All year I have been engrossed in Shadow Work. I used spreads I found online, studied how the chakras play into my psyche, created a few spreads of my own, and even enrolled in Benebell Wen’s Shadow Work course. I’m quite serious about dredging through my personal shit in order to better help others navigate their lives. How can I advise anyone as a tarot reader if I’m not also working on my own baggage?

But Shadow Work takes many forms. It could be deep guided meditation, a focused course, tailored spreads or –of course–professional counseling. If you’re not really feeling any of those options (or just want another to add to the arsenal, you masochist) there is a slightly less confrontational way of touching on some aspects of yourself that need attention:

Focus specifically on the cards in your tarot deck that you have trouble connecting with.

I started developing my posts on difficult cards as a way to share my own issues with interpretation, and to hopefully help anyone else who may have been having a problem connecting with the same cards. As I developed a list of cards I wanted to talk about, I began to notice a pattern: The cards I was having trouble with were all parts of me I knew (or soon knew, damn them) needed to be addressed. And more often than not, they were an issue only when I read for myself.

Yeah, of course I ignored it at first, because sometimes we all like to suspend reality for a momentary state of bliss– wherein terrible memories do not exist in our lives, we are 100% well-adjusted, face every problem head-on and everything we wear fits perfectly (ha!). But that façade broke down faster than the female protagonist of a Korean drama (some of y’all know what I’m talking about).

So I had to learn to face some unsavory parts of myself: Irrational fears, unnecessary anger at certain people or choices I have made, and my tendency to blame the environment. I spent a lot of this year just…upset. But once I was done being upset, I was able to see myself with more objectivity. I was able to appreciate the lessons being thrown at me, and began to consider how I could grow from it.

Next time you whip out the deck, consider pulling out those cards that make you inwardly groan when you see them. Ask yourself if the meanings apply to you directly. It doesn’t hurt to have a few resources on hand with interpretations; this is about digging deep into the cards and seeing how they make you feel. Sit with them, and observe where you get caught up in your own interpretation. It could very well be that the words you have trouble expressing are a direct reflection of something you have trouble expressing or working through in your life.

Let’s use the7 of Swords as a quick example, since I wrote about it previously. When I was struggling with this card, I kept getting stuck on the idea of the man in the image carrying or stealing his thoughts. I couldn’t get it to make sense in readings. After more time reading various interpretations and studying up on the swords suit, I realized that in a sense, the man was “stealing” from himself (his potential) through isolation and a failure to plan. It became apparent that this mirrored my own problem: I was guilty of short-changing myself by not allowing anyone else in. I had (still have) an overwhelming need to “handle it all”, despite friends/family willing to help, and despite knowing that I can’t actually do everything on my own. Hm. Trust issues, much?

Some other current problem cards for me (right now):

· Judgement

· 3 of Swords

· King of Cups

Trust me, this list used to be longer. But it’s not really about depleting the list; as we go through life, I think we’ll always have problem cards–or at least ones that stick out for us. Maybe they’ll be the “stalkers” that follow us in readings, or those “jumpers” that try to get us when we’re shuffling.

There will always be lessons, and the cards will not hesitate to point them out. Let’s take the time to pay attention, yeah?


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