78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's Not The Hand, It's How You Play It
I sometimes wonder, when I read tarot for someone, do they feel annoyed because I always seem to hone in on the card in their reading that says, "While you may not have control over this, you do have control over that, therefore you should...." While many find that kind of advice helpful, there are others that just skip past that part and focus on the outcome or future prediction.  There's a reason I focus on the Advice card rather than the Outcome. The reason is Locus of Control.  Your locus of control may change the outcome.

I think many people choose to get a tarot reading because they are feeling some lack of control in some area of their lives and they want to look ahead and see what's coming around the bend.  There are many things that happen to us that are outside our immediate control and they can be worrisome.  But there are things that only seem as if they are outside our control that can be brought into our control if we adjust our thinking and then our actions.  At minimum, even if we cannot control the situation itself, we can control our own responses to it. 

If one has a strong external locus of control, they believe much that happens in life is chance, luck, or misfortune.  A strong internal locus of control is more self-determinate and believes that you pretty much get what you give and act upon.  Most of us fall more toward one end or the other of the spectrum, but few are die hard extremes.  This article by John A. Johnson, Ph.D., Life as Poker illustrates well the middle road locus of control and how we try to mitigate the uncomfortable feelings that come with a lack of control over significant things in our lives.  Believing in reincarnation, for example, is one way people explain injustice, cruelty and poverty.  By positing that we choose our next incarnation for spiritual learning purposes helps us breathe a sigh of relief when we are faced with inexplicable human tragedy.  By theorizing that we attract everything we experience into our lives by our vibrations is also a conscious shift to fairly extreme internal locus of control.  It feels better to believe we are in control, in some way, of most if not all that happens to us.  In fact, scientific studies are revealing that when people feel less control, they are more inclined to superstitious thinking and behaviors.  Lack of control also contributes to stress and  there is more than enough evidence that stress contributes greatly to a lack of health and well being. 

These studies support what I have thought all along: that a sense of lack of control predisposes a person to believe in tarot as a vehicle for fortune-telling.  That belief is neither right or wrong, but it, along with feeling more of an external locus of control in the given situation, is often what will compel a person to get a reading.  Given that a stronger internal locus of control contributes to a better outlook on life and less stress, finding that card in the reading that can shift that locus of control more to the internal side of the scale is often a crucial key in changing a situation's outcome. 

But locus of control is only one factor.  Another is self-efficacy.  A person who is looking to quit smoking, for example, may fully believe and understand that smoking cigarettes is completely within their own control, but not believe they are capable of following through on cessation.  Knowing something is within your control but not believing you can do what is required to make something happen is less about thinking fate or chance has the power but that you lack the power, so resignation and/or acceptance of something you wish you could change but can't sets in.  Which is why even when that Advice card is really helpful, we don't always follow it and the outcome happens anyway. This lack of self-efficacy can also impact us in situations that truly are outside our control as well.  Using the poker analogy, one may likewise feel a lack of confidence in one's abilities to play the cards "right" or in such a way that will yield success.

Here's an opportunity to dig a little deeper.  So if the cards show a recommended course of action that you know would be helpful but you really don't feel inspired to follow, throw some additional cards seeking how to get to that place.  Locate the block and the wedge that will split that block wide open.  Maybe there is some inspiration to be found.  What do the cards have to say about that?  Where is the resistance inside and why is it there?  In pop star Rihanna and rapper Eminem's new single, Love the Way You Lie, Part II, the lyrics reveal there is more to an abusive relationship than one may see, there may be addiction, love, stubbornness, and attraction from both sides.  When someone knows that change is needed but is unwilling to act to make the change happen, more is going on under the surface than simple good advice can fix.  The Advice card, therefore, can be a stepping stone rather than a resolution.  It can act as catalyst to find the answers inside of you that will bring you to a deeper understanding of the choices you made and continue to make that, along with the choices others make (outside of your control) conspire to create this situation at hand.  You may find, for example, that you really don't enjoy playing poker and don't want to learn the best way to manage your hand.  You decide (a decision is in your control) you'd rather just allow others to continue to control your life's circumstances so you can conveniently blame others for your misfortune, even though you're a really good person and don't deserve all this mess.  Good luck just wasn't "in the cards" for you.  I honestly don't know anyone for whom that sounds appealing.

I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle.  We acknowledge there are external forces outside our control that impact and influence our lives, sometimes for good, sometimes not.  While there may be nothing we can do about those events, we can proactively choose the perspective with which we view the events as well as our active responses to them.  While we may not be able to control how we feel about an event, we can express our feelings in productive ways that strengthen rather than weaken us.  So even in the midst of feeling a lack of control, there are ways to take control of some aspect of yourself or the situation so that you gain a better foothold on the path you're on.  Most of us know we actually are in control of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.  Following the path of least resistance often leads us to just coast along without direction, even though we know we could change course if we wanted.  For example, if I am unhappy at my job but continue to go to work every day, month after month, year after year, without actively putting out resumes and queries into other work, because the effort to look for another job seems like too much on top of the effort I'm already expending at the job I hate, I am acknowledging that I could change my situation but I'm not willing. If I complain that I am too fat to fit into my clothes but refuse to either exercise or buy new clothes, I am simply going to be unhappy with myself and my clothing.  Why we do this to ourselves for extended periods of time, I don't know.  I've done it.  We all do it from time to time.  Then one day we get an Ace of Wands up our butts and do something different and actually make a change.  If I could bottle Ace of Wands energy and sell it, I'd be a millionaire.

The whole purpose of my tarot reading is to help one increase their internal locus of control.  Come to a reading feeling a lack of control, leave the reading feeling you've gained some control or at least a perspective or plan on how to gain more.  Some may say I'm working myself out of a job, for if only people who feel a lack of control seek out a reading, then helping people empower themselves by shifting to an internal locus of control is counterproductive to my earning a living reading tarot.  Not so.  Tarot's usefulness extends beyond this.  Knowing one has control but not being sure which choice to make often leads people to a tarot reading.  The desire to identify internal blocks and the best means to break them also prompts tarot readings.  Sometimes the reading itself serves as Ace of Wands in a can and prompts someone to act on their own behalf.  But my aim is always to push a bit further into that internal place where one's own Ace of Wands need igniting and provide the match.