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…*
The farther one reads into Dr. Yalom’s book, the more one realizes that he touches on similar or recurring themes multiple times. This has made reviewing his themes and topics on a chapter-by-chapter basis a little bit of a challenge. In this blog post I am covering anecdotal topics that Yalom covered in both Chapter 13 (“The Therapist Has Many Patients; The Patient, One Therapist”) and in Chapter 30 (“Revealing Your Personal Life—Caveats”).
In both of these chapters, Yalom edges towards the topic of the phenomenon of transference and projection. In previous blog posts regarding Dr. Yalom’s book, I’ve talked about the patients’/clients’ tendency to project a sense of magic, mystery, and giving the therapist/tarot reader an undue amount of authority. In my mind (and experience), the best tarot-reading policy is to try to dissuade the client from such ideas. Because—if the whole point is to empower the client, and have them understand that the power for change and the power to make decisions is their own, then transferring power to an omniscient tarot reader doesn’t make much sense. And subsequently, tarot readers who thrive on being anointed with their clients’ projections of magic and authority are not only doing a dis-service to clients—by robbing them of their power—they are also damagingly enabling their own inferiority complexes by accepting that bestowal of magic and authority.
Frankly, I get more satisfaction from helping someone else find their “A-ha!” moment than I ever would stealing thunder from them with false prophesy. But that’s just me. There’s also so much more thrill in the collaboration of ideas between a reader and a client when the client has more involvement and investment in the reading—it’s like the thrill of performing in a duet with another musician, rather than just regurgitating the same scales and trills over and over again while you practice on your own instrument. Simply rehashing your tarot definitions by rote and calling them oracular…gets stale. But collaborating with your client and conceiving complimentary ideas and expounding on themes of opportunity and vision that bounce from one brain to another in tandem—that’s evocative and inspiring!
But here are some caveats about complimentary or collaborative (therapeutic) tarot reading…
While discussing personal information regarding the client’s reading, you have the definite responsibility of confidentiality outside of the reading session. But clients? …not so much. Clients are likely to want to expound on their new-found insight with their friends and associates later—especially if the reading was profound. But even when the reading wasn’t so brilliant, what do you think the first thing is that their friends and family are going to ask when they get home and walk through the door after a tarot reading?
…”How was your experience at your tarot-reading session?”
And you can bet that those clients are gonna share the details. Forget Yelp…your reading session is more likely to make the rounds through word of mouth for sure. Whether you want it to or not…
And so what’s that client going to have for fodder in his or her review of your tarot session? …Everything that was on the table…INCLUDING any personal information that you might have been inspired to reveal during the reading in order to compliment ideas that were discussed, or that you were using to illustrate a point. I’m not saying DON’T use examples from your personal life or talk about personal stories that might help your client relate to the ideas you’re trying to convey. I’m just saying—be careful of the personal things that you reveal, because unlike your confidentiality clause and zipped lip regarding information from the tarot session, your client has no such binding rule. Besides being tactful about you personal revelations, make sure you aren’t putting yourself in jeopardy with the personal information that you reveal about yourself.
There’s a difference between “authenticity” and revealing too much personal information.
The focus of the session is supposed to be about the client anyway, so remember to keep that in perspective during your readings, and when you think you need to relay that mortifying story about your own family reunion as a cautionary tale. …That story might have its own secondary cautionary lesson to be learn from if your client goes blabbing about it to everyone she knows!
This gets to another point… Projection works two ways. Your client might be projecting the idea of mysticism and authority onto you as a reader…but it’s just as easy to project an “everyman” personae onto your client. In other words, “the [client] only has one [reader] while the [reader] has many [clients]** and it becomes easy to allow that singular-multiplicity dynamic/paradigm to influence one’s perceptions. There might be a little bit of that conflating inferiority complex that contributes, but as Yalom analogizes, it’s more akin to the “teacher has many students but the students have only one teacher”-type of scenario. It becomes easy, sometimes, to conglomerate one’s clients as “the clients” as opposed to individuals with independent concerns, each with their own particular shadows and particular influences.
Inevitably, the individual client is going to have a far greater cerebral and memorable experience of the session event than you—the reader—because you will ultimately be heading on to your next client…and your next client…and your next client…and your next, while that individual you read for first is going to ruminate on his or her experience with you for some time to come. It’s the nature of the business (just like with the teacher-students dynamic).
The best we can do is be sensitive to a client’s need for attention and individuation.
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.
**In quotations taken from Dr. Irvin Yalom’s book that are presented here, some terms are exchanged in order to make their pertinence relevant to the art of tarot reading. In particular, “therapist” is often replaced with “tarot reader”; and likewise, “patient” is often replaced with “client” or “querent.”