How Tarot Helped Heal My Anxiety

do try this spread at home

As a survivor of abuse and severe PTSD, my tarot cards have become an important touchpoint in managing triggers and reactivity. My trauma shows up as a tendency to see a fight where there isn’t one. I don’t trust myself not to be on guard. It is hard not to feel defensive when you’re trying to anticipate any possible outcome at all times. The hypervigilance is real— and so is the intense anxiety. It pops up for seemingly no reason and can be unrelenting. I’ve spent many sleepless nights watching the ceiling fan spin and hoping I would finally fall asleep by the time the sun came up.

With tarot I found a way to interrupt my anxiety and gain perspective.

As time went on, I found a good therapist. I healed old wounds. I got stronger and more confident. But the persistent mistrust of my own reality was still a daily struggle. When I discovered tarot a few years ago, I felt like I finally found a way to deregulate and check in with myself in real time.  For years, all I really wanted was a way to stop the pattern of trauma. With tarot I found a way to interrupt my anxiety and gain perspective that provided information, reflection and agency when I thought I had none.

I started reading tarot on a whim. My sister gave me a deck of tarot cards a few months earlier, when I was in the midst of an insane spiritual awakening that had me hearing spirits and feeling extremely overwhelmed. At first, I was determined to learn the “right” way to read. I went through tons of online resources. I read about ten different books. I even signed up for a very popular online tarot community. Then I did what so many budding tarot readers do: I got frustrated, and I gave up and walked away.  I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information.  It felt impossible to learn the meaning of 78 different cards, and really how could a collection of 78 cards even begin to encapsulate the human experience?

I put my cards away and went back to my regular meditation practice. But the cards still nagged at me. I could feel their presence each time I walked by them in their little box, collecting dust on a shelf in my reiki treatment room. After about a month, I decided to come back to the cards. This time I would take a different approach. I wrote my own set of guidelines and learned to use them as a point for reflection, a trigger for my intuition rather than the information itself. This is where I found the sweet spot.  Suddenly what seemed a daunting and overwhelming task, became second-nature. I felt like I had been doing it forever.

And there, alone in my room with a deck of cards, I found refuge.

I let myself come to the cards in deep grief.  I’d think of questions between sobs and pull cards to offer me insight and self-reflection. I came to the cards when I was overwhelmed by anxiety and fear. Over and over I shuffled with shaking hands and tightness in my chest. And there, alone in my room with a deck of cards, I found refuge. This relationship with tarot is available to us all. Forget about any “shoulds” you’ve heard. You don’t need or follow specific rules or be a professional healer to read for yourself.  Tarot can be a great tool to help you identify triggers in your own life and learn to be more receptive and reflective. I firmly believe that tarot is a tool for healing.

Dark days like these, in the midst of a global pandemic, can bring out debilitating anxiety for even the least traumatized among us.  To offer support during these extremely vulnerable times I have developed a tarot spread to help you learn to manage your own anxiety.  Tarot for Anxiety is a perfect gateway spread to take you from fear to empowerment and give you a taste of how tarot can work for you in real life. It’s available to download right here. Use whatever deck speaks to you—there are no rules for that either!

I also invite you to attend Practical Tarot for Everyday Intuitives, a seven week tarot course that takes you from tarot newbie to tarot-reading wiz. We’ll be using my Tarot-Informed Decision Making Method to tune into your intuition and move from anxious procrastinator to confident decision-maker. Enrollment opens Friday May 1st. Receive 15% off with code HEALERS when you sign up here!

Sheila Masterson

Sheila Masterson teaches yoga, practices Reiki, pulls tarot cards and smudges houses in the Philadelphia area.

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