A few weeks ago I decided to do a tarot reading for myself.
It’s been a while, and I’m always curious about what’ll come out of a spread, what different patterns and combinations of cards will resonate with my mind in its current state, and so on.
Interacting with tarot is always entertaining, mainly because of how terrified I was conditioned to be of it growing up. They were the Devil’s Cards, tools of Satan, gateways to the demonic, right up there with Ouija boards and troll dolls.
Of course, I don’t believe in any of that anymore—the Occult, the supernatural, angels, demons, God/god/gods/goddesses, etc. Still, it’s amusing to be aware of the vestigial parts of my child mind that retain that primal fear of tarot cards.
I actually got into tarot by way of the wonderful 2004 novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, wherein John Childermass carries a deck of tarot de Marseille cards.
Anywho, my view on tarot is that it functions much like an inkblot, or Rorschach, test. The cards and the patterns they form are random and arbitrary, but the meaning you find or the story you see is an indication of what might be going on in your subconscious, just beyond the edges of the conscious mind. The randomness that the tarot introduces can bring awareness to underlying and inarticulate thoughts or influences that often end up speaking to us through the images in the cards.
In fact, the purpose of tarot is largely misunderstood. The popular trope is of it being a divination or fortune telling tool, when really it’s just a means of exploring possibilities. Sure, most people who use the cards believe in some higher power that speaks through the cards, but that lends itself more to the theory that you get out of it what you put in.
Anywho, the reading I did a few weeks ago.
It was interesting because just a few days earlier I’d written about my compartmentalized personality, that there are these fundamental parts of myself that I was taught weren’t acceptable. In order to survive, I buried and cut those parts off from the forward-facing Self that is me, and that grew and developed.
And yes, I’m a Jungian.
The card that I ended up drawing for the “Hopes and Fears” position (9) was the Nine of Swords, or the “nightmare” card. The deck I was using (the gay-themed “Son Tarot“) appears as a broken mirror, with swords aimed at the center.
A friend of mine who has studied tarot thought this card was about anxieties about my future library job prospects, which is true. That has been causing some anxiety, especially as graduation (and graduate loan repayment) looms closer.
But it was the Four of Wands card in the “Below” position that was the most thought-provoking. In most readings of this spread, this position signifies the underlying feelings and subconscious movement associated with the querent.
The Four of Wands is the “hearth” card. It signifies harmony, contentment, a happy home, celebration, good times/news.
My friend thought it described my current living situation and job search.
I had a different theory. My sense from looking at that card was that the root of the winter of my discontent may be the memory of the happiness and harmony in early childhood (before I was aware that anything was wrong with the world), and that the unhappiness and discontent I experience now stem from wanting to return to that state.
Yes, there was a time before I stopped smiling in photographs, before I was keenly aware of being observed by others, before I’d fully learned to hate myself, and before being alive was a painful experience. It’s what we might call Paradise, a state of blissful unawareness.
Between that and now is a gulf full of unresolved pain and regret.
A few days ago, on Tuesday, the therapist I’ve been working with since the beginning of the year suggested that it was time we end therapy. She thought we’d done good work towards building better habits and skills around managing anxiety and stress, and practicing mindfulness and identifying when negative scripts are playing themselves out in my head and my behavior.
Her theory of practice is that therapy is short-term and goal-focused, and that we’d accomplished the ones we’d set at the beginning.
On the one hand, I agree. The last couple sessions have felt positive, overall. I have been more emotionally stable over the last few months. Disappointments and minor setbacks have less of an emotionally destabilizing effect than they used to.
There has been significant progress, and perhaps this is a sign than I’m ready to handle things on my own for a bit.
On the other hand…
I worry that in telling her about my fractured persona last session that she decided she was way in over her head, and ended things on as positive a note as possible.
… that my health insurance no longer covers mental health visits, and this was the subtlest way of ending things.
… that while I’ve got my forward-facing self relatively well-managed, the leviathans swimming beneath have simply learned to be more clever.
… that I’m never going to achieve full integration of those aspects of my psyche that are compartmentalized and currently inaccessible.
… that I’m never going to fully reconnect with my sexual self, which will cause future boyfriends to lose patience and dump me, and that I’m never going to find a partner.
Of course, these are irrational fears to varying degrees. Do I really know what I’m doing in healing from religious trauma? No. But did my therapist show me how to turn on the flashlight I already had to illuminate the path in front of me? Sure.
Yes, it was nice to unburden myself with someone who could restate and rephrase my words and remind me that things aren’t as bad as I make them out to be.
Maybe it’s time to do that for myself.