The 4 of Swords

The 4 of Swords - Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite Deck

Representing stability; the 4 of Swords is associated with a moment of transition from an unstable counterproductive mindset to the emergence of productivity and optimism. Where this relates to positive thought this represents the pragmatic mind prevailing, a practical focus and direction emerges. Where this relates to negative thoughts this portends the end of our spiral downward, the deepest point in our despair is reached, from here the only direction of travel is upward, whilst in the absence of transience we will remain at this nadir.

In the upright state the 4 of Swords promises stability if we embrace this new way of thinking revealed to us through introspection and understanding of the self. By letting go of the identity of failure and associating ourselves with the identity of success we create the foundation needed to build upon, we create solid ground upon which to stand.

In the inverted state the 4 of Swords represents the end of the thought process and the death of idea. The triple force of self- doubt wins out in the end. This portends the release or resignation of an idea as fantasy, not just the end of our attempts to achieve but also the acceptance that we never will.

In the Rider-Waite deck the 4 of Swords depicts a sarcophagus with a single sword beneath laid out representing our potential and opportunity. It’s important to remember here that death in the Tarot rarely portends literal death but instead represents transformation. Above the sarcophagus 3 swords are depicted on the wall separated from a window by a wand representing creativity, the stained-glass window depicts the dispensation of the eucharist representing transformation and change.

These three swords echo the 3 of Swords and represent the triple force once more of the lack of ambition, lack of faith in our ability, and lack of confidence. When the 4 of Swords is upright these 3 swords point downward in defeat, representing the death of these influences and the end of their power over us. In the inverted state, these 3 swords are upright representing their victory and the end of our journey through thought and the death of idea.

In self-reflection the 4 of Swords serves as a prompt to take action and curate the sources of information that feed your mental state and moderate your level of communication in relation to projection of your internal state. Where the 3 of Swords focused on raising awareness and identification, the 4 of Swords is your prompt to act on the conclusions you have drawn.

The Minor Arcana follows a journey which is part of a consistent thread, each card in each suit should be taken in the context of the suit as a whole. At this point you should have some awareness of what is and is not impacting your mental state if you have followed through with the thought experiments, gathered data, and recognised trends within it.

When you attempt to curate these influences, a perfect balance of 50/50 is not necessarily your goal; instead, you need to reflect on your own level of tolerance for positivity and negativity. Aiming to eliminate all negativity from your life is not a realistic goal as explained before, positivity and negativity are not distinct entities but rather they exist as the extremes of a scale, if you eliminate part of the scale, you do not eliminate extremity you only change your frame of reference by altering the position of the extremity – a differential still remains in all eventualities unless you manage to achieve a complete state of catatonia.

Your goal should not be elimination but instead it should be the reduction of recalibration of the points of extremity to fall within a scale in which you are more comfortable operating.

The question once again is simple, “Is this too much or too little?” the answer and the means to discern it are not so simple as the answer is inherently personal and can vary quite significantly from person to person.

It is perhaps better here to reflect on mental health as a concept and treat it more like the way we treat the concept of physical strength; we do not expect everyone to be able to lift the heaviest weight in a gym. Physical strength in terms of physiology not in figurative terms, is determined by many factors, some of which can be trained, others cannot. Likewise, your mental state and emotional dexterity will have their limits.

Our formative years are typically defined in terms of the element of cognitive development that is taking formation, for example in the context of learning and language acquisition our formative years are usually regarded as birth to age 8 years. In terms of the limits of our emotional state however, we tend to think of these as being defined during our adolescence when we experience puberty and the hormonal extremes that it can cause. It is ordinarily during this time when most of our social development occurs, unless this is disrupted causing the process to be delayed or suspended entirely – both of these situations need to be addressed separately to the process outlined here as they usually involve trauma.

Whilst our adolescence serves as a solid foundation for our early adult years, our emotional limits do not remain fixed. It is better to consider these limits instead like a balloon, they are elastic in nature and can be inflated and deflated over time in response to our life experience. Each balloon has its own limit and when that limit is reached if inflation does not cease then the balloon pops. When they pop, we have to begin again, but for most people little thought is given to discovering their newfound limit, instead the old limit is assumed.

You are not a static entity, you are dynamic, ever changing and constantly responding to your perception of the world. It is important to recognise how that perception is shaping itself in turn, as left unchecked it can narrow precipitously. Taking the time to reflect on the changing nature of the limits of your emotions can inform the conscious choice we make when deciding whether to pay attention to a particular stimulus.

As with the 4 of Cups here with the 4 of Swords it is worth considering the elements that are predictable and those that are unpredictable, you will already know how you will react to certain situations based on past experience, this can help you define certainty in your life; furthermore, identifying the situations you are likely to encounter but do not yet know how you will react will prove useful in identifying potential future uncertainty in your life.

Just as you would plan and prepare for certain physical situations, buying heavier clothes for winter and lighter clothes for summer for example, it’s worth taking the time to prepare thought processes that you can employ in response to future mental situations.

The good news is if you are reading this, you are already doing just that. You are already seeking the tools and developing the skills to respond to your thought process. Keep doing what you’re doing and remember to make revisions to your own process based on what works and what does not.

There is no question to consider here but instead a prompt to reflect on what you have already achieved and what you have already done to stabilise your thought processes and consider the impact of those efforts.

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