Building Resilience with Tarot: An Excerpt from Holistic Tarot
Adapted from Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen.
Using Tarot to Build Resilience
Building personal resilience and crisis management tools is a broad topic and not one specific to tarot—but the Seekers who are most inclined to consult a tarot practitioner are typically ones who are troubled. Any little measure that you, the practitioner, can take to guide a Seeker to build resilience should be pursued, though be fully aware that you do not assume the role of a licensed counselor, especially if you are not one. Your role is to remind the Seeker of the wisdom and insights into crisis management that the archetypes of tarot can offer.
It is said that resilience is the secret to crisis management. Resilient people have seven characteristics in common:
- Optimism. Resilient individuals exhibit a positive attitude and optimistic outlook.
- Confidence. They believe in themselves and their own capabilities.
- Humor. They are able to smile, laugh, and find humor even in the wake of tragedy. They can laugh at themselves and at their situation.
- Expression. Resilient individuals have the ability to express their emotions.
- Focus. They focus on taking baby steps toward their goals and are able to plot a road map from vision to goal.
- Connections. They foster strong social connections and reach out to them when in need.
- Devotion. No matter how busy they are, they will make time to take care of themselves, i.e., eat healthy, exercise regularly, maintain their spiritual or religious practices, etc.
When crisis hits our lives, our pain and struggle indicate that the status quo approach is insufficient and other components must be introduced or reinforced. Oftentimes a tarot reading can help enlighten us as to which of the seven components are missing or weak. Crisis can be thought of as 20 percent materiality and 80 percent perception. Thus, managing your perception of the situation is more than half the battle.
Applying tarot analytics through the framework of the above seven characteristics can help a Seeker with the process of diagnosing a crisis and identifying what needs to be done, and even formulating contingency plans. Follow-up tarot readings can then be used to help the Seeker monitor his or her progress of actions. By scheduling follow-up tarot readings about the crisis, the Seeker is effectively assuring that he or she will maintain the momentum and focus to drive out of the crisis.
When certain cards appear in a spread, consider how those cards reflect the seven characteristics for resilience, and which are notably lacking in the Seeker. In analyzing a crisis situation through tarot analytics, often card reversals will suggest latent energies that need to be brought out into the limelight by the Seeker. The card reversals can suggest potential or inactive characteristics that the Seeker must activate in order to manage the crisis.
The Seven Characteristics of Resilience
While the Death card may not initially seem to indicate optimism, it does. Death is about a painful transitioning period, but once the transition or transformation is made, all will be better. Thus, when the Death card appears the Seeker should be reminded to be optimistic, as resilience is built from a positive attitude and eyes on the bright sunrise ahead.
The Star card in reverse suggests pessimism in the Seeker as a root cause of the problem, so when it appears, remind the Seeker that he or she must embody the traits of the Star upright, and be more optimistic and hopeful in his or her own outlook. The Sun card in reverse can indicate a delay in success, so the Seeker is urged to remain persistent and keep positive because the endurance of that optimistic energy is needed before the Seeker can attain his or her goals.
A critical element of resilience is confidence. While optimism is a trust in the good to come to the Seeker from the cosmos, confidence is the Seeker’s trust in him- or herself. Confidence is the certitude in one’s own abilities. It is what allows us to envision our success and then execute fully toward that success.
When the Magician card appears in reverse, it could be an indication that the Seeker needs to build his or her confidence or needs to regain empowerment. The Emperor upright would suggest a great deal of confidence, authority, and empowerment, but in reverse, can hint at the potential characteristics of the Seeker that need to become kinetic. The Strength card is self-explanatory. The Queen of Swords, upright or reversed, also shares the theme of confidence.
Resilient individuals are able to laugh at themselves and to laugh in the face of an otherwise dire, tragic situation. Humor is healing. Cards like the Fool or the Page of Wands bring light humor into our lives, and when they appear surrounded by more severe cards, these cards suggest the glimmer of light inside the Seeker that must now shine out. When the Fool or the Page of Wands appear in reverse, they could be a reminder to the Seeker to call back his or her childhood essence, to see the world with humor again.
While more prominently a card about childhood and nostalgia, the Six of Cups can also indicate humor and sentimentality. When it appears, it is a reminder to the Seeker to put a smile on his or her face. To some extent, the Seven of Swords is also about humor, about a person of unconventional mannerisms. There is a jester component to the Seven of Swords that reminds us to stay light on our feet, no matter the circumstances.
