Acknowledging the Shadow through Tarot


This is a repost from my old blog, Witch Said What, and was originally posted in October of 2019.


One aspect that I really love about Tarot is the ability to heal. Oftentimes, clients come to me with questions about a situation or person that is weighing heavily on their heart. I love being able to walk them through their emotions, organize their thoughts, and offer advice--my own and the wisdom of the Tarot.

Self-care has been a term to become popular in the last couple of years. One of the most loving things we can do for ourselves is work on healing personal trauma, addressing unhealthy coping mechanisms and habits, and taking steps to ensure that we make our lives better than the day before.

This type of healing has a name: Shadow Work.

Carl Jung was a Swedish psychoanalyst that developed theories about the shadow. He surmised that all humans have a dark part of themselves, deep beneath conscious awareness.

He said:

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

Basically, from the time we are small, we are taught how to behave in everyday society. We are given rules and structure, set in place with the hope they will lead us to become healthy adults that function normally. However, some rules given might be more rigid than others or contradict that which society deems as routine. Or we may have experiences that prove to be far from normal.

This can cause personal and collective repression, and repression can give way to what is called cognitive dissonance, an uncomfortable and distressing mental state in which a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

It inevitably forms a disconnection between who we actually are and who we think we are. Thus, the shadow is born. Most people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms; they might compartmentalize traumatic experiences, or feel the need to disguise themselves with social masks. There's a lot that can happen that feeds this ticking time bomb that is the shadow. And it is our responsibility to address and acknowledge its presence so that it doesn't control our lives.

One way we can do that is by exploring shadow work.

(Note that this is by no means an alternative to seeking professional help. If you are struggling, please contact your doctor. Or check out this list of hotlines.)

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