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…*
Perhaps Dr. Irvin Yalom’s chapter entitled “Let the Patient Matter to You” would be more aptly titled “How the Patient Affects Us”…because it is nigh impossible to open oneself up to someone’s else’s stories without being affected and changed by those stories (unless you are made of Teflon). I include both positive and negative reactions, of course, because we can’t always control how we react to things…
Dr. Yalom’s point, I think, however, was to describe instances in his therapeutic career when his own feelings created some breakthrough moments—times when he was willing to divulge his own discontent or discomfort with the client about how the conversation was making him feel. And what d’ya know, those times when his own intuitive reaction to client interactions and discussions were most uncomfortable actually proved to be some of his most productive and successful cases.
Most tarot readers can relate to that scenario because they pride themselves on being intuitively receptive persons. It’s part of the game plan from the beginning, to gauge when something is quirky or amiss in the tone, inflection, or speech of the client, and following that trail or those context clues towards the deeper issue at hand—which, though revelatory, is often to an uncomfortable place. This obviously entails, however, an acknowledgement of our own feelings as a key to revelation.
I’ve talked to lots of tarot readers who literally have invented their own decompression rituals that they perform following their reading sessions…because they allow themselves to absorb so much of the client’s energy. Depending on the client, that immersion can be an exhausting experience, and it’s no wonder that we’d sometimes have to ritually banish some of the negative energy to keep our sanity.
Perhaps a better way is to create a ritual for the session itself, where we don’t open ourselves up any less, but where all that energy stays within the ritual space of the reading session itself. This is where science and magick exhibit amazing juxtaposition… In past blog posts I’ve discussed how grounding, earthing, and game-playing can have ameliorative effects on a client’s disposition, and they’re all things that can be ritualized during a reading session. How does one incorporate ritual into one’s practice? You’re probably already doing it! Shuffling cards is a form of ritualization. Pouring a cup of tea is a ritualization of getting something to drink to calm the nerves. Creating a tarot spread on the fly and turning cards over one-by-one is a form of ritualization. Virtually anything can be ritualized. And ritualization itself helps to calm our minds.
So ritualization is something that we tarot readers already have going for us… And if you need more…add more. There’s no rule that says you can’t say a non-denominational prayer or blessing before your readings get under way. There’s nothing that says you can’t cast a magickal circle around the reading table. There’s nothing that says you can’t ask the client to engage in some yogic breathing exercises with you before the reading meter gets turned on and the reading begins.
As long as your rituals don’t get too outrageous, they are more than likely to exemplify for your client that you are invested in the reading, and in creating a sacred space for your work (into which you are inviting your client-guest).
Of course it’s entirely possible to exude an image and façade of the emotional master, authoritative guru, the authority figure in charge of the reading space. That’s a choice. But another choice is to admit vulnerability in a cooperative dialogue, revealing our affectedness as a means of building connection and encouraging the client to open up. It’s not the same for every client—that’s part of the intuitive process, to subconsciously determine what kind of reader the client is looking for…
But more often than not, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and to dip your toes into the same emotional waters as your client—via empathy—will afford you more access and greater confidence from the client…and ultimately greater progress in your readings.
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.