Leave Unwell Enough Alone: My case against Tarot re-pulls

Leave Unwell Enough Alone: My case against Tarot re-pulls

Have you ever received (or given yourself) a Tarot card reading and while you understand the meaning of the reading, you want one more card (or several more cards) pulled to ‘clarify’ your situation? It’s time to ask this of yourself: are you looking for clarity or a different response? I’ve been there on multiple occasions: both with personal readings for myself and with clients. 9 out of 10 times, it doesn’t end well. In my experience, here’s why.

If we don’t have trust, we don’t have anything.

When we consult the Tarot or any divination tool, we enter the process with the understanding (I hope) that the experience is co-creative: we rely on our own discernment as well as our understanding of how the tool works best. We’re connected firmly to our sense of wisdom and self-awareness and we’re engaging with divination to help us better understand ourselves and the situation at hand. If we’re new to the Tarot, we may not yet fully understand the scope of how we co-create with the Tarot, and through practice and experience, this becomes more clear. Pro tip: If you’re a new reader, I’d encourage you to keep readings simple and straightforward to avoid overwhelm. I remember a first-time reader tell me their first card pull for themselves was a Celtic Cross entailing 10 cards — quite a complicated layout! That person didn’t come back to their deck for quite some time because of their sense of overwhelm. They chalked it up to “just not being good at this.” The lesson here is to trust oneself before consulting any divination tool, while also respecting the depth of feedback divination can provide.

Trust is essential when we work with divination tools. These are guidelines that I’ve developed to help me stay centered and focused while working with the Tarot. You are welcome to align with these while working with the Tarot too if it feels supportive:

  • We know the Tarot does not override our will, nor does it define us
  • We understand the Tarot is a tool created to support us, not control us or others, and we use it as such
  • We commit to looking and listening carefully when cards are pulled for ourselves and those we’re reading for
  • We fundamentally understand the complexity and richness of the Tarot and appreciate the many different indications each card can mean
  • We enforce healthy boundaries between ourselves and the Tarot: we do not overuse it; we do not place undue emphasis on the guidance it gives us; and we do not overburden the Tarot or ourselves as readers with the expectation to know all the answers
  • We enforce healthy boundaries between ourselves and our clients: we outline what we’re able to address and what lies outside our scope of expertise and experience

When we consult the Tarot, it’s wise to align our expectations accordingly. Once the reading has been given, if you or your client continue to search for a response that they can “hold on to,” or “make sense of,” we might ask: how did the Tarot (or the reader) miss the mark? Most of the time, the mark wasn’t missed. More likely, a few things could be occurring:

  • The question posed wasn’t sufficiently direct or succinct enough to provide a direct or succinct result (like attracts like)
  • The individual is being invited to consider elements of the situation that they may not wish to confront
  • There is an element of ‘searching’ that does not support the need to accept what’s on offer in the moment
  • Layering additional questions on top of a complete reading often adds to more confusion and can invite what I call in this case, “The Rabbit Hole Effect”: snowballing questions followed by snowballing responses, until the guidance of the original reading is watered down, marginalized or lost.

Let it sit.

How do we handle the snowballing of perpetual searching that oftentimes results in muddied waters and additional confusion? If I could scream this from the rooftops, I would: firm boundaries are key. Here are a few suggestions you can apply when this comes up with a client. If it’s a matter of self regulating as you read for yourself, create a system of healthy boundaries and work from there. We can feel pressured to please others when they seem unsatisfied: here are some suggestions that you are welcome to refer to:

  • Gently explain to your client your method and invite them to sit with the reading to see if it becomes clearer in the near future
  • Offer your client a follow up call that they can redeem in the coming days should they wish to gain more clarity on the reading that has been provided, not more card pulls on the same reading (I offer this regardless of whether a client feels like they need more clarity or if the reading feels complete at the time they receive it)
  • Invite your client to book another reading with you in the future after some time has passed to allow them to have a living experience with the reading you’ve provided

