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6 of Cups: Just What I Have
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2007

“If only all the hands that reach could touch.”
Author Unknown


The 6 of Cups in the Tarot deck is a charming and sentimental card generally depicted with two young children, a boy and a girl, holding hands and gazing fondly at each other. We don't know if they are childhood sweethearts, best friends for life or if they are related to one another. We do know from that heartfelt gaze that they give each other unconditional positive regard, respect and recognition – they accept each other for who and what they are. They give each other just what they have.

Unconditional Positive Regard is a humanistic therapy concept created by Carl Rogers (1902-1987). Rogers felt that in order for counselling to work a therapist had to completely accept their client, be non-judgmental and demonstrate this acceptance of the other through empathetic understanding of the clients perspective as well as being genuine, authentic, clear and in the present. The client would thereby be free to express themselves completely without fear of rejection or condemnation, making personal growth a possibility. Unconditional positive regard occurs when individuals, in particular our parents, give us unconditional love. Conditioned positive regard is when that love is only given subject to the meeting of certain conditions or expectations. Rogers theory works on the concept that psychologically healthy people will enjoy life to the fullest and are perceived as fully functioning people. Sounds like a good working theory on how to improve and assess the health of relationships of all kinds.

We all have a sense of who and what we are which has been coloured by the certainty, or uncertainty, of our observation, knowledge and experiences. We may be very aware of our positive and negative emotional patterns or we may lack insight into why we do the things we do, why we attract the people that we do or why bad things can happen to good people. We may have a concept of our self that is far from who and what we really are or how we appear. We live in a society that almost promotes self-mutiliation in the search of the perfect face or body. Touch is the only sense we cannot live without and we all need, actively seek( or feel like we are living without) love, acceptance, approval and recognition. With positive experiences in these areas, we develop a sense of positive self-regard and respect that are deeply important to our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being as well as to our sense of our own happiness and satisfaction.

Conditional regard is most apt to make us feel defensive and not open to new people, places or situations. We can live our lives in rigidly organized and inflexible ways, perhaps following the pattern of our family history. We may feel like we have no choice, no options and no potentials to explore or embrace. We become conformist and so very “normal”. We are all uncomfortable with having the brunt of someone else's negative behaviour or disapproval directed at us but being ignored or excluded can be just as painful. Situations of negative regard and no regard can isolate us and cause us much interior turmoil. People treat each other in one of five ways: conditional positive regard; unconditional positive regard; conditional negative regard; unconditional negative regard and no regard. Negative attention is better than no attention so children and adults both act out – better than being ignored isn't it?

If we have unconditional positive regard in our lives, we are functioning in a healthy way. We are open to new experiences and put few conditions on our own selves that define our value as a human, being. We are reflective and in touch with our emotional depths, be the feelings good or bad. We live in the present and can experience spontaneity, flexibility, empowerment and we can adapt to new situations. We can listen to other people's points of view without feeling threatened or attacked, we trust our own experiences, embrace our creativity and we can make positive choices.

This brings us back to the lovely, kind hearted and peaceful imagery of the 6 of Cups. The two sweet children, fresh faced and innocent and I ask you – what are they giving to one another? They are respecting and accepting each other, damaged and broken or whole and fulfilled it doesn't matter. They are expressing no judgment for or against the other just the clear steady gaze of acceptance. They respect each others worth, value, achievements and singularity. They care for each other and want the best for each other. They stand by each other and nurture each other, helping each other grow and become. They offer compassion in a busy, businesslike, cruel and disappointing world. There is genuine warmth and the treasure of non-possessive love where dignity is preserved and respected. They love each other with just what they have and for just who they are – what a gift.


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This page was updated 2007-11-18.