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Finding Stress Relief in the Ocean: Literature and Pop Culture Essay

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No life is without stressors of physical, biological, and environmental origins. Each stressor has a unique affect on an individual, but most people can handle these affects in moderation. However, when stressors become intense or compound upon each other, they can cripple individuals. To prevent such debilitation, people must find temporary escapes from the pressures they normally face. Among many forms of release, the ocean can act as both a mental and physical barrier. The ocean’s otherworldly qualities can captivate individuals and distract them from their issues, providing a temporary escape from overstressing, which can have extremely negative health effects, and can even lead to the possibility of mental breakdowns and death in people who cannot find escape.
E. E. Cummings depicts a girl Maggie in his poem maggie and milly and molly and may, who finds stress relief through listening to the song in a shell at the beach (Cummings 3-4). Even though a sound in a shell is merely a distortion of sound, it is ironically said that the sound heard through a shell is that of the ocean. Maggie, apparently believing that this distortion is some sort of primordial song, is hearing both the “ocean” in the shell, and the real ocean by her side, receiving a double dose of the ocean sounds’ medicating effects. Something so simple as sound therapy is enough to mesmerize a Maggie and allow her to forget about her issues that lie on land, away from the comforts of the ocean. Without stress, Maggie embodies Cummings’ lines at the end of the poem, “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) / it’s always ourselves we find in the sea” (Cummings 11-12). In that moment of listening, Maggie is able to exist happily, temporarily relieved of...


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...herapy.” Annual Review of Psychology. 46.1 (1995): 27-57
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. “The Secret of the Sea.” About.com. n.d. Web. 12 February 2014.
Marean, Curtis W. "When the Sea Saved Humanity." Scientific American Aug. 2010: 54-61. Web.
Schneiderman, Neil, Ironson, Gail, and Siegel, Scott D. "Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants." Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 1. (2005): 607-28. Print.
Starkey, Richard. "Octopus's Garden." Perf. Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon. Rec. 1969. Abbey Road. The Beatles. Apple Records, 1969. CD.
“Understanding Suicide.” AFSP.org. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2014. Web. 13 February 2014.
Wray, Matt, Colen, Cynthia, and Pescosolido, Bernice. “The Sociology of Suicide.” Annual Review of Sociology. 37. (2011): 505-528. Print.



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