7 of Wands: Engulfment
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2005-7
Experts tell us that the two biggest fears that are precipated when people begin relationships, are the fear of abandoment, meaning that we fear that the other person will leave us; and fear of engulfment, which means that we fear we will lose ourselves in the relationship. The 7 of Wands depicts very much the concept of defending against engulfment. Most people will admit they don't like to be alone too much but other people can have a big fear about being together with someone too much. We may experience feelings of vulnerabiity and submergence of identity - like an emotional claustrophobia - and we fear being smothered, clung too and engulfed. We don't want the responsibility of this person loving us so much and having an emotional need or attachment to us. It turns into that "go away, go away, come here, come here, go away, go away" pattern.
The usual imagery on the 7 of Wands depicts a person carrying or standing with 7 wands or staves in an upright position This person has an aspect of vulnerability and contemplation, looking into the distance as if watching or waiting for something approaching. Is it a potential threat or is it something good coming? Are the able to tell the difference? It is almost as if they are trying to figure out how to hold their ground and defend their position. Sometimes I think they are wondering "How did I it get like this?", "Where do I go from here?" or "What is coming at me now?". Are the wands they are carrying going to be used to build a wall, a boat or a dam? Is the dam going to break? Are we going to be swept away? This card expresses many qualities of feeling or being defenceless; susceptible; unprotected; exposed to danger; open to being wounded or hurt either physically or emotionally. It also more strongly indicates the quality of having made a stand and being prepared to defend the position against these unwanted, overwhelming or misunderstood feelings.
Very often when situations arise in a relationship that spark these fears, controlling behaviours will make themselves known and a lot of deceptive things can start to occur. We can pretend to be weak when we are very strong. The more we form feelings of attachment the more we may outwardly express very strong detachment - if not out and out disdain - for the other person. Weakness in one can bring out arrogance in the other. Criticism, judgment and punishing behaviours are used. They more they pursue, the more we distance ourselves or hide behind our walls. The closer they are to us, the further we push them away or the closer we are to them, the further they push us away. You can tell what a good driver they are by how far they drive you away from them.
The perfect recipe for a co-dependent relationship is a person who fears abandonment getting together with a person who fears engulfment. It happens a lot. Two people who don't have clear identities or strong boundaries - it's a match made in heaven that is going to take you through hell. It seems like a very strong bond but it is extremely unhealthy. Many couples have been trapped in this type of extremely unhealthy relationship for years. These couple can spend a lot of time bitching and moaning to others about the state of their relationship but are quite paralyzed when it comes to taking any kind of corrective action. They know how to live their lives this way.
We may react to feelings of vulnerability in different ways. Some of us may cling, demand constant reassurance, use fear, guilt and threats to co-erce our partner into staying or behaving in the manner we would like. This just makes them want to distance and avoid even more. Some people realize that they are better off alone than in bad company, others look for a fast escape or a timely rescue and yet others will sabotage and fight the other persons behaviour to try and stop the inevitable abandonment. This increases the fear of engulfment in the other person significantly and creates an even further distance from the real intimacy that both people need to experience. It is a vicious cycle.
There are many reasons why we can develop this fear of engulfment. We have probably had a previous relationship or negative childhood experience in which we submerged our own identity, sense of worth, personal safety, life direction and security. We could only see ourselves through them. Have you ever heard yourself or someone else say, "I'll die without you.", "I was nothing till I met you.", "You make me whole." Like Heathcliff and Catherine in "Wuthering Heights" and the classic line, "You are more myself than I am."
Our sense of wholeness doesn't come from another person or from our need to fix or be a caretaker to someone else. We lose our individuality, personal power, other relationships and our spirituality if we become engulfed. We risk losing our opinions, needs, feelings and priorities as we become more and more overwhelmed. A successful relationship requires each person to have their own stable identity, ideas and clear boundaries and an underlying awareness of each others vulnerability.