I have my fair share of bad habits. Some are harmless enough, but some become disruptive and maladaptive. I was talking to a friend about this recently and it occurred to me that tarot would be the perfect tool to examine this issue.
I don’t believe that bad habits exist in a vacuum. They develop out of a need or desire that isn’t getting addressed. They serve a purpose, even if they aren’t the healthiest way of achieving that purpose. With this in mind, the following spread spends a majority of its time looking at those underlying needs, dredging the subconscious motivations to the surface so they can be managed consciously.
Results with this spread will likely vary widely depending on the type of the habit you’re exploring, how severe it is, and what the root is. This spread won’t “cure” you of your bad habit, but it can provide a road map to point you in the right direction to understanding it and eventually having more ability to deal with these habit impulses in a healthy way. Root causes related to trauma may be best handled with the help of a mental health professional. While this spread is informed by my experiences of being in therapy, I am not a behavioral therapist. As always, proceed with mindfulness and self-awareness.
Card #1 – Present Situation: This card is meant to serve as a jumping off point. It will give you information about how things currently are in relation to the habit you are looking at. It can point out how this habit is intruding on your day to day functionality or it might suggest where your current state of mind is at the moment.
Card #2 – Root of Habit: This card will give you ideas about where the habit originated. It may point to an inciting event or a person who was a catalyst or enabler. It might address a general atmosphere where the habit was able to develop and flourish.
Card #3 – The Need This Habit is Filling: This will likely be closely related to card #2 and focuses on the specific purpose that your habit is fulfilling. This may be a deep buried need that will take time to uncover, so don’t rush through this card, even if you think it’s obvious. Take some time here to really own and validate your need. Often, buried needs have shame attached, so don’t be surprised if that feeling comes up. Hold yourself with compassion.
Bonus Exercise: If you feel up to it, this card and card #2 could both provide prompts for some really juicy therapeutic journaling.
Card #4 – What Can Replace This Habit: Habits are filling a need, so if you try to abstain from the habit your need won’t be getting met. You deserve to have your needs met, FYI. Feeling the deprivation associated with an unmet need will make it harder to resist the compulsion to participate in the behaviour that you’re trying to gain agency over. Finding something else, something healthier to fill that need, will make it easier to manage the habit you’re trying to address.
Card #5 – What is Enabling This Habit: Now that you understand where your habit came from and what purpose it serves, you can start troubleshooting. This card tells you what things are currently enabling your habit or what things are making it harder to resist the urge to engage in your habit. Knowing these triggers can help you reduce your exposure to them or engage with them more mindfully if you can’t avoid them.
Card #6 – What Will Support You: This card represents an ally in your struggle. It will suggest someone or something that will help you. This could be an accountability partner, a support group, an activity, a ritual, anything that can bolster you while you’re trying to address your current challenge with your habit. Here you will also find information about what will help you disengage from your habit or allow you to derail the impulse to participate in it.
Card #7 – First Step/Short-Term Progress: Breaking a habit or changing a behavior won’t happen overnight, so it’s better to take small steps and look for small victories, especially at the start. This position will give you that first step and that first mile marker for your progress. You could even draw two cards here if you like, one for First Step, one for Short-Term Progress.
Card #8 – Outcome/Long-Term Progress: Outcome/Long-Term progress will show you what the most likely result of working on your habit is. It can also suggest a larger goal that you can focus on once you’re well on your way to addressing the behavior that you want to change. As with Card #7, you could actually pull two cards for this position if you feel like it, one for Long-Term Progress and one for Outcome.
I will add one more thought on this position. Since it can represent quite a long way out, the card that comes up is also the most malleable card in the spread, so if you don’t like what you see there, don’t panic. There is still plenty of time to change the outcome. If you don’t like the card that comes up in this position, I would posit that it still has quite a lot to tell you and I would spend time exploring it. A less than favorable card in this position may also be a call to do a little reverse engineering. You might pull some additional cards and ask “what would cause me to reach this outcome?” or “what could I do to create a more desirable outcome?” Pro tip: You could use this technique for any outcome card in any spread. 😉
I hope you enjoy this spread and if you try it out I would love to hear how you get on.