I live with a King of Cups. She is an empath with strong emotions and equally strong resistance to them, meaning she cannot express them. As a result, she has extreme difficulty relating to people and is literally breaking apart, spiritually and physically. How does the King of Cups heal himself?
She drew the King of Cups in position two, the crossing card. I know that only she can heal herself but she has all but given up. Can you provide suggestions or reference material that may help?
Thank you, Yvonne
Wow, Yvonne, what a fantastic question. It really nails why I read Tarot and what I think the goal of Tarot should be--to read the energy around a situation and find a path to healing.
The King of Cups generally embodies both the positive and negative attributes of any suit. Remember that when you are reading and a Court Card comes up either in the upright or reversed position, most people aren't all positive attributes or all their shadow (though some people might project all shadowy elements in a certain situation, like work.) Particularly in the obstacle position, we can see how the King of Cups' shadow attributes can be the challenge for the person, rather than their strength. You can read about the King in this post, I am not going to rewrite what that person looks like.
The Cups rule emotions, so the Heart and Sacral Chakras are really illuminated with Cups people. Though Heart is traditionally an Air element chakra, it seems more fitting to me and in Tarot work to be associated with Water. Emotions and what we feel are intrinsically tied to Cups people. Sacral chakra, ruling our sex relations as well as creative endeavors, is also a Water chakra, so we can see how our emotions and sexual relations often are fundamentally tied together. Empaths are often represented through Cups Court Cards. What you describe about empaths with strong emotions and equally strong resistance to them is entirely normal. We learn to survive our sensitivities and gifts. If your partner was not taught how to shield her emotions from other people, or not given healthy and strong boundaries as a child, she had to survive that experience through shutting down feeling of emotions.
We must remember that this survival was necessary for her, rather than punishing it (I am talking more about her punishing herself for not feeling her emotions) to honor it in some way. I always like to do release ceremonies and to thank my shadow self for keeping me together at a time when I had no other allies or emotional tools. (The New Moon is a great time to do this type of ceremony, or the Winter Solstice.) I often thank my alcoholism for getting me through my life. Alcohol worked for me when I had no other emotional tools, but then it stopped working for me, and became the blockage to my emotional growth and connection to other people. When I do a release, I honor the ways in which I survived, but also how I truly want to live. So, release, then invite a new way of being into your life.
I am a huge fan of the book Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. She has some great insights on how to become self-compassionate, and how to feel an emotion without falling apart, or allowing it to become an obsession. This is another of the reversed King's attributes--being obsessed with a story about a negative emotion. "So and So hurt me, and this is how they hurt me. Isn't So and So a terrible person?" It is being mind-centered, rather than heart centered, and it is a way of not feeling the feeling. Emotions change fairly quickly, but we often sit in the story, because it is more comfortable for us than the emotion. So a story about hurt, betrayal, or chaos becomes more comfortable than anger or forgiveness. I love Pema Chodron's article on anger. But if we sit in anger, and do not react to it, and get deeper with the feeling, we often note it is a deep childhood pain that has arisen again. Often, when someone is empathic, we often see them shut it all down, so they cannot feel emotions at all. But this comes at a deep cost of connection with other humans.
But as you have identified, the King of Cups is a ruler of his emotions, not an escaper. He embodies the wisdom of his Suit, meaning, he has come to understand his own emotions and how to feel the feeling and then move to the next feeling. Kings of Cups who have not learned this lesson come to deal with their emotions in escapist ways, like addiction through alcohol, drugs, food, other people, gambling, anything to get out of the feeling that is uncomfortable. Dealing with addiction, if this is what your King of Cups is facing, is a whole post in and of itself, but naming it, owning it, and getting help is so very vital. You can email me privately if this is something you are facing, and would like some help navigating this part of the healing for King of Cups. But on the larger issue, I would first suggest examining where the fear of emotions comes from--Was it picking up other people's emotions too intensely? Was it being ridiculed or punished for her emotions? Was there no one there to walk with your King of Cups, to allow her to feel her vulnerability in a safe place? There are probably a thousand questions here. Once you identify that, you can take a course of action.
