Hope through Tragedy

Today’s blog is inspired by a friend going through a very difficult time who suggested I write about enduring hope when I requested a topic. This blog is for her and everyone traversing their own version of tragic circumstances.

What is hope?

Hope is an archetype….an archetype called The Star, according to the ancient wisdom of the tarot.

Archetypes are the collective instinctual drives we all share in common and inherit the moment we are born, according to Jung.

Archetypes are the gods and goddesses, according to the ancients and indigenous people.

Whichever way you want to see archetypes, see them as sentient energies that live in their own place and this is the place we all birth from on a soul level. The collective unconscious is our mother birthing the individual psyche. The archetypes are transpersonal helpers, instincts, forces, and beings.  Hope is a goddess, a god, a sentient energy, and a collective instinct.

Hope is the “light when all lights go out” as said in Lord of the Rings when Frodo is trapped by a deadly giant spider and needs the light of hope to literally not die.  Victor Frankl wrote a book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he links feeling hope to the chances of survival for concentration camp victims in Nazi Germany. Could this really be true? Could hope keep us alive?

What we endure as humans is beyond rational comprehension…

From the natural tragedies of break-ups, death of loved ones, illness, and sudden losses of all sorts….to the diseased type of tragedies that stem from multigenerational trauma and systemic oppression such as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, prejudice, poverty, and mistreatment of humans, animals, and the planet on many levels….human life and tragedy are bound together.

You cannot answer why on a spiritual level without finding a lesson in the darkness. When you endure hope through tragedy you come out the other side of it with more compassion, more liberation, more knowledge, more love, more understanding. This is a truth of human kind.

When you collapse into tragedy with a sense of doom, blame, punishment, despair and resentment you come out the other side more bitter, closed off, abusive to self or others, hateful, and sick. This is also a truth of human kind.

I want to be careful here and say that every feeling needs an outlet. Hope is not turning a frown upside down. It is not putting a positive spin on a terrible situation. Horrible experiences happen. Unfair circumstances happen. Nobody should spiritually bypass the feelings of anger, despair, resentment, rage, and resignation (among many other feelings) by saying, “this tragedy is meant to be because it will make me stronger, wiser, loving, and aware.”

The process is key and the journey is everything. Feelings are like poop and like chemical storms. What happens if you don’t let yourself poo because you tell yourself it is wrong or bad to poo? What happens if you try to stop a raging hurricane? You can’t stop a storm and not letting yourself poo will make you sick.

All feelings need time and space to be honored and felt.  The key to moving feelings out of the body is to not wrap a mental story around the feeling. Feel the resentment when your partner betrays you but don’t tell yourself you are piece of shit and it’s your fault or whatever the story may be. Keep stories off the feelings and use your mind to keep repeating, “I feel resentment” as you find a way to express it.

Express feelings through exercising, making art, acting, singing, venting to a friend, dancing, cooking, cleaning…find your way and let the feeling out purely without a narrative of why and what the feeling means.

I promise you, the feeling will pass as every storm and every bowel movement does. I am being crude on purpose. Negative feelings are crude. They are not elegant and they don’t smell good but they still need to be honored and let out.  If you let your feelings out you won’t spiritually bypass them with answers, solutions, reasons, meaning-making. Even the best of tools can be used for harm.

Karma, which is simply the accumulation of feelings that are not released from the body (due to stories or what the Buddhists call “attachments”), can be turned into a scolding and judgmental concept when you say, “I won’t feel my anger because I don’t want to create karma.” If you don’t want to create karma, feel your feelings fully and let them pass through.

Astrology is a great tool that can also be used the wrong way if you won’t let yourself feel despair by saying something like, “I have a Scorpio eighth house moon so despair is in my chart.” The tiniest bit of reasoning, no matter how true, can shut the actual feeling off.

Many therapeutic modalities do this too. Re-framing, a cognitive-behavioral technique of turning a negative story into a positive story, may shut off a feeling of anger that needs to surface and be released. It is best to first release the feeling and then re-frame the story.

The point I want to make is that all tools in the spiritual-psychological-self-help tool box can be misused. Take positivity for example. Positivity is not about only feeling and thinking positive thoughts. For that secretly judges and scolds negativity and the act of judging and scolding is extremely toxic. True positivity is remembering that all feelings are innocent when felt and expressed purely.

The truth of how the human body works is that honored and expressed feelings leave the body and cause no harm. When feelings collect in shadow they change over time. They putrefy and create bigger uglier monsters that erupt as chronic illness, projections, neurosis, and imbalances of all forms.

