Below are some of the exchanges from the mental health advice column, Baggage Check, published weekly in The Washington Post’s Express.
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Q: I’m repulsed by fat people. There, I said it. I think they make horrible choices, tend to be lazy and overindulgent, and don’t take responsibility for their actions. And they’re responsible for public health problems that we all pay the price for. I never reveal these feelings, but seriously . . . doesn’t everyone secretly feel this way?
A: Underneath every pound of extra weight a person carries lies a variety of possibilities — from a metabolic disorder to depression, from medication side effects to chronic pain or injury. Of course, for plenty, it is simply overeating and a lack of exercise. But compared to the list of all the other ills that people inflict on society, it’s indeed interesting that you single that one out. Probably because it’s a trait that is obvious immediately upon looking at someone.
Your thoughts and feelings are your right to have. But it might be helpful for you to realize that you’re basically going for the lowest-hanging fruit: choosing the most convenient trait as an object of your scorn, which is a wee bit lazy in itself. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re displaying any objective sense of greater cosmic justice.
Q: I’m really exhausted by all of my husband’s social expectations for work. I feel like a 1950s housewife, expected to have his colleagues and bosses over for dinner, to be on his arm at reception after reception. In reality, I have a career and don’t feel like playing this part all the time. But I certainly don’t want to hold him back at his job.
A: So this is where you must get specific. Tell him exactly what you told me: You’re too tired to wear this hat so frequently, but you want to support him in ways that work for both of you. Then you draw some new ground rules. Maybe you’ll do just two receptions per month, or dinners only when the main course is disguised takeout (on nice plates that he sets out), or you get to beg off after x or y hours of air-kissing small talk at any given outing. The important part is that you communicate.
And if he wants or needs more, then he’ll have to figure out a way to make that happen; presumably he got to his high-powered gig (which I sincerely hope he’s not lording over you) by being adept at listening, compromising and problem-solving.
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Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly mental health advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.” For more information, see www.drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter (at)drandreabonior.