Using Tarot to Decode Emotions

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

We think we know how we're feeling - it seems obvious right? Trouble is, our emotions are often hidden from our conscious minds because of defense mechanisms like denial and repression.  They aim to keep us safe from vulnerable feelings that might be uncomfortable or painful because, well, survival.

In the short term this might be beneficial but long term it prevents us from dealing with what's really going on and can prevent us from taking appropriate actions.

So how to get a handle on this? Therapy can be invaluable in helping us excavate below the surface of our conscious minds and dig deeper into what's really there.

But what if you don't want to go to therapy, can't access it or just want some some tools you can use yourself?

Learn to take your emotional temperature.

Ask yourself what are you feeling?

At first, the feelings might be broad like sad or happy or fine. And that's okay. See if you can go further and get more specific (use the emotions wheel to help).

The more specific (or granular) we can be, the more options our brains have for perceiving emotions and so can it provide us with more ways to be flexible with more useful responses.

“People who can construct finely-grained emotional experiences go to the doctor less frequently, use medication less frequently, and spend fewer days hospitalized for illness.”

L. Feldman Barrett, 2018*

If were also able to more accurately identify what we're feeling, we will not only be able to take more appropriate action but we'll also be able to communicate our feelings and emotional needs better! We will be better able to ask for what we REALLY need from others and so we're much more likely to have our needs met!

As you work through identifying your feelings, it's likely this will prompt more questions like, where is this feeling coming from? When do I feel like this? This will allow you to identify particular stressors that contribute to unpleasant feelings or situations that foster more positive emotions. It allows you to take an inventory and to take action (if you wish) to increase or decrease these factors.

You can of course achieve this through journalling or inner dialogue (although I'm an advocate of getting things out of our heads) but I also believe that Tarot can be a useful tool for helping us get a handle on our feelings.

Choose a card and ask yourself, how does this make me feel? Notice what your immediate response to it is. This might be broad. Then see if you can narrow it down. Can you think of other words for that feeling? Don't worry about the 'meaning' of the card, just the feeling that it initially activates.

We often don’t interrogate our feelings in the moment. We might feel angry and accept it as that but if we dig a little deeper we might find that we’re more frustrated than angry or more disappointed in something. The way in which we would deal with each of these emotions will be different and that is why it can help to get granular - to make an appropriate response to the feeling.

For example, The Sun card bring up feelings of happiness. But on getting more specific, it might activate feelings of joy, hopefulness, gratitude etc. The 10 of Wands might feel heavy at first but might also bring up feelings of stress and overwhelm.

The feelings that come up for you when looking at a Tarot card might not necessarily correspond to how you’re feeling in that actual moment but it's a helpful exercise in increasing your emotional vocabulary for when you do want to unpick your emotions further in future.

I hope you found this helpful - I'd love to know your thoughts! Send me an email or get in touch over Instagram or Facebook (there's a corresponding post for this on each!)

Let's get granular!



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