Eight of Swords: The Stuck Drawer
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2004
You must not be afraid to travel
where there are no roads.
You must not give in to the darkness
when there is no sign of light.
You must not be afraid to grow wings
when you are tired of the ground.
You must not be afraid to swim
when you are nothing but a stone.
If experience is the child born of risk, then
acceptance is the old man born of dreams.
by Nancy Wood
We are all familiar with the traditional Tarot imagery associated with the 8 of Swords, a woman, bound, blindfolded, on her knees and surrounded by swords. This is truly the image of someone who is stuck in an apparently hopeless situation or place, with no way to free herself or the ability to see her way to freedom. It reminds me of something that I always say when people advise myself or others that they should really "Get your shit rogether." - okay so I got my shit together and now it is sitting in a big pile in the middle of the living room, what do I do next? She is stuck in the middle of her own emotional and situational shit. She is cut off from her sight, possibly her hearing and her sense of touch. The ability to still taste or smell are of little help in her predicament . She is surrounded with so much deep shit that the smell is horrid and the last thing she would want to do would be eat any more of it. How did she get stuck in the first place? What do the symbols of bondage mean in her mundane life? What is holding her in this place and position?
Getting stuck is an easy enough thing to do. Most Canadians have had the experience of being stuck in or by the snow that graces us every winter. I am sure we have all had the experience of a door or lock sticking on us, either trapping us in or out. A stuck drawer can be a real challenge as well, especially when we don't know which of the contents in the drawer, or the manufacture and state of repair of that drawer, are causing the situation of stuckness. Our thoughts, emotions, losses, relationships, social, economic and family pressures as well as career goals or desires, can also create the same situation of stuckness in our daily lives . It can be quite an ordeal to get yourself unstuck. Clear and conducive thinking and a determined effort are required.
I guess we should start with how we got stuck in the first place. Many things contribute to our feelings of being trapped or oppressed by the everyday circumstances of our life. There is an old saying that tells us that it isn't climbing the mountain that wears us out, it is the grain of sand in our shoe. Who we are is where we have been. Stuckness comes from facing many obstacles in life, holding back honest feelings, lack of access to resources, too many attempts to change that ended in failure, lack of consequences or too many consequences for our mistakes, extremely strong denial, poor judgment, judgmental thinking, having inhibitions, anxieties or obsessions. We can feel ignored, misunderstood, invisible, stopped dead in our tracks, like we are a living a hidden and forgotten life. We can think we have been given a life that is just not worth living. The only thing we know for sure is that something is missing, we are not accomplishing anything and we don't seem to be learning anything new or helpful from all of this.
Much of this pattern of behaviours started in our childhoods. It may be an issue of the way in which we mature. We may have had difficulty adapting to change and new situations. We may have struggled to find resiliency in the face of a difficult challenge or a sudden adversity or setback. It takes us a long time to deal with the emotional impact of traumatic events. We like to have our own way and this interferes with our ability to handle changes, disappointments. It also deprives us of the ability to learn from trials, tribulations and errors or from the consequences we have been dealt because of these traits. We have no apparent ability to sense when we are in danger as if our ability to feel fear has been deadened. There is a lot of anger underneath all of this and we can lash out or become unapproachable. The strength of the bond with our parents is also a significantly impacting factor.
So now what? How do we start overcoming this? How do we get near such deep sorrow without raising all types of defense mechanisms and coping systems? The first thing we really need to do is honour all the emotions that are behind this and find the right words to articulate our grievance and our grief. We know only how to long but have no idea what we are longing for. We need to shed those tears of frustration, anger, betrayal, futility and failure - this dam has to break, and then you're going to cry and cry and cry. Relief brings release.
We will have to apply some practical and conscientious effort to our behaviour. Much of this stems from a real lack of self-awareness which makes painful self-examination the only remedy. We must learn to moderate our experiences and the way we choose to express ourselves. We are fooled into thinking we are living authentically when really all we have done is surrendered our grace. We need to stop doing things impulsively, start by putting a 24 hour hold on all major decisions, no rash choices. I call this taking back my power. We need to be clear and in the present in all situations. This takes time and concentration. We have to become aware of how much we imitate or conform to other people in a social context. There is a great tendency to be like a chameleon, you have to behave as an independent individual. We have to be totally responsible for our own actions. It was our choice, we have to live with it. We need to acquire some distance from our interior experience and be reflective on our motivations, triggers and feelings so we will make better decisions.
We have to lose urgency and develop patience. We have to be considerate of other people's feelings before we take an action. We have to quit leaning on other people and be confident that we can stand on our own two feet. There has to be significant time spent developing awareness of other people's points of view. Gain some fresh perspectives, quit making assumptions and explore beliefs. Be prepared to make sacrifices to find a way out, this is going to be hard, hard work. Start liking your own company, embrace your individuality and acquire a hobby, boredom is a big enemy until your self emerges. Remember that there is a big difference between being protective and being aggressive. Tone of voice and choice of words are extremely important, cultivate them both. Don't let anyone demand promises from you but look for people who help you by soliciting your good intentions with unconditional positive recognition.
We need to explore the way feelings can become mixed, and learn to look clearly at both sides of situations. We need to challenge all of our self-deceptions by asking our "selves", listening to our "selves" and listening to others who won't accept our excuses or self-pity. Watch out for bad bargains - value the gift of you. Be very wary for what you give away with your words - no more "That's not fair.", "That'll never happen.", "I'll do it later." "I'll just ignore it and everything will be alright." , "If only...." "I wish..." We can learn to protect ourselves from overwhelming experiences by focusing on the things we can realistically pursue and developing a sense of our own timing and the time it really takes to accomplish certain tasks. We come to accept that life,and the full living of life, is about vulnerability. All of the hurtful situations are the colouring of our emotional rainbow and yes, there are many bruises and they are tender when touched, but the only important thing is that they can be touched.
Having real tears two to three times a week, and not drowning in them like a victim, is a sign of a healthy emotional range and draws our sadness and disappointments out - ahhh, relief and release. At last the drawer is open.