Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

On October 29, 2016 I had the privilege of returning as a guest presenter to Kendara Laurel’s “Introduction to Metaphysics Meetup” to speak on the topic of “Finding Meaning in Images.” As we got started, I invited each participant to introduce themselves and their interest or background in tarot, and let me know what their biggest frustration or holdup was when they worked with the cards. Out of a group of fourteen people, the problems tended to fit rather neatly into several categories:

  1. Reading clearly for yourself without being pulled off track by seeing what you wanted to see (Today’s Post)
  2. How to manage psychic impressions when doing readings
  3. Finding patterns in the cards to help you tell the story
  4. Choosing between oracle, angel, or tarot cards
  5. Working with the most useful spreads

I soon realized that I could write a full blog post on each topic, so over the next several weeks you’ll see my advice concerning each of these common tarot reading frustrations.

If you want to follow the series without missing anything, I encourage you to sign up to receive email notification when a new post goes up by signing up on the top right of this page (totally free and you will only get notifications of my blog posts, published 3-4 times a month). If you’d like to also subscribe to my newsletter with notifications of classes, talks, meetup groups, and special events, please sign up here or through my Facebook page.

Common Tarot Reading Frustration #1: Reading for Yourself

Joy contemplating a spread at a meeting of the Denver Tarot Meetup at Scooter Joe's September 7, 2006. Photo by Scott Womack.
Joy contemplating a spread at a meeting of the Denver Tarot Meetup at Scooter Joe’s September 7, 2006. Photo by Scott Womack.

Reading for oneself is one of the hardest things to do. It’s such a challenge that one of the common tarot myths is that you should never read for yourself. Quite the contrary! Reading for yourself is a great pleasure and opens up worlds of insight, alternate perspectives, and inspiration towards growth.

Jenifer and Amy both said that reading for themselves, in particular remaining unbiased when interpreting the cards, was their biggest frustration. Christina agreed, saying that she called it “delusion.” Lisa added her voice to the group, saying that she worried that she was tending to see what she wanted to see in the cards.

Achieving objectivity is one of the keys to reading for yourself. This can be done through psychological or spiritual means with effective results. I’ll address techniques from both perspectives.

Perhaps surprisingly, I recommend not relying on your emotional response or vibe for the reading. That response is important, but is only one part of the reading process. Because it is often the first experience we have of the cards, we tend to give it priority. Take note of it, but then lay it aside as you embark on a more detailed analysis of the cards. Journaling your insights into the cards is one of my favorite methods for letting myself process through the reading more thoroughly. But it’s not the only way–try doing artwork or collage around your cards, talking into a voice recorder, or otherwise exploring the spread creatively. Sometimes just doing the reading out loud, as if you were reading for another person, will help you move away from self-indulgence and see the meaning objectively. Gazing at the cards and allowing thoughts to come up is very meditative and can often produce wonderful insights, but if you feel that technique is stalling out on you, the act of speaking brings the reading to a more practical, embodied level that often produces much clearer understanding.

On a spiritual level, striving towards oneness with the Divine is infinitely helpful in achieving a less personally limited, more universally expansive understanding of your reading. Daily meditation is one of the best ways you can spend your time, and gives you a repeated experience of separating from the outside world and its conflicting voices and going into your higher self, connecting with the Divine, and finding your own unique knowledge. Turning off the outside voices is key to successfully reading for yourself. Also, by connecting to the Divine, you can see the reading compassionately without needing to delude yourself. Binaries like good and bad, right and wrong fall away from a place of deep connection to spiritual Unity, and opens up the possibility of seeing the truth in a way that you can easily and compassionately accept it–and then the possibilities for exploring alternative options and remediation opens up as well.

If you’d like a meditation to practice, try the Breath of Life Meditation that I recorded in July of 2011. There is a 9-minute version and a 20-minute version, depending on how much time you have available.

Please join us next week for helpful hints on managing psychic impressions when doing tarot readings!


If you’d like to learn to read the tarot with no memorization or books, simply letting the cards speak for themselves, check out my upcoming Magician’s Tools: Beginning Tarot class, Sundays, February 12-March 19, 2017, 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Isis Books and Gifts, 2775 South Broadway, Englewood, CO 80113.

If you’re getting started and want to know the best beginner deck, please take a look at my post on 50 Beginning Tarot Decks.



Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into the most active and one of the largest tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a psychic and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit

© 2016 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

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Overcoming Five Common Tarot Reading Frustrations: Reading for Yourself