Tarot is an excellent tool in recovery. You can use the cards to understand why the phase you’re in. It can help you to understand your current struggle and give guidance for your next best step forward.
The beauty of the tarot cards is that especially in the Major Arcana cards, you see your recovery journey in all its phases. I love looking at this as the Fool’s Recovery Journey – just like the Fool’s Journey but translated to leaving binge eating and food addiction behind you. This journey consists of many cycles. Every cycle you bring to the game, what you already know. Concerning what you don’t know, you are fresh and innocent, ready to learn more. It does not mean you are a fool. The Fool image shows you that if you are on this journey, you will always keep learning.
You are allowed to struggle, so don’t expect yourself to know it all. If you intend to be open and innocent toward solutions, you can learn a lot. Knowledge is never lost. You bring it forward in every cycle you start. The Fool’s card is numbered with a 0 to show that this journey is for everybody – no one excluded.
Let’s take a look at the Major Arcana cards of a tarot deck, and I’ll explain how they relate to your Recovery Journey. In tarot terms, this is called the Foo l’s Journey, so let’s start it.
The first card is the Magician. You can make decisions; you have the power to do that, so don’t tell him you are powerless. Your journey starts with knowing you have the power to go on a journey and learn. The Magician is here to teach you new skills to build your confidence. He will explain to you that the recovery journey will be one of trial and error. Learn and adapt. Keep your expectations low to bring this journey to a great ending. You may be dealing with a lot of emotions, but know that this is okay. Try to strike a beautiful balance between being in your head (your logical mind that the Fool loves) and feeling with your gut what is right for you. Right now, you need to still decide with your head, and that is okay.
With the second card is the High Priestess comes into your world. She is the aspect that teaches you the power of your intuition. Logic is beautiful, but trust and intuition are better. At some point, you may need to come out of that head and move into the body. This card is about learning to trust your nudges and acting on it. We all know that trust doesn’t come naturally since we are used to thinking so much. So that is why The High Priestess reminds you that you can feel what you need. Slowly but surely, the logical mind and the intuitive gut feeling need to develop into the wise and powerful older aspects that guide you on your journey. It is quite the journey for you as a Fool.
Next comes the Empress; she is the mother archetype. This aspect is the feeling of arms in which you hide when you feel discouraged for making a mistake (again). She will tell you that it is okay to feel this way and explain not to eat away your pain. You can always visit this lady when your journey feels hard and you need some encouragement. While this Empress may not have actual advice, she teaches you that love is what you need to practice when things are hard, and you wonder when you will ever learn to do without the need for food. The Empress reminds you that there are phases in all cycles. As the Empress is the same figure as Mother Earth, she can give life, but she can also take it away. So there is Spring when everything comes to life, and you have more energy. There is also the Winter when you are more inclined to turn inward and struggle more with what you find there.
Next to the Empress is the Emperor, the father archetype. The Emperor is the aspect that rules the “shoulds in your life. If you struggle a lot with an Inner Critic, then take a look at this card. The Emperor is strict and can be tremendously harsh about how you deliver your program. This expectation can come as a surprise. But there are two forms of control. There is rigid control that makes you unhappy because you do not experience any form of freedom anymore. This lack of freedom happens when you restrict your food. But there is also a form of soft control when following recovery programs in which you provide yourself with three stable sugar-free and flour-free meals a day. There is another rule of no purging for some people when they have a history of an eating disorder. The Emperor sets the rules and expects his followers just to do it.
The Hierophant often characterizes the mask we wear to cope with the world around us. He is the Persona we have developed based on our upbringing, our culture, and personal experiences. They have made you into what you are. It is easy to think that “this is just the way I am,” but when push comes to shove, you need to decide whether to keep the opinions and ideas. It is essential to understand that there are several aspects inside of you that are ruled by the elements. When these elements come together in your perfect personal balance of logic, emotions, inspiration, and habits, you can experience the fifth element of spirit and find your True Self. While many don’t like the dogma the High Priest can also bring forth, he also brings an esoteric vision into this journey, that there is a higher level to reach.
