Q: I’m in England and I’m walking through an old industrial area full of brick buildings. It’s early in the morning and I’m holding a number of shopping bags full of new clothes. I walk into a warehouse and find a large number of people sitting around drinking wine, as if from medieval times. They’re about to have a feast and I see that the main course is a great white shark. There’s a huge shark hanging from the ceiling, it’s still kind of alive, and gory. On the table, there are different kinds of cooked shark meat and people are piling it onto their plate. In another part of the room, there’s a cauldron of shark meat, bubbling.
A: Whoa! Girl! This is quite the archetypal dream! There is a profoundly timeless quality to this dream that beautifully presents the myth-making, storytelling, artistic quality of psyche. You can’t make this kind of imagery up, and it could seemingly be drawn from the dreamworld at any point in history.
Last week, I discussed the motif of being stung or bitten by an animal in a dream, and I almost commented in contrast on another major animal motif that your dream so starkly presents: that is, when an individual is eating a wild animal not typically found at the table (bear meat is a common version). The cooking and ingesting of a wild animal suggests a very engaged attempt to wrestle with something in your personality and in your history (as represented by the medieval nature of this dream). A feast is taking place in your inner world. Something from the depths has been brought to consciousness and is being taken in, consumed, digested, and deeply integrated. It is a time of celebration.
So why is it this particular animal that is so powerfully represented in this dream? The shark swims deep in the cold ocean waters, representing something found deep within our unconscious (perhaps from things stored away in childhood or from difficult events). Many things swim in the ocean, however, and certainly do not represent the same things. Were a dolphin to appear in a dream, for instance, the emotional resonance might be more joyful: one might ask what playful, kind energy in you has been buried out of reach? But the Great White shark is a powerful, fierce animal that many fear. Its nature as the King of the ocean might represent a father complex, whereas the whale commonly represents something in the unconscious to do with the mother. It could also represent emotions once buried deep from events in your life in which you felt in danger or threatened, feelings stuffed away because they couldn’t be consciously expressed at the time.
Is it anger? Fury? Fear? Power? This part of you and your past has come up from the depths, into consciousness. It is now on land, in a human environment, and is being cooked and feasted upon. The beautiful alchemical symbol of the cauldron in your dream reiterates this theme of integration. The act of cooking is preparation for digestion: things that were once separate are broken down, boiled together, mixed with water, cooked by fire, and prepared for full integration into our bodies.
Not surprisingly, you reported to me that you had a dream a few months back in which a shark was chasing you and you were terrified. This is how we see personal evolution represented in the dream world. Your relationship to this shark energy in your life has changed radically. Now, you’re ingesting its power and its fierce strength. You are no longer separate from the power that the shark represents, nor subject any longer to its terrorizing in your daily life. The girl from your past has stepped into a timeless archetypal realm and has been welcomed to a banquet. And how symbolic that she’s carrying new clothes! The way you present yourself to the world and they way you’re seen by others is changing as a result of this integration. Revel – like those at the banquet – in this transformation at hand.
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Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. For more information about therapy services in Portland, visit: www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com