Playwright’s Tip #2: Overcoming Resistance and Integrating the Devil
This installment of the Playwright’s Guide to Tarot explores overcoming Resistance, and how integrating this Devil lets us step up as professional readers.
- Backwards and Forwards by David Ball: March 4
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: March 11 (Today’s post!)
- Poetics by Aristotle: March 18
If you find this interesting, please check out my talk for the Denver Tarot Meetup on applying literary theory to tarot reading, The Playwright’s Guide to Tarot, on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, Goddess Isis Books & Gifts, 2775 South Broadway, Englewood. $10.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
It must have been 2006, just a few months before I joined the Denver Tarot Meetup, that I took a class through Lighthouse Writers Workshop and learned about this book. This certainly wasn’t the first class I took at Lighthouse—that dates back to over a year previously when I signed up for a poetry class and ended up in a screenwriting class. But that’s a story for another time. This time the class was on overcoming writer’s block. The teacher was a psychologist in private practice. A group of five or six of us met at her office in Lakewood. Our required text was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Like the book I discussed last week, Backwards and Forwards, The War of Art was not a long book. It had large print and very short chapters—some only a brief paragraph. As before, I was dubious. The ideas seemed simplistic and I didn’t think they would ultimately have any effect on me. But those to-the-point chapters were fast to read. Before I knew it I had gotten caught up in the current and ended up in a place where everything looked different.
The main theme of the book is overcoming Resistance. Resistance holds you back from whatever you want to accomplish. It prevents you from sitting down and writing, or meditating, or working out, or finishing that project. Resistance is directly proportional to the importance of the goal—the stronger the opposition, the more imperative it is that you accomplish the task.
The book is divided into three sections—Resistance, Combating Resistance, and Beyond Resistance. Whereas the first part defines Resistance, the second section advises that to overcome it you must turn pro—dedicate yourself to success. The third section is about finding your ally in the muse.
Steven Pressfield’s writing (check out this recent post or this one from his blog) is both direct and inspiring. The War of Art is part self-help book, part how-to manual, and part sacred initiation. Whatever you need he’s got it, and he makes it easy for you to get it too.
How the Diagnosis of Resistance Changed My Life
If you’ve ever heard someone talk about receiving a diagnosis of some hard-to-identify disorder, you’ve probably heard them say that terminology brought understanding. Learning about Resistance did the same for me. Instead of being some nebulous cloud of doom hanging over me, suddenly there was a specific affliction. And a protocol for treating it.
Pressfield’s succinct way of explaining creates sound bite style advice, but in this case shortness doesn’t skimp on power. Advice that’s always stuck with me includes his quote from Somerset Maugham who claimed that he didn’t wait for inspiration to strike, it hit at 9 a.m. every day; that the presence of Resistance indicates we are on the right path; that a professional doesn’t take failure or success personally; that the best writers in history invoked the muse. I practice each of these every day, one day at a time.
Overcoming Resistance and Tarot
Steven Pressfield’s ideas can be applied to anything: starting a business, a spiritual practice, a diet, a creative project. If you want to learn tarot, start a tarot business, or create a tarot deck, this book will be your guiding light. In addition, I regularly offer advice from this book, and I recommend the book itself, to my clients.
But how does it help you become a better tarot reader?
Some of the recommendations from this book are lessons I had learned on my own. When I would sit down with a client and look at the cards and…nothing…just like the emptiness of the blank page…I learned that if I started to describe the card, if I showed up to work, that in and of itself marshaled the creative forces to come to my aid and my muse to show up and guide me. This was an invaluable lesson for me, and to see that others had found a similar solution reinforced my confidence.
Learning not to take success or failure personally was one of my greatest lessons, and one of the most powerful. For a while, it was easy to attribute the successful readings to my prowess as a tarot professional, and the failures to clients who were closed down. But although I felt great every time someone said, wow, what an amazing reading, when someone said, no, that’s just not the case, I felt incompetent. I finally realized that I needed to let go of the praise in order to release the blame. Learning that defined the exact moment that I became a professional reader. When you’re beginning, it is important to value feedback so you can improve. But there comes a time when you must let all of it go. Steven Pressfield helped me release the highs I got from accolades so that I could even out the downs from criticism.
Integrating the Devil
Perhaps the brightest light bulb for me was the idea that Resistance showed up as an indication that you were on the right path. Everyone around me was spouting the Newage (rhymes with sewage) nonsense to go with the flow, the Universe will guide you, and if it’s easy it’s right. And if it’s hard it’s wrong. That has led to more people giving up their spiritual pursuits than all the bible-thumping doomsayers combined. Starting a meditation practice is hard work. Daily self-reflection through journaling digs up ugliness. Learning to read the tarot, contrary to popular opinion, is not just about laying down some cards and then ignoring them and saying the first drivel that pops into your head: it’s about doing readings and getting them wrong, and wrong again, and again, until finally you start getting them right. Because finally you start trusting the cards.
Resistance is the Devil. He will tempt you, torture you, and bully you until you realize that he is your innate, unflinching, raw, scary-as-hell power. Integrating him brings you fully present on the grubby physical realm, the world of manifestation, of accomplishment, of success. Of professionalism.
Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Black Irish Press, 2002. 190 pages. Who would like this? Writers, artists, creative types, entrepreneurs, anyone going against the flow, anyone experiencing difficulty in reaching a goal.