from a lifetime of ridicule and, quite likely, manipulation, claiming to be more comfortable putting him/her self down than doing what makes him/her happy.

I’d say he/she is in an emotional rut, passing through a sad storm.  Sometimes we write things in the moment we are most emotional and it passes.  Sometimes the problem/feeling lingers.

Dear Abby suggests professional therapy.  I feel this is too easy to recommend without a sound system of assuring the doctor-patient relationship will work.  In a way, finding a good therapist is like dating except more expensive.  Heck, even online dating sites charge less per month to gamble with them.   So, isn’t a therapist asking more than a hundred bucks an hour for you to repeat your life history, before they remotely understand your problems, compounding the problem?

*****

Well, before I get started, I had a flashback to a time not too long ago when I found and visited the Dear Abby archives/website. I found the digital copy of the letter and a loooooooooooooooong line of responses from other people, reminding me of the old chatroom and message board days. There are many who have the same responses and a handful claiming to be in similar shoes. So, anything I could say wouldn’t be much different. And, I am not sure the “discussion” is any better than comments on YouTube, as they may be hard to read/filter.

On that note, I WILL still offer some thoughts and personal experience. After all, I am not a man of few words, usually. And, if I get carried away, it might be too much for the comment trail space. I might get more attention at the source. Yet, this is just as good, writing out my thoughts, self therapy, if nothing else.

If you can handle it, please take the time to read my “radically reduced” response (which, after two drafts, is still quite long). [I am slowly learning to curb myself and save some information for more appropriate, more fruitful settings. The general public viewing space is not the same as controlled group therapy.]

But, if you reader(s) care to sift through the website comments, go HERE.

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First off, I was surprised I didn’t think to ask it myself. Are you a man or woman suffering from this? I presumed you were a man like me which prompted me to respond. Some of what you said struck such a resounding tone with my own troubles.

Secondly, as I know I can say more than can fit in a few lines, if you read what I have to say and want to discuss these matters (perhaps more privately), my mailbox is open.

I’ll try to group my thoughts to address various topics…and keep the details brief.

LABELS

I don’t like to say I have a condition or disease as this only makes matters worse than if I simply think of my troubles as clouds overhead which can be diminished or replaced with sun, now and then. Better to think of the bad times as foul weather that will pass, I say.

ESTEEM AND/OR ANXIETY

I don’t consider what I suffer from as low self-esteem but, rather, social anxiety, a fear to engage people beyond a certain trust level. It’s not as bad as a gal I know who freaks out if a guy approaches her to be more than a friend. I can mingle with certain people if the “water” is inviting enough. I typically have little to no trouble talking to people who I don’t consider relationship prospects, but I cannot seem to approach any woman I find attractive. And, if I do begin talking with one who then turns out to be more than I can handle (or fear she will find fault with me), it becomes a real dire situation to get out of the mess. So, I tend to run through the scenario beforehand and avoid even a kind greeting or more than “Hi.” [I set myself up to fail before trying.]

I’ve tried various methods of countering my anxieties. One, which has yet to work well though I love the idea, is delivering thoughts on paper. Rather than speaking with the person directly or trying to get an email address/phone number (as some seem to make appear so easy), I would write my thoughts in a note and pass it to the person or get someone to pass it to the person. I never passed notes in school, ironically. But, I’ve done it on the job (hoping to avoid a boss telling me not to socialize on the job by inviting the person I wanted to speak with to find me after work).

You’ve probably heard the bits about loving yourself before you love another and being comfortable alone, too. I don’t know what to think of these philosophies, but they give me a headache.

I was a kid who spend adequate time alone because Mom and Dad were not available or interested in what I liked to do, other than art, and I couldn’t do art all of the time. [That’s a whole other ball of wax, source of childhood trauma.] I could occupy myself and say I was okay. But, as I matured, I needed some social connection. I had heard “no man is an island” and took it to heart. I just wasn’t very good at getting off my island and joining the natives of another. And, no one was going to show me the ropes without sounding suspicious.

We’ve likely both been “okay” on our own long enough. How long do we have to go alone before we connect with someone? Right? And, how do we define loving ourselves? How do we know we pass the test and can move on to the next step, loving someone else? Who verifies our abilities?

TALKING DOWN ABOUT ONESELF

I don’t recall doing this in my youth. What I do recall wasn’t so much me talking about myself as it was conveying what others had said/done about me. I guess it was my way of taking a punch instead of fighting back. I’m not exactly a fighter, but as the saying goes, “corner a cat and get scratched.” [I’ve had my moments when I lashed back at those who went too far.]

