The inspiration for Ingratitude List Tarot spread came from this article about how making gratitude lists can make us feel worse when our lives well and truly suck. The article felt relatable because in this past year, I kind of overdosed on positivity due to Law of Attraction studies and reading books that encourage an extremely Positive Mental Attitude. I do have a PMA – I’m positive that I’m mental and I definitely have an attitude!
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being positive but there is something wrong with trying to gloss over deeply disturbing emotions with fake positivity. To be fair, at the point this year when the shit did hit the fan, I didn’t even try to gloss my feelings over. I’m old enough to know that it doesn’t work.
What I’m trying to get at here, and what the linked article above is also highlighting, is that it is only when we are completely honest with ourselves that we can begin to heal deeply traumatised, panicked or fear-riddled aspects of the psyche. No amount of plastering these emotions over with a PMA, gratitude lists or positive affirmations is going to do the job.
Sometimes, in the words of the Buddha, we have to ‘invite Mara in for tea.’ We have to sit with those unpleasant feelings and acknowledge just how screwed we feel. When we feel that the Cosmos is giving us the finger, we have to nod in acknowledgement because… well, it’s real. And, here’s the killer, so is our emotional response.
Let’s face it, feelings are more real than affirmations. Affirmations are a tool we use to try to rewire our feelings but unless we can create a feeling connection with the affirmation in the first instance, it is never going to work, no matter how many times we repeat the affirmations.
There is a glib acronym floating around here, there and everywhere in personal development social media circles – You may have seen it:
F – False
E – Evidence
A – Appearing
R – Real
The problem is, if you are going to discount fear as a fake emotion, you also have to discount joy:
J – Jesting
O – Only
Y – You’re screwed and we’re all screwed because we’re all going to die and if you’re lucky you die before all your friends and loved ones…
The point, of course, is not that life sucks – The point is that life and real life experiences are a mix between good and bad and that we can learn to find more equanimity and harmony with age and experience… if we are honest with ourselves about our emotions.
This doesn’t mean that I dismiss all Law of Attraction teachings, it’s just that I agree with Christiana Gaudet that the Law of Attraction has a statute of limitations and I also believe there are other Cosmic Laws that come into play. Ultimately, there is one Law that trump all other Laws… Compassion.
The Tarot as a Tool for Emotional Honesty & Self-Reflection
Enter the Tarot. The Tarot, unlike many oracle decks out there, does not shy away from the darker experiences we all have to navigate. This is what makes it such an excellent tool and mirror for our psyche. It allows us to have our deepest fears reflected back at us so that we can acknowledge and accept them. Then we are able to heal them.
So with that all in mind, I created the Tarot spread below. It’s for looking at three things you are really fucking ungrateful for right now. These things, without a doubt, belong on your ingratitude list.
These will be three things that you have a deeply visceral and negative response to if you are completely honest with yourself. You are encouraged to accept this response because acceptance is the only thing that can lessen your resistance to transforming any underlying cause (if at all possible) or at least transforming how you feel about the thing.
However, you are also encouraged to accept your lack of willingness to transform the underlying cause if that is the case, even if it is within your power to create change. Sometimes there are many layers of denial and resistance to work through… and that is okay! Again, only acceptance will clear the resistance.
The Ingratitude List Tarot Spread
Choose the first three cards face up. They represent the things in your life right now that evoke feelings of grief, panic, fear, disgust or even utter dispair. These are the things you can add to your ingratitude list.
You don’t have to use the darkest, most negative cards in the Tarot deck. Sometimes, if you are single and looking, the most painful card in the deck can be the 10 of Cups, for instance. If you wish to journal the reading you are doing begin with the sentence, ‘I’m ungrateful for…’ for each of the first three cards and then write as much as you need to about the thing or situation at hand.
The second lot of cards (4-6) show you if it is possible for you to change the underlying cause or if you are better off working on how you feel about the thing. Choose these cards face down. Action/yang cards indicate that taking action to change the situation is the best way forward. Receptive/yin cards indicate that you can choose to instead work on transforming your response to the thing.
If you are journalling your reading, begin each sentence for the cards in the second lot with ‘I choose to (or I choose not) to transform this situation…’. Go on to describe what you will do or what inner shift you believe is needed, inspired by the Tarot card.
The third lot of cards (7-9) show you what you need to know about the journey of transformation you are on with this thing. These cards are not here to shame you; they are here to cheer you on and to remind you that ‘this too shall pass’… but remember – until it does, you are totally 100% entitled to your feelings. The final journalling prompt for this lot of cards is ‘Moving forward, I…’ and then write about what you want to see happen in the future, based on what you see in each card.