Until now, you have been unknowing without a real personality. Like the Fool, we come to the card of the Lovers; you are becoming responsible for your own decisions – decisions that will influence your fate. Even though it feels as if you are powerless to decide to be free of food, you indeed are free to make this decision. But it asks for a real consideration to take responsibility for the rest of your life. Will you eat every time you “feel” like it, or will you choose to free yourself from the urges and the chains that keep you where you are? This card is one of seduction by desire. Our urges to eat are that desire, and our shadow aspect will whisper in your ear to listen to the urge. But the result of listening to that urge is that you step away from the life you want. While this seems a crucial decision you have to make, there will be other opportunities to make another decision toward paradise instead of the devil of addiction.
To take responsibility, you need to take the reigns into your own hands and steer the Fool’s chariot into the direction you want to go. To say it in other terms, you need to become the captain of your ship. Seven, the number on this card is the number of the individual. It signifies a phase that is not only about the ego that steers the chariot. It is about finding an identity with which you want to identify. Which identity gives you the most reason to keep going on this journey? Which identity will help you to decide on your next best step? You are free to decide for yourself since freedom of choice is what you received in the Lovers phase. Go where your chariot takes you and use your inner Magician to know where to go next.
STRENGTH OR JUSTICE?
There has been a lot of discussion about the next card/phase in the world of tarot. Arthur Edward Waite placed Strength in the eighth position, but when you look at original decks, it is Justice that falls in this place. I never really minded which card came where because you always draw the cards at random all through my tarot career. But when you look at the Fool’s Journey or Fool’s Recovery Journey, then it does matter. That is why I have decided to go with the original order of Major Arcana. You will find the Strength card in position 11, and Justice fits better in this story’s position.
In this phase, you’re introduced to the cause and effect of the cosmic laws. Like the Fool, you recognize Justice when you look around and see everyone eat all day long. But when you try to do the same thing, you end up binging, and you know that there need to be other rules for you. Based on this action and reaction effect, you know it is best to make your intuitive decisions based on your conscience. Doing this will keep you out of trouble. An inner process of evaluation to come to the truth is needed. What is right for you may not be so for others. While this may suck big time, you need to live with it. It is easier to live with the truth than with sabotage. Because Justice is an internal process, it comes early in the journey to redirect yourself toward truth. You decide what that truth is – it is all up to you.
The Hermit is the one you meet next. He can look over his shoulder and see the lessons he has learned. It is best to be in the here and now. At this moment, he can redirect himself back onto the path. On the other hand, he also knows that when he makes a mistake, it is because he is human. He has come to this conclusion by thinking about his life profoundly. That is why he lives the For Today Only slogan fully. He knows that recovery is hard work, but he is willing to do it because there is nothing else than this moment. Through this journey, he wants to become himself. He does this by combining the positive aspects and negative aspects of himself. Like the Hermit, you also need a sacred place in your life, where you can be with yourself to withdraw from the pulls of life. Like the Fool, you can do this with a couple of minutes of meditation a day, but also more in-depth practices are quite okay as well. Do what feels best. Be your Wise Person to understand what is right for you.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE
The tenth phase of your recovery, according to the Major Arcana, is the Wheel of Fortune. In this phase, you find out that your fate is inescapable. Everyone who is born will, at some point, die to be reborn again (according to certain religious beliefs). In this phase, you learn that life is like that wheel with many good and bad feelings. It is like walking up a steep mountain, and you keep reminding yourself that this too shall pass. You know that the path will be less steep at some point, and your hike will be like a breeze again. When the seductive call from food is hard to resist, remind yourself that this too shall pass. You do not have to feel bad because there is an urge. You can say no, not right now. There will come a moment when you think: “Hey, I’m doing pretty well!” Savor that moment so you can use the memory when things are not going as you’d like them to go.
