Your Tuesday Tarot: the devil’s guide to befriending your shadow

I’m pretty sure it’s Tuesday, right??? Who even cares anymore what day of the week it is?

Well actually, here’s a new reason to care: I have decided to offer an in-depth Tarot session on Tuesdays, starting today! We’ll pull a card and have a heart-to-heart all about it. So let’s get to it!

Today’s card might seem like a little bit of a doozy. Seeing “THE DEVIL” printed on a card with a very dark and dungeon-y aesthetic is certainly not the most comforting thing to see. Even with the addition of unicorns, it’s intimidating. Just going off of appearance and name, many people jump straight to the assumption that this card is BAD. But it’s not that simple, and especially in light of everything the world has been experiencing lately, I feel compelled to explain why.

While Tarot cards are often used to reflect on events that happen around or to us externally, they are actually designed to indicate the various states of human self-realization, or the process of developing and coming into one’s true self. All cards in the deck are reflective of various internal states one can experience along the way, with the Major Arcana (such as The Devil) indicating significant life stages. So please toss aside any assumptions that seeing this card means something bad will happen to you. Please also set aside any associations you have with this and something Satanic; Tarot cards include a vast array of imagery from a variety of religions and cultures for symbolism’s sake. When you see this card, it is generally not referring to any darkness outside of you, but within you.

Darkness inside?!? It’s not an upcoming metal album (though I feel like it should be). Just like how every body has a shadow, every self has a shadow self. That doesn’t mean you’re secretly an axe murderer, okay? (Unless you are, in which case, I’m not so sure I can help you, sorry.) The shadow self refers to the parts of ourselves that we don’t necessarily want in the spotlight; the parts of ourselves that we may not exactly have accepted, but are parts of us anyway. This doesn’t necessarily mean the “bad” things about you; often it includes insecurities, fears, self-doubt, anxieties, or secret aspects of you that have been hidden away for fear of judgment. It’s the part of yourself that you would rather not admit to others – or even yourself – that you have.

It can be a terrifying thing to face one’s shadow. So many of us would rather distract ourselves from the parts of ourselves we don’t like rather than working through them and truly integrating them into our whole sense of self. Up until very recently, our modern world made that all too easy – there have been so many places you can go and people you can give your attention to and things you can do or take or drink to make the part of yourself you don’t like fade to the background for a while. And sure, even in quarantine we still have distractions. You can still play video games all day and drink yourself to sleep if you want to, and hey, that’s your right! But here you are, presumably stuck at home either alone or with less people than you are normally around, and what better time is there to do a little shadow work?

(And by shadow work I mean, it’s time to get down with your bad self and make friends with your shadow self.)

For a lot of people, being stuck at home with only one’s thoughts is bringing up some major demons. When you get a little quiet alone time – which for many, used to be rare – all those deeply buried issues have more room to bubble up to the surface. Sure, you can fight it or say it sucks, but if you never give yourself a chance to acknowledge your not-so-nice feelings and where they’re coming from, all those repressed feelings are still going to be lurking in the depths of your subconscious waiting for the next opportunity to drive you nuts. But why not take this time as an opportunity to sit down with your shadows? Why not take this time to get to know your true self, your whole self?

So I encourage you to sit with yourself, your feelings, and your shadow. Let yourself be honest with yourself about the weaknesses and the vulnerabilities, because recognizing them and working through them is how you learn to grow through adversity instead of shrinking away in fear. If you meet this moment with courage, turn to your darkness and say, “HOW CAN I FUCKING HELP YOU???” you may well be surprised at how much less scary it is than you thought. In fact, it’s not scary at all. Your inner demons are not going to physically jump out of your body and swallow you whole. It might feel like it for a moment, but you have to know that if you go into this tunnel, you WILL come out the other side feeling like a total badass.

