Let’s have a quick think about fear, anxiety, and dread. The very nature of these words tangle around each other, like their definitions are just different rungs on the same downward spiral. All three of these emotions (or, inner experiences) have a common thread of apprehending uncertainty, and sometimes, filling that mysterious space ahead with more fear, with anxiety-inducing possibilities, with timorous turmoil.
The crux: the more we associate with our fears—the more we lean into them, listen to them, let them swallow space inside of us—the more powerful they reign in our lives.
When the Nine of Swords crops up in a reading, I immediately think, oh, the nightmare card. The querent floats in this vast, dark space, curled into herself and holding her head; nine jagged swords align, pointing inward at her spine. Just as these swords are one by one stacked upon each other, so too are our worries and angsts.
This daunting card points to emotional addictions and self-destructive thought and behavioral patterns that must be clarified in order to wake up, to snap out of penetrating negativity. When we allow pessimistic worries to permeate the scope of our uncertainty, we run a frightening risk of manifesting precisely what we didn’t want to happen. That anxious energy has to go somewhere—and we are quite likely to perpetuate worst-case scenarios if we keep breathing life into them.
This card comes when we are gripped by fear; this card comes when our negative obsessions are literally stripping us of our life force. The muse in this card, the soft jostle that will stir us from our nightmare, is perspective. We must acknowledge everything that we are—yes—rightfully afraid of, validly anxious about, but also—the deep, inner turmoil that is birthed directly from the source of our own mindset. We must will our eyes out of ourselves, for just a moment, to observe the rungs of our downward spiral, to clearly see which of our despairs contradict reality.
Our perspective is also our opportunity. The muse of this card is gently behind us, urging us to confront these fears, to ask them what they’re about, what they have to teach us, and how we can grow stronger because we have faced them. My poetry’s teacher’s poetry teacher told her: fear is a door that says “enter here.” Whether you take three deep breaths before you knock or just power-kick it open, your door is calling you to what lies on the other side.
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