Most mental health issues can be traced back to the self, and how we relate to it. For instance, a deflated sense of self might make it difficult for one to set boundaries with others; an overly inflated sense of self might make it difficult for one to understand the experiences of others; and a negative sense of self could keep one caught up in a cycle of destructive patterns and pain.
It’s important that we know who we are on certain levels; the things that matter most to us, what we value, what brings us joy and what’s likely to bring pain. The way we relate to others as connected yet separate individuals is the foundation for a lifetime of interpersonal relationships.
To an extent, the Seven of Wands is about our ability to define who we are and our willingness to defend that definition. In many situations, this is a perfectly fine interpretation and it typically serves the querent well in readings.
But there’s also a dark side to this idea of knowing the self. Our beliefs about who we are have the potential to hold us hostage.
For instance, I often say that I’m an introvert and I use that label to justify declining invitations to things. When I go out I often feel uncomfortable because I have a hard time relaxing with my critical inner voice telling me that everyone thinks I’m weird.
Putting myself neatly in the introvert box has enabled me to avoid the fact that I actually feel really uncomfortable in my skin in most social situations. Because I’ve avoided that discomfort, I’ve never dealt with it. So in this box I’ve stayed. The Seven of Wands card asks me to be brave now and break out of it. And if you look at the card, it literally looks like someone breaking out of a jail cell.
This card says: Identify the boxes you’ve built around yourself. If they’re stifling you, prepare to tear them down.
The Seven of Wands is kind of like a big yellow sign asking you to take caution when working with ideas about the self. It’s healthy to spend time finding out what matters to you, but you must do so with an attitude of flexibility, or you risk getting stuck.
Think about the ways you define your self. If you were filling out a dating profile what would you put in the About Me section? How many of the things you say about yourself are fixed traits, and how many are subject to change?
Taking it a step further, ask yourself if any of the beliefs you hold about who you are keep you stuck, or stifle your growth. What boxes are you putting yourself in and how are they limiting you? Boxes can be jobs, titles, relationships, beliefs about who we are, ideas about what we are and aren’t capable of. Boxes show up when we start saying things like “I always do this,” or “I could never do that.”
Now, take all of this with the understanding that humans are actually predisposed to want to label and categorize things because we crave closure. Our low tolerance for ambiguity makes us label ourselves and others, mostly to feel like we’re in control over things we probably aren’t at all in control of. When we can’t box or categorize or label, we tend to feel unsettled, like strangers in a strange land. And when we can’t label others we may feel threatened, or unsafe.
And yet, the complexity of our brains make it so that most of us are actually insanely ambiguous beings. We make choices in life because of our obsession with closure, but in reality we are constantly conflicted, perpetually wanting and not wanting, pulling and pushing, coming and going, all at once.
As Jamie Holmes, author of Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing writes:
We always think we’ve settled into ourselves and we’re always wrong.
Because so many of the things we attribute to our core identity are in reality constantly shifting and transforming, this attachment to the idea of “settling in” to one self and staying there can be counterproductive. And rigidly clinging to ideas about who we are becomes particularly problematic when we don’t actually like who we believe we are, or when who we believe we are holds us back.
The very idea that the self is a fixed set of characteristics, tastes, and personality traits may be one of the biggest threats to our freedom. Instead of latching on to a sense of self that is rigid, commit to being a work in progress. And remember: The true self is not available for praise or criticism.
Tarot Tuesday is a weekly series focused on engaging the intuition, considering what matters most, and encouraging fresh perspectives. For more information about booking a tarot session (in-person or via Skype), go here.