I wake up in the morning when it’s still dark, and more often than not, my first sensation is that familiar injection of anxiety in my heart. After getting up from bed, taking a few deep breaths and sometimes meditating for a few seconds, the anxiety gets contained. Sometimes it can be stronger and harder to manage if for some reason I’m occupied with something in the immediate past or the not-so-distant future. Then I recall my dreams.
I have dreamed several times that a shark attacks me. Not a tiger, not a hammerhead, not a bull, not a lemon, not a blue or a grey reef (from over four hundred species of sharks known to man, these are amongst the most hostile towards humans). In my dreams a great white shark attacks me. The reason I can tell it is a great white, without having any knowledge of sharks whatsoever, is from its classic image. It’s the shark from Jaws, that same shark you see on the “Planet Earth” TV show jumping out of the dark waters to eat a seal. When I’m in the arms of Morpheus, this massive, finned creature rushes towards me and takes a huge bite—then I wake up. Even though my dream isn’t the same every time, when I dream of water I’m almost certain that a shark will attack me, and it always happens. I’ve dreamed this several times in the last few years.
Why am I paying so much attention to this dream in particular and trying to make sense of it? It’s because the way I feel about sharks isn’t very different from what I feel about many things I deal with everyday while I’m wide wake, like official duties, finances, deadlines, projects and creative blocks. Of course this isn’t pleasant, and I’m guessing a lot of people feel it. Some people might even take pills to deal with it.
Shark dreams are frequently interpreted as a manifestation of dangerous emotional waters, fearing the worst, wrestling with a bad temper and the harsh realities of life, amongst others. All these interpretations hit home. All those things give me anxiety while I’m wide awake. I don’t live close to the ocean, so the odds of me being eaten by a shark are low. (And even if I did, I would try to avoid any kind of sea ventures for the time being.) My subconscious is sending some kind of distress signal related to what I experience day-to-day.
Having semi-figured this out, I’ve decided to surround myself with images of threatening-looking sharks. By having them on the background of my phone, on the desktop of my computers and just recently hanging a small painting of a shark in my office cubicle, I’m developing what I call the shark therapy. Every time I see these images I feel a slight sting of anxiety, especially in the middle of the night when I wake up to go to the bathroom and I see this huge mouth wide open, almost eating all the apps on my phone. It might sound like a bit of self-torture, but I think I’m getting somewhere here. I hope that by getting these constant fixes of anxiety derived from a symbolic fear, I will eventually create some sort of emotional callus that will help me cope better with, say, unpleasant situations. After all, it seems to me that nothing can be worse that being eaten by a huge great white shark swimming in the darkest waters.