Strength comes in the eleventh phase in the Fool’s Recovery Journey. Here the Fool struggles with the lion inside of you. The lion is the King of Animals and represents all parts of us that stand for your instincts. In this phase, you become aware of your urges that define your journey. Your urges protect the feelings below them. Allowing the urges to come to life means that you may ignore the feelings that are below them. All you need is some inner strength only to acknowledge the feelings to prevent yourself from eating. Inner strength is a feminine form of power. That is why you also need to use the High Priestess’s power here – it’s intuition and a soft control. Ego power is much more rigid and often not as useful as you think. You cannot force a lion into submission. The lion needs to be coaxed into submission by your archetypical feminine power. So lean back and notice that there is a well of power inside you that has nothing to do with force. It is a grounded power that backs you up when you need it. Find the source, and you will know that you have unlimited power forever.
That inner strength is something you may need in the next phase, the phase of the Hanged Man. It is the phase in which you learn that, as Jung once said, the best comes up in us when we are in an impossible situation. Like the Hanged Man, you hung upside down with your hands tied behind your back. It feels as if you’re stuck in a position from which you cannot escape. Food addiction and destructive behavior like binging can feel like that. In a way, the abundance of the Empress that lies under this phase has become “too much.” The Fool wants to escape, but you don’t know how to. If this is your situation, then it is time to understand things from a different perspective. You can only find this perspective on the inside. You now know how you do not want to feel, but how do you want to feel? What is left of the initial Fool that went on a journey? Are you still carefree, or do your expectations now burden you? At this moment, you need to think out of the box to escape this impossible situation. It is the only way to rekindle your life energy – the same as your Fool’s life energy.
The Death card often looks so ominous, but it is a phase where a lot is possible if you know how to look at it. When you see this card, you are invited to transform feelings that block you in making a renewed start. Take a step back and look at what is keeping you from moving on? Is it fear? Is it depression? Which thoughts are going around in your mind? Know that it is time. Every few years, your body renews every cell in it, so why would you need to stay in the same old same old situation? Looking at it from this angle shows you that it is also time to renew your situation’s energy. You can do this yourself, without being forced by life circumstances, so you can take it as slow as you want. Maybe it is time to weed out some of the old things that keep you from a total renewal. Sometimes you need to free yourself of certain beliefs, people, situations, or energy. Do not be afraid of this (don’t be a Fool); space will soon refill with sparkly new things that make you much happier than this old stuff.
Once you have said your goodbyes to the old and have welcomed the new, you arrive in a new situation where you need to practice moderation to retain the balance. Why don’t you see if there is a possibility to work together with others to create a mutual balance between various opposites? This step in your cycle shows you that it is important to practice moderation. Excesses in behavior are not advised, but we all know how hard that can be. Try to say no for a change. This phase is all about evaluating whether or not you are still going in the right direction. You need to redirect if you notice that you’re not. It is also about healing old wounds or trauma so you can keep opening up to possibilities instead of what is not possible (in your Fool‘s mind).
it is not easy to practice moderation. Sometimes it is hard to let go of negative thought patterns. In a way, these thought patterns are as addictive as food. They prevent us from letting go of what is no longer serving us, which in return can cause quite a lot of guilt. Besides that, we haven’t healed our addiction to food yet as well, so we are now looking at two (or maybe more) challenging aspects in our life that keep us bonded. When you hit this phase in the journey, you experience a break-down form, where you realize that this cannot go on forever. Test those bonds; are they as tight as you think they are? Or is it only something in your mind that you think you cannot release yourself from food? You are keeping yourself (and sometimes fool others) imprisoned with your addiction. This card shows your shadow side, your Achilles’ heel, and you cannot deny it anymore. Do what is necessary and start today.
