Thursday, June 9, 2011

Of Tarot and Teflon

There are rules of tarot reading that cannot be broken.

The first one is never to make grand statements around bad things. You never tell anybody that they're going to get horribly sick or that somebody close to them is going to die. Never. There are are ways of delivering what appears to be bad news. Telling somebody their granny is about to die just aint on. What if they don't? What if it's the other granny? What if nothing happens? What if they get cancer. Tarot readers shouldn't make large negative statements - ever.

The second big rule of tarot reading is when one of your own issues comes up in a reading, do not shy away from looking at what is going on - after the reading is done. You're there for the client. You can deal with your issues later. You have a responsibility to yourself to look at your own crap as well as helping others to sift through their stuff.

The third rule of tarot reading is to always self-protect. Do not take other people's issues on as your own. Acknowledge their pain and suffering, but do not take it on board. It's their pain to deal with - not your own. You can empathise, offer guidance, provide alternatives, but you do not take on other people's pain and suffering and wear it like a lapel pin. Techniques to avoid this crap transference can involve techniques including white lighting, setting up a sacred space to work in, reiki empowerment or in my case, I recite the teflon prayer ("I'm made of teflon - no crap sticks to me". Repeat regularly - it works).

The last big rule of tarot reading is that you never give advice when reading, per se, but provide alternative routes if you can. And if it's all too much - out of your league, realise this, take the time to gently recommend professional help if it's what the cards are indicating - offering no diagnosis, blame or shame, what ever help that may be. This is not copping out. This is being responsible - knowing your boundaries and abilities and recognising that the person you are reading for could benefit from some more guided, pointed, professional help help could be the difference between years of misery and a life which gets back on track quicker.

Thing is, these tarot rules translate easily into four life lessons.
1) Look at things in the positive - giving things a negative slant gets you nowhere.
2) Meet your demons head on and quickly - take responsibility for them sooner rather than later.
3) Put yourself first. Until you are okay, you can't give to others. Never put yourself last as its proof of how you value yourself.
4) Rather than suffer, seek help. Recognise you have a problem and do something about it.

So here I sit as a part of a group of people trying to lose weight. I have a wonderful online support group - absolutely fantastic people. There are a number of groups I'm alligned to. There's the girls from the 12wbt that I know through the Biggest Loser Club - magic people and great friends - they've become a part of my daily life and I'm blessed to have them there. There's the people from the 12wbt that arrange activities that I keep an eye on - great for finding extra boxing classes and people to do runs with.

And there's a couple of other weight loss groups, larger groups, which I'm part of with people at every stage of the journey - from depression, denial, bargaining, anger right through to acceptance.

Eh, I've heard that list somewhere before.

Yes. One of the common elements, the elephant in the room that is rarely acknowledged, is that the psychological side of weight loss is very alligned to the grieving process.

You see it time and time again.

Working through the issues of what is really going on, whether it be dealing with a long undiagnosed or unrecognised depression cycle (Tim Tams are my friend - really they are! Tim Tams make me happy.), to the bargaining moves some of us do (if I go for a ten minute walk that will get rid of the Tim Tam I just ate) to the anger many of us feel and subsequently turn towards themselves (I hate Tim Tams and I'm never going to have one again) to the denial that a lot of us divert to, whether we admit it or not (What me, eat Tim Tams! Never!) to the final acceptance of the real issues (Hello, my name is Tammy and I am a Tim Tam addict. It's been three weeks since my last Tim Tam).

I'm trying to not light of something that's far more serious, but to show a point.

Unfortunately, there really isn't a state which encompasses fat and happy.

Being overweight is just a very long process of grieving.

For many of us who've been blighted by obesity, we've tried for years to hide our pain through a sunny disposition, a wisecrack and the willingness to be invisible. Nobody's pain is exactly the same, but we can all empathise. For those who've been overweight - and not just a couple of kilos, but very overweight, will know what it feels like to be pointed at in the street, have car horns blare at you, to be asked how far your pregnancy is going along, have clothes split at the seems, to walk into a shop and know that nothing will fit, the eyes of the size 8 shop assistant staring at you as if you were dog poo on your shoe. You avoid public transport for fearing not fitting in the seats. You avoid going to bars for fear of being barked at. (And yes, most of these things have happened to me in the past, and yes, it's crap)

Most of us can also recognise the behaviour patterns that come out when stressed or emotional.

When my aunt passed away the other week I turned to my old friend ice cream. Ice cream doesn't make judgements. Ice cream doesn't care if you want ot be completely antisocial. Ice cream, for a minute or two takes the pain away. I'm pleased to also say that in turning to ice cream, I went the one paddle pop route, not two tubs of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia - which I would have done in the past.

I acknowledge the behaviour pattern. I chose to give in to the ice cream, but I also chose to not damage myself and my compromise my weight loss too badly by taking a lesser route. I also made sure to look at why I was doing what I was doing, feeling the pain, knowing full well that these hurts were spiritual and made the choice not to let things spiral further. I'm not perfect by any means, but  my actions were far less self-destructive than in the past.

Which is why I've found myself stepping way from these groups for a while.

To see the pain and frustration on a daily basis is difficult for me. I want to help. I want to give advice. Sometimes I want to slap a few people over the head and yell "STOP BEING SO STUPID! STOP RUNNING AWAY AND TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY - GET HELP!". Other people, I just wish I could pick up and cuddle, wishing there was a fairy with a magic want to take their woes away. Other people I look at and I see a former version of myself. In denial, depressed, scared, angry - wanting for things to change and helpless to do so. These people are the hardest ones of me to look at.

I look at them and I want to ask why they are avoiding getting real assistance? I want to tell them to start changing their thought processes. I want to tell them that this can be a very long process. What they think they want to do in changing their bodies will make everything better is wrong and that changing the inside is the only way to make things better.

And how do I know this. Ten years in and out of very good, focussed therapy - and the knowledge that I'm still a work in process - physically, mentally and emotionally. Also knowing that all of the work I've done has made me far, far more happier with myself and my body. I'm certainly not perfect, but I know that when I take full responsibility for my thoughts and actions I feel a lot more in control. I also know when I reach a point where I have to go seek help - and I seek it quickly. But generally, I'm okay. I'm not the happiest person on the planet, things aren't perfect, but I'm okay. It took me forty years to realise this.

Looking back at all this, I'm not made of teflon - which is why I'm giving the online forums a wide berth for the while. Some stuff that really belongs to other people does stick. Some stuff really does hurt and some stuff makes me despair about not only the person in pain, but myself.

But at least the teflon coating makes it easier to wash away.


The Elephant's Child said...

Wonderful post. Thanks. Full of good advice - the sort that you know is good, and you know won't be easy. And I admire you for stepping back to take care of yourself.

Jackie K said...

Great stuff here Pand. On tarot: you and I have different beliefs in this area but I think your professionalism and empathy are spot on. All very good advice. On weight loss: again spot on, well done. And paddle pops are fine, relatively harmless compared to other things (like Tim Tams!)

Kath Lockett said...

Beautifully expressed, Pandora. I can absolutely see how the ones who desperately want help but don't know how or when or why or even what the first move to take is must be heart-breaking.

I like your teflon analogy even if, at the end, you too admit that things do stick. I also like the seeing things from a positive angle idea - that is something that I need to work on. A lot.