Phobias are often seen as a disturbing and unhealthy psychological trait. However, wellbeing is not necessarily dependant on emotional stability, as people are more complex than that, and a phobia can trigger the formation of a private world of complicated pleasures.
This is the story of M, a young woman who suffers from Selachophobia, an irrational fear of sharks. She has never seen a shark or been in a proximity of one, yet by nurturing the phobia for years sharks have become very dominant in her life.
Potential sharks were everywhere; they were waiting for her in newspapers and inside television sets, circling around swimming pools, lurking in the bath or crawling from under the covers of her bed.
As with any phobia, the subject soon became an obsession. It has inspired a whole private world of personal logic. A map of the world would appear completely different in her head; ‘dangerous’ parts of the world were never a travel option and hence did not exist.
There is a strong link between pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion, anxiety and excitement.
As fear and stress activate and arouse the sympathetic nervous system, causing the pupils to dilate, the heart rate to increase, and the adrenal medulla to release adrenalin and noradrenalin into the blood stream, confronting one’s phobia in moderate quantities can lead to a thrilling experience instead of a terrifying one.
This series of props and suggestions was designed to trigger the imagination and pull M into a scene, setting off the performance in her head in order to explore the ways in which one can become a thrill seeker within their own phobia.
Research shows that sharks are drawn to specific colours, especially this particular shade of yellow. Going to the beach in a yellow swimsuit will plant a seed of paranoia in M’s head, as she would start thinking of herself as a walking target. By doing so she can position herself within the imaginary space in which the thrill of the risk can be activated.
A shower brush with a sharp blade embedded in its base was designed to provoke the irrational fear of finding sharks in the bath.
The threat of the unrealistic consequences of M accidentally cutting herself and bleeding into the water, attracting the sharks to follow the smell, would activate the thrill.