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…*
“Often during the course of therapy patients may describe examples of deception in their life—some incident when they have either concealed or distorted information about themselves…There is always some concealment, some information withheld because of shame, because of some particular way they wish [to be regarded]. A discussion of such concealments almost invariably provokes a fruitful discussion…” (Chapter 24, p. 74)
We’ve all done it…told little white lies or exaggerations about ourselves…or, you know, not exactly lied…just…not revealed all our details and let other people make their own assumptions. Maybe we’ve done it on a resumé—in which case most career advice manuals actually advocate and condone your embellishments because, after all, you’ve got competition out there, and there’s no reason not to present yourself in the greatest possible light in order to get that job.
Most often, though, the social personas we present to others—when they’re not precisely or wholly true—are due to our feelings of shame or low self-esteem.
What do we do as tarot readers if or when our clients aren’t being wholly honest with us? What do we do when a client has so thoroughly conditioned themselves to inhabit the social façade that they publicly present, that it’s hard to see the real person sitting right in front of us?
It can be a dilemma. Because…who are we reading for? The personality of the public face/façade? Or the forgotten “real” person underneath all that acting? How do you know whether the person sitting in front of you wants to be seen-through, wants to be discovered, wants you to unmask him or her for who they really are? Or whether this false façade is actually someone that he or she aspires to be…and that they really want you to reaffirm for them, for their ego, for their “relief” of escaping who they really are?
I’m not talking about split personalities here… I’m just talking about people trying to make their way the best way they know how, by putting their best act forward in this highly meritocratic socially-constructed society. If that means telling little white lies…or embellishing their best assets in order to relieve the anxiety of low self-worth or of needing to belong… Well, as a tarot reader, “who am I to judge?” as the saying goes.
This may be one of those instances where a distinctive difference exists between the professions of clinical psychology and tarot reading. I think in the long-term and recurrent session format of the clinical setting, it may be important for the therapist to dig down and discover the real, true person beneath those layers of public presentation… It’s likely essential towards finding resolutions or discovering realistic options for moving forward.
…Which is not to say that it might not be important in the tarot session as well. But as mentioned in this series previously, the tarot reading session has a much shorter evaluation time-frame to explore such scenarios.
In such cases, you may find that your intuitive abilities become much more relevant in gauging whether to breach past the client’s public façade and discover who they really are…but you’d better be certain that your intuition is on the right track.
Ultimately it is the duty of the tarot reader to assist clients in making their own best decisions…and it is entirely possible that living with this not-entirely-true public personae is the best choice for the client in the here-and-now. That decision has to be respected; it’s the client’s right to decide.
Hopefully, you—as the reader—are able to create an environment of openness, honesty, and acceptance during your reading session that allows the client to drop their shields, and be his or her truest self with you. I think that we, as readers, have a responsibility to practice that kind of receptivity, to practice creating a climate of grounded-ness and acceptance of the “other,” the stranger, the wayfarer. If we are open to empathy, then we have to be able to accept the other as they wish to present themselves to us…warts and all…perhaps even little white lies and embellishments and all…
Now, it doesn’t evade my notice that as I write this post—there are similarities that I am describing in people who may or may not be ready to publicly “out” themselves as gay or lesbian or transgender or non-hetero-normative-conforming. And I think there are a lot of similarities in such situations. In other words, it may behoove a clinical therapist, in the long term, to help assist a patient to accept his or her sexuality as a means of improving life quality overall through the act of living honestly with oneself and one’s sexuality.
The tarot reader, however, has no right in a 45-minute reading session to espouse the progressive-righteousness and liberating freedom that might result in convincing someone to publicly announce their homosexuality. The reader might have their suspicions and use every indicator or context clue to prove their advocacy and embracement of the LGBT community and individuals, and try to remove any barriers to any such confusion,…but the decision to publicly come out lies solely with the client in question.
A reader simply can’t know all the details of the client’s circumstance and environment in a 45-minute reading (without being told) and what the dangers to the client might be in taking such an action. The reader’s job is to create a safe space…not a safe world (act globally by acting locally). Be conscious of your actions, and remember: “harm none.”
That said, we can all pray for a world where gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals will no longer have to feel unsafe, or feel the sting of discrimination, or feel ashamed for simply being their true selves.
A blessed Pride Month to everyone.
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.