I had most of last week off work due to the Thai new year so my partner and I decided to head to the southern islands to soak up some rays while we had the opportunity.
While there I took my fat belly ( I don’t really have a fat ass) snorkeling (in a lovely blue polka dot bikini I might add) I was having a great old time bobbing along with the fishies. It was very peaceful being in the incredibly beautiful clear blue water seeing all manner of wildlife. Until I saw a shark. For real, an honest to good shark. I’m pretty sure after posting siting googling that what I saw was a grey reef shark and although it is a bit hard to judge size in the water it was roughly around 1.5 meters long.
My reaction went something like this”Oh look a shark!! That is so cool! It is a decent size too! I must tell my partner! So I swam over to my partner to tell him and somehow my excitement turned into blind panic. I got out “OH MY GOD I JUST SAW A SHARK” and then the panicky breathing started and I had to swim (calmly but I didn’t stop) back to shore.
I knew intellectually that this shark was too small to see me as a meal but that didn’t stop a highly irrational emotional response from kicking in. There is so much emotional conditioning around sharks that just hit me like a punch in the gut.
The fear response was very primal and it made me think more about other forms of social conditioning and the emotions we attach to things. It really hit home for me that we can internalise things even when we don’t think we are. For example Shark = FEAR, Fat = Disgust, Women = Lesser. All these things seem ridiculous but it is so hard to keep what we really think and feel straight with all the other messages sent to us and so sometimes your emotions default to the shortcut, what we have been told is true even though we know it is not.
I know the next time I see a shark (I really hope there will be a next time sharks are really cool) I will be able to resist that fear much more easily because I have experienced it once and I feel that each day I spend resisting those other proscribed feelings and associations really does make it easier and easier. I’m not sure if I will ever kick the conditioning for good but I will do my damnedest to try!