Toxic Shrimp


A 49-year-old woman had the following dream:

“I dreamed I was at a gathering at a friend’s house. They were serving a shrimp plate, but somehow I knew the shrimp was toxic. The man I am interested in was eating the shrimp, and seemed to have no clue they were toxic. He would toss them into the air, one at a time, and catch them in his mouth to eat them. One, after the other, after the other. I couldn’t help but think how unhealthy this was, to eat the shrimp that was toxic, let alone to eat so many of them. I wondered how it could be that no one else besides me was aware of the fact that these things were toxic?”

This dream baffled the dreamer… why did she dream about shrimp? She hadn’t eaten any, nor did she like them, nor had she been anywhere they had been served recently. The man in the dream was someone she was actually getting to know in waking life but she had never seen him eat shrimp, either. So what gives? 

This is typical to how we think about dreams. We get so caught up in the literal, which in this case was shrimp. But this is not how dreams work, so we did some detective work to see what might lie beneath the surface. When she described how the man was throwing the shrimp into the air, she said he was “tossing them back.”

When I asked her what kind of shrimp they were, she replied “You know, they were those cocktail shrimp, the kind you use for shrimp cocktail.” This answer proved revealing and suddenly it dawned on her that the word cocktail was very relevant. The man in her dream was someone she really did hold a romantic interest in, just like in the dream. Yet when she put together the phrase tossing them back with the word cocktail it hit her like a lightning bolt that this man had a drinking problem.

While many people drink in social situations, it is not always to the point of excess. Couple that with the fact that when we are attracted to someone we don’t want to see the things that might be a hindrance to a potential relationship. These are the kind of things that make it easy for the conscious mind to sweep observations such as he drinks too much under the rug.

However, the dreaming mind is our greater consciousness and is connected to our soul. It wants us to experience love and connection, and holds these as the greatest of priorities. While the dreamer consciously had not been keeping track of how many drinks this man had at any given social event, her subconscious mind was fully aware. “One, after the other, after the other” was a big clue to the fact that not only was he consuming something she considered to be toxic, but he was consuming it in excess.

Our dreaming mind will show us obstacles that are in the way to love and happiness, including our own actions as well as those of others. This dreamer’s consciousness knew that being in a relationship with someone who practices excessive drinking would be very toxic to her emotional health. The dreamer had a family history involving alcoholism and had done a lot of personal work to recover from the fallout.

To her, alcohol was toxic both physically and emotionally. She acknowledged that this was not the case for everyone, which explained why in the dream other people seemed not to be bothered by, let alone aware of, the shrimp being toxic. Rather than sweep this information under the rug, the dreaming mind decided to bring this information to the forefront of her attention in the form of a story, aka this dream. It got her attention and helped her make a decision on whether to move forward with the man.

Once the dreamer came to the awareness that this man’s drinking pattern was not a good match for her, she chose not get involved with him. She realized that a relationship with him would end up in heartbreak for her, one that was all too familiar. With her new awareness, she could appreciate his friendship but any time she considered crossing over into the romantic realm (as there was mutual interest), all she had to do was remember this dream.

From that point forward the dream proved to be a connection and anchor to her own inner strength, conviction and commitment to living in alignment with her soul and her highest good. The dream became a guide to a healthy life for herself which included the kind of romantic relationship that would enhance, not detract from, her emotional well-being.

Much as it pained her, she had to throw this fish back in the water. However, it was a short-term price that she was willing to pay for a long-term prize.


About Author

Mimi Pettibone has been fascinated by dreams and what they might mean since she was a little girl. Her practice includes dream interpretation, tarot and oracle readings, and personal growth work focused on relationships, communication and authentic life path. She is the creator of the "Enchanted Art Oracle Cards," and offers consultations, classes and groups at East West Bookshop in Seattle. For more about Mimi or to submit a dream, visit; classes:; oracle cards: .

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