Claiming Your Personal Power

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I realize that today’s title sounds a bit like a new-age motivational gimmick, but it’s also the best way I can think of to summarize a journey I think that many of us are on, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not.

This past 9-12 months for me has been a period of profound psychological change and empowerment. It’s been “in the making” for a few years now, but I’ve found that deep change comes in fits and starts, in moments of racing forward with breathless energy and then hitting what feels like rock bottom once again. In the bigger picture, the lasting change is taking place over a long period of time.

Something I encounter a lot with clients is a desire to know how to take empowered action and make strong and confident decisions that are in their own best interests. For many reasons, many of us often relinquish our own desires, needs, voice, and personal path as we walk through our lives. The game of life means we must learn to effectively negotiate a balance between meeting our own deepest desires and following our own inclinations, while also living in relative harmony with all of the people around us who depend on us and who we also depend upon. Of course, the famous Joseph Campbell quote to “follow your bliss” must also take into account the practical and logistical restrictions of our lives that determine what is realistic and possible and what isn’t. Despite any restrictions, however, each of us has the right and responsibility to be true to ourselves and to express who we are.

A very wise man pointed out to me that the etymology of the word “confusion” comes from the idea of fusing things together, like melting things down in a pot until all the individual elements are no longer distinguishable. I found this an excellent metaphor for what some of us do in our personal lives, when we sacrifice our own voices and power in order to keep harmony with those around us, and confusion results. We don’t know where we start and the other person finishes. The “peace” that results from our compromising might seem worth it in the here and now, but in the end, we risk losing our individuality to the overall confusion or melting that takes place when we simply go along with what others want.

In short, in order to live as true to ourselves as possible with the goal of finding harmony first within our own selves, we must find and reclaim our own personal voice, our personal power, the ability to be ourselves first and foremost and allow others to respond as they will. We must find ways to “unmelt” from the confusion and distinguish what makes us unique, worthy, and of value. Above all, we must truly believe and act upon the belief that our individual desires, dreams, hopes, and goals are not only important but have a right to be expressed and acted upon.

Because this topic is often a thorny one for many of my clients, today I turn to the cards to answer these three questions:

1: What is the most important factor for us to keep in mind as we seek to follow our own individual paths?

2: What will help us to reclaim our own unique voice and assert our own individual power?

3: How can we gain more confidence in expressing our unique selves when our external world pushes us to conform to other people’s needs and wishes?

Today I decided to use the Thoth tarot. It’s a deck I’m not particularly versed in, but one I want to delve deeper into. Like my last post, I’ll be assessing these images probably for the first time, since I’ve only really used the Thoth deck for a handful of readings in the past. That being the case, we can walk through the images together and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Remember that tarot is an imaginative exercise to help us develop and form ideas about new paths to take; that being the case, beyond a general grounding in overall meanings for particular cards, one can simply flow with the images and say what they see.

The three cards I received are: The Lovers, 5 of Disks, and 5 of Swords.

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In the Thoth tarot, something about the fives is that they are all given a rather dire keyword. I’m actually not fond of keywords for cards, but these ones have them printed on the fronts, and they range from worry, to defeat, to strife, to disappointment. Rather than focus on the keywords themselves, I’m drawn to first examine the energy of the five and why we have two of those cards in a three-card reading here. A full 66% of this reading is “five” energy. What is it about the five that resonates with this idea of breaking out from co-dependency and claiming personal power? Especially as it stems from an image of total coupling and “togetherness” like The Lovers, where we’re called to make a choice about partnering with another and becoming conscious of some of the inevitable sacrifices that entails?

Everything I can find about the number five says that it’s the epitome of freedom, personal expression, being restless, adventurous, independent and curious. Many of the five traits remind me of Uranus and Mercury qualities. There’s the sense here that anything in the five realm is dynamic, changing, and impossible to pin down. It sits between the stability of the four (like the four legs of a table) and the harmonious, nurturing six (the number of The Lovers).