Discomfort isn’t necessarily bad

We all know the term ‘growing pains:’ the natural process in our evolution when we move from one stage of being to another stage of becoming. There is a big difference between discomfort and pain that causes us harm. I never advocate for inflicting pain on ourselves or others, nor do I ever advocate for putting ourselves in dangerous situations. The discomfort we’re examining here should only feel like a mild form of discomfort and never something that makes us feel unstable or unsupported. Within the realm of discomfort, not all discomfort is created equal, and to be clear, sometimes discomfort does signify danger: it’s vitally important for each individual to discern what is appropriate and what is not for themselves. The type of discomfort we’re exploring here relates to our response when moving outside of our comfort zone. As a reader, creating safe space for yourself and your client is vital to a successful and even pleasurable experience. That safe space includes room for discomfort. After all, not having enough room to grow results in constriction and restriction. In order to help ourselves and our clients grow, it’s beneficial to practice holding safe space, which is also held together by firm boundaries. Many times, clients come to us when there is a problem they’d like to solve, which underscores even further how important it is to create safe space bolstered by healthy boundaries: for your client’s sake as well as yours. And at the end of the day, if something isn’t sitting well, it’s not the end of the world. The Tarot, just like life, is fluid and ever-changing. This too shall pass.

Exceptions to every rule

The Tarot is a deeply rich system of analysis and exploration of the human condition. It’s always possible that the reading at hand could use a bit of tweaking and closer examination. Here are some check marks to review before closing a reading if a client is feeling lost or dissatisfied with the meanings of the cards:

  • Has the reader examined as many interpretations of the cards as possible to allow for at least one to resonate with the client? That’s not to say each and every interpretation needs to be shared out loud (which could lead to even more confusion or dismay), but as we agree that listening and looking carefully is essential when reading the Tarot, do your best to dive deep into the many facets of each card and using your knowledge and intuition, take a shot at two or three possible interpretations.
  • Does the question at hand exceed your expertise? We always want to determine this before the reading takes place but if it’s somehow been missed and has slipped through the cracks, this is an excellent time to offer a referral so your client can work with someone better suited to assist them. This is a key example of why I have a referral community. You may wish to build one, too.
  • Has the client been straight forward with their question? Have you been playing cat and mouse in trying to wrangle their question from them? This is another example of why it’s important to share your guidelines before engaging with a client so as to avoid expectations that cannot be met. It all depends on how you prefer to work, but I prefer working with clients who are willing to share their question in its entirety as I communicate whatever they disclose is confidential.
  • Perhaps the reader could use just a bit more practice. If you’re feeling in over your head or you need some support, feel free to refer to a guidebook or ask your client if you can pause for now and resume the reading at an agreed upon time so that you can brush up on your studies. Be transparent with clients about your experience level. It’s absolutely wonderful to be a beginner, but we don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking we’re an expert when we’ve only just begun.

Cards to keep in your corner

Decks pictured (cards upper left, upper right and bottom right): The Smith Rider Waite Tarot Deck; The Devil (bottom left): The Enchanted Tarot by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber

Each card in the Tarot invites us to examine more than one side to any situation because each card holds vasts possibilities for interpretation. While there are many cards in the Tarot that help us discern and enforce boundaries, I’ve selected a few that might feel familiar as boundary keepers as well as those that you might be surprised to consider as boundary keepers. These are also powerful allies for a client who is having a difficult time accepting the outcome of a reading or may need support in learning how to trust their own guidance. I always say to clients: keep what resonates and let go of what doesn’t. You may wish to share the wisdom of these cards if a client is struggling. You may also wish to keep one or more of these cards in mind or in physical form on your workspace or altar so they are present with you and serve as helpful reminders.

  • Queen of Swords (upper left): Firm mental boundaries; not letting our emotions carry us away and detract from making sensible decisions
  • Eight of Swords (upper right): Confining mental constructs we erect are often self-generated and self-limiting; create your reality through your thoughts; think outside of the box; discern between confining yourself as opposed to protecting yourself
  • The Devil (bottom left): Giving in to temptations can lead us down paths where our desires are met short term but our deeper needs are ignored; self-abandonment; choose yourself
  • Two of Swords (bottom right): Do not feel pressured to find a solution or make a decision; let obstacles work in your favor; slow down; self-reliance; be here now

Deepen your relationship with the Tarot

Would you like to further develop your relationship with the Tarot and practice relating to the “hard cards” in the Tarot? I offer a course designed to assist you in becoming comfortable with what is as we explore the depth and design of the Tarot.

Do you have favorite cards to work with when it comes to boundaries? How do you feel about card re-pulls? What happens for you when discomfort arises in a reading? Share what’s on your mind in the comments.

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