A woman dreamed: “My close friend and I are standing on a river bank watching her husband water ski. He is having fun going back and forth, waving to us and generally showing off. We are alarmed, however, and try to signal to him that there are some sharks closely trailing him, eager for a meal.”
As she reflected on the dream she shared with me that this man had died by suicide. The dream helped her understand why. Her friend’s husband had an unconcerned and superficial attitude towards the unconscious, or inner world, symbolized by the water. The dream depicts him skating on the surface of life, unaware of the power and danger that lay beneath. This man-eating force, symbolized by the sharks, was provoked by his arrogant and dismissive attitude towards the unconscious. He did not take life seriously and so made life his enemy. The psyche, or total personality, does not long tolerate our denial of it, for such denial does violence to the creative life of the soul.
Beyond this very important lesson, it is also interesting to note that the dreamer had this dream in her late eighties, within a few years of her own death and several years after the man’s death. This shows that the psyche wanted to help her understand the larger context and reasons behind his death. In addition, this awareness could spur her to live her own life with greater respect for the unconscious. Clearly, helping us to learn and become more conscious is very important to the psyche. Perhaps this is why it does not show unlimited patience for people who don’t take life seriously.