Inspired by Dr. Irvin D. Yalom’s book The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, I am looking at each chapter through the perspective of tarot reading…*
As a prescriptive statement, “Engage the client” might seem like a no-brainer. But as tarot readers go, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and not every tarot reader’s style. Some tarot readers are satisfied with evoking the image of the [figuratively] distant oracle. That’s fine if you’re that type of tarot reader. But as this series of blogs posts is meant to examine the juxtaposition between tarot and psychology, we have to observe that the client is usually someone who is coming to us (tarot readers) for assistance and looking for at least a brief episode of intimacy to relieve the stoic façade that we’re otherwise forced to wear in the public sphere.
As Yalom states in Chapter 4:
“A great many of our patients have conflicts in the realm of intimacy, and obtain help in therapy sheerly through experiencing an intimate relationship with the therapist. Some fear intimacy because they believe there is something basically unacceptable about them[selves], something repugnant and unforgivable…Others may avoid intimacy because of fears of exploitation, colonization, or abandonment; for them…the intimate and caring therapeutic relationship that does not result in the anticipated catastrophe becomes a corrective emotional experience.
“Hence, nothing takes precedence over the care and maintenance of my relationship to the patient, and I attend carefully to every nuance of how we regard each other…”
To illustrate this sentiment I like the interaction of the two cards shown above from Kat Black’s The Golden Tarot (© 2003 U.S. Games Systems). The Eight of Cups shows the image of a young person willfully setting out on a journey. He doesn’t necessarily look happy with what he is leaving behind, but the very act of bravery entailed in making the choice to leave for better opportunities or for more fulfilling endeavors is a testament to his spirit—the desire for something better, of hopefulness, of knowing things needed to change and taking the initiative. He might be purposefully leaving all those cups (read: “emotions”) behind; or he might be walking past a landscape of emotions that he absently isn’t noticing or recognizing.
But directionally he’s walking towards the right…towards an onlooking hermit holding a lamp of illumination, a beacon in the peaceful forest where gentleness means that the forest animals live in harmony. …Maybe they can share some stories together—this traveler and the old, wise hermit—allowing the lamp to illuminate into the corner intricacies of those tales. Maybe the young person won’t stay in the forest—he’s just a wayfarer on his way to something bigger, after all—but it’s not a bad place to rest and get some insight…a safe and comforting place to slow down and let the imagination explore…
Although I am exploring Yalom’s reflections on the profession of Psychology and Psychiatry, I do not claim or pretend to have any training in either of those professional fields. I am simply interpreting Yalom’s reflections and concepts from the perspective of the art of reading the tarot, which although it is a talent for which I have had certified training and for which I have several years of professional experience, is not a clinical or licensed profession or activity. Readers of this blog are reminded that unless you have training and a license in the psycho-therapeutic arts, that you should NEVER be diagnosing or attempting to diagnose a reading client for clinical symptoms. Rather, you should always refer the client to seek professional help if the concern arises that the client’s issues may be related to or appear to be psychosomatic in nature.