For the first question, I would say, learn grounding, shielding and empathic tools. There are so many resources online for empaths right now. I recently wrote about my healing work and empathic abilities in my newsletter. I also have written a ton about protection and grounding. This work is so so so important for empaths, healers, lightworkers and any of us who run away from emotions. Ground. Understand one's self. Great stones to help with grounding and shielding are Black Tourmaline, Hematite, Smoky Quartz, Onyx, Obsidian, Garnet, Dravite (Champagne Tourmaline), and Shungite among others. Get barefoot. Visualize your protection shield up in public and know you are allowed to feel your feelings, but not allowed to feel other people's feelings.
If it was the second, then some healing needs to come around the childhood wounds of being a sensitive person. We often hear, "You are too sensitive" being bandied around as an insult, but it is a beautiful quality to have. To empathize and live in compassion. Of course, it is a detriment if we feel other people's feelings for them, and I have found Pixie Campbell's courses on Shadow work and Boundaries absolutely invaluable in learning about our shadow self and how it plays out in our daily life, and how boundaries are so vital to the empath. (I wrote about working with Shadow here.) Carolyn Myss also does amazing work around understanding and working with the Shadow. Her book Sacred Contracts is a wonderful resource for understanding how archetypes come to play out in our life. Tarot deals with Archetypes too, so I find a natural connection there. One thing that Pixie says is that you can talk to your Shadow self when it begins to rear up. When your King of Cups begins to shut down at an emotional time, she can talk to her Shadow child. "It is okay, babe. I know that used to work for us, but it isn't anymore. I got this one. I am an adult now, I can protect us both." She tells of the image of putting your protective Shadow self in a papoose and carrying her with you. It isn't a punishing stance you take with those instincts, but an understanding that they are no longer working for you.
For the last question, remember that our vulnerability, our authentic self is worthy, beautiful, and compassionate. She wants to emote, express, and be whole in front of someone. This is why she feels broken apart. She is literally broken apart. Her insides aren't matching her outsides. A great practice is to have your King of Cups choose someone to be absolutely herself in front of. This might be you, though do not take it personally if it isn't. We often first have to choose a therapist or neutral third party. Make sure the person is trustworthy. This is the thing-- Vulnerability is a Gift. Each person gets to decide who is worthy of this gift. (Of course, Brene Brown is a wonderful amazing resource in the world of Shame and Vulnerability. If you haven't heard her TED talk, run right now to hear it. I will wait right here.) It is a good thing to practice boundaries and not share all our intimate feelings with everyone we meet. But it becomes a problem when it is no one. Our human push is to connect with others, even us introverts. This person simply will hold space while the person gets comfortable feeling his or her emotions. They may prompt to go deeper into a feeling or story. What was behind that hurt? Go deeper. The most important aspect of this is to make sure this space is safe. The King of Cups's experience in the past was one of ridicule or punishment when they did express emotions, so it really is so vital to ensure she is safe in this space. When the King of Cups emotes, it will simply be met with what works for her. She may determine that before the session. "If I cry, can you hold me? If I cry, can you cry with me? If I cry, can you simply close your eyes and breathe?" If you are abiding the person crying, resist handing them a tissue. That is often a mark to people that crying is inappropriate and needs to stop. Also know that if she doesn't cry, there is nothing wrong with her. Some people emote by laughing or screaming or moaning.
The goal is to become more heart-centered. What does that mean, exactly? Heart centeredness is, what my teacher called, the Highest Form of Spiritual Love, or rather the unconditional love towards the self and others. To achieve heart centeredness, we must release judgment of ourselves and others. We filter through the heart rather than the mind, and we often work actively to feel our own feelings and not other people's feelings. This work is lifelong work for the Empath. I can tell you in my crystal healing practice I often help my clients move into the heart space energetically through crystal healing, Reiki and simple space holding. Great crystals for heart work are Rhodonite, Rose Quartz, Rhodochrosite, Green Aventurine, Jade, Pink Tourmaline, Ruby in Fuschite, Kunzite, and Watermelon Tourmaline. I often manually open the heart chakra and allow my clients to cry. Touch is also vitally important for water healing, so think massage, Reiki and other healing modalities where gentle touch happens in a safe environment.
Your question reminded me of an episode of a local NPR program on WHYY called Voices in the Family. This episode features Brene Brown and Kristin Neff. Amazing stuff that might help shed some insight too. I hope this helps, and please let me know if you want some follow-up here, or if something doesn't make sense.
Much love, Angie