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Reader Biases and Prejudices

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on June 15, 2010 | Comments (16)

My friends Nancy Antenucci and Lunaea Weatherstone wonder about prejudices as a reader and how to overcome them. For instance, Nancy says, “it is really hard for me to read for someone who is having a covert affair.”

Lunaea agrees, saying, “I have that problem sometimes too, especially with women who are making the same dumb choices over and over in their love lives. How to step outside your own values to do a clear reading — or should you?”

I think that this is something that every reader must come to terms with for him or herself. In the all the years I’ve been reading, my ideas, my philosophy, continually change and evolve.

Although I believe each of us must draw our own boundaries and although I do not believe that my way is any more correct or laudable than anyone else’s, I’ll share what my current beliefs are, just for the sake of starting a conversation.

Nancy and Lunaea’s questions are really two-fold. First, if we have prejudices, should we try to overcome them? Second, if so, then how do we overcome them? Neither question is easy.

What do you believe about your role as a tarot reader? Do you believe that the right people will come to you to get a reading that only you can give? If so, are your prejudices part of that unique reading that they would get from you? Then why would you want to get rid of them? You wouldn’t! So don’t.

As for me, I believe that my role as a reader is to be an oracle. The querent is coming to me in order to hear the guidance of the divine. My cards and I are only a channel. So I try to keep the channel as clear and open as possible. I am not there to be their judge or tell them what to do. I am there to convey a message from the divine, which may or may not correspond to what I personally would advise.

I have been in covert relationships–both sides, the cheating and being cheated on. Mostly, people who are involved in affairs in any capacity are hurting. And if they are coming to the divine for guidance, then the divine, who I believe is a loving entity, will give it to them without my input or opinion or judgement.

My scandalous past has helped me develop some level of compassion. And I try to not be judgmental (the staying in a stupid relationship is a harder one for me, although, because I’ve done that, too!). Everyone’s journey is their own. Nancy, you told me once, hold your own truth close and let others have theirs.

So I try to maintain an open channel and part of that is that my own life be stable. Since my life has been more settled, I know I am a better reader—more grounded and more focused.

Everything is connected. My idea of my role as a reader is tied to my particular journey in this lifetime and my own spiritual development. So my role as a reader will likely be different from someone else’s role as a reader. The wonderful, beautiful thing about all this diversity and chaos is that someone it all manages to come together just as it should.

The question: should I overcome my prejudices isn’t that hard after all. Just think about what you believe your role as a reader is and how much of “you” plays a part and you will have your answer. And I think that answer will render the second one moot. For if you and your ideals/opinions/prejudices are part of what you give to a querent, then you’re good to go. If you think you are a channel for guidance that comes from outside yourself, then, again, there is no “trying to overcome” anything, because your opinions aren’t part of the deal.

I should note that I have not, to my knowledge, had to read for any circumstances involving abuse or criminal activity. It is all well and good to say “oh, I wouldn’t have a problem reading for anything.” But until I am tested in all areas, well, who knows how I’d behave if and when something like that actually happens.

Well, that was a lot of TMI. What do you all think?

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Theresa
on June 15th, 2010 @ 8:30 am

Hi Barbara,

Excellent topic! I practice detachment and compassion when I read – I get my emotions out of it but always try to be mindful of being in the other person’s shoes if judgment creeps in. Not an easy balance.

Years ago, I was getting a lot of criminals coming in for readings. Apparently, I did a reading for one and he loved it so much that he referred his friends. After a while, I got sick of the “are the police watching me” and questions like that – I began to suspect I was only helping them to be better criminal . So I got rid of most of them with a few exceptions (the ones who were coming to try and change their path).

Blessings!
Theresa

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#2 
Written By Beth Owls Daughter
on June 15th, 2010 @ 9:13 am

Barbara – As usual, this is a fantastic subject, and one that you tackle with your usual wisdom and candor, which is so helpful.

In readings where the subject matter is loaded (because of *my* own history), or where I have become close to a favorite client (it happens), I am especially careful about the boundaries between my viewpoint and the Tarot’s. (Yes, there are times when Tarot and I disagree. Guess who almost always prevails and turns out to be right. Hint: I pull an extra card or two and get promptly put in my place! ;-) ).

So like you, I try to be especially aware of my own emotions and prejudices. I may even tell my client when I am “Beth” and when I am speaking as an oracle. Depending on the mood and vibe at the time, I may even indicate that I am “changing hats.”

