Psychiatrist says: F–k happiness and f–k self-esteem
By Kyle Smith / NY Post
Say you’ve been to therapy, or bought a self-help book, or thought about doing either of those things. You may be wondering, “Why can’t I be happy?” “Why do I have such bad luck?” or “Why is my boss so unfair?”
One shrink has a novel solution: “F–k happy. F–k self-improvement, self-esteem, fairness, helpfulness and everything in between.”
Because if you can set aside all of these obsessions, you might be able to simply accept that there are lots of things you can’t change — and get over it.
That’s the message of the new book F*ck Feelings (Simon & Schuster), whose authors combine different skill sets for what amounts to the Ice Bucket Challenge of self-help books. The writers who would like to dump a gallon of ice chunks all over your confused little skull are Dr. Michael Bennett, a Harvard Medical School-trained psychiatrist, and his comedy-writer daughter Sarah Bennett, who used to contribute to the improv act the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. So if the book doesn’t fix your life, at least you may get a laugh out of it.
Whenever you have an insoluble “Why?” in your life, the Bennetts offer, the solution is to stop asking the question. “The answer you’ll get from your Maker, when you finally meet Him or Her and get to ask why,” they write, “is the same one you got from your mother when she didn’t know the answer and didn’t want to waste time — ‘because I said so. Now go make yourself useful.’ ”
And don’t expect anyone (except your mother) to pay attention when you’re describing your pains and sorrows.
In the chapter “F–k Self-Esteem,” the Bennetts mock the idea that feeling good about yourself is “an essential vitamin to take before you can gain control of your life.”
Forget that: “Enjoy bursts of confidence when you can and take credit for your hard work, but beware making confidence a goal, because that implies control, responsibility and blame when you can’t make it happen . . . Instead, assume you’re stuck with s- -t.” So do your best to survive, try not to add to your troubles, and behave as if you like yourself.
A more pressing problem no one is doing anything about is ESE: Excessive Self-Esteem. “It would help humanity a lot more if those suffering from ESE adjusted their self-admiration to more reasonable levels,” the Bennetts write. If only Oprah would do shows entitled, “You’re not that great!”
Useful as the book is in counteracting therapy-speak — it amounts to a nourishing slap in the face for those who need to be shocked out of their crybaby habits — it’s really more important than that. Because the way Americans think about civic life is as flawed as the way we think about our own lives.
The book supplies lists of “things you wish for and can’t have” contrasted with “things you can aim for and actually achieve.” For instance, you wish you could have a “an improved heart free of hate, envy, fear and general ugliness.” Fat chance, buddy. What can you actually achieve? “Act decently in spite of the way you really feel” and “bear the pain of living with ugly feelings.”
If Americans ever reached that stage, it would be a natural next step for everyone to think: Hey, other people have feelings I consider ugly. I guess I’ll have to deal with that instead of trying to shut them up, or pretending I need a “safe space” where I can retreat from, say, Christina Hoff Sommers.
Sommers’ speech at Oberlin last spring, in which she said “rape culture” on college campuses is overstated, caused a tiny tantrum among infantile students who warned of “toxic, dangerous, and/or violent” people, as though the scholar’s speech contained arsenic or bullets.
Even more important is the chapter, “F–k Fairness.” Sure, watching bad guys suffer makes for great entertainment, but the Bennetts warn about “the amount of evil you can cause by pursuing fairness.” You can’t undo all of the bad things that happen, at least not in this life. “You need to know when to accept the fact that you’ve been f–ked and know when fighting will get you further f–ked,” is the colorful way the Bennetts put it.
That is sound advice when it comes to your personal life — sorry your Daddy hit you and you didn’t get to hit him back, but there’s nothing you can do about it now.
But it also goes for your existence as a citizen. Putting your psychic energy on a politician who promises an end to all the bad stuff that’s happened in the past, or who heralds a new law that is going to prevent bad stuff from happening in the future, or creates a sparkly new agency that is going to protect you from your own stupidity? F–k that.
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