Thursday, 3 October 2013

revisiting the hanged man

Patience. Standstill. Frustration. Delay. These are the keywords for The Hanged Man. Often when people initially explore this card, they find that it seems to symbolise non-movement with a side helping of depression. They remain stuck with this interpretation but it's not the whole story and my relationship with The Hanged Man has really deepened over time for this reason. He's going nowhere fast, that much is true. Yet he somehow seems serene, like Odin on the Yggdrasil, making some kind of necessary sacrifice for the greater good.

I find the corners of my mouth curling up when I hear people say things like, 'I was sixteen - I thought I knew everything back then!' 'I took risks when I was younger - I was reckless and I wanted it all!' As we grow older, many of us tend to release the desire to go at a hundred miles per hour. We see the inherent value in taking our time and going steady, especially when we don't have all the facts yet or when we're carefully pursuing a long-held desire. We're more selective when we throw caution to the wind. We see that there's a price to be paid for pushing too-much-too-soon. The Hanged Man can therefore be interpreted as a symbol of being savvy and 'playing the long game'. In much the same way as The High Priestess reversed, I've always felt that The Hanged Man could signal the importance of waiting until more information has come to light before making any important decisions. He may keep his cards close to his chest, paying attention to the unfolding events and choosing his moment to instigate change. I don't mean to imply that he's ruthless. In fact, my observation is that he's certainly in the seat of his personal power. 

Patience is a virtue. My mother used to say that so much when I was growing up and when I work with The Hanged Man, I often hear her voice coming through. To be patient is to be wise and self-aware. To know when a pause is necessary is a testament to one's strength of character, especially when they're ambitious and go-getting. It's difficult to sit still when you want to succeed, but it's always useful to know when it's time to retreat, reflect, plan a strategy..

The Hanged Man is the last defence against burnout for a lot of my clients! He comes along when they require a gentle reminder: You are not magnanimous. He asks us to explore the expectations we place upon ourselves and he signals a possible need to listen to what the body is asking for. He reminds us to refuel and recalibrate. He is not just delay - he is gestation. No birth can take place without that time of silent growth.

Trusting the process is easier said than done, especially when we're working on some serious emotional healing. The Hanged Man says breathe into it. Sit with it. Mull it over. Be present. We want to rush past our feelings, duck under them or leave them in the therapist's office when we walk out to the car. We want to organise their arrival and departure so that they don't show up when it's awkward or inconvenient. The healing process is tricky because we find that it spills out all over the timetable we've carefully prepared for it. It just doesn't work the way we'd like it to. The Hanged Man is a gentle hand being placed onto yours when those tears come at a challenging moment or when a memory knocks you sideways. The process is never so potent as when you are living an intensely raw part of it and witnessing yourself doing the work.