Finding your Deep, Dark Happy Place

If you’ve ever been to my gym and joined us in a difficult workout, you’ve probably heard me say…

“Find your deep, dark happy place and push through!”

I get asked from time to time what this actually means. Most people seem to have an instinctual understanding of what I’m asking when they’re in medias res, but after they’re done pushing themselves, it becomes hard to define. It comes down to how I see the human psyche, and specifically the origin of the thoughts, emotions, and motivations (i.e. mental resources) we feel in our lives. I define four main “places” that we can go in ourselves to pull out the mental resources we have at our disposal. The three main places – Happy, Dark, & Deep respectively – all account for the majority of our emotional states, but the fourth is the place where complication comes in.

The Happy Place

Picture yourself on a beach somewhere, with golden sand between your toes, warm water lapping along the shoreline, and a Mai Tai in hand. Maybe you’re getting a foot rub from a Swedish supermodel of your preferred gender. Maybe you’re not at the beach, but rather in the mountains with snow covering the ground and a roaring fire next to you. Maybe still you’re in a forest, surrounded by the sounds of nature. Your Happy Place is where you go to feel most of the positive emotions in life: joy, love, accomplishment, etc. It’s unique to you, and going there in your mind helps you find, hold on to, or even manufacture those happy thoughts that let you overcome negative thoughts or just further enjoy a moment.

The Dark Place

This is where you go when the times are tough, and your feelings are turned sour by one thing or another. From this place stems anger, depression, sadness, and hate. Some people picture this as a locked room filled with shadows (a literal dark place) or maybe those same woods that were happy before are now tarnished with rot. The beach may have turned dismal, with fetid water and cold winds. Whatever your Dark Place is, I think it tends to be the polar opposite of your Happy Place. The Happy and Dark places seem to balance one another, which makes perfect sense in the end.

The Deep Place

I think everyone has this place, but it’s a little odd. Neither the highest joys, nor the lowest sadnesses come from the Deep Place. It’s not about sinking into emotions, but rather is about sinking into thought. I believe that this place houses our intuition, sense of self, and philosophical nature. The Deep Place is where you go to try to understand the universe and its contents. You might consider reflection, calmness, and introspection as emotions that come from this place. Another way to look at it is as the middle road of emotions that lead to understanding.

The Deep, Dark Happy Place

Where the other Places intersect we find the Deep, Dark, Happy Place (the DDHP, for short). This whirling miasma of positive, negative, and neutral emotions is like a distorted, exacerbated version of the real world. We constantly exist in a state of switching between Places while the world continues around us, meeting challenges and reacting to stimuli when the time comes. The DDHP is that place inside you that mimics the real world but makes it bigger in every way. In my opinion this place has one major purpose: to overcome. It’s hard to explain in and of itself, so let me give you an example using my own Places.

My Happy Place is usually a nice beach somewhere, though some days it may be peaceful woods instead. My Dark Place is usually the locked and darkened room, though from time to time it takes shape as a crowd where I am absolutely alone. My Deep Place tends to be a white room with rounded walls and low ambient lighting.

My Deep, Dark, Happy Place is an action movie and I’m the main protagonist. It’s the fight against overwhelming odds pitted against a normal person, like the Die Hard movies actually. You know that no normal person would want this life, but the main hero takes on the bad guys anyway. He (or she) suffers from the start to the end, getting knocked down and beaten over and over again. Until finally, through determination and total badassery, the hero wins. That’s my DDHP; the superhero movie where the only place to go, is forward. The only option is to succeed.

I think that everyone has this place in some form. Maybe you have a vivid imagination like mine or maybe you just know that there’s a well of mental resources at your disposal that you call on when needed. Either way, you have these places and the ability to “go there” when you need to. The secret to life is controlling when and where you go, and using things like your Deep, Dark, Happy Place to become better than you were before.