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 in discussion you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
The Heart: the card of love and romance. Because it is so easy to see what is positive about it I’ll keep that part of the article rather short, and expand on the part discussing the negative aspects. But that doesn’t mean they outweigh the positive ones, that they apply more often. I’ll just stress them here because they are so often overlooked.
The Heart represents many positive, productive, issues and goings-on.
The most used meaning of the card, love and romance, has many positive aspects. Most obviously, being in love is very often an extremely positive and welcome experience. As for other forms of love (parental, among friends, altruism etc.), and their derivates (giving someone loving care, showing compassion, being happy for someone), well, they are what makes it possible for us to form healthy relationships, what is the basis for why we do good things and refrain from doing things that hurt others – the basis for a peaceful society, in fact.
It is as easy to see the positive and productive aspects of forgiveness and reconciliation. Especially if the querent is normally rather strict, tends to be resentful, or a cynic, the Heart can tell them that a more loving perspective, a softer approach, would be good for them. Opening one’s heart to people who are less fortunate, doing acts of charity, are also at least at first glance very, very positive things.
And finally, the Heart can stand for promptings of the heart, and for doing things wholeheartedly. While listening to our heart doesn’t guarantee that things will work out the way we want them to, the alternative would be to disregard what our heart is saying – to disregard what, very deep down, we really, really want. And in most cases that I can think of this wouldn’t be a good idea. Acting against our heart’s wishes would make it impossible for us to be emotionally fully engaged with what we do. We’ll doubt more, hesitate more, give up sooner. Acting according to our heart’s wishes enables us to do things wholeheartedly, to put our heart and soul in what we do. We’ll doubt less, have more motivation, and keep trying much longer.
Despite all its many good sides, there are quite a few negative, unproductive, issues and goings-on the Heart could represent in our readings.
Let’s start with romantic love, with being in love. The Heart by itself only says that there are some romantic feelings involved, somewhere, by someone. It is the context of the reading which will determine the specifics. Yes, in many contexts, being in love is a very welcome experience. But let’s say the context is that we are already in a deeply loving, committed relationship. If the Heart in our reading alerts us to the fact that we’re now also in the process of falling in love with another person, this may come as an unwelcome shock, something that is potentially destructive. Likewise, falling in love with someone who doesn’t love us back can feel like torture. And if someone else falls in love with us, and we cannot return their feelings, this is probably also an experience we’d rather forego. Furthermore, the Heart doesn’t necessarily point at butterflies in the stomach, at romance. It can also stand for quasi-romantic and often inappropriate infatuation with a person, thing, or concept, where we are so enamoured with them, where we are so convinced of their perfect beauty, that we can’t see their glaring flaws – which is usually very unhealthy, sometimes even dangerous. Even if the Heart represents a slightly less severe form of all this, simple romanticization, it still has to be read as a warning – because we’re wearing rose-coloured glasses, we’re not seeing reality as it is.
Yes, it is as easy to see the positive and productive aspects of forgiveness and reconciliation. If we were unable to forgive small transgressions, and reconcile after arguments, we’d soon be left with no one to love and no one to be loved by. However. The Heart could very well be saying that someone is much too soft on other people, much to quick to forgive and forget. Some things need to be talked over a lot before an apology can be accepted, sometimes, compensation or even repercussion are needed, before forgiveness is even appropriate. If a person has done something not just wrong but also abusive, violent, reconciliation is likely not a viable option at all but very dangerous.
Furthermore, a loving, soft approach can be appropriate indeed. But some people are overly soft and gentle on principle; either because they don’t know how to assert themselves, or, because they fear that a stricter, more forceful approach would cause the other person to love them less. Such a reluctance or inability to be strict and assertive can become a huge problem if the situation requires strictness and a certain degree of force. Treating someone with an appropriate amount of compassion and gentleness is good. Mollycoddling will damage them in the long run.
Finally, I mentioned above that listening to our heart is usually a good and productive thing, for the reasons mentioned above. However. If the person the Heart relates to is wont not to think things through, tends to have changes of the heart rather often and quickly, or if they have followed their heart in the past but this led to catastrophies because they tend to want what turns out to be bad for them – then we have reached a point where the Heart likely needs to be read as a warning: “Yes, you now think you really want X; now you think that X is exactly what you should be doing. But don’t listen to that; not immediately at least. Think it through rationally instead, before you go for it. And if there are strong rational reasons against it, don’t do it, even if it feels wrong not to.”