As a test, psychotherapists and spiritual teachers alike prefer to ask this question: ‘how often are you offended?’ People’s answers disclose something about their emotional barometer. The less one takes offense, the more balanced one is. This is a good test, but I have to admit that I haven’t encountered anyone who provided a counter question to the question of offense, one that I think would be a good idea to ask: ‘how often are you excited?’ The answer to that question also reveals something about the emotional state of a person, and can, in places, be even more efficient.
While we can agree that taking offense faster than we blink may be a bad idea, being excited about everything is actually worse. Being excited without discrimination is not a sign of being lively or full of optimism. It’s a sign of poor judgment. In fact, the more excited a person is when there’s hardly any cause for this excitement, the likelier it is for this person to also take offense very fast.
A quick trick with the cards would be to ask about what triggers which tendency and then compare. For instance you can pose these questions and then read a 3-card string for each:
What do I tend to be offended about without thinking of the extent to which there is a justification for this emotion?
What do I tend to get excited about without thinking of the extent to which there is a justification for this emotion?
We ask for a justification here because without its presence we may as well dismiss both the offense and the excitement on account of their being overreactions, rather than a proper response to a situation. Try this practice and see what you get.
The more interesting point I want to make, however, is the point about responding with an emotion to a situation, yet without letting that emotion come in the way of how the situation unfolds. In other words, do we give the situation enough space so we can see what it is made of, or do we invade it already with an emotion without actually knowing where the boundaries are?
In my work with the cards I prefer to think of the more interesting questions that underlie what we already know. For instance, we all know that emotions exist, but are they real? See, this particular question was already successfully asked and answered by the sages of the world. For an example, I like to point to the fun discussion about the reality of emotions that the Dalai Lama and the actor Richard Gere once had. I wrote about this in an essay on Patheos that you’re welcome to read.
In the context of offense and excitement that is not about the current Johnny vs Amber drama that I also made a passing remark about, let me refer to a recent reading I performed that featured both emotions on my table.
The impotent case
A middle aged man was concerned about his health, more specifically his vitality. The three cards on my table, the Hermit, the Magician, and the Charioteer, gave me an opportunity to say the following:
‘You’re impotent now, but you can rise again through a simple trick.’
At first the man took offense. He didn’t want to hear his problem being spelt out quite like that. I could read his expectation on his face. He wanted me to be more diplomatic and consider his feelings. But what I did instead was to terminate this non-verbalized expectation by pointing to the fact that being diplomatic about emotions doesn’t interest me. What interests me is what I see in the cards. Which in his case was good news. He was excited about it. In fact so excited that he managed to shift his response from feeling a ‘real’ emotion about the whole misery to one of hope. He put his first emotional response aside, because he also saw that I wasn’t going to waste my time with feelings of either shame or embarrassment. He was now ready for the trick. What was he supposed to do?
I pulled another card to see what the Hermit was looking at. The World. ‘Do you see this woman?’ I asked the man. ‘Look at her. Consider how you felt once, when you looked at her as if through the lens of a camera.’
The man took offense again. Such an impractical trick, he thought, given that this was a past flame and he had no possibility of connecting with this woman. Didn’t I have anything about the current situation? I said, ‘this is the current situation. Whoever you’re with now is not even represented in the cards, so another woman is not the answer here, but if you want to feel young again, full of drive and enchanting power, then you must activate your memories.’ I then pointed to how all the three male characters here are looking towards the past, so I figured that my suggestion would make sense, taking the visual cues into consideration. The man took a minute to think about it, and then got excited again. He could see the point of this discussion, especially in light of the fact that no woman of the present could make him feel the way the woman in his past did.
We ended the session on that note. We went from offense to excitement. But the beauty of the session was this: without telling the man to relax about both taking offense and being overly excited, he managed to detach from both emotions. He was willing to consider the power of memory and how visualizing his past love was going to do it for him, physically speaking, once more. As far I was concerned, I was glad that I had no emotions of my own invested in this work. For what would be the point of that?
If you’re curious about this kind of approach to emotions through the cards, you have a chance to learn more. Tarot and Emotions is a 4-week online course at Aradia Academy starting this Sunday. Hop on board.