In Self-Isolation? Lessons from the Hermit Tarot Card
Whether you’re surviving or thriving through solo lockdown, the Hermit Tarot card shines light on the solo journey through quarantine.
While some people who are in isolation with their partner or family are tearing their hair out—desperately wishing for a few minutes alone, others are stuck in isolation alone. Some people (the deep introverts among us) are thrilled to not have the social pressure to leave the house, while others who thrive on cocktail hours and dinner dates may feel lost. Isolating with a partner or family has its challenges, but so does solo isolation. Community, connection, and physical touch are incredibly important for the human nervous system and spirit, and it can be very difficult to be weathering this storm without a buddy.
And, yet, there is incredible value in having time alone—even if it’s forced upon us. Humans need time for self-reflection, for processing our own thoughts without the influence of anyone else. Whether we find ourselves to be lucky, grateful hermits or desperately imprisoned ones, there are gifts to be found here if we are brave enough to look for them.
The ninth Major Arcana card in the Tarot deck depicts the Hermit: usually an older man with a long white beard holding a lantern that lights his way forward. He also carries a staff, which steadies and balances him on his journey. The lamp shines on the path just a few feet ahead on him, but will not illuminate much else. We can see a few feet in front of us, but no farther.
Drawing the Hermit card means an invitation to explore the gifts of this solo journey. Other people are wonderful, in many ways, but they do not compare with one’s own company. As the writer and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written, “It is difficult to learn math, or practice the piano, or program a computer, or figure out the purpose of one's life when other people are around.”
Whether we wanted it or not, we are being given a major opportunity to sit with our discomfort and reflect. We have a chance to learn something about ourselves and the world. The wisdom of the Hermit comes from the courage of being able to be alone with his thoughts and feelings, to see himself in his own light, rather than in the light cast from anyone else. “Instead of promoting growth,” Csikszentmihalyi argues, “friendships often provide a safe cocoon where one’s self-image can be preserved without ever having to change.”
This can be difficult when we rely on other people to validate our social status, our worth, or the meaning of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with wanting that from time to time, but what is your worth when alone? Who are you when there’s no one there to validate, praise, or contradict you?
So as you explore the discomfort (and maybe joy) of being alone, remember a fundamental truth about human beings: We are incredibly adaptable. Mitigate your loneliness in your favorite ways—have calls or video chats with the people you miss. Join online dance parties. Hug a pillow. Talk to your houseplants about your day. Sign up for some online counseling to help you through the tough parts.
But you can also embrace your alone-ness. Write, if you like writing. Draw, knit, or paint. Listen to music with your eyes closed. Cook lavish meals for yourself. Challenge yourself to be without screens for an hour, or, if you are daring, a day. Discover the wild wisdom of being alone with your thoughts. Allow yourself to feel afraid, sad, bored, angry, or lonely. Let your loneliness teach you what you really need. You have a lamp to light your way forward as long as you keep moving. Your courage is the staff that balances you along your way. You have everything you need to receive the gifts of the Hermit.