Pro Tarot: When Compassion Makes You Crazy
Many years ago, in my office in Central Village, CT, I had a client who asked me a question that stuck with me for years.
The question was, “My boyfriend just got out of jail for allegedly molesting a child. I need daycare. Do you think I should let my boyfriend watch my child while I work?”
I found the question shocking and scary. I answered it without consulting my cards.
“Of course not! Why take a chance with your child?”
Years later, I’ve come to believe that I handled this situation badly. I should have kept an open mind, and done the reading.
Somehow, at the time, honoring the question with a reading seemed like participating in, and propping up, a certain kind of unhealthy thinking.
Just this week, in a conversation online, I was reminded of this when another reader posted about a seemingly obvious question that she refused to read on, for much the same reason that I had refused to read on that question so many years ago.
Most professionals have specific go-to analyses and advices. If a doctor sees your jaw is swollen, she will automatically assume you have a dental issue. If a police officer sees you driving erratically, he will automatically assume you have been drinking. A marriage counselor may always advise communication. A physical trainer may teach the same exercise routine to people of similar age and gender.
Sometimes these assumptions do turn out to be erroneous. Nonetheless, these assumptions allow professionals to efficiently serve their clientele.
These sorts of assumptions do not often help tarot readers.
While we tarot readers develop theories about life and spiritual beliefs that inform our practices, I think we need to avoid those professional go-to assumptions. If we catch ourselves talking about cards, people or situations in definitive, sweeping terms like “always” and “never”, we have stopped being oracles and have started simply vomiting common wisdom.
I once knew a reader (thankfully no longer practicing) who, every time she read for a young girl in love, would put down the cards and launch into a pre-canned lecture about hormones, pheromones and neurotransmitters, and how the existence of these things proves there is simply no such thing as true romantic love.
While I have certainly met those who needed to understand the role biology was playing in their feelings and actions, this couldn’t have been sage wisdom for each and every young girl she read for.
Clearly, this older reader was coloring her readings with her jaded and unhealthy view, that love is impossible and nonexistent.
When I refused to do an actual reading for the client who wanted her ex-con BF to babysit, I was also inappropriately coloring my interaction with a client.
The social media friend who posted about refusing a reading said something that made me think. She said that the question she was asked made her angry out of concern for the client’s wellbeing.
This made me ponder the very few times in 25 years I have gotten angry at the tarot table. It happened, much to my dismay, just this past week, for the first time in many years.
Reading my friend’s comment made me consider something I had not thought of before.
It may be that we tarot readers, in our process of empathy, intuition, divination and communication, develop a strong desire for our clients’ happiness and wellbeing, perhaps because we can so clearly see their possible happy outcome.
When we see a client thinking or behaving in a way that feels unsafe and unwise, we sometimes get mad. I have often questioned what the trigger is for that anger. Now I realize it is compassion for the client, and frustration that we see they are making things harder on themselves.
While we are all human, becoming angry with a client for any reason doesn’t seem conducive to a good process. I know I have felt terrible the few times it has happened.
My desire for my client’s wellbeing and happiness is a good and natural thing. Most readers share that desire. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t do the work we do.
I think the mistake happens when we let our empathy for our clients become an attachment. Much like the physician who must accept their patience’s nicotine addiction, perhaps we must meet our clients where they are. We can suggest changes they can make, we can offer new perspectives, but we mustn’t attach to the idea that they have to change, or listen to us, or take our advice.
Many readers have complained to me about the clients who never seem to listen to them, but always come back with the same questions and problems.
It occurs to me that, not only must we release attachment to the hope that our clients will allow themselves to make positive changes, we must also never give up hope that they will, one day, heal.
Sometimes an addict must go to rehab many times before they really enter recovery. It took me many tries to quit smoking successfully.
Healing takes time and false starts, and people can’t heal until they are ready.
I think we tarot readers are at our best when we strive to be patient with people, and speak in gentle tones, rather than angry ones.
At the same time, the fact that our compassion for our clients is great enough to spark anger may be an important part of the psychic and energetic connection we make with them.
As in all things, balance is the key.