fish on a hook

fish on a hook
Imagine for a moment that you are a fish, in amongst other fish, doing fishy things, just like all the other fish. Then, one day one of your fellow fishy friends starts to behave in way that seems a little odd, out of the ordinary, a bit different. At some point other fish start distancing themselves, tut-tutting, leaving space between themselves and your friend.  There’ll be and disapproving looks and the fish-whispering and fishtweeting starts up, and none of it good.
Then your friend starts to behave in decidedly odd ways that, by now, pretty much all the other fishes notice and clearly disapprove of. Your friend is being separated from the shoal, clearly not welcome and all the fish distance themselves more and more,   joining with the chorus:
“what’s wrong with you!!?”
“you’re not one of us”
and calling him names
“crazy fish!!!”

No one is seeing through their own fear,
no one is looking closely enough to sense your friend’s pain,
no one sees the hook on which this odd fish, your friend, is caught.

If they did, then  they’d see your friend in great pain
and they’d see them struggling for their life,
and alone,
whilst everyone else is yelling at them
and calling them names.
and yelling, telling what they need to do
just so they can get back to being undisturbed themselves
-get back to their normal everyday business of being a normal fish.

What if that fish were you?


Karl Menninger often used this metaphor, as captured in the quote below.

It’s been interpreted and turned into a short animation at
We love it and added the stills and [abridged] transcript below.

An individual having unusual difficulties in coping with his environment struggles and kicks up the dust, as it were. I have used the figure of a fish caught on a hook: his gyrations must look peculiar to other fish that don’t understand the circumstances; but his splashes are not his affliction, they are his effort to get rid of his affliction and as every fisherman knows these efforts may succeed.

Karl Menninger


Fish on a hook


There comes a point when my fridge is empty
and I haven’t got any food… 





and maybe I haven’t been out for a day or two…




what hafish3ppens is that Ifeel my chest tightening
and my breathing is getting shallower and
as I’m getting more anxious
I feel as if I’m being strangled in some way.


My heart beats louder and louder
to the point wherefish5
I think that other people are actually going to hear my heart

I feel my body isfish6 like jelly I’m not at all sure- footed I’m scared that I might fall over




fish7I’m now
a prisoner who’s moved out into a very hostile area
and er, I dunno how long this is gonna take



I’m fish8overwhelmed I mean to be surrounded by this cacophony of noise 





and I’m now stuck behind someone trying to gauge:
how long is it gonna be before I get to the counter ”

I’m frozen

This is just a bloody nightmare!

fish11Now, because I’ve been feeling these things for decades
I recognise that there’s a way through this
because I was convinced that it would just kill me altogether


fish12because the level of stress I’ve been carrying around,
I thought would give me a heart attack 
or something similar.
And so far it hasn’t.



It’s rather like a fish wriggling at the end of a hook.
Initially one might think:

Mike’s wriggling in this way fish14
and it makes no sense at all
he’s doing a crazy dance.



Unfish15til you see the hook in my gullet
and it starts making sense





I think a lot of us are wriggling .



That’s seen as a kind of illness…


fish18without the vision of the hooks that we’re bound by so it seems that our behaviour is very crazy when in context it isn’t


About recoverynetwork:Toronto

We believe people can and do recover from "mental illness" - because we are living it. We believe in the power of supporting each other: learning from and with each other. You are welcome to join us..
This entry was posted in anxiety, Crazy World, Emancipate yourself..., Healing, Ideas, making sense of "mental illlness". Bookmark the permalink.