Hello, friends. Another week, another archetypal shift in our collective reality...
The random thought “Corona virus may well be a master class in Being With What Is,” percolated up few days ago, and so this particular archetype made its presence known:
THE HANGED ONE
This card can represent situations in which we voluntarily tolerate discomfort, consciously sacrificing our self-interest to prioritize a greater purpose. We delay gratification, suspend action, and ready ourselves for a period of transition ahead.
However, this image also suggests a possible stance that may help us hang in there with difficult moments. We have an opportunity here to drop the struggle, surrender to what is, accept our current reality, and practice patient serenity.
(Note: accept does not mean like or endorse. It simply means validating reality as it is, and releasing our insistence that things be otherwise.)
The other opportunity this archetype provides is via its iconic reversal, as we allow this inversion to provide new perspectives. When our world gets turned upside down, we suddenly see things from a new angle, and here again (much like in the Tower) we have an opportunity to question old belief systems and disrupt our habits.
Shadow elements of this pattern may manifest in martyrdom, passivity, and a sense of being stuck, apathetic, or asleep to existence. Conversely, we may also notice moments of resistance and intense struggle around our lack of control.
(From a somatic/trauma-informed lens, it makes total and complete sense that our nervous systems may activate around feeling being trapped against our will by engaging in a FIGHT response, or by shifting into collapsed numbness.)
For counsel, I turn to brilliant, queer, witchy writer and San Francisco icon Michelle Tea, who writes:
If Hanged Man has come up for you, know that everything is in motion, even if it feels like nothing is moving. That’s the nature of the Hanged Man. It’s a waiting game, and the waiting can be interminable. It’s not a time for activity. If you’re considering making a move to help a situation along, don’t. You’ll probably just mess it up. If you’ve been insulted or threatened, the best recourse under the Hanged Man is to lay low and wait it out. Passivity is rewarded. Don’t send that email, don’t hit back. Just scramble up that tree, get yourself in the most comfortable position you can, and count your breaths until the situation remedies itself. And it will. Movement is always occurring within the Hanged Man; it’s just happening away from you, or so deep inside of you that you can’t see it clearly.
So in order to move through this phase, we settle the best we can into our self-imposed purgatory, relax into our discomfort, and try to take in the new outlook we now have on existence.
Additionally, if you are noticing more intense edges around bodily activation, or if you are processing a trauma response, you may experiment with somatic mindfulness exercises to begin regulating your nervous system. Please do reach out and contact a professional if you need more assistance with this, and take good care of yourself!
Sharing another card whose energies I also felt moving through the world last week, twinned with the Tower, and which I see still spilling over into this one.
This card iconically captures moments of quiet solitude and seclusion, where we withdraw from everyday life and material concerns, initiating periods of deep introspection, contemplation, and inner-focused exploration.
When these forces emerge, we are called to ask bigger, broader existential questions about the purpose and meaning of our lives. We go on vision quests or attend artistic or silent retreats. We meditate, enter psychoanalysis, or engage in dreamwork, giving voice to the hidden parts of the psyche that can only be heard in conditions of quiet stillness.
This card’s imagery also evokes an archetypal wisdom figure who helps guide others through their inner process. This is the teacher, sage, guru, mentor, therapist, or sponsor who offers us direction, having walked their own difficult path, and now holding a beacon out for us to follow.
This may be an external process, in which we seek out a teacher, or step into our own role in guiding others. This may also be a completely internal dynamic, as you are invited to make contact with your own inner guides. Psychedelic assisted therapy frequently refers to “inner healing intelligence,” and practitioners are trained to set aside their agendas and allow this force to do the work.
Like all powerful archetypes, we may notice where it begins to tip over into its shadow. Under the influence of the Hermit, we can be swept away by fears about the outside world or social paranoia, and move into extreme isolation and avoidance. We may shut down into ruminative depression, refusing to participate in life.
In moments of discernment, we can ask ourselves: am I looking inward in an attempt to find or discover something, or turning away to escape something?
We seem to be moving through a season that brings deeper existential narratives to the surface, and so my mind turns to the expansive archetypes so artfully symbolized by the Major Arcana of the tarot.
I will share here with you the card this week inspired:
One of the most dramatic (and hence dreaded) cards in the deck, The Tower brings its own deep medicine to our development, being an archetype of both CHANGE and AWAKENING.
This card illustrates moments of sudden and unexpected change, violent upheaval, and the collapse of our established structures. We can often feel shattered and shocked by the forces beyond our control that turn our world upside down.
This may also appear for us when we’ve cocooned ourselves in denial, refusing to see the changes that need to be made; in this case, it’s our pride, ego, or false sense of security that feels shattered.
The Tower and its lightning bolt, however, may also indicate revelatory flashes of insight, as well as the liberation that an epiphany can bring. Our old, rigid belief structures are suddenly dismantled, destructive patterns are torn asunder, and we dismantle what no longer serves us. We no longer have the choice of remaining in our most comfortable illusions about ourselves and the world.
And this might be the deepest medicine of The Tower: though our human nervous systems naturally react to and resist such shocks, we can consciously use these events to disrupt what is stagnant, harnessing the cleansing, cathartic energy to push us outside our comfort zone into greater phases of growth.
Collapse is scary and painful. Nothing makes that not so. But it can also bring deep clarity, can release us from stuck places, and ultimately set us free onto a new path.
The Tower invites us to remember the seeds that only sprout following forest fires, to have courage to face what grows out of chaos, and to be humbled by the workings of the larger universe.
Jessica Katzman, Psy.D.
I'm a psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco's Castro District. I'm interested in harm reduction, LGBTQQIAAP issues, psychedelic integration, social justice conversations, size acceptance, and any intersections of the above. I welcome your comments!
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