However, as I entered my teens, I started to seriously wonder what was wrong with me. I can relate to what you say about not making yourself happy. For the longest time, I have put up with crap, figuring I could do no better. I would not say I have low standards by any stretch, but I have taken chances without making sure the decision was right in my gut. And, usually, when I don’t follow my desires, I run into trouble. Yet, if I only listened to my inner voice, I’d probably be more anti-social than I already am, because, I suspect, some of the voices inside me have been shoved in there by my family and peers. And, why do I want to listen to them?

THERAPY AND SELF-HELP BOOKS/EXPERTS

Whenever someone has no better advice or assistance to offer, I see this often. “Get professional help.” As if it were so simple. If you’re lucky, insurance may cover some or all of it. But, I doubt it. And, from my experience, it was more harm than help, especially when my family did whatever the professionals prescribed without considering its impact on me. As a minor, I was not to be trusted; I might as well have had rabies or be told I was due to be “put down.” In short, my trust in therapy ended when the last pill I was convinced to take nearly ended my life. When professional help goes that far the wrong way, you either get mad or you die obeying strangers.

I’ve encountered many “self-help” books, too, by self-proclaimed life-experts. I would snort at these quite hastily, wondering what makes anyone an expert on life when they are still living and learning as I am. Especially, if that life expert is younger than me. After all, what is the sense of life experience if someone can live it all before another? Just because one tree figures out how to produce apples faster than another does not make it wiser or all-knowing about fruit production. [This logic might also be applied to the medicine field and how pill manufacturers fail to grasp the concept of every body being potentially different; we can’t all be lab rats just to satisfy someone’s curiosity.]

Maybe I am not being fair. Maybe there are still good therapists in this world. But, I have yet to meet one. And, after my horrible experience, I am inclined to reject the idea.

If you DO consider professional help (in other words, advice and/or assistance from someone outside the circle that knows you already), I hope you can do as much research as possible and defer the expense.

I think therapy works when we accept someone’s way of thinking into our own. I’ve read some self-help books that have fairly good ideas. I just have a hard time trusting my soul to a book instead of someone I can see with my own eyes and hold with my hands. [I suppose this could have people questioning my ability to believe in a god, my religion. After all, what is faith in a god other than trusting stories passed down about someone I cannot see or hold?] So, if you tell yourself to have faith in the words of another, it’s likely you’ll adapt and do your best to make that work.

I guess, because I’ve “been there, done that,” it’s hard for me to trust, again.

Suggestions for countering these problems:

1) Well, I already gave one about labeling conditions/difficulties.

2) As for the lack of confidence to engage others or feel better about ourselves, I wish I could find a good therapy group, if I cannot do better at making friends on my own. I’m not likely to seek such a group out, sadly. I have doubts about therapy and professionals but DO think a group is better than one-on-one.

I had brief experience with group therapy and campfire discussions. But, I could feel, rather quickly, a sense of community. When everyone in the group contributes, there is less likelihood of distrust. You slowly let your guard down and accept not being alone with the problem. I had a good time with my senior (high school) retreat when the group was able to divulge personal trials. Suddenly, those who appeared flawless were just as fragile as I, and I wanted to reach out to them, to hug them. [Sadly, the trip did not end as well as it started.]

HOWEVER, be sure you are in the right group and gauge your experience day-by-day. Because, I was placed with one group who had different problems than my own, and it made no sense for me to spill my emotions to people who could barely speak for themselves and/or comprehend my woes.

3) I have repeatedly tried something over my lifetime which doesn’t exactly accomplish much other than shaking an emotional load off my shoulders. Whenever someone made me feel “less than” or hounded me (like a bully), I would concoct a tall tale. [This probably contributed to some calling me a liar at the wrong time, like the “boy who cried wolf.”] It’s sort of like the advice some give about wild animal encounters; you make yourself look big. That’s what I did without attempting to be cooler or dress differently (as many would do). I talked big and fabricated details, hoping to steer away whatever was looming over me like a plague. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about myself, but it helps to steer the threats away.

Consider this a last resort strategy. Some days, I’d just want to get home and unwind. And, I’d tell myself this strategy accomplished the bottom line. It got me out of the line of fire. But, if the problem didn’t stop

4) I like how people describe Conan O’Brien as having “self-deprecating humor.” People like him are able to stay modest and have a sense of humor about themselves, so it’s less likely to get or feel hurt. In some foreign films, you might hear “fight fire with fire” or “counter poison with poison.” Even in common medicine, a vaccine is often a re-built virus used to counter another.

