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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Bulletproof

 

The year 2009 was a transitional period in my life, one in which I now consider the personal separating distinction between virtually perpetual suffering and pragmatic contentment. As not to keep the reader ensnared in tiresome suspense, allow me to explain why it was an important moment in time for me.

 

I was unfavorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2007. Prior to departing my final duty station, I was told by a senior Marine that my life was essentially over. I’d never qualify for a security clearance or veteran benefits, and people would think negatively of me for having been kicked out of the military.

 

I was shot through the heart with metaphorical bullets, because all I wanted to do since enlisting in the Corps in 1996 was serve my country. At the time, I believed that the piercing words about my future from the staff non-commissioned officer (SNCO) were akin to being shot will bullets.

 

However, the SNCO significantly underestimated my resolve. Not only was I able to attain a higher security clearance than I had as a Marine, I qualified for all benefits afforded to veterans. This would ultimately include full payment for all three of my degrees.

 

As far as what people thought of me, I couldn’t control or influence what individuals concluded whether or not I served in the Corps, so it didn’t matter what they thought as a result of an unfavorable discharge. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

In 2003, I was subject to a special court-martial and found guilty of disrespect to a SNCO, disobeying an order, and violating another order. My sentence involved discharge from the Marine Corps. Following an appeal, the sentence was upheld in 2007.

 

Between 2004 and 2008, I worked in the field of nuclear security while maintaining a top secret security clearance with white bar designation. While serving as a lieutenant (first-line supervisor) at a facility housing the nation’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, I began attending school.

 

In 2009, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education with a focus on criminal justice administration. Given my background as military police (MP) when in the Corps and having served with a protective force for nuclear security, a law enforcement (LE) recruiter approached me when in college.

 

However, I chose to leave behind a career path that involved the potential of shooting bullets at people. Although I’ve never been shot, I recalled how unpleasant it was to essentially have my military career killed by people with authority and I wanted no part in an organization that could cause the same outcome for other people, though literally.

 

Now that the reader is caught up regarding my adult life prior to 2009, it may be worth knowing that years of neglect related to posttraumatic stress symptoms eventually took a toll on me. Throughout childhood and in early adulthood, I endured many traumatic experiences.

 

Graduating college in 2009, abandoning LE and security occupational fields, I was at a crossroads in life. Who was I, if not a Marine, MP, or security police officer? The focus of my bachelor’s degree was in LE, so what was I going to do without applying my degree toward a career?

 

Entering the picture at that moment in my life was La Roux, an English synth-pop act formed in 2008 by singer Elly Jackson and record producer Ben Langmaid. Although the act’s self-titled album wasn’t the typical electronic dance music (EDM) to which I was accustomed, songs from the album were remixed by a number of EDM DJs and producers.

 

As an example, the original song “Bulletproof” was remixed by DJ Zinc. Lyrics from the original, some of which Zinc retained, include:

 

Do-do-do your dirty words

Come out to play when you are hurt?

There’s certain things that should be left unsaid

Tick, tick, tick, tick on the watch

And life’s too short for me to stop

Oh, baby, your time is running out

I won’t let you turn around

And tell me now I’m much too proud

All you do is fill me up with doubt

This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof

 

Rather than envisioning the track from my perspective when speaking to an intimate partner and using an absolutistic should statement, I conceptualized the lyrics as a preferential should response to the SNCO and anyone else who told me I wouldn’t succeed in life.

 

Through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), a preferential should statement functions as a more adaptive belief that better serves one’s interests and goals than does an absolutistic should narrative. To illustrate this distinction, consider the following:

 

Absolutistic – Under no circumstances should people discourage me in life, because it’s bad enough that I’m experiencing hardship, let alone being exposed to their negativity.

 

Preferential – People preferably shouldn’t discourage a person experiencing hardship, though they may do as they please, because I don’t control their behavior.

 

With the absolutistic should example, it’s as though I expose myself to proverbial bullets with a bare chest and a target sign painted directly over my heart. No one is required to oblige my inflexible demands, so when I’m aimed with displeasing words I bear personal responsibility and accountability for how I respond when using hypothetical bullets of rigidity.

 

Considering the preferential should example, I become bulletproof when pragmatically telling myself that while I may like or love it if people do as I desire, I’m not entitled to any particular behavior from others. Therefore, I can metaphorically deflect bullets of my own origination through use of unconditional acceptance.

 

The reader may benefit from a point of clarity regarding that last sentence. Am I suggesting that bullets used for proverbial harm when others should all over me originate from my own metaphorical weapon? Why yes, yes I am.

 

REBT theory uses the ABC model to illustrate how when Activating events (“Actions”) occur and people maintain irrational Beliefs about the events, these unhelpful assumptions – and not the actual occurrences – are what create unpleasant cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral Consequences.

 

Therefore, from a psychological standpoint, people disturb themselves using a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that in the context of the naturalistic or physical world there is no Action-Consequence (A-C) connection.

 

However, piercing words about my future from the female SNCO (Action) aren’t what led to fear, sorrow, anger, or disgust (Consequence). There was no A-C connection, because sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me!

 

In essence, she was shooting water from a water gun aimed at me. Thus, when she foretold my future (Action), and I Believed, “Under no circumstances should people discourage me in life, because it’s bad enough that I’m experiencing hardship, let alone being exposed to their negativity,” my unproductive assumption led to unhealthy negative emotions (Consequence).

 

Hence, bullets used for proverbial harm when others should all over me originated from my own metaphorical weapon. The B-C connection was aimed at my bare chest and it was my unhelpful assumptions which served as projectiles that illustratively punctured my heart (emotions).

 

The year 2009 was a transitional period in my life, because it’s when I first learned about REBT when enrolled in graduate school for counseling. I’d go on to earn a Master of Arts in Counseling degree (2011) and Master of Science in Social Work degree (2014), thus deflecting bullets while learning more about REBT.

 

People will inevitably try to hurt me with their words. However, I keep La Roux’s message in mind, “I won’t let you turn around and tell me now I’m much too proud,” and instead, “I’ll be bulletproof.” Would you like to know more about how to wear a metaphorical bulletproof vest offered by continuous practice of REBT?

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As the world’s original EDM-influenced REBT psychotherapist—promoting content related to EDM, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters. 

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


 

References:

Cragg, M. (2020, January 25). La Roux: ‘My label dropped me on New Year’s Day. I was like, yippee!’ The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jan/25/la-roux-my-label-dropped-me-on-new-years-day-i-was-like-yippee

Grammy Awards. (n.d.). Ben Langmaid. Retrieved from https://www.grammy.com/artists/ben-langmaid/11810

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La Roux. (2010, February 10). La Roux – Bulletproof [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Kk8eJh4i8Lo?si=mRbpyX5JQ_4kzGxP

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Wikipedia. (n.d.). DJ Zinc. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ_Zinc

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Wikipedia. (n.d.). La Roux (album). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Roux_(album)

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