Three of Swords with Queen of Pentacles

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At some point in our lives… actually, at several points in our lives, we will hurt. We will feel loss or betrayal or heartbreak, maybe heartache. Sometimes it’s quite literal pain, the klaxon of neurotransmitters doing their job to warn the mind of our physical welfare being compromised.

Funny how we deal with these different aspects of pain in different ways, although in the simplest of terms, pain is pain. Pain hurts. When it comes to a cut or a burn we’ll readily bandage it or ice it, with fleet of foot reaction and response. Yet for some of us it gets a bit grey as to how we deal with physical pain that’s not visually discernible. Perhaps we tell ourselves it will go away soon enough. In many cases we’ll slip ourselves an analgesic and bypass the option of examining the cause of the pain.

Then we get to emotional pain, which may be the trickiest of them all. This is where all the crazy-making occurs. We may deny we’re hurting. We may suffer our sufferings, wanting the heartache to simply go away. We might put on our best game face or pull up our big girl panties or nut up and soldier on, believing we are bigger than the personal ache. We may even lash out at every and anyone that crosses our path.

In all actuality, the healthiest thing we can do is regard emotional pain the way we would address physical pain. For this example let’s consider a pain which has as its source some physical trauma. The pain serves as an immediate identifier of the source and location, we then apply a bandage or ice or some other appropriate treatment to mitigate the injury and prevent the damage from exacerbating.

With emotional pain we all too often try to push it away. We don’t seem to regard psychological hurt and trauma as serving as a warning the way we do the throb of a cut or burn or sprain. Physical pain is an indicator that a part of our body needs to be addressed and rebalanced. Emotional pain actually serves the same function, but it is pointing out the part of our life that needs to be redressed.

Just like our body cannot begin to heal until we’ve treated the trauma, nor can our mental hurt and emotional injury heal without addressing the traumatized area of our life. The best thing we can do is to acknowledge the pain, look it square in the proverbial eye and own it. We need to see our heartache as serving a function, as a way of asking us to examine the source of the pain, to be okay with the emotional discomfort and anguish even though we may despise it.

Emotional trauma is one of our greatest teachers when we allow it to do so. As long as we acknowledge it we can let it be our vehicle for something rewarding on the other side. If we continue to try to push it away or force it to abate, it will persists and mitigate our healing. We don’t have to like it, we just need to accept it and it will serve us in a positive way that may seem contradictory, but is profoundly healing.

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Three of Swords with Four of Swords

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

When I first drew these cards I was like, “Oh wow… two consecutive suits in a row!”. Cue Twilight Zone theme song. Then I was like “Aww…” due to the card on the left.

Here’s the thing about our friend the Tarot. The Tarot is not a party that never ends, where the flow of champagne springs from an endless fount, or the hookah of infinite hoses that has its bowl perpetually topped off, or the oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss beat of the dance floor that never stops as the DJ never goes home or needs to take a restroom break.

The Tarot has it’s Pooh’s Eeyores, it’s Gulliver’s Glums, it’s college campus buddy that fell backwards into the indifferent arms of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche after an ironically inspiring introduction during Philosophy 139. Its bristly cast-of-characters features players like Death, The Tower, The Devil, Nine of Swords, Ten of Swords, et. al. to come along and slap us around and grab us by the shoulders to give us a good hearty shake. They are assigned to deliver us the most obnoxious of wake-up calls when the electronic cawing of the alarm clock fails to jolt us out of our self-imposed fugue state.

I personally believe it is not aspiring to serve as the bearer of bad news; rather, it is lending its voice to bring a message during the invariable difficult times we experience as we travel the road of life. At some point we will encounter loss, devastation, heartbreak, and trauma. The only way to avoid this is to be the first one out, and most of us don’t necessarily wish to exercise that option.

There come times in our lives when we will find ourselves enveloped in sadness and hurt, where the footfalls of time seem to occur with centuries between one and the other. We shake our fist at time and its imposing inconvenience, as we wait for him to finish writing that check with his geriatric hand in the cashier’s line at the grocery store. We just want to race through our grief as quickly as possible and get to the other pain free side well ahead of the jackrabbit.

What we fail to see is that time is actually our friend. It is said that time heals all wounds, but it is more accurate to say that time tends our wounds to ensure they do not become infected and abscessed. All the distractions and diversions that serve to numb the pain of loss and trauma only serve to postpone it until they wear off, leaving us at the upper end of the 1 to 10 scale on the pain chart and a trail of damage left behind in the wake of our denial.

The bottom line is, we grow from these challenges. The pain of loss is a great teacher, and it can provide us with tremendous wisdom if we simply allow it to run its course and exhaust itself when it has fulfilled its function. When we do, we will find we have gained the ability to hold onto our gifts for greater periods than we were able to before.

Three of Swords with Five of Wands

The Witches Tarot By Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans
The Witches Tarot By Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Our emotions form the impetus for every intention we set. The choices we make in life are based on these very intentions set from specific emotions. When these emotions are heavy, dark, and difficult we often forget that the strife we experience is generated by the emotion. We believe the inverse to be true, attributing our hurtful disposition to the struggles we have been facing.

Heavy emotions such as heartache, loss, and depression can be more compelling than we realize. When we find ourselves in this state for long enough we can sometimes forget what it is like to feel joy. We may also feel deserving of our state of despondency, so when joyful moments come our way, we might believe we are not worthy of being happy, that we need to remain in our dark place.

As the pain of loss begins to subside over time, we can find ourselves out of balance for a moment, seeking the “devil we know”, the familiar state of sadness we had resided in for so long. When a sense of lightness shows itself in our lives, we unconsciously find ways to push it away. We will create challenges and adversities to invite conflict into our lives. We can become confrontational with those close to us that have helped us through dark times. We may unwittingly sabotage events that promise to yield positive results for us.

One of the most difficult things to do is to break this cycle of self-destruction. Believing we are victims of circumstance is the clever trap we create for ourselves to keep us in that oh-so-familiar state of despair. When we step back and acknowledge that we are the architects of the flow of events in our lives, we can more easily see that we are creating a state of conflict for ourselves as an easy means to pull ourselves back into a state of sadness that we know it is time to move through.