Having an outlet for expressing pain is crucial for resilience and, for many, crucial for maintaining one’s sanity. Typical artist cards like the three of Pentacles and Eight of Pentacles, while more pertinent to craft as a profession rather than mere expression, can often reveal outlets for expression. The suit of Cups is the suit of human expression, and the court cards of the suit remind us to be expressive. A Cups court card often appears in reverse and takes on a figurative meaning for Seekers who are in need of expressing themselves, people who have been bottling their feelings. Such Seekers should thus be encouraged to use outlets of expression to get the pain out of their systems.
When a Seeker is going through a crisis and consults a tarot practitioner for a reading, the practitioner should use the opportunity to remind the Seeker of the importance of expression. Expressing one’s pain through the arts helps tremendously with coping. Oftentimes when the question is about how the Seeker can cope with emotional pain, many Cups cards will appear in the spread, suggesting the need for expression.
When the Chariot appears in reverse in a reading, it could indicate that one of the reasons for the Seeker’s troubles is a lack of focus. The Seeker’s personality and desires are dispersed in too many directions and he or she must channel them in a focused way to meet the objective. The two yang aces, the Ace of Wands and Ace of Swords, also denote focus, so when they appear in reverse they suggest a Seeker who is insufficiently exercising his or her will and determination. The Eight of Wands is another card about focus. Upright, it can indicate that focus is a key point for the Seeker. Reversed, it can indicate that the Seeker is too passive and needs to be more driven.
Cards that denote focus in a reading urge the Seeker to be persistent and to push forward with baby steps. They can indicate stagnation as the main culprit and thus, by identifying what Seeker is not doing correctly, can help the Seeker move forward.
A strong human support network is critical for crisis management. When we are alone with our pain, our pain intensifies and we have no other energies of warmth around us to help absorb some of our negativity. If the personal aura is weak, it is critical to be around stronger, more positive auras, to borrow another’s strength for a while, until we are able to generate our own.
Oftentimes a Seeker will be in trouble, but will not have told anyone in his or her life about the troubles. As a result, the Seeker is dealing with the pain alone and the solitude has in fact exacerbated the trouble. In these cases, cards may appear that urge the Seeker to reach out and get help or support from loved ones.
The Two of Cups suggests friendship or connection. While it generally denotes a romance with a strong foundation of friendship, it can also take on the meaning of a best friend or confi dante, a single other peer who is there for us. The Two of Cups is about connecting with our soul mate. The Tthree of Cups suggests friendship or connection in a group of friends, often of the same gender. Most prominently, it denotes sisterhood and female companionship for female Seekers. The Six of Cups is about connections to our past. The Ten of Cups suggests family connections. It may remind the Seeker of his or her strong familial support and the value of reaching out to them now in the Seeker’s time of need.
Note how the Three, the Six, and the Ten in the suit of Pentacles resonate with the connective messages of the Three, the Six, and the Ten in the suit of Cups, previously discussed. The Three of Pentacles is about connecting to our professional peers or our professional establishment. The Six of Pentacles is about connecting to other social classes. Philanthropy is not often thought of as a social connection, but when one is lonely or troubled, an effective way of assuaging those troubles is through charity work. By being a benefactor, you bring goodness into your life. Thus, the Six of Pentacles could suggest that a Seeker consider volunteer work, or adopt a personal mission or philanthropy. The Six of Pentacles can indicate our connection with society. The Ten of Pentacles is about connecting to family or forging familial alliances for mutual gain.
I have synthesized several crisis management concepts under the component “devotion.” Studies have found that resilient individuals who successfully navigate through crises have faith. That could be a spiritual or religious faith, or it could be faith in their abilities to endure through the darkness. That is different from confidence, which is a trust that the Seeker can accomplish what he or she sets out to accomplish. Faith is a trust that the Seeker has in his or her own greater purpose.
A secondary component to devotion is devotion to personal health and wellness. I have connected health and wellness to faith because faith begets a natural inclination to treat the body as a temple and care for it. So, for example, when the Temperance card appears in reverse, or the Four of Swords, or Five of Pentacles, the Seeker should take better care of his or her body and mind. The Hierophant can suggest the need for spiritual or religious faith, and Temperance can suggest personal balance, the need to observe healthier personal habits to restore temperance of the body. The Four of Swords is also a red flag to the Seeker to pay more attention to his or her health and well-being.