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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Preventative Maintenance


When stationed in Okinawa, Japan between 1997 and 1999, Marines who owned vehicles and who received permanent change of station orders back to the United States were faced with a dilemma. Facing little time to get rid of their automobiles, they had limited options available.


Military members could try to sell their rides and recoup the money spent on the original purchase. That wasn’t a likely option, because Marines were coming and going so frequently that there were a number of sellers who would part with their vehicles for a lower price.


Still, some sellers held on to the last possible moment and then another option became available. They could sell their vehicles for much less than what they paid or trade the rides for something of substantially lower value (e.g., a game console).


Still, other Marines who unyieldingly held out until transiting to the airport for what could be a 14-hour flight back home simply left their vehicles wherever they were with the keys inside. In those cases, the vehicle was usually impounded.


Generally, Marines parted with their vehicles for as much money as some midrange headphones presently cost. When one of my military police (MP) friends left the island, she sold me her silver Honda CR-X for something like $300, similar to the one pictured below:


During the sale, she advised me, “Make sure you put oil in it, because the guy who sold it to me said the same thing but I never did it.” In adolescence, I was taught the importance of keeping a vehicle well-maintained and I understood the value of preventative maintenance (PM).


According to one source, “Preventive maintenance is the act of performing regularly scheduled maintenance activities to help prevent unexpected failures in the future. Put simply, it’s about fixing things before they break.”


Although my friend advised me to PM the vehicle, I carelessly neglected to follow through with her instruction. In life, there a real-world consequences to our actions (or lack thereof), and I learned a lesson the hard way.


While driving from Camp Kinser to Camp Butler for MP training, white smoke suddenly billowed from underneath the vehicle’s hood. The temperature gauge registered hot and the check oil light I’d ignored for so long was suddenly of importance.


On its own, the car came to a complete stop. One of the MPs who rode with me knew more about cars than I and per his assessment, I cracked the engine block. Apparently, the increased temperature of the engine, without any lubricant (oil), was enough to render the car a useless hunk of metal.


The other MPs and I called someone to pick us up and I left the CR-X where it sat, never to be seen again by me. This is because the cost of an engine rebuild would’ve been more than what I spent on the ride.


As an MP, I used the less from my Honda as a reminder when conducting PM on patrol vehicles. With proper care, that CR-X could’ve gone another 100,000 miles or so. However, I hadn’t cared enough, so I took the vehicle for granted.


Now, I apply the lesson from decades past toward my approach to mental, emotional, and behavioral health (collectively, “mental health”). Of course, this isn’t the first comparison I’ve made of this sort.


Regarding why I chose to practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I stated in a blogpost entitled I’m My Own Mechanic:


I wanted to learn how to work on my own vehicle so that I could not only repair it when things went awry, I could also use preventative maintenance to keep my car functioning in an optimal manner. Therefore, I learned of and have since practiced REBT. Now, I’m my own mechanic.


Recently, in a session with a client, I discussed my CR-X experience. I was told that the personal anecdote resonated, so I decided I’d post a blog entry in which others may find value.


Sometimes, people express views related to mental health care as though it serves as an engine rebuild of sorts. However, I liken that viewpoint to the experience of mental un-wellness (e.g., burnout), an illness (e.g., schizophrenia), or a disorder (e.g. avoidant personality disorder).


To keep matters simple, conceptualize a dichotomous wellness versus un-wellness model (because I find that people don’t prefer to use a health versus illness comparison). Mental wellness is the result of PM.


It isn’t conducted perfectly, though it is attempted with some degree of personal responsibility and accountability for one’s outcome. For example, when I conduct weight training (action), I feel better psychologically and physiologically (consequence).


Conversely, when I don’t fulfill the responsibility of taking care of myself (inaction), I remain accountable for the un-well experience of mind and body (consequence). Addressing the matter of PM wellness, one source elucidates:


People often think about wellness in terms of physical health — nutrition, exercise, weight management, etc., but it is so much more. Wellness is a holistic integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, fueling the body, engaging the mind, and nurturing the spirit. Although it always includes striving for health, it’s more about living life fully, and is “a lifestyle and a personalized approach to living life in a way that… allows you to become the best kind of person that your potentials, circumstances, and fate will allow.”


I suppose to take matters out of a binary choice; one can opt for wellness, un-wellness, or well’ish (well enough not to be ill, though headed in that direction). In my personal and professional life, I promote wellness though PM.


A quarter of a century ago, I was reckless with my Honda CR-X. All these years later, I understand the importance of maintaining oil (i.e., proper nutrition), checking tire pressure (i.e., physical exercise), refueling (i.e., adequate sleep), and other PM activities.


How about you, dear reader? What lessons might you learn from a former Marine? Will you choose wellness, un-wellness, or a well’ish existence? If you’d like to know more about mental health preventative maintenance described herein, I’m here to help.


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




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