Book Review of F*ck Feelings by Michael Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett

Occasionally I will read self help books that I feel are great resources for clients (and myself). It’s been awhile since I’ve been moved by any self-help book, and this one really caught my eye because of its title…I have to say, I was not disappointed.  

Title: F*ck Feelings
Authors: Michael Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett
Genre: Self-help/humor
My rating out of 5 stars: 3.5 with chapter 9 getting its own rating of 5

F*ck Feelings

Click here to purchase

 I want to start off by saying that the chapter “F*ck Assholes” (note that this title is not a literal phrase of instruction) is pure genius and should be its very own book as it is a how-to for managing the Asshole(s) (again, not literal) in your life.

***

F*ck Feelings is an in-your-face take on self-help that emphasizes values and behavior and suggests that the reader should ignore, or “f*ck feelings”. It also suggests that one should “f*ck Love” and “f*ck communication” and even “f*ck treatment” (see the table of contents at the beginning of the book).

So, if you are busy telling your feelings to “f*ck off”, what should you do instead? According to the authors, you should focus on your behavior, using your values to guide you in deciding what behaviors are appropriate.

Which is sort of in direct conflict with other the authors’ suggestions, like f*ck love, f*ck communication, or, one of my personal favorites, f*ck parenting. I mean if your values include being a good parent or a good partner, why would you then say “f*ck love” or “f*ck parenting” or “f*ck” any of these things? Once you start to read the book, you realize very quickly that the authors are being ironic…for the most part. Yes, they do make it clear that you should “f*ck” (ignore) your feelings and feelings in general; however—or maybe I should say, at the same time—they are also saying you should not “f*ck” (ignore) your values (the things you care about).

My overall problem with the book is not the above premise of using values to guide behavior rather than feelings (as a CBT/ACT therapist, I agree with it). The problem is that if you have no sense of your personal values (or if your personal values are that of a serial killer), then the strategies the authors propose won’t help you manage your life.

Also, the ideas in this book are not new—which in this day and age, who really does have a NEW idea? I just wanted the authors to directly acknowledge that they are heavily influenced by several highly empirically supported and effective modes of therapy (ACT, DBT, and CBT). Not only because it is the right thing to do (as a writer I am particularly sensitive to attribution), but also because the reader then could explore these ideas deeper and even learn more skills and tools for coping:

Aside from good old fashion attribution, the problem with the authors not directly referencing ACT, DBT, or CBT, is that the reader only has a vague sense of what to actually DO. See some examples below:

The authors say: “Accept that peace of mind is rare, and that, without learning proper management of stress and fear, you can lose your mind entirely” (143).

 Find ways to tolerate and deal with stress and anxiety. A significant part of DBT is the concept of distress tolerance and there are specific skills for how to manage stress, fear, and anxiety. An example of skill for distress tolerance is distracting through activities—not mindless activities where you check-out of the moment but mindful activities that get you fully engaged into the moment like reading, cleaning, or doing a hobby (painting or knitting) or even going to an event. For more specific information on this go to http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/

The authors say: “[Do] not let pain change your values, basic course, or determination” (13).

Find ways to stay the course.  ACT teaches people how to discover what is important to them so they can then use those values to guide behavior. For example, ACT practitioners use worksheets that guide clients through a series of questions like what matters to you in your life or what sort of person do you want to be or how do you relax? For some worksheets on values and other ACT concepts, go to https://www.thehappinesstrap.com/upimages/Complete_Worksheets_2014.pdf

What the authors say: “Put doing good over feeling good and you will get good results” (40).

Figure out what behaviors will help you get what you want in life. CBT teaches people to be aware of thoughts and feelings but that behavior does not have to be driven by them. The emphasis is on doing, i.e. behaving your way to feeling better—emphasis on the feeling rather than the better. For some CBT worksheets, go to http://psychology.tools/download-therapy-worksheets.html

Additionally, in their effort to be cheeky and funny, they make some not funny sexist and stupid remarks—for one example see chapter 6’s reference to crazy women and some dissing of mental health treatment in chapter 9 (which is odd, since one of the authors is a shrink himself).

Despite this critique, I enjoyed the book because it does say what I think is an important message for all of us—focus on what you can control and can change and do not dwell on the many limitations in life that, no matter how hard you try, you ultimately do not have any control over.

Highlights from my favorite chapter F*CK Assholes

Quotable Quotes

“…an Asshole is someone who behaves like a jerk and doesn’t see it. These aren’t people you call Assholes because you’re angry. They’re Assholes because of the specific way they behave” (285).

Take-aways

  • Assholes, according to this book, tend to be ex-spouses, horrible bosses, terrible friends, and/or bullies at work/school.
  • Assholes are who they are and no influencing or begging or bribing changes them.
  • Assholes are completely unaware of how much of a jerk they are.
  • Assholes only come to see shrinks to complain about others, not to fix or changes themselves.
  • Assholes are your best friend as quickly as they are your enemy.
  • Assholes can be disguised by their saccharine kindness.
  • If you are asking yourself if you are an Asshole—you aren’t; they lack insight and self-reflection.
  • If you find yourself seeking closure from an Asshole, the authors considered that to be “the emotional unicorn”, a.k.a impossible.
  • Helpful advice for dealing with an asshole:
    • Get a lawyer
    • Get a shrink
    • Document everything
    • Protect your assets
    • Communicate with the Asshole as little as possible and only say what’s necessary
    • Be prepared for the worst—don’t respond to their communication with any intense emotion (the old wait-24-hours trick)
    • Unless you have to stay connected, plan to leave/cut ties, and if you have to stay connected (if you share custody with an Asshole ex) set firm boundaries, document, and get a lawyer ASAP.

Highlights from my least favorite chapter F*ck Treatment

Quotable Quotes

“If your therapy is making you feel even less independent, it’s also less beneficial than you think” (333). 

  • Unlike physical pain, emotional pain is harder to “pinpoint”, which makes the idea of a “cure” in all reality, impossible.
  • When considering treatment, consider your time, money, and how much your problems are interfering with your daily functioning.
  • The authors quote REM: “Everybody hurts sometimes.” But they add, “so not everybody needs to see a doctor about it” (318).
  • What you can expect talk therapy to do for you—provide support and tools but no magic cure.
  • Finding the right therapist takes times. Don’t be afraid to try meds, too.
  • Look for treatment that helps focus more on what you can do about your problems and less on the why.
  • They give DBT and CBT a 7 out of 10 on their BSTP (Bullshit To Pragmatic Scale). See pages 324-329.
  • They offer a nice list of “low cost DIY treatments”: exercise, diet, vitamins, 12 step groups, meditation/yoga.
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