Jaws: Is it safe to go back into the water?


If you look into the eyes of a shark, (it doesn’t matter what kind of shark it is—a nurse shark or a great white) their eyes are cold as ice and you know of what they are capable, no question. They are the world’s greatest predators, perfectly adapted to their environments and yet they will never transform, because animals don’t have the free will to change like we do. When face to face with a shark, you know in no uncertain terms what you’re dealing with. People, on the other hand, can be a little trickier.

In a recent exercise class of mine everyone took their position while waiting for the class to begin. I had chosen my designated dance space, and out of nowhere someone approached me and kicked my shoe to make it clear that she wanted that space, in essence marking her territory.  Evidently she wanted me to move. I could have thought her rude, even take it personally but it was so shocking I couldn’t, all I could do was actually laugh a little. Instead I was reminded of a shark. It was as if I was scuba diving in the ocean, only to be tapped by the nose of a shark just to make sure I knew I was the little fish in the big pond.

In life we need to know who, and what we are dealing with and how to act accordingly. It can save us a great deal of energy having and applying this kind of consciousness.

Kabbalah teaches that there are four levels to the spiritual hierarchy: inanimate or mineral, plant, animal, and human (in that order.)  Minerals, being at the lowest spiritual point of the spectrum, are individually unable to elevate themselves to a higher level. However, when they are absorbed into plants they are elevated up a level. When an animal eats a plant, it then raises the plant to a higher spiritual level.

The idea of changing our nature is a powerful concept, and one that we are encouraged to do, because ultimately if we transform as we are intended to, and completely transform our Desire to Receive for the Self-alone to the Desire to Share, then we can be the very best versions of ourselves.

The fundamental difference between man and beast is that humans choose their behavior. We can choose to be proactive, or reactive. Whereas an animal’s only means of survival is instinct. As I stated earlier, they lack free will. A shark feels no desire to change on a conscious level, because sharks don’t have the developed consciousness that we possess.

Great, so… How does this help us in relation with other people? Ask yourself whether the people in your life are supporting you in your growth and change. If yes, then cherish them. But if they diminish us, then we need to diminish them by limiting our interactions.

We all need to acknowledge that some people do deserve to be held at bay. You wouldn’t dive with a great white shark without the safety of a cage (or maybe you thrill seekers would.) If you find your mood dipping whenever you encounter a certain person, it is safer to keep an emotional distance.

Martha Beck, whose work I adore, provides us with a very useful guide of what to look out for:


A planarian is a flatworm – they aren’t evil, they are just devoid of emotional intelligence. We can work a lifetime trying to make flatworms perceptive, intuitive or wise, but in the end we would just be wasting our time and hopes that one day they will evolve into more than they are. Knowing this kind of information can spare us all from immense frustration to their emotional clumsiness.


This is the 3 Strike rule. If we find that we are not the only ones to have had a bad experience with a person, and in fact learn and hear worrisome reports about a person from 3 totally unrelated sources, then we need to carry on with caution. 3 bad reports + 1 personal experience = “I don’t quite trust you.”

For instance, in a meeting, you’re startled to hear your associate lie. He later explains breezily, “You have to say what you have to say.” It may be easy to dismiss this incident until within a week three other people from his past all delicately mention that he has honesty issues. This is when we constructively act with caution.


When we doubt ourselves around a specific person – I’m not referring to self-doubt like an impulse purchase, but an unsettling self-doubt, when reality seems to bend and sway around a certain person, when our recollections don’t jive with what that person claims.

Psychologists use a term called “gas lighting” to describe this kind of systematic lying. An allusion to an old movie in which a man drives his wife to question her sanity by telling her odd lies and manipulating the level of gas light in the house so she keeps seeing lights dim for no reason.

Maybe you’ve experienced this when you’ve worked around somebody for months, finally to notice that you doubted yourself in ways you never had before or that you feel more confused after dealing with that person. When this happens it’s necessary to keep yourself guarded at all times.


If your instincts put up an emotional distance between you and any person, listen to them. If you get a call from Mr. Hyde once and this person is usually Dr. Jekyll, pay close attention to the capacity of how cruel this person has the potential to be. In other words, if someone in your life is genuinely monstrous part of the time – even once – be leery all the time.

Jeffrey Dahmer didn’t kill or eat someone every day, but the times he did made society very leery (to put it lightly) of him.

When we know who we’re dealing with, it makes it a lot easier to not get reactive and kick back.  It gives us the opportunity to discern what is worth our time, as well as transform our nature through our God-given gift – free will.


Weed out people who no longer belong in your life nor deserve your energy, AND reach out and strengthen your relationships with those who are supporting you on your journey.

“There comes a point in your life when you realize who matters, who never did, who won’t anymore, and who always will. So don’t worry about the people from your past, there’s a reason they didn’t make it to your future.”
Adam Lindsay Gordon

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