Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly

C'mon girl, it's a better day
Get your foot out of that grave
Don't let that one love tear your world apart
C'mon babe, kick that stuff
Show the street it ain't so tough
Quit lyin' around with a crippled, broken heart

Now I know you've been seeing red
Don't put a pistol to your head
Sometimes your answer's heaven sent
Your way is so damn permanent

Alice Cooper, Hey Stoopid

Probably most readers out there have come across a 'bad' reading- one loaded with negative cards, indicating trouble, either in the past or present, or trouble yet to come down the road. There are cards in the deck that have strong negative connotations, it's true. The Devil can indicate addiction, bad habits, toxic thinking (to use a pop psychology-ism), the Tower can indicate trouble down the road and destruction, and the 10 of Swords can indicate pain and trouble down the road.
So what do you do when you see a reading like this? Tell that person, sorry, you're doomed? Not exactly. Let's review a few of the 'negative' cards, and see how and where there's a more mixed message. We know every action generates a reaction- but what does that reaction entail? Is there hope for the future in there as well? Very rarely is it the end of the world, and usually there's a lesson to be learned from it. The cards will indicate not the end of the world, but those things that need to be brought to our (or the client's) attention- this is the first step in resolving issues and working towards change.
First, let's examine the Tower-
Sometimes called the "Lightning-Struck Tower", this indicates upheaval and trouble- things that we thought were set in stone are uprooted and destroyed, seemingly all at once. Life is turned upside-down in an instant, and many of the things we take for granted might be gone. But this is not a bad thing either! The question is, what falls away, and what remains? It's possible to build a false front to the world, in terms of relationships and the image we project. The Tower represents the point where those facades are torn down- sometimes externally, but more often internally. This can result in a bruised ego- and the ego can get very defensive when it's threatened. But at the same time, the Tower can represent a new viewpoint- instead of operating under our previous illusions, we can come to see what truly is. Though this can be a painful process, and in fact we might well have been perfectly content to maintain our illusions, thank you very much, none of us has a free pass where hard times are concerned. It's how we move on from these hard times that determines success or failure, and seeing this card can mean it's time to pick up the pieces and move on with life, however difficult that might be. Though there is a sense of tearing down, there can also be rebuilding.
Next, let's take a look at the Devil- another 'scary' card. The Devil is somewhat like the Tower in terms of mental outlook- here are the things we'd rather not acknowledge, in terms of where we are. The Devil can represent those viewpoints we cling to at the expense of self-understanding and awareness.
So as in the case of the Tower, the Devil can be a teacher. Here we may find ourselves stuck in a situation, or finding ourselves again and again facing the same problems and same issues we've been over a hundred times already. Again, there's an element of difficulty here- facing these things is not always easy, and can be painful. But then again, sometimes pain allows us to grow, and sometimes things that are removed can allow us room to grow. The message of the Devil is that we can hold ourselves back in terms of things that we'd rather hang onto solely for comfort or out of habit rather than move forward. Getting rid of them, or even acknowledging that we have these bad habits in the first place, likewise can be very difficult. But again, coming to terms with these things can be a part of growth, and increasing self-awareness.
Another negative card is the Three of Swords- the most prominent message is one of heartbreak, of ideas not working out, and things falling apart around us, seeming like it'll never get better. However, this too has a positive side, though it may be tough to see. I chose this particular rendering not just because it looks cool, but also that this card has an eye in its center. Sometimes that heartbreak and stress can lead to clear understanding, and things ultimately leading us to a better place. Not necessarily fun at the time, but as with all of the negative, 'scary' cards, the message is to look beyond the immediate future and see the greater picture. The ability to do that might well mean that it's not so bad after all.
A good example of this is the 9 of Swords- here's a somewhat complicated message, also dealing with ideas and thoughts, as is the Three.
Here's someone waking up in the middle of the night- either realizing the nightmare isn't real, just a bad dream, and really life is not as terrible as it just seemed, or realizing that yes, there's a whole lot of trouble hanging around. Either way, the focus here is waking up- whether or not it's to trouble or imagined trouble, our course of action remains the same. The message here is that we should focus on what we can do, not what we are worried about. It's a call to action rather than a warning to sit and think.
These are just a few of the cards out there that can have a negative connotation. However, there are not really shades of black and white in the Tarot- usually like our life situations, it's a shade of gray, with both good and bad mixed in. The message here is not to worry and think perpetually negative. Things can get better, if we will work towards that. When you see these negative cards, it is in many ways a call to batten down the hatches and prepare for a fight. But at the same time, things are not that hopeless- what we do every day, and at every stage of the journey, determines the outcome. We are never powerless, despite being subject to outside influences. Again, another shade of gray- we're between acting in the world, and being acted upon by it.

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