For the most part, I avoid doing readings for myself. I might pull a single card to consider at the beginning of each day, use particular images in ritual or meditation, or throw something down for the hell of it, but it’s pretty rare that I do a serious spread for myself. There are a lot of reasons for this. Mainly, it’s because I’m really good at lying to myself and seeing what I want to see. I’m equally good at having anxiety attacks when I think I might see something that I don’t want to see AND WHAT IF THAT’S REALLY WHAT’S GOING ON OH GOD.
I know that a lot of other readers—at all levels—are the same way, so I wanted to share some techniques for doing more useful, accurate readings when you are your own querent. I’ve found the following to be enormously helpful in those rare moments when I just have to pull for myself:
Draw fewer cards.
The fewer cards the better. This is its own blog post, but I’m adamant that any one card can thoroughly answer any question. It is beyond me why people think they need the Celtic cross spread for everything. There’s already a gazillion things (that you’ve never noticed) going on in any one card—you don’t need ten. Ten just gives you more opportunity to lie to yourself or get confused. When I do readings at events or for people I don’t know, I often do larger spreads because I find that that’s what people except (and they have their place). No one wants to accept that I could have given them essentially the same answer with only one or two cards (try it some time—you certainly can). There are particular kinds of strategies that help to make large spreads more meaningful than small ones, but most of us are not nearly self-aware enough to employ them on ourselves. When we don’t have an outside, objective(ish) ear for our inner monologues (like another tarot reader), it’s easy to read too much into a stack of cards.
Don’t ask for answers that you don’t want.
This is actually my policy at all times, whether or not tarot is involved. If you don’t really want to know, don’t ask. Don’t ask me how my day was if you aren’t prepared for me to start sobbing inconsolably (etcetera). Sometimes, you will be sorrier for knowing. I suppose it depends on your personality, but my experience has been that there is information out there in the world (especially about other people) that I just don’t want. I don’t want to know if my high school bully is still better than me at everything. I don’t want to know if my first boyfriend really was cheating on me back in college. I don’t want to know whether or not my current partner really thinks I’m the prettiest girl in the room. I also don’t want to know when and how I’m going to die, whether or not I’ll ever objectively serve any kind of real purpose in life, or how many people in my social circle secretly hate me.
I don’t want answers to any of the above because the answers might upset me and knowing wouldn’t really serve me in any useful way, anyway (except for maybe the death question, because I might just say “fuck it all” and buy a speedboat). You might be different. Maybe it’s really critical to you that you know if your wife actually thinks that you’re the sexiest man alive. But if you ask, be willing to accept that the answer is no.
Don’t do multiple readings concerning the same question.
This is usually related to the point above. Often, if we’re doing multiple readings in close proximity regarding the same issue, we’re just fueling some kind of anxiety and looking for the answers that we want to hear. Don’t just draw cards until the 9 of Cups shows up (come on we’ve all been there). At best, it’ll be confusing. At worst, you’ll give yourself a panic attack while concocting worse-case scenarios and unrealistic fantasies (and not actually do anything tangible about the situation).
In a yes/no scenario, go with your very first impulse.
There’s a fair chance that you already know the answer to whatever yes/no question you’re asking. I’ve found that often what people are really looking for is confirmation. In situations where I just want a quick answer, it helps me to not overanalyze or argue with myself based on obscure bits of card imagery (“Well this COULD be a yes if I squint really hard and consult this book on Qabalah…”). Whether you believe the tarot works via psychic powers or subconscious information triggered through image recognition, your lizard brain impulse is most likely to be the correct one.