And still, you can stay in denial for a long time. Some people can hang on for ages – moving between the two of them on and off. While you still received a gentle nudge to change your life with the Death card, the Tower card is now telling you that you need to make changes. In some cases, you are forced to do so by divine intervention. Suddenly your reality stares you straight in the face, and it brings shock and havoc. You see the truth and cannot unknow it anymore. You are now aware of the false statements you have been using and forced to do the work because you need to move forward. There is no turning back. When you hit this phase, it is crucial to take your recovery by the day. Do not spend any thought on the past or the future anymore. In the here and now is where your recovery is.
And when the dark clouds pass, and you sit on the ground with the broken pieces of your “Tower” around you, you feel how lonely you are. Your old life has collapsed, and all you can do is stare at the pieces. You look at the dark sky above, and you see this one star surrounded by eight other stars. With a shock, you’ve landed in your reality. Your old life broke into pieces now you have hit rock bottom. Now you feel how tired you are, and you give up all resistance. You can’t go any deeper or lower than this, and if you squint your eyes, this kind of feels right. From here on forth, you can only go up. You’ve been stripped of all false pieces of identity. You are left with what you are on a soul level. All you can do now is live life in the present and do what is possible now. Don’t worry about what is not possible yet; stay in this here and now. You are okay. You are still alive. You are the Fool who can do anything.
Beware that you do not fall back into your old ways of thinking or behaving. Forget about the fantasies you had about how you were. From now on, you need to develop a sense of intuition that tells you at all times what is your best step forward. You don’t need to be psychic for that, just listen to your gut. On the other side, you may have uncovered a sense of mediumship when the big bang hit. By throwing off all masks and false identities, you are now facing the true you, and you can work with that way better than before. The phase you are in now is a real moment of decision. You either start following the soul you or you go back to following the old you. It is all about either dropping the fight or holding on to it. Know that you can keep hanging around in this phase for a long time, trying out one side or the other. It’s your call, Fool!
But once you choose to listen to your soul’s call, you will notice that success is at hand. Suddenly you notice how ambitious you are to change your life into a life of success, love, and joy. You take empowered steps forward and enjoy the victories you experience when you do. In this phase, you start to see things so clear about how a life without food addiction (or rather a life of recovery) is for you. You see things so clearly now. Based on rational and positive thinking, you choose never to give up again. You need to express yourself from a new identity and hope. It is also a phase in which you are called to share your victories with others who struggle like you. You do this from a view of love for yourself and others. Congratulations, the hard part of this Fool ’s cycle is over now.
After a while of basking in the sun, you notice it is time to move again. You are now entering into a phase in which you need to define how much you have developed. You need to evaluate how you’re doing in your recovery and which aspects still need more improvement. Evaluation is critical because this is where you learn the most of where you are and what you need to keep moving toward the end phase. You not only look at the habits that help you in recovery, but you also evaluate whether other life aspects like your work, your relationship(s), your home, and life in general still match your needs. Besides that, you think about who you are now since you have released yourself from so many aspects that were not you. Who are you now? Are you still a Fool, or are you moving toward Fool 2.0? This question may bring a sort of identity crisis if you don’t know. Know that with so much “stuff” released, it is okay not to know who you are anymore, especially when you have lived an addicted life for a very long time. Acknowledge that the empty spaces are there to fill in with new identity aspects again, so find out who you want to be.
With the last phase, we come full circle with the circle of life. This is the end, and at the same time, it is not. You never really end it. After this, a new cycle starts again with its challenges, but you bring forth what you learned in earlier cycles every time you do that. Even cycles lived in past lives are useful, so you are never “too old” to learn. This is when you experience a form of wholeness and can congratulate yourself on a job well done. You may feel a lot of liberation and peace right here – an ideal state. But soon, the horizons of your soul experience will call you, and you will start over like the Fool again, finding out more and more about yourself. All’s well that ends well.
Be a Fool in your journey
This brings your (first) Fool’s journey to an end. You are no longer a Fool. You now know things you did not realize before. If you are interested in discovering more about your Fool’s Recovery Journey, contact me to find more.