And yes, this can be very painful! To be frank, thinking about shitty stuff sucks! It’ll bring up some thoughts and feelings you don’t want to think or feel. But this is the pain of working through something, and being able to come out the other side feeling stronger and more complete. Growing pains, right? No pain, no gain! (Insert additional cliché here.) Try to think of it like getting in shape and pushing through those first few challenging workouts, after which you’ll be way tougher, and your ass will look amazing. I can’t promise internal shadow work will give you a nice ass, but it will make you appreciate the ass you have, flaws be damned. (Personally though, I think your ass is flawless just the way it is. Ok, enough about your ass, sorry. I went there and now we’re done.)

The pleasure of self-acceptance that comes after a lot of painful internal work might be the reason why most of The Devil cards depict a BDSM scenario… pleasure and pain, just sayin’! If you look closely, the chains that tether the Devil’s captives are delicate and somewhat loosely attached, implying that these “prisoners” have the power to free themselves from what is holding them back if they only take a closer look.

And speaking of freaky scenarios… difficult confession time! It scares me so much to put this in writing, but I’m not just here to talk the talk, I am fully committed to walking the damn walk, so! When I recently sat down to face my shadow, I noticed that my most major fear right now is vulnerability. This applies to many situations in life, but the one causing me the most internal conflict is the fear of sharing my true self and being rejected or deemed as forever unworthy of acceptance because of what I say. However, I know that in order to live my truth as my whole and complete self I need to allow myself to BE myself, and to truly be myself means admitting a really big component of my personality that I have been trying to hide.

I’m… not vanilla, guys. I can’t hook up with people the “normal” way. I have particular things that I like that weird people out sometimes. But I like these things in a safe and consensual context. I have been meaning to come out about this for a long time, not only because it is a part of who I am, but also because I want to be a positive voice for the other people out there who I know are just like me. For a long time there has been this assumption that if you are into kinky stuff, that there is something wrong with you. This assumption is harmful because it can prevent people from clearly communicating their needs and preferences, leading to situations that can be unhappy or even unsafe. I used to ask myself what the hell was wrong with me, but I later learned that it’s actually a really normal and common thing, and there is a whole awesome community of people who embrace it. My hope is that by sharing what I have learned about myself and my experiences, I can encourage others to accept and explore themselves in a way that is safe and informed. I feel so vulnerable admitting this, but it also feels so good to open up, and I hope this opens up a door for you to speak your truth as well. I hereby commit to being, accepting, and loving my whole self. And so can you!

Sooo, once you’ve taken a good hard honest look at your whole self, your work isn’t done just yet! Now is the wildest and most important part – you have to look upon that less-than-perfect slice of your personal pizza with compassion and love, and accept it as a part of YOU. That is the part where you make friends with your shadow, where you turn to the monster under your bed and say “look here buddy, we’re in this together.” Look, everyone has a part of themselves they’d rather gloss over or not ever mention at all. And I’m not telling you to go scream all your deepest darkest secrets from the rooftop. But there are so many details that make you YOU, and the first step to accepting yourself is making a conscious effort to work through this internal conflict and decide to be at peace.

If I may offer up a logistical suggestion here as well, there are a few scenarios you can put yourself in that may make sitting down to do this work a little easier. Sometimes it can help to work through difficult thoughts while doing something that makes you feel strong, like working out. Yoga is another way to harness the mental state of clarity, peace, and strength that can facilitate constructive inner work. Meditation is another great way to do this, and if you can, please do it somewhere that feels comfortable, beautiful, and of course safe. If you are in a position to do so safely and legally, psychedelics can help facilitate this inner work, but I’d like to be clear that they are not magic pills; you’ll still have some challenging mental processing and integration ahead of you.

So there you have it: The Devil card is a call to recognize, accept, and integrate your shadow self. It’s a call to make friends with your dark side, and know that the WHOLE you is a valid being worthy of love and acceptance. Please repeat after me: I accept my whole self, I will be my whole self, and I LOVE MY WHOLE SELF! Life is too precious to do anything but.

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