So, rather than simply shoot yourself down, have a sense of humor about your shortcomings. Find a way to turn a negative into a joke. So, at least, if you DO find yourself in an awkward situation, you can make light of it. And, try not to let yourself wonder if your date thinks you suffer from anything just because you make jokes or put yourself down. Don’t double the weight already on your mind.

5) Think outside the dating box. If you view a date in any particular way and figure it’s a hopeless case, try designing a different date (like drawing a new map for how to walk through a park or a new menu for your favorite restaurant). [IE Some expect sex on a third date. I don’t care for this “rule.” I must assure myself I don’t have to follow it and set my own rules. And, if my date doesn’t agree, I don’t have to continue dating that person.  Of course, I may be good at designing, but I lack the drive or self-assurance to put my designs into reality/action.  Which is why I see myself as a good interior decorator.  hehe  I design the room but don’t necessarily have to do all the remodeling.]

I’ll take a chance in saying something about my dating history.  I’ve probably gone on a handful of dates, altogether.  My first date was as much a disaster as it was a relief.  I was once accused of standing someone up and ran into an emotional dispute IN PUBLIC (which I dread) as a result of me pursuing the relationship that, apparently, wasn’t to be.

I do better befriending a person and then trying to arrange times we can hang out together casually, instead of trying to follow some schedule every few days, weeks or months.  [And, the people I usually befriend come from my workplace.  I don’t go to “normal” hangouts to meet people because I don’t have a group of friends to join me.]  I’ve “dated” people through emails and chat rooms before meeting them in person.  I can’t say I’ve had much success, but it certainly feels better getting what you can for free or little money than paying some agency of faceless strangers to hopefully find you a match.  My methods are not conventional.  But, I’m not sending disturbing nude images to people just to get a rise out of them, either (like some who deter people from trying anything online).

6) Exercise is good. I agree with those who recommend exercise for improving psychology and the mood. [Posture and what we do with our hands also play a part.]  I didn’t get it until my twenties. In school, I wasn’t exactly lazy, but I didn’t do anything to “work out” other than play video games and the occasional sport practice by my own rules. I never lifted a weight or ran a mile (which proved to be a cause of great distress and embarrassment). But, once I started walking to get groceries, etc., I found myself melting pounds and stress away. I recommend bringing a headset radio/MP3 player to give yourself something to “suck” on and tune out the traffic. But, if you like walking among nature and listening to every little sound, have at it. I tend to dwell on negative thoughts without my music.

7) Diet may be a factor.  Consider what you eat regularly but don’t guilt yourself for enjoying the occasional comfort food.  A few tips in this area:

a) Moderation is a very important word.  If you find yourself eating a whole bag of chips or candy, stop.  Nor do you need to eat a whole head of lettuce in a day to say you’ve had your veggies.  Have a little of every food group or flavor type, and your taste buds will feel fuller sooner.

b) There are self-help books that talk about how what we eat impacts both physical and mental health.  Look into Ayurvedic medicine, the use of herbs and various food groups to address internal issues like nerves.  I’ve heard pumpkin seeds and shrimp are good for countering nerves, but I’ve seen minor results, at best.

c) Know your body type.  Some people are just genetically built to change weight/shape as the seasons shift.  Some, like me, don’t gain weight much because of a hyper metabolism.  Others are designed to be stout.  Once you know your type, accept it.  [I would presume this is a step to that “self love” requirement, but it’s not often someone will address it this way.]

8) If you haven’t already, consider looking into astrology and figuring out who to avoid, who to approach and what you can do to appeal to those you do approach.  You might be surprised by what clicks with another person, finding new connections/commonalities.  I personally find the subject full of possibilities and creatively inspiring.  But, that may just be because of my “sign.” 🙂

9) When all else fails or seems too complicated, don’t forget to take deep breaths and blow the negative thoughts and clutter from your mind.  I’ve had many bouts with panic attacks.  [Another topic for another time.]  Some nights, I’d go to bed worried I’ll forget something important that just crossed my mind.  I need to have faith and tell myself what matters will be there when I wake.

10) Art is often my therapy.  I can craft in many forms.  There is no specific yoga pose or martial art I have to follow.  I just have to pray for creative inspiration and appreciate it when it comes.  There’s a whole study on the use of mandalas and adult coloring books you might investigate.  Or, try what my family call “doodle challenges” in which one person draws a line or shape, and another (or yourself if you really must do this alone) turns that shape or line into something.  It’s sort of like finding shapes in the clouds.  [This is not directly helpful to dating, but it may be good for clearing the distressful clutter from your mind/heart.]