When negative feelings are honored and expressed they leave the body and hope has room to enter. Hope needs room to enter. Hope wont bludgeon its way into the heart.

Why some people have an easier time feeling hope while others struggle to feel hope is part mystery and part rational. The mystery roots down into temperaments. We all have a temperament. No need to judge yourself if your temperament is not very hopeful. I am sure you have another archetypal instinct pouring through you in spades.

Every human is a unique finger print of qualities and this is not in our control. The mystery owns our temperament.

Yet even the most hopeless temperament may experience hope because hope is an archetype we all connect with in the collective unconscious or spirit world. Every. Single. One of us.

Sometimes it takes a little work, which leads to the rational understanding part. If you struggle to feel hope due to your temperament, due to struggles internal or external, or due to being pummeled by tragedy all at once…you can do two things to invoke hope.

First, you can stop rejecting your feelings with judgements and make the dedication to feel your feelings without a story wrapped around them. You may get help doing this with a therapist or healer, a friend, or even a pet. Maybe being with spirit in solitude or in nature is helpful.

Feeling your feelings without stories may take a while. Patience is not easy but needed. For most of us have been told by culture, family, or both that negative feelings are bad and wrong and we experience literal cut-off from feelings as a result. Many of us instead find refuge in various addictions and distractions such as drinking, working, working-out, over-analyzing, focusing on others in service, partying, escaping through drugs, eating, shopping, etc.

But it’s every human’s birthright to reconnect to our feelings. Everyone is capable.

Another aspect to check is the story showing up as identity.

Maybe you identify too much with despair, depression, resentment, etc. Identification is when it’s not really despair you are feeling, it’s the story of despair you are telling yourself and have been your whole life.

You can tell the difference between a feeling and a story by seeing if you identify with it. If you identify with being a depressed person, chances are you have cut-off from many feelings due to being stuck in an identity. Feelings of anger and even self-empowerment may be longing to express but cannot get through the depressed story or persona.

Sorting out feelings from the story, starving out the stories, honoring and expressing the feelings is a process. Process is the most important part. Nobody can bypass their own process. For some it is quick, some slow… but for most of us healing moves in a spiral. We make progress then fall backward yet when we do we are a little wiser, a little more aware, a little more loving.

The second thing is you can invoke hope through ceremony and ritual.  The ancients and indigenous were very connected using ritual and ceremony to stay healthy. Arhcetypes such as hope speak to the conscious-self through images, sound, taste, movement, and feeling. The ancients and indigenous also understand that we are literally made of the elements (earth, air, fire, water, ether) and we may call upon them to ground and connect self to earth.

Whether you partake in a more formal ritual, alone or with a group, or whether you express ritual through making art, singing, listening to a song or a sermon…. ritual and ceremony simply means that you intentionally use your creativity, feelings and senses to invoke the archetypes.

It is everyone’s birthright to invoke hope.

Invoking may be as simple as lighting a candle and calling upon hope in meditation. It may be as elaborate as performing a sacred dance on the full moon after calling the directions, elements, angels, ancestors and allies.

Invoking hope may be as simple as singing a song that makes you feel hope. It may be as elaborate as writing a song about hope and performing in a hospice setting to inspire those close to transitioning into death.

You might find the perfect crystal and invoke hope into the crystal, wearing it over your heart each day.

Or perhaps you put your hands around every glass of water you drink and invoke hope into the water.

Hope does not ask for a specific kind of ritual or ceremony. Hope only asks to be acknowledged.

Many leaders have hope moving so powerfully through their hearts that they inspire everyone around them. Martin Luther King Jr comes to mind as a perfect example of this. Hope catches flame. You may not intend to call upon hope but hope finds you anyway.

Sometimes hope enters the body so strongly that it wipes out any blocks in the way and washes you clean. We have all experienced this through listening to song, watching a movie, being moved by a speaker, looking at a sunset, into a loved one’s eyes, or a work of art.

Hope is always available to us no matter how dense the jungle of tragedy, betrayal and injustice we are traversing. May hope find its way into your heart in your darkest night of the soul.

Tarot Card Medicine

Tarot cards may be used to predict the future and for healing. I have been a reader for about twenty seven years and professionally for about seventeen years and in my own practice, I have witnessed both aspects reveal through the cards. Not all readers use the cards to predict and many do not believe in prediction. I use the cards in service to the healing journey and if psychic predictions come through, I share them and include the sentence, “take this with a grain of salt, ” because I do not want to hold the power of an all seeing/knowing eye.

