Happy Place Duality

If someone asked me where my happy place was, my response (without much thought) would be “the beach”. I grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts and have spent most of my life living about 10 minutes from the beach. The university I attended was in the middle of the city – no ocean around – and I always felt like something was missing. I am not one to sit at the beach for hours but I feel comforted knowing the ocean is close by. 

A few months ago, a friend shared with me a personality test she found online. One of the questions was “what emotion or word do you associate with the ocean?”.  My response was “anxiety.” If I considered the ocean/beach my happy place, then why do I also associate it so strongly with anxiety? Is the quiz simply flawed or is there more to it? I know silly internet quizzes don’t actually mean anything but my response really stuck with me. After sitting with the answer for a bit, I realized the ocean is my happy place but it is ALSO my unhappy place. The beach holds many memories for me – from sun filled days with friends and family to processing the cancer diagnosis of my Dad. We often think things are black/white or right/wrong but nothing is that simply.  It’s normal to feel dual emotions about the same thing – joy/sadness, fear/anger or admiration/loathing. It is okay to have your happy place also be your unhappy place. Emotions are often quite complicated. Allow yourself the space to feel them and be okay with whatever additional thoughts/emotions arise. Feel them – process them – and then let them go.

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