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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Embrace the Suck



When stationed in Okinawa, Japan as a Marine in 1997, I learned that the abbreviation “MP” didn’t solely stand for “military police;” it humorously represented “multi-purpose.” There was a distinct contrast between what I’d envisioned as an exciting military occupational specialty and what the job actually entailed.

 

For instance, the installation to which I was assigned, Camp Kinser, was colloquially referred to as “Mayberry” by MPs familiar with the fictional community from the ‘60s television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Because there weren’t many crimes which required policing, senior MPs assigned menial duties to keep junior Marines busy.

 

One of these tedious assignments was nightly buffing of the deck (floor) with a complete stripping and waxing process that occurred on Sunday evenings. This task was referred to as “station beautification.”

 

When on patrol of the relatively quiet installation at around midnight, I would be summonsed via radio by MP dispatch:

 

Dispatch: Striker, Sierra 5, over.

 

Me: This is Sierra 5, go ahead, over.

 

Dispatch: 10-19 [return to station] for station beautification, over.

 

Me: (Speaking to myself, “Fuck!”) 10-4 [acknowledgement], en route, over.

 

At the time, I thought that monotonous work was sucky—disagreeable, unpleasant, or awful. After all, I was a highly trained MP and considered myself above menial tasks. However, senior MPs disagreed with my presumption.

 

I don’t know how many times I buffed the deck of the Provost Marshal’s Office (PMO; MP duty station), as MPs worked on the first floor of the building while being housed on the second floor. Station beautification occurred on Sunday evenings and field day (cleaning of the barracks) took place on Friday evenings.

 

Floors of PMO were so shiny that one’s reflection on the deck was visible throughout the week. Despite my dissatisfaction with what I believed was a sucky action, over time I learned to “embrace the suck.”

 

Although my memory is somewhat impaired and I acknowledge that the memory is reconstructive, I recall using that phrase when in Okinawa. However, a separate source suggests a later origin:

 

A military phrase coming from the 2003 War in Iraq, “embrace the suck” is an implied order disguised as a vulgar, yet clever, quip. It denotes the horrifying realities of being in a war and the fact that soldiers will have to face it head-on or die. It’s one of those military phrases that’s entered common usage to describe a shitty situation that one has to confront in order to solve.

 

“Embrace the suck” means that while the current situation sucks, you have to accept it and work toward changing it. It’s not about being in-denial, as much as accepting present discomfort for future success. To embrace the suck means to confront things that make you uncomfortable so that you can surmount it.

 

From a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective, I recognize the demandingness statements represented by the source. Saying that one “has to” or may “have to” confront or accept something is akin to demanding that one should, must, or ought to do so.

 

Although demandingness is often associated with irrational beliefs, there are varying forms of this psychological phenomenon which aren’t necessarily illogical or unreasonable. One such example is a legal should statement.

 

Marines are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (foundation of the system of military justice). As such, I was obligated to satisfy the standard of strict obedience to orders issued from Marines who were senior to me.

 

Therefore, legally speaking, I should’ve followed verbal orders regarding station beautification. After all, I could either embrace the suck or disturb myself with unhelpful beliefs about my obligation. Expanding upon embracing the suck and military duty, one source states:

 

Troops, in their resilience, in effect, mitigate the chasm of difference between training or planning and the often harsh realities they face on the ground. And they do it with aplomb, because they must.

 

Although nightly buffing of the deck was nowhere on the scale of participation in active combat, MPs were taught to obey orders and embrace the suck so that we could tolerate and accept suffering on a smaller scale, in preparation for the likelihood that we would one day face trials and tribulation on a much larger scale.

 

When practicing REBT in my personal and professional life, I use the technique of chosen suffering as a means of accomplishing a similar outcome. In essence, embracing the suck with something like an intentionally cold shower may prepare an individual for a situation in which one must endure a cold shower in the wintertime, during a power or gas outage.

 

An important takeaway for embracing the suck is that one doesn’t have to like or love an unpleasant circumstance. Rather, building resilience as a means to strengthen one’s level of high frustration tolerance is about enduring adversity while merely embracing the fact that it sucks.

 

Years after serving in Okinawa, an Army buddy with whom I worked in the field of nuclear security shared his rendition of “embrace the suck,” which was as crude as any explanation I heard any Marines express. For context, we were both dissatisfied with our job.

 

He said to me, “You know, a whore don’t like suckin’ dick, but she does it anyway.” Presuming the reader is adequately offended, this lesson on embracing the suck will likely remain in your mind now that there’s an emotional component to the phrase.

 

Thankfully, my Army buddy and I did something about our situation. We both began attending college and no longer sucked what was required to make money in the environment from which we fled. Now, there are varying other units to service for money and regarding this matter, I embrace the suck.

 

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—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging 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:

 

Hollings, D. (2022, October 24). Chosen suffering. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/chosen-suffering

Hollings, D. (2023, September 7). Cowboy up. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/cowboy-up

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

Hollings, D. (2024, April 2). Denial. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/denial

Hollings, D. (2024, February 9). Diminished faculties and faulty memory. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/diminished-faculties-and-faulty-memory

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2024, March 28). Faulty memory. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/faulty-memory

Hollings, D. (2024, April 2). Four major irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/four-major-irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (2024, February 24). High frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/high-frustration-tolerance

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2024, April 28). Hope in the future. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/hope-in-the-future

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2022, December 9). Like it, love it, accept it. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/like-it-love-it-accept-it

Hollings, D. (2023, January 8). Logic and reason. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/logic-and-reason

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

Hollings, D. (2024, April 9). Shoulding at the supermarket. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/shoulding-at-the-supermarket

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/tna

Hollings, D. (2022, November 15). To don a hat. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/to-don-a-hat

Hollings, D. (2024, April 23). Trolley problem. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/trolley-problem

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-acceptance

MentorCruise. (2022, July 4). Embrace the suck: how to change your life when everything sucks. Retrieved from https://mentorcruise.com/blog/embrace-suck-how-change-your-life-when-everything-/

Sicard, S. (2022, July 19). The origin of the military’s iconic mantra: ‘Embrace the suck.’ Observation Post. Retrieved from https://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2022/07/19/the-origin-of-the-militarys-iconic-mantra-embrace-the-suck/

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Mayberry. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayberry

Wikipedia. (n.d.). The Andy Griffith Show. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andy_Griffith_Show

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