My intention is to be a very human ally and guide even if I channel psychic messages at times.

The way it works is that I connect with the divine/higher self/true self (whatever word works best for you to describe the transpersonal aspect). I channel messages using the cards as keys that unlock my unconscious to see into the unconscious and life of the client.

Sometimes I will channel a loved one who has passed or a specific soul guide. Sometimes I am given a picture of what is to come, usually in metaphor. The cards have predicted the endings and beginnings of relationships, lives, jobs as well as inner transformations/cycles for myself and clients for so many years that it does not seem like a big deal. Prediction is a very minor aspect of the Tarot’s medicine.

The medicine of Tarot is in their ability to illuminate what is hidden from the ego or conscious self. Many years ago, a Tarot client said to me, “you have uncovered in a half an hour what would have taken months in therapy”. My calling to bridge Tarot reading with therapy was sparked by her words. How often I have said in a reading, “this would be beneficial exploration for therapy.”  My desire is to be a messenger and a guide through the therapeutic journey.

I love using Tarot as a therapist. To be honest, I don’t see too much difference between these two roles. Every Tarot reader I know is a healer but the persona of therapist is more legitimized in our masculine-heavy culture. Although, there are many readers who are not healers in their soul-calling or their training. Point being, for those readers who are healers, the only thing separating them from having therapy clients is largely the way society does not legitimize the tarot reader as a healer. I have served on both sides of this fence and have a strong opinion, hence the diatribe. Back to the Tarot talk…

Tarot reveals different aspects of the unconscious. Archetypes, feelings, personality traits, vows, wounds, soul gifts, and the true self may be dwelling in the ocean deep of the unconscious. The magic of Tarot is when aspects are suddenly revealed to the  conscious self it…just feels right. The illumination feels so good, as if a missing piece has been returned to the whole. The illumination itself is healing. Though more than often, aspects emerge like tangled balls of yarn needing to be sorted out and understood. Family of origin, personality traits, vows, feelings, and multigenerational wounds create complexes and take time to process on a cognitive level.

Awareness and meaning-making is medicine for the conscious self while embodiment and expression is medicine for the unconscious self. What first brings unconscious content into conscious awareness are dreams, projections, triggers, creative expression, “freudian slips”/blurting out without awareness, ceremony/ritual, and images that speak directly to the unconscious, such as Tarot cards.

When aspects emerge from the deep you feel that relieving feeling of something missing that is returning even if it’s incredibly painful. We all crave integration. The great divide between the conscious and unconscious self is unhealthy and we long for wholeness. In therapy the sacred space to release and process what comes up and out is often painful. Just as often, joyful and confident parts emerge from the shadow, starving for the nourishment of conscious integration. Those of us who have over identified with the pain body relegate self-worth, self-love, and happiness into the shadow. Tarot cards illuminate all.

Another wonderful medicine of Tarot is the illuminating of one’s soul karma, purpose, and lessons. From the ego or conscious self’s vantage point, we seek the same basics; belonging, success, security, health and healthy relationships. But the soul does not seek these things. The soul seeks to fulfill its destiny, which is rooted in evolving its character as being spirit embodying as an individual self.

The soul is the meeting of spirit and matter.

For instance, the ego may want to experience success in work and experience suffering when success does not come over and over. But the soul may be wanting to evolve through learning how to let go of worldly success and to surrender to a deeper sense of fulfillment through unconditional love or the divine.

The ego may be attached to success as a way to validate its self worth. The client may come in with the problem of not being able to manifest success in their work life unaware of how their soul longs to feel self-worth through surrender to love. The cards will reveal this. Paradoxically, success in work may suddenly occur once this reversal of energy has taken place.

Everyone is at a different point on the journey with different soul lessons, purpose, callings. Tarot reveals the specifics.

Some people do not want to uncover in one session what might take months otherwise. Some people might not want a guide to tell them what is going on inside of them. For those who do not prefer this but still want to use the cards, I have them read their own cards. You do not need to logically understand the cards to read them. In fact, some of the best readings I’ve received were by those who never looked at a deck in their life.

By looking at any image or set of images, we speak directly with the unconscious. The client may do their own digging and meaning making.

Tarot cards may be used solely to explore the unconscious if the client does not believe in soul lessons, karma and the evolution of ensouled spirit. The cards may or may not be used to predict. They may or may not be used to understand the dynamics of relationships with others and the self. Tarot can be read as effectively by a novice as by an expert because intuition does not require practice to be strong and The Fool can bumble out unconscious wisdom through playfully making a story out of an image, without realizing it.