How I Deal With the Suck

Just some of the varied nature in Malibu. One of my favorite places in the world.

Just some of the varied nature in Malibu. One of my favorite places in the world.

Awhile ago I wrote an article “How I Deal With People Who Suck.” At the same time I started an article entitled “How I Deal With the Suck.” When I say started, I mean that phrase is all I wrote. I thought after the last week and a half in my part of the world, it might be a good time to write the rest of it.

So how do I deal with “the suck?”

Or maybe a better starter question is, what is “the suck?”

“The suck” is anything that makes you feel incredibly sad, angry, helpless, hopeless. “The suck” can be different things to different people, but it’s never something like your taco shell breaking. If that bums you out to the point of feeling hopeless, this article isn’t enough for you. Call me asap. We’ve got other things to work on first. “The suck” is something most people would agree is a truly painful situation. Losing a job, getting kicked out of school, going through a breakup, being evicted, death.

“The suck” this past week and a half in the Los Angeles area involved another horrific mass shooting that I believe should never happen the way it does here. Then, immediately after, devastating fires nearly wiped out one of my favorite places in the world. I know “the suck” infiltrated northern California and the rest of the world too, but we don’t want to get bogged down listing all “the sucks.” We’re all dealing with some suck lately. Some much more than others.

I’m very lucky that I wasn’t directly affected by these. I’m also very lucky that everyone I care about is safe and sound. But I do know people directly affected by these tragedies and as much as I’m feeling their pain, I know they’re feeling it on a whole other level.

At some point when I was going through a particularly hard time, I came upon a book by Pema Chodron called, “When Things Fall Apart.” I can’t remember exactly what “suck” I was dealing with, but it must have been pretty sucky to seek out a book with a title like that. Also, to be honest, I didn’t finish it (I got to page 85 out of 146 according to my bookmark.), but I must have gotten what I needed from it because I still think of that title whenever I encounter some “suck.”

The two primary things I got from that book and other life experiences that have been invaluable in coping with “the suck”, are acceptance and nonjudgmentalness. Now, I say invaluable, but they’re also two of the hardest things to do.

Many think that by accepting and not judging circumstances and people, they’re saying that what happened was okay and nothing will change. But that’s the furthest from the truth. Acceptance is simply acknowledging that something has happened. It’s the opposite of denial. We have to accept in order to move forward. We can’t pretend something didn’t happen or spend the rest of life wishing it didn’t happen. If we do then we get stuck and nothing ever changes. Until a time machine is invented, acceptance is the only way to transform a situation from “suck” into something else. And we’ve all seen enough sci-fi movies to know time machines aren’t without their pitfalls too.  

Not judging is a bit more complicated. It’s in our nature to judge. The thing is, judgment requires omniscience (all knowing) and humans don’t know everything (No matter how much some will try to convince you that they do.). Judging closes us off to new information, creative solutions, and finding meaning in our experiences. This isn’t to say that we can’t feel shocked, horrified, sad, angry, etc. over events. I’ve certainly felt an array of those emotions over the last week but I also recognize that I don’t know everything about what’s happened and nothing about what’s going to happen next.

Not judging also doesn’t mean we still can’t be discerning. Discernment is noticing objective differences among stimuli (e.g., people, situations, objects), essentially the opposite of closing ourselves off.

We have to be discerning to survive and to thrive. To use the information around us to make wise decisions. Or as wise as they can be.

So what’s the difference between judgment and discernment?

Judgment is a blanket statement that doesn’t allow for any other information. Good or bad. Ugly or beautiful. It leaves no room for the gray in life. The easiest way to notice judgment is that we won’t all agree on it. Judgment doesn’t do much for us other than create helpful or unhelpful emotions.

Discernment looks at all the information objectively (It uses our senses, what we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.) and gives us the space for more thorough understanding of events and people.

For example, in the event of a fire, those who lose their homes may judge it as bad, whereas those who want new growth will judge it as good. Discernment looks at the situation as a whole and determines that frequent clearing of dried brush leads to less destruction in the event of a fire. Judgment leaves us stuck in emotions, while discernment helps us to come up with solutions to prevent and/or improve situations in the future. It is only when everyone in the room is discerning that we’re usually able to come up with solutions that most satisfy the collective.

I didn’t think this was going to be a language lesson, but I suppose semantics has a lot to do with how we view situations and how we view “the suck” influences how we deal with it.

So dealing with “the suck” isn’t complicated. Hard but not complicated. Accept it first, which also means the dreaded feeling of your feelings and accepting those too. Then, try to keep an open mind so that you’re able to create your own meaning from it. Someone else’s meaning won’t cut it. Ask yourself curious questions. Don’t judge your judgment. Acceptance and nonjudgmentalness eventually lead to peace and happiness. Maybe not constantly, but significantly more than if you hold onto “the suck.”

And ask for help if this is difficult for you. I didn’t learn acceptance and nonjudgmentalness on my own. Nor have I mastered it. I believe I threw in some judgements for good measure at the beginning of this article. Still, the more I practice it, the easier it is to cope with “the suck.”