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Defensiveness


I met this fellow yesterday. He’s the lone cuttlefish who lives at our local aquarium. Note his bumpy red coloration and lifted tentacles. That is his threat display. It means he is either angry or scared. I visited him several times during my multi-hour aquarium stay. He always looked like this. I began to feel very sad for him, worried that the crowds were causing him stress. But even when no one was nearby, he would turn and display to various corners of his tank. It turns out that this particular cuttlefish is very old and has a form of dementia. His entire existence has become one long defense against a threat that doesn’t exist.

I feel great sympathy for this little guy. I’ve been in an emotional place where I was spending huge amounts of energy reacting to threats that were only imagined. It is an exhausting way to live. I wished there were some way to soothe him, tell him it is safe to relax. The aquarium staff have done everything they know how.


This is a shot of the exact same tank from a year or two ago. It might even be the exact same cuttlefish, though that seems unlikely. This cuttlefish is relaxed and content. Several other cuttlefish share the tank and while sometimes they were agressive toward each other, for the most part, they were just doing their thing. I remember watching this cuttlefish and thinking how beautiful it was as colors pulsed under the surface of its skin.

I would like at this point to have a larger connection to make. Perhaps something about how I sometimes feel like everyone on the internet is reacting like that poor demented cuttlefish, displaying aggressively against threats that aren’t there. Or perhaps I could draw an analogy in which I explain how I’m trying to be like the relaxed cuttlefish after spending years like the upset one. I think the connection that resonates most comes because today my heart is tired. Someone I love is miserable and the only way for that person to become less miserable is for them to be willing to accept proffered help that they’re currently rejecting. My loved one is keeping everyone at a distance, not with a threat display, but with a plastered-in-place cheerful countenance. But cheerful or angry, the result is the same. Others are held at a remove and the displaying person is all alone.

So I am left, wishing there were more I could do to help the little fish (or loved one, or person on the internet) find a happy place.

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