Cosmic Counsel is my monthly feature where I ask the cards for advice on tough problems, relevant real-life issues, and existential questions.
While we’re on the topic of the Inner Child, let’s talk about how your Inner Child comes to be – family. Some of us were lucky enough to be born into very happy families and so have much less to deal with and work through, but others weren’t so lucky.
Maybe you have severe conflict with one or both of your parents. Or maybe you just have that one sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle who always pushes your buttons. Because your family unit is the first set of people you’re born into, it’s really difficult to set boundaries without feeling guilty.
Navigating family relationships can be fraught with complications and difficult emotions, and many people are loath to cut a family member out of their life like they would if a friend or acquaintance was treating them the same way.
So how to deal? Let’s pull some cards.
This Month’s Question: How to deal with difficult family members.
(featured deck: Wild Unknown Tarot)
1. 6 of Pentacles
The 6 of Pentacles is a card of exchanges. One person who has more gives to the person who has less. I see this card as generosity and sharing what you have. The first line of defense against a difficult person is diplomacy. What motivates this particular family member? What do they want? When someone is being difficult or frustrating, it’s usually because they have some need that’s not getting met.
See if you can grease the wheels a bit by doing something that will make the person happy, and then maybe they will lay off of you. This doesn’t mean to bend over backwards and cross your own boundaries, but if there is something you genuinely can give freely to this person without resentment, then go ahead and do it. Make them happy and then perhaps they will reciprocate.
Do this without making demands or putting pressure on the person to give you want in return. This strategy most likely won’t yield immediate results, but the goal is to relieve some of the tension by taking on a charitable attitude. It’s also the gentlest approach and the least likely to backfire and cause even more problems.
2. Page of Swords
I see the Page of Swords as honesty, frank discussion, and putting your feelings out in the open. When you’re dealing with someone toxic, the temptation is to walk on eggshells and keep your opinions to yourself in over to avoid the backlash of dealing with the person’s anger or retaliation.
However, suppressing your own thoughts and feelings is damaging to you. When you’re dealing with a difficult person, spell out very clearly in words what they are doing to hurt you, how you would like to be treated, and what your expectations are for the relationship. Be very forward and frank. This leaves no room for error or misunderstandings in the future.
Vague, unstated boundaries usually produce vague, nebulous relationships where people can take advantage of you and then claim they didn’t know how you felt.
In dealings with toxic people, leave no room for interpretation in how you feel about their behavior. Draw your line in the sand, either by talking to them directly, or if that’s too explosive, write them a letter or an email. Communicate and spell things out.
3. 5 of Swords
If the above strategies don’t work, you can always admit defeat. The 5 of Swords is a difficult card, but the lesson in it is that some battles can’t be won. If engaging in negotiations, endless conversations, and even arguments with this person feels like the never-ending merry-go-round in hell, feel free to jump off. You don’t have to stay on the ride any longer than you have to.
Walking away may not feel good, because family members are usually people you have the deepest emotional investment in, but cutting your losses is preferable to suffering from abuse.
Recognize that not every person is a good person; not everyone can change or have empathy, and not everyone shares your values – even if you share the same blood. It’s a painful lesson for sure,but one better learned sooner rather than later.
4. Knight of Cups
As a final piece of advice, I see the Knight of Cups as someone dreamy and idealistic, someone who puts people on a pedestal. This one seems to be saying check your ideals at the door.
Do you have unrealistic expectations about who this person is? Are your ideas about family interfering with you seeing reality clearly for it is? Are you getting your hopes up in a situation only to be let down repeatedly? Are you selectively paying attention to only the good sides of this person without looking at the big picture?
Check to see how you are contributing to the unhealthy dynamic, not by being toxic and disruptive yourself, but by putting on rose-colored glasses about how this person is. Make sure that your attachments and emotional sensitivities are not running the show.
Seeking love, connection, understanding, and approval from someone who cannot give it to you is always bound to backfire.
That’s all I got for this round! Hopefully some piece of advice in here will help you navigate the thorny family relationships that so many of us got saddled with.