That said, though, yes, it is really hard to witness people insisting on making painful mistakes. I like how James Wells handles this — by asking instructive questions that can help them come to their own discovery. But if they can’t or won’t.. unless they are in actual danger, I have to surrender to the truth of their own process.

It’s definitely one of the hardest things about this job.
– Beth Owls Daughter

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#3 
Written By Nancy
on June 15th, 2010 @ 9:46 am

Barbara – I know how hard it is to be so self-revealing. Thank you for taking the big plunge! Like you, I see myself as the bearer of messages from the Divine (or the Universe, or your spirit guides) – - they are not my messages to edit or withhold. I always ask, before reading, that I can be an open channel for the messages the querent most needs to hear – after that I just have to be the Fool and trust. Great piece – and thought provoking.

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#4 
Written By Anna
on June 15th, 2010 @ 9:52 am

Hi Barbara.
Good questions, and good points. Thank you.
I try to keep my own opinion out of the reading. I have in the past noticed how what the Tarot suggested to a client was so different from what I would have suggested to a friend in the same situation. When that happens I remind my self that the client is there for wisdom and not my personal opinion. Said that, I believe our own experiences and values still influence the way we read the cards. After all, people who witness the same event may understand it in different ways because of their own personal background. I do my best to be a clear channel for the information that comes from the cards, but I accept that it may be easier said than done, and perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be.
Anna

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#5 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on June 15th, 2010 @ 10:38 am

A great topic, Barbara.

It’s one that is not limited to Tarot readers. Psychologists, therapists, counselors and other people in the helping professions also have to deal with this issue.

What Tarot readers have as an advantage that other therapists and counselors don’t have is the Tarot. So the solution to this problem that works for me is fairly simple: read the cards. Come from the cards and not from our opinions.

Traditionally, there are two basic ways to read the cards: have a meaning for each card or simply go with what you feel about the symbolism on the card (there’s also a third version which combines the two). Readers who have a given meaning for each card are more likely to read the cards without opinions interfering, as the method of reading using interpreting symbolism on the fly is generally more open to inserting opinion.

However, I do not think that readers should be robots. Further, there is a reason that a client (I dislike the archaic “querent”) came to you and not someone else: they want or need to hear your opinions. Therefore, I think it is good for a Tarot reader to be able to give readings based on just card meanings AND symbolism interpretation. I start with the straight reading, move on to symbolism interpretation, and then add opinion.

In my opinion it is the responsibility of a Tarot reader to answer the questions of a client. If a client asks a question such as “Should I continue my affair?” I would respond by interpreting the cards. If the client asks, “How can I make my relationship better with my spouse?” and it turns up that there is an affair going on, the interpretation may be quite different.

Finally, I strongly believe in working WITH a client and not simply giving a lecture. Often, clients aren’t looking for answers so much as outside verification that their decisions are okay. After telling the client what the cards indicate are challenges, asking the client what they think about this often indicates what the client is thinking and allows you to give symbolism interpretation and opinion that can help the client find peace on his/her path.

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#6 
Written By Nancy Antenucci
on June 15th, 2010 @ 10:49 am

Nicely thought out and written Barbara.

I have learned how to sit with my own desired path of truth for my client while bowing to the High Priestess within myself and them. Even after all these years though, it ain’t any easier when I witness choices that will bring so much pain to unknowing parties.

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#7 
Written By Lunaea Weatherstone
on June 15th, 2010 @ 11:30 am

Great topic, Barbara! Just to be clear about my own position as a reader, as others have said here, I feel that my job is to be a “faucet” for divination messages and to keep that faucet as open and flowing as it is possible for a human to be. That means I need to stay vigilant about if/when my own life experiences and opinions put a spin on how I interpret the cards. And it’s not just the negative things! If I feel an excitement about a client’s opportunities and choices, I need to set that aside too. I’m not there to forward my own agenda about their life. There have been a few occasions (in my 30+ years as a reader) where I could either feel that the faucet wasn’t flowing and stopped the reading, or when I declined to do another reading for someone who kept coming back with the same questions, in the same stuck situation, especially if the same cards kept coming up. That’s not helpful to the client, and it’s kinder and wiser to just say whoa.

