You can read an introduction to the light & shadow series and find links to its other installments >> here! If you aren’t yet familiar with my interpretation of the card you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
The Bear: strong influence, dominance, competence, strength, and protection. Most of these sound rather good at first glance. But whether, in an actual situation, we experience them as good or bad, productive or unproductive, will depend a lot on their magnitude, their precise colouring, and the presence or absence of accompanying features. As the representative of a person with a lot of influence on our life – e.g. a parent, teacher, or boss – the Bear’s ambivalent character is probably most obvious. So I’ll start with this part of the card’s meaning.
If the Bear represents a person in a dominant position – e.g. parent, teacher, or boss – their role will be productive, positive especially if our relationship with that person is good and healthy; if the dominance is displayed in a healthy way. The person’s presence in our reading will be felt as something positive if a parent/teacher/boss would be of help in the situation we drew the cards for. Lets say that we’ve been feeling insecure, at a loss. Here, looking for or finding/having someone competent who is able and willing to lead us would be a productive thing (as long as we’re still willing to think for ourselves, too).
If the Bear represents a strong influence, dominance, competence, strength, or protection, these will be experienced as productive, positive, especially if the person who displays them is also compassionate and respectful of other people’s wishes and boundaries.
Strong influence, for example, is a good thing if the influence is towards something that is healthy, and if it isn’t forceful and not absolute, so that it still leaves room to go a different way.
Dominance and assertiveness are likely to be productive features if the situation the reading is about requires a person who is able and willing to lead, to set the tone, to direct things. If the person the card relates to is fair and balanced, asserting themselves will likely happen in a healthy way, a way which still respects other people’s wishes but comes out on top when and where necessary – and if the person is very shy, or docile, the Bear might actually advise more assertiveness and fewer worries about what other people might want. Strength (be it in the form of physical, emotional, or mental strength) is very likely to be good and productive if it applies to the querent (either in a descriptive sense or in a prescriptive sense, e.g. “It would be good to use your strengths more!”).
If the Bear relates to a generally a balanced person who is not prone to jealousy, protectiveness will show itself as and where appropriate: when a weaker person really is in trouble, really needs back-up, really needs to be defended. Here, protectiveness is a valuable, perhaps even admirable trait.
And finally, competence is hard to see as anything but intrinsically positive; the only exception I could think of I’ll mention below.
If the Bear represents a person in a dominant position – e.g. parent, teacher, or boss – their role will be unproductive, negative especially if our relationship with that person is unhealthy; if their dominance is displayed in an unhealthy way. The person’s presence in our reading will be felt as something negative if a parent/teacher/boss is not of help in the situation we drew the cards for. Lets say that we’ve finally started to become more independent, are seriously wishing to become self-employed, embark on a self-study, go our own way. Here, the continuing presence of a parent/teacher/boss might be unproductive as it might actually keep us from exploring our own path (even if is not the person’s intent!).
If the Bear represents a strong influence, dominance, competence, strength, or protection, these will be experienced as unproductive, negative, especially if the person who displays them is also unwise, impatient, insensitive, or disrespectful of other people’s wishes and boundaries.
Strong influence, for example, is a bad thing if the influence is towards something that is unhealthy, and if it is forceful and so absolute as to leave no room to go a different way.
Dominance and assertiveness are likely to be unproductive features if the situation much rather calls for adaptiveness, willingness to compromise, or a very sensitive approach. If the person the card relates to is choleric or unbalanced, asserting themselves will likely happen in an unhealthy way, a way which disrespects other people’s wishes, crosses other people’s boundaries. And if the person is overly confident, authoritarian, or even mean-spirited, the Bear will have to be read as a strong warning, e.g. of a bully. While (physical, emotional, or mental) strength is often good and productive, it could be experienced as something negative if someone else displayed them who had power over us or who we were envious of.
If the Bear relates to a generally unbalanced person, or someone who is greedy or has feelings of entitlement, protectiveness will turn into over-protectivenss, prop up in inappropriate situations (e.g. when in fact no protection is needed), or will turn into possessiveness and jealousy – all of which are obviously unhealthy.
And finally, I mentioned above that competence is hard to see as anything but intrinsically positive. But it could become unproductive if someone’s competence made them to always take on responsibilities even when already overburdened. And it could at least feel negative if someone else were so competent as to make us envious.