Trust Your Instincts

In the moments just before, I vividly remember feeling an eerie sensation of haunting uneasiness, a funk that I couldn’t quite shake off or explain away. Everything seemed normal...

A few years ago while spearfishing in the Florida keys I was attacked by a bull shark. You can look it up, the BBC made a big deal of it in the build up to the Beijing Olympics. I was creeping around on bottom of the sea bed, freedive spearfishing in 65 feet of water when the movement of small fish darting suddenly in my periphery caught my attention. What happened next has played out over and over in my mind and still makes me uneasy.

Pushing off the bottom, I arched around to be faced with every diver’s worst nightmare. A massive round shape was upon me with its wide mouth agape in a sly smile and its huge rippling, muscular body frantically jerking from side to side. I remember feeling no emotion, it happened so fast. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. The reptile brain of pure survival instinct took over and I swung my speargun up and instantly pulled the trigger. 

The giant predator had closed the distance between us from the edge of visibility so quickly that the spear was unable to fully exit the gun before making contact. To my horror it glanced off, sliding up and over the sharks streamlined head instead of penetrating. A resounding knock rang out in the profound silence of the deep as it collided with my speargun. The incredible force jammed the butt of the gun up into my hip painfully, throwing me back, from being outstretched at arms length a moment before. In a swirl of confusion, the shark turned and disappeared into the green murk again. 

In all my swimming races since, I have never kicked as fast as I did that day to get back up to the surface and over to the boat. For minutes after, my hands trembled uncontrollably. The fish I had caught tasted extra good that night.

I have often wondered about that funky indescribable bad vibe that I had felt moments before this incident. What was it? How did I know to turn around at the last second?

Perception is selection. Our conscious mind is only able to focus on one or two things at a time Through hypnosis, psychologists have explored and proven that our subconscious mind is continually aware and taking in everything around us. 

The famous psychologist Carl Jung theorised that the relatively recent advent of our conscious mind has been added on top of older more primal subconscious layers as our prehistoric ancestors evolved and their brains and thought processes become increasingly more complex. This conscious mind of ours rationalises while our primal subconscious feels.

Watching a campfire has been proven to lower our blood pressure, cortisol levels and make us feel more relaxed. For hundreds of thousands of years, campfires signified warmth and safety. There seems to be an ancient element in our subconscious mind that has been evolutionarily programmed to respond to this stimuli. Watching a campfire feels good.

The same is true of the sound of running water. Listening to the soothing trickle of a fountain has also been shown to lower our blood pressure and physically relax us. 

Having access to drinking water has always been of the utmost priority and has therefore been a huge source of stress for our prehistoric ancestors. An element of our subconscious mind recognises that water is nearby if we need it and so relaxes us. Fountains have been used since ancient times for this purpose.

Now, if there are things in our environment that subconsciously have a calming effect on us, is it not possible to imagine that there are also things that our subconscious mind has been programmed to tune into, that alarm and warn us of impending danger? Nature has equipped us for survival.

Have you ever met a stranger and for some reason that you are unable to explain why you don’t trust that person, or believe that they have good intentions? Perhaps while your conscious mind was occupied thinking about what you were going to say, your subconscious mind was tuning into the fact that maybe their tone and body language were clashing with what they were saying. Things didn’t feel right. 

Maybe, that bad vibe that I felt back spearfishing in the Florida Keys that fateful day was the result of my subconscious mind tuning into the fact the perhaps the sea life around was acting in an alarmed manner due to the presence of a massive aggressive predator in the area. Did it notice something while my conscious attention was focused elsewhere?

Just look in the newspaper today, there are predators out there. Trinidad is becoming an increasingly dangerous place! I am not encouraging paranoia by any means, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks, then it probably is a duck. If things really don’t feel right, listen to your gut instinct and get out of there. Trust your instincts and rationalise later. It’s not worth the risk of letting things degenerate to a matter of reflexes. Believe me, you might not be as lucky.