Maybe the secrets of relationships really are all in the cards.
Pen and paper in hand, I sat down to draft an article about shadow work.
And sat and sat.
With all the shadow work I do as a tarot reader, this should be easy. I am practically the Lara Croft of shadow work. Seriously. The cavelike depths of the subconscious, dark and damp, where supposedly nothing lives—but where “nothing” sure makes a racket. We know that there are creatures in the shadows.
And basically, that’s shadow work.
“So Lara Croft”—writing words on paper should be easy. I just have to choose any cave to venture into and write. Any one at all. Just pick something.
I hit a wall. That happens a lot in caves—I mean, shadow work.
So now, I have questions. What shadow part of myself am I displaying? And what should I write about?
My higher self, efficient as she is, answered both questions with a single tarot card: the reversed Emperor.
I gave the card a “you sly dog” look. Not only does this card represent a theme in celebrity news lately, but the card is also closely tied to my own shadow work.
The reversed Emperor is one of the tarot cards I look for regarding physical, mental, or sexual abuse from a paternal figure, or any masculine authority figure, from an uncle to your boss. Upright, the Emperor is strict but benevolent. When reversed, however, the Emperor is a tyrant who abuses his authority. Your boss may mentally abuse you, or worse. Even as I write this, a dirty laundry list of rich men is responding to sexual harassment allegations.
When doing my own shadow work tarot readings, the reversed Emperor shows up to represent my grandfather. When I lived with my grandfather as a toddler, he was a hard-working mechanic, a woodworker, and a bodybuilder. He was a good provider and passed on healthy habits like good diet and exercise. Structure. Order. Discipline. Everything the Emperor stands for.
But my grandfather had deep insecurity wounds, so he abused his power over his naïve granddaughter. He became a tyrant, crossing boundaries that should never have been crossed. Domination. Lack of self-control. Abuse. The reversed Emperor.
My brain repressed the memories for a long time, but I unconsciously attracted partners who continued those traumatic patterns. A partner may mend a broken heart or stick fingers into a scabbed wound. But relationships, healthy or not, teach us something.
It is empowering to stand up to an oppressor and express yourself in an open, honest, and loving way.
First, I’ll list how you can identify who the reverse Emperor is in your relationship. He or she will be:
As children who were dependent on such abusive adults, we developed mechanisms to protect ourselves—such as passive-aggression to communicate our feelings. That may have served a purpose at an early age, but not anymore. Being passive-aggressive, manipulative, and scheming has no room in a romantic relationship, since love is none of those things.
If you find yourself attracting partners who possess the characteristics above and you feel less independent, or confined, you are most likely using those self-defense mechanisms to no avail. Those communication patterns are outdated and need to be replaced by healthier behaviors.
Direct communication is the antithesis of passive-aggression when dealing with a partner, coworker, boss, or family member. It is empowering to stand up to an oppressor and express yourself in an open, honest, and loving way. When I experience an emotional trigger, the tactic that works for me is to tell the other person, “When you do [ABC], I feel like [XYZ].” It may be textbook, but it works.
Posture is another way to feel more confident. When we feel inferior, we have a tendency to hunch our shoulders and tuck our chin into our neck. We make ourselves appear smaller.
Hold your head up, pull your shoulders back. Keep your spine tall and straight. Your body language will tell your brain, and the other person, that you, too, are an authority figure. This will make it easier to express your emotions with control. Controlling yourself, you thereby control your environment.
Beyond relationships, there are other ways the reversed Emperor leaks its shadow into your everyday life. They probably include:
• Lack of ambition
• Lack of self-control
• Inability to stand up to authority
•Contempt for structure/order
These are behaviors that can block our potential for success. I know, because all those characteristics have applied, or still apply, to me. Awareness of them is the first step to changing and replacing these behaviors.
If you feel that the reversed Emperor is making your life upside down, then turn it around. Literally! Embrace the parts of the upright Emperor that will make you more whole. Give yourself the structure and order that you seek. At some point, we’re going to have to grow up. We can’t be children forever.
Believe me, I tried.