“For most of my childhood, I dreamed of being in the middle of the ocean. Sometimes, I was on a small boat surrounded by sharks. In other dreams, I was afloat in the open sea with sharks swimming all around me. One would brush by me and its rough skin scraped me but none of them ever attacked or bit me; still, the fear was overwhelming. I always woke up terrified.
In later years, I dreamed of being in the sea but closer to the shore. One day, I dreamt I was able to walk onto land. But I often wondered why my childhood dreams were filled with sharks.”
One of the most common dreams is of being surrounded by sharks. Typically, they represent threats and fears. Sharks are water creatures and are dangerous to us only when in their own watery domain. In dream language, water represents emotions; hence, sharks are about the fearful threats in our waking lives and the effects these threats have on our emotional state. How does one avoid sharks? By staying out of the water. We become vulnerable to attack only if our emotions run amuck.
Those with precarious waking life situations often dream about sharks. When unpaid bills loom, ruthless competitors threaten or menacing worries plague us, they can appear as sharks. So it is interesting that this dreamer’s shark dreams occurred during her childhood. What threats could a little child have in her young life? Let’s look at the symbols:
Middle of the ocean. Surrounded by water typically indicates that the dreamer is immersed in her own emotions.
On a small boat. The boat represents some protection from the sea and its inhabitants--but not much. The scale of the boat in relationship to the ocean shows that the dreamer, being cradled in only a small boat, does not feel completely safe.
Sharks swimming all around her. Numerous threats.
Feeling terrified. This solidifies the meaning of sharks as threats versus sharks as protection.
Closer to shore.Not being in the open sea represents that one is becoming less overwhelmed by emotions.
Able to walk on land.Moving onto solid ground, this dreamer is not longer at the mercy of her out-of-control emotions.
The Dream Interpretation
Interestingly, when this dreamer was a child, she lived on an island where the threat of sharks was a real, everyday danger. No wonder when her fears and worries popped up in dreams they took the form of sharks! These dreams indicate that as a child, she felt threatened by many things going on in her young life. The fact that she was never bitten or attacked reflects how she was never seriously damaged or affected by these threats but that she was scraped by the rough skin of one of the sharks shows how her chronic fear was affecting her physically. Lack of sleep and relentless anxiety surely could have negative effects during her waking life.
In later years, her dreams revealed how she was able to get out of the ocean and walk on land which meant that she was no longer vulnerable to the threats that existed in her emotional life.
Indeed, this dreamer reported that she felt anxious and worried most of her life because of both real and imagined threats. It turned out that she later learned she suffered from a mild emotional disorder. As she grew up, she learned how to move beyond irrational fears and became quite functional and accomplished.
If I could have offered helpful suggestions to this dreamer while she was young, I would ask her to draw her dreams to depict what was going on. Then, I would encourage her to draw some scenes from her waking life to detect where the corresponding metaphors were. Adults think children don’t have true worries. But childhood can be a frightening time for those who live in unstable environments or even those who are exposed to frightful concepts before they are developmentally able to understand them. Dying relatives, arguing parents, playground bullies, demanding teachers, social pressures and health problems are some waking life “sharks” that can inflict horrible wounds on a little child’s psyche. Some children have fearful natures that may be genetic or environmental and their dreams often are filled with terrors and nightmares with monsters and, yes, sharks. Helping a growing child learn how to change how she views the threats in her life will alter her dreams. Teach her how to visualize conquering all these threats (as a form of intentional daydreaming) to give her power over her emotions.