So the first thing we can conclude is that this sense of self and of reclaiming our own individual voices is inherently unstable and constantly changing. In that sense we can keep in mind that our “voice” isn’t stable, but like our psychological makeup, is always changing, and so to pin it down or try to suppress it is an ultimately futile task.

Typically the 5 of Earth, Disks, or Pentacles signifies something missing in our material circumstances, not having enough. In that sense we can see that what will help with reclaiming our voice and our personal power is recognizing that we are already enough as we are, and that nothing is essentially missing. We don’t have to change in order to simply be ourselves, we can walk through life confident that we are whole, rather than focusing constantly on what we think isn’t right with ourselves or what we perceive we’re missing or lacking in order to be right or good or accepted by others.

In traditional tarot the 5 of Swords represents our ability to express ourselves in a situation of conflict and to confront and engage in obstacles that have a win/lose polarity. What I find interesting about the Thoth design is that each of the five swords meets at a central point, but doesn’t touch. When the external world pushes us to conform, we can be sharp and to the point, without puncturing or cutting anything directly. The idea here is that we can express ourselves clearly and sharply without actually doing harm to others. We can be ourselves despite the chaos of the outer world (which I see in the shapes on the background of the Thoth card) by distinguishing our own voice in its clarity amidst the chaos, by cutting through the BS, so to speak, and pointing at the heart of the matter. We gain confidence in expressing ourselves when we realize that defeat is the result of stifling the sharpness and clarity of our own individual thoughts. Another point to note is that everything has a polarity. There would be no defeat without victors on the other end. I feel like this card is asking us which one we choose to be. We gain confidence when we choose to express ourselves, rather than take a defeated approach of letting others dictate our voice for us.

Finishing out with the first card, then, the most important thing to keep in mind as we seek our own individual paths, as shown here by The Lovers, is that we have a choice. The people in this card are together but they aren’t melded into one. They retain their individuality while at the same time reaching out to one another.

The key to personal power then, based on the ideas presented in these cards, is to find ways to extend our reach in sharing and community with others while also maintaining our personal integrity. That is an active choice that we make, something we consciously decide to do. It is a balancing act that requires knowledge and acceptance of self in order to know about and accept others.

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One comment

  1. There’s an interesting theme of downsizing on all of these cards. It is in the Lovers, with the juxtaposition of the hands of the priest with the adults with the children and finally the lion and the eagle. In the 5s, you see both pentagrams pointing downwards, perhaps saying “let’s sink a little. Ground yourself first. Then you can carry on”. I say this because this was the very first thing I noticed in the cards: everything is pointing down. Back to earth. Or back to the serpent’s egg which is at the very center of the Lovers card. So maybe that is where you can find some answers. Closed tightly and buried inside yourself.

    The second thing that I found interesting in these three cards is the grid. In the Lovers, you see the Swords placed side by side, like columns supporting the entire structure of the temple. In the Fives, the pentagram stands between the confusion of elements that is behind it (all the energy beneath the coins in the Five of Coins and the hectic, chaotic lines in the Five of Swords. I think that maybe you need to stand apart from the surrounding noise. Stand apart to be blessed when you find your own self (as in the Lovers), stand apart to reclaim your voice (5 of Coins: see how the openings inside the pentagram sort of form a face. Someone is shouting here. Can you hear it?) and stand apart to define yourself (since the only defined elements in the 5 of Swords are the Swords and the pentagram they form).

    In the Toth deck, the fives are associated with Geburah, the fifth sephiroth, which is ruled by Mars. So this is where you find the first obstacles and have to fight your way out. In a sense, this is where you put yourself to the test and see what really works and what doesn’t. It is the place where you go to war. This is why the keywords given in the deck are so heavy and negative. They are there to remind us that if anything is put to the test for long enough or hard enough it will fail. The Swords are bent and dented, the cups and coins will crack and the clubs can to nothing else than defend themselves. In this case, this might be a warning to not go to deeply in to the mesh of voices and energy that constitutes the world, but instead take root and stand by yourself, if need be. Living in the world, interacting with the world, but at the same time keeping yourself to yourself and awaiting that time where I comes after V.

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