[I’m sure I’ll think of more and reconsider some of my verbiage in good time.  🙂  Again, if interested, I’m willing to compare notes via email and, eventually, other means.]

 

I normally copy this to a special blog page I created as an archive.  But, it doesn’t seem to be working, today, in case anyone wonders why the response isn’t there (or the link here).]

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09
Feb
17

My Response to “Needs Help Fast” (Dear Abby)

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You can find my response to this and other letters, now available for your viewing and opinion, on the designated page

But, while you’re here, have a read.

Needs Help Fast is a 50 year-old virgin man dating a 28 year-old woman (who he calls a “girl). He lied to her about his “size” while dating her for a year. Now, they are talking about “having relations,” and he doesn’t know what to do.

Abby suggests telling fairy tales to warm up to the truth. I need to blow off a little steam and ask a few more huge questions, myself, because this seems like a misplaced letter.

————–

Needs, seriously? You are 50 years-young asking a total stranger–but not just any total stranger–how to come clean about exaggerating your manhood with a GROWN WOMAN (not a girl)? Of all people, you come to Dear Abby with this question?

I’m going to throw this out there as a possibility. Are you lying in more way than one? Could it be you are NOT as old as you say you are? Could it be this 28 year-old “girl” is really a girl and not even close to 28 yet? Could it be you are fooling around with a minor?

Could it be the only facts you included were being a virgin and lying about your size? Cuz I am detecting some falsehood. That or I go back to my first statement and question why you are asking Abby this question instead of someone you know better, like another man who could be considered a friend or trusted family member. If you have none of those, I feel your pain.

I would presume your concern and your need to lie to her comes from her being “more experienced in that area.” Did you avoid mentioning your virgin status to her, as well? Or, could it be your status actually turned her on? [Some women seem to thrive on finding virgins and “taking their cards” to maximize the “exploding growth” experience. It’s similar to men in their late teens and early twenties seeking out virgin girls just to rack up numbers and/or enjoy the pains inflicted on many girls their first time.]

Abby gave you the only answer she probably could, the simplest answer given to most people afraid to say something. SAY SOMETHING. Talk to your partner. The longer you wait to spill the beans, the worse you’re going to feel. And, you ought to know yourself, a relationship built on a lie is doomed to fail.

You’re terrified she will dump you once she knows the hidden truth. If there’s any legitimate reason for this fear–if sexual geometry is such a factor with her–then she is not worth your “card.” For whatever reason, if you ARE a 50 year-old virgin, you earned your status. Don’t take chances with someone who’s going to judge or dismiss you because of your “size.” But, if you must feel/be humiliated, do so verbally versus waiting until you share a bed.

Is there something about her that is too small for you? How do you think she would feel if you found/mentioned something lacking about her?

All good questions not being asked/addressed. If you are able to read everything I have to say and not withdraw in discomfort, you’re ready to tell her the truth.

08
Dec
16

My Response to Most Letters Written to Advice Columnists

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If you read any advice columns in newspapers, you might notice a trend in letters from desperate souls seeking advice at the risk of being either ignored or exposed to the public.  [Or, am I wrong, and every person who writes to these advisors gets a personalized response?]  Just about anyone could give as simple advice as these letters appear to require.  It boils down to a handful of words.

TALK TO (THE PERSON).

or

SAY WHAT YOU ARE FEELING.

It seems like a waste of time and a column to post a letter about someone who is merely hesitating to speak to someone.

“Hmm.  How will I word my response this time?” says the advisor.

Really?  If there ever was a situation to use a form letter,* this is one.  You could just cut and paste those few words from a previous column.  Heck.  Just include the advice at the bottom of the column where you talk about yourself as a professional.

*You know those letters heads and representatives of big organizations (schools, banks, credit card companies, workplaces, etc.) use to address a large number of people with only the name of the recipient changed.

Enough said.

08
Dec
16

My Response to “Fantasizing in New York” (Dear Abby)

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Now available for your viewing and opinion on the designated page

A married woman claims to be bisexual while in her second marriage to a man.  [Her first marriage was to a woman.  I presume she married both rather quickly and recently unless she married the woman outside of the US or “on the down low.”]  She wants to pretend her husband is another woman during sex.  He is decidedly heterosexual and monogamous with next to no tolerance for her alternative notions.  I have a fairly strong response to this which contradicts the professional advice she was given.




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