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#8 
Written By Koneta
on June 15th, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

Hi Barbara,
You ask, “What do you believe about your role as a Tarot reader?” This is a great question, as I’ve been asking myself the same thing. My prejudices, and ideals are going to play a role in how I read and perceive the message presented in any given reading. I feel my job is to know myself well enough, and to keep as much detachment as I possibly can. Unfortunately, I am bossy and opinionated by nature. (first born, The Emperor, Scorpio, uggg) I feel that as long as I am consciously aware of my “faults”, I can try and avoid allowing them to interfere in a reading. Will some of these aspects of my personality and experiences spill over? Yes, no question about it. On the other hand, these aspects are also what form my style of reading and intuitive interpretations. My goal is to remain as objective and open as I possibly can, to listen more, talk less, and be as helpful as possible without making judgments and just telling people what to do. LOL

As far as readings involving “questionable” values/morals, I have a very broad view and tolerance for myself that extends to others as well. It is not my place to judge a querant, and I expect the same consideration.

Blessings,
Koneta

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#9 
Written By Zanna Starr
on June 15th, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

I sometimes preface comments in a reading with words such as “In my personal experience…” to let the client know where I’m coming from with any statement that follows. Like you, Barbara, that “personal experience” includes actions and decisions that I’m not proud of, but that I accept as part of who I am. I feel those experiences give me a broader, deeper understanding of what might motivate someone to behave in ways that “society” frowns upon.

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#10 
Written By Nicole D
on June 15th, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

Great article and something most readers have to come to grips with at some point. The prejudices we have are often the result of our or someone close’s experiences, yet part of what we offer comes through the filter of who we are. Otherwise we would be online tarot computer programs ;). That said, mostly it is not any of our business to judge- we can keep our opinions for ourselves or loved ones with whom we share that type of dynamic. At the end, we are tarot readers, not the moral police.

Now, ask me again when I deal with an abuser and I will most likely change my response (after kicking the client’s backside).

xoxox
Nicky

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#11 
Written By Blackbird "BB"
on June 16th, 2010 @ 6:50 am

Hmmm,
I do agree with Donald that first and foremost I am there to read the cards, and from time to time there guidance would not be my own; usually when that happens I show the Q the cards, explain just why I believe Nan is saying follow this course, and then; hopefully without confusing them to badly; tell them why I would not have said the same and let them wieght the difference.

As to Issue’s like cheating,
I really got serious late in life, (over 40) so I already had a good bit of milage under my belt and a nearly (now) grown daughter. As so many of the people I read for are Young Ladies (as I see them) I have to admit they all become adopted daughters for our session. I give them the best advise I can give them between “Dad” and Nan, basically filtering Nan (Ps of Swords) through Dad’s compassion, not holding anything back mind you. Just puttng things more gently than I know Nan would if she could communicate directly.

My Guide is beautifal and wise, but she can be rightious harsh. Blessings, BB.

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#12 
Written By Ty
on June 16th, 2010 @ 7:25 am

I agree with the prior comments that we have to be oracles or filters, but that what comes thru will be somewhat colored by our own experiences and prejudices, and the ‘trick’ is to compensate for that when we open our mouths!

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#13 
Written By Helen
on June 16th, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

This is an interesting question, because we all have prejudices even if we don’t want to admit them. I guess my attitude to reading cards is that I am not here to judge the person and therefore the thing I owe my client is objectivity.

I have read for friends whose situation is not necessarily one I approve of but I still apply these rules of objectivity and just interpret what the cards tell me whether I personally agree or not.

This is what is so hard about reading for oneself I think, the ability to remain objective is very hard.

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#14 
Written By Linda
on June 23rd, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

My thought to share is to consider vocabulary. On the spot readings with a client often does not lend itself to considering the weight of words – yet, a well-thought out pause or question put to the querent will often open an insightful dialogue for the querent as well as the reader.

I find “affairs of the heart” to be a sensitive issue and multi-leveled as well. It becomes more so if you know the people involved.

Challenges and prejudice in readings come up often as a two way street. It may be an insightful practice to bring them up delicately. Again, timeout – pause – deep breath – and ask for the right words. Avoidance will color a reading more than opening a dialogue (I add – this is my thought).

My guiding rule has been to stay open as I learn as much from reading for a client as I hope the client learns from the reading.

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#15 
Written By Amythyst Raine
on July 1st, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

This topic hit very close to home. I’d been reading for several months for a woman involved in an extra-marital affair, and I too, made it a point not to pass judgement on her or her situation.

A turn in this client/querent relationship evolved when she attempted to drag me into the center of her emotional dilemma and keep me involved in the high drama on a day to day basis with a string of very high energy, high pitched emails, and constant repeated readings for the same topic– mainly, when will he leave his wife?

Her negative energy began to affect me and, thus, my household. I finally reached a point where I knew that I wouldn’t be able to help this woman because she would not listen to or heed any sound advice. She wanted the cards to tell her what she wanted to hear.

It was finally time to withdraw.

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