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 Tower is a card which, in my view, is very obviously ambivalent. All of its main meanings as I see them – boundaries, retreat, rationality, control, and excellence – have both positive and negative implementations and implications.
The Tower represents many productive, positive, issues and goings-on. For example, if the card is drawn for a person who is too accommodating, or easily pressured, then setting up boundaries, saying “no”, refusing someone a favour, is likely to be very, very productive (and possibly even life-saving) for them.
If the card relates to a chaotic, noisy, or overwhelming, situation, the Tower very positively suggests that it might be time to retreat – so you can rest, heal, regroup. Solitude we all need certain amounts of (some of us more, some less, depending on our personality) in order to stay healthy – if the Tower is drawn for someone who is constantly around other people, the card probably says that solitude would do them a whole lot of good.
Rationality is very often a good thing – especially in the form of clear-headedness, and if the person who shows it is also emotionally open and not afraid of their feelings. And if the card relates to someone who is emotionally upset, confused, entangled, the Tower definitely suggests that distancing themselves from their emotions and looking at them with cool detachment for a while would be a highly productive thing to do.
Exercising a certain amount of control over others can be necessary for the benefit of the whole (and can thus be productive) – especially if the control is used to encourage and not suppress healthy, natural behaviour, and if the control isn’t absolute or forceful. Something similar is true of self-discipline. The Tower can represent the very important and productive ability to postpone instant gratification, to deal with things that, while not pleasant, still need to be dealt with, and to deny ourselves things which, while initially pleasant, in the long run aren’t good for us.
Lastly, the Tower can represent positions at the top – excellence, and pride. These are all likely to be good as long as the position at the top is deserved (and willingly filled), if exellence is gladly acknowledged but not used to feel superior in general, and if pride is caused by outstanding achievements (and not a fixed disposition or character trait).
But the Tower can also represent unproductive, negative, issues and goings-on. For example, if the card is drawn for a person who is already very strict, unyielding, or who is overly afraid to make themselves vulnerable, they are probably saying “no” too often (e.g. out of principle, to appear in control, and not because they necessarily disagree with what is asked of them), or putting up boundaries which are unhealthily wide (no-one can get close at all), or unproductively absolute (there’s no exception, ever).
While drawing back from noise and chaos can be a very good and productive thing, making retreating a habit, an automatic response as soon as a situation becomes difficult, is obviously not a healthy thing. And while it is good and healthy for most people to be alone with themselves regularly (and the more introverted they are, the longer the spans of solitude have to be in order to be enough!), the Tower can also represent loneliness: being alone when we do not want to be alone – or feeling isolated, apart from others, even when in company.
I wrote above that rationality can very often be a good thing. But if the Tower relates to a person who is afraid of their own or other people’s feelings (or incompetent regarding emotional issues) the card likely means that this person distances themselves from emotions not to get a clear picture of them and understand them better, but to avoid dealing with them at all. And that is something very destructive. Also, a non-emotional and (seemingly) purely rational approach can be very inappropriate – e.g. when someone is mourning the death of a loved one, you probably shouldn’t try to comfort them by telling them that they would feel so much better if they just accepted that death is inevitable.
If the Tower represents control over others, this can potentially be very negative, especially if the control is used to suppress or punish healthy, natural behaviour, or if it is too absolute (the people who are being controlled are left without any agency), or forceful. Something similar is true of self-discipline. The Tower can represent self-discipline in a very unhealthy form: the suppression of natural (and healthy) needs and desires, for example, or damagingly rigorous, self-punitive fitness-regimes or diets.
And lastly, as I wrote above, the Tower can represent positions at the top, excellence, and pride. These can all be not just productive but also unproductive – e.g. if the position at the top is not deserved (or not willingly filled), or if exellence is not just gladly acknowledged but also makes one feel superior in general, and if pride turns into a fixed disposition independent of actual achievements, into arrogance or pretentiousness.