Sidney at Killiney Beach, Dublin, Ireland

Sea and rocks,waves

Indian Ocean, Port Elizabeth, South Africa


A story about background noise and how our environment impacts on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

The sea in South Africa looks very different than the sea that I am used to in Ireland. More importantly and interestingly…it SOUNDS different. And I don’t like it.  I miss the calm undulation of the Irish Sea (Killiney or Rosslare beach, South East Ireland). In Ireland, I find the sound of the sea calming, the predictable rhythmic crunch of small waves hitting sand and small pebbles, sooths and rocks me into a good place.

But the Indian Ocean on the Eastern Cape in South Africa is an uproarious boisterous screeching sea. It shouts and roars at me as I walk along its shore, too loud and too energetic, it makes me feel exhausted.  Yet most South African’s (and others) love this kind of sea, the crashing water, and the busy tension of big dangerous waves.

I’ve discovered it basically comes down to what you’re used to. It’s all about the background; the background noises, smells, tension, light, space or lack of it, dust or damp – all these things make up the unacknowledged but very important backdrop to our world. And when they change, our bodies feel different, respond differently and we have to use energy to adapt and adjust to the new micro-changes in the environment, most of which we are not even aware of. So the issue isn’t which environment is good or bad but rather that we need to acknowledge that being somewhere different can be stimulating because we need to adjust to the difference.  Sometimes being stimulated is great like going on holidays to New York, and at other times it becomes draining.

For me the Indian Ocean of the Eastern Cape, South Africa sounds like my dogs fighting.  There’s a constant grumble and snapping, pushing and teeth, with sudden unpredictable roars of barking and clamour as the huge waves crash into waiting jagged rocks.  The Irish Sea sounds like my dogs sleeping.  Soft predictable sighs and comfortable whistles as air moves in and out, with the occasional dreaming bark or snuffle (after all the Irish Sea does have some waves).

So for me I find the Irish Sea induces feelings of relaxation and calm and helps me have happy thoughts. The noisy Indian Ocean is beautiful (and warm) but its noise and crashing waves make me feel over stimulated and overwhelmed, and puts me on the edge of cranky.  Realising this has made me become very aware of my outside world, the background environment. It has made me realise that we need to ensure that the spaces we are IN are stimulating us in the RIGHT ways and that they stay as background stimulants.  It seems that our background is meant to stay that way (background) so that we can put our energy into processing more important elements of the world around us, especially when you are trying to be creative.  If your background environment presents as your foreground (unless you went looking for a change in the form of a holiday) it’s worth noticing this, looking at what’s pushing itself in your face.  Then maybe you need to make changes so that your background finds its place again and releases your energy for more important things.


2 thoughts on “The Wrong Sea

  1. Wow Trudy. Thanks for sharing your ‘seas’ and the difference responses you have to them. I am working temporarily in a very noisy environment: lots of people talking on phones, and raising their voices to be heard by their callers. I thought I’d go mad and physically bent my head down to the desk in order to hear / concentrate on what the person was saying….. As it’s earning me a wage at the moment, with very little other employment around I felt I needed a strategy…..

    Then I remembered Viktor Frankl and how he ‘adjusted’ his attitude to his Concentration camp environment. I thought if Viktor can do it – so can I, especially given the other luxuries in my environment. So, I just let the noisy background become just that: ‘background’ noise as you suggest; I spoke softly into the mouthpiece and concentrated on every word the caller was saying. And it has made a huge difference. Because this work is finite, I know now I can operate in this environment at optimum level … even if I have to hold my finger in my ‘free’ ear from time to time.

    Maybe you’ll now have a different relationship / response to the Indian Ocean of the Eastern Cape. Thanks for sharing beautiful lady x x x

  2. Thanks Anni! I replied to your comment but just saw now that it didn’t come through for some reason.:( I think it’s really amazing that you managed to adapt so much that the noise in the background faded away almost…I need to do that in my work too. It’s very nice to be reminded of Viktor Frankl and his way of making meaning in even the worst of places.

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