Reading Tarot when You’re Emotional

Very common advice you see in many tarot books and websites is: don’t do readings when you’re upset about an issue, or about an issue in which you’re emotionally involved. And when it comes to doing readings for other people, I think this is absolutely true. A tarot reader should have the responsibility of being an impartial observer.

But I don’t have others to read for right now. I’m not to the closed-book stage of my study yet, so I don’t feel comfortable asking to read for others, even if it’s only for practice or fun. I’m trying out a number of different spread and techniques, and, well, that means that sometimes I just have to break some of these “rules.”

When I’m perplexed by a problem or upset about an issue, sometimes I just pull out my cards, much like I would vent about my problems to a friend. If my friend is a good listener, he or she will just listen and mirror what I’m saying back to me. I think one of the goals of good listening is to listen to the person until they can hear themselves. I think we’ve all had the experience of venting to someone until we realize that we’re being too whiny or we’re boring or we just needed to get it off our chests and are done now. I’ve also had the experience of listening to friends’ problems, and then they suddenly say, “OK, I’m tired of complaining about this, sorry.” Good listening is valuable because it helps us listen to ourselves and begin to understand what we need, where we hurt, and where we’re deluded. Tarot is a very good listener.

So go ahead and do a reading while you’re feeling angry or hurt, but do it knowing that what it has to say may not be clear right away, or that you may interpret it very differently than a 3rd party would. Record the results, your interpretation of the cards, and let it go. Come back a day or a week later and look at it again. Sometimes this is an exquisite way of seeing how we delude ourselves!

This happened to me recently. I have a very good friend whom I love dearly, but goes through phases where they want to hang out with me all the time and have lots of physical contact, some of which I’m not comfortable with for personal reasons I won’t go into. I’m an introvert and always have been, and have also long had a pattern where I push people away when I feel they’re getting too clingy. So this dynaic is always a bone of contention between me and my friend. Anyway, my friend is going through one of those phases again and tried to test a boundary that I’d made clear I didn’t want to be crossed. So later I did a reading using a Dyadic Cross and in the card for the Heart of the Matter, I got Strength, reversed. I immediately read this as being about me not having strength–not setting boundaries firmly enough. I didn’t even recognize the situation as a boundary issue before the reading, but once I saw the card, I realized it was.

The next day, however, I did another reading about the situation–namely, how do I tell my friend what my boundaries are? The reading this time was very clear: I can’t solve this problem. My friend is coming from a good place and I can’t change them. This gave me a second reading of Strength, reversed: that I was unconsciously trying to solve a problem that wasn’t a problem and assuming I would need to apply force to the situation. I actually think both interpretations are right. I need to firmly but gently–like Strength herself closing the lion’s mouth–set my boundaries. At the same time, I can’t force my friend to be something they’re not. “I love you for who you are, but I cannot go to another social event with you this week.”

If I hadn’t done the spread while I was feeling more emotional, I would never have realized that my anger was about boundary issues. That was something that really needed to come to my conscious mind. But while I was in that emotional state, I was also deluding myself into thinking that I needed to “correct” the situation by directly confronting my friend and telling them why this was a problem and in the future would you please stop doing XYZ, etc. The second reading prompted me to understand the true meaning of Strength.

So this is what I would say: sure, do a reading about a topic while you’re emotional, but don’t expect it to make sense and don’t act on it right away. Come back when you’re level-headed and look at the spread again–were you right the first time, or were you deluding yourself, or both? Finding out where you’re deluding yourself is really important! Just like the friend who listens until you can hear yourself, the same tarot reading can both give you wisdom and show you where you’re not seeing clearly.

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