It took me years to realize this, but one morning while journaling, it hit me like a ton of bricks:

I had made an unconscious agreement with a family member–let’s call them Harron–that we would never, ever get angry with one another. Our relationship would be “safe.”

Harron and I had both grown up around abusive rage, so it made sense that we had inner child parts who were determined to avoid re-experiencing this at all costs.

But unconscious agreements…well, they’re tricky beasts, and I want to explore this today by looking at the Devil card from the tarot.

Smith-Waite Tarot

We’re going to begin with a little tour of the Devil’s lair today…

…and over the next couple of days, I’ll bring it back around to my unconscious agreement–or Devil’s bargain, if you will–with Harron.

In the Smith-Waite version of the card, the Devil looms over two people with heavy chains around their necks. It’s a pretty grim scene!

I wonder what they’re thinking…

Maybe these folks want a well-paying job doing something they love while surrounded by great friends, or perhaps they want to be traveling the world with an amazing partner.

But here they are, rotting away in this stinky ol’ dungeon with a monster.

To the humans, the Devil represents what’s preventing them from living the life they want.

But if you look a bit closer, you’ll notice that the chains aren’t really that tight. If these people wanted to, they could slip those chains right off.

And I’m pretty sure if the Devil cared to go out and buy tighter chains, they totally could, so if the Devil’s not actually trying to keep those humans bound, what’s the dealio?

Well, one of the ways we humans attempt to make sense of what’s in our unconscious is by projecting it onto the people and the world around us.

Projection isn’t intentional. It’s not a conscious process, and it’s something every single person does.

And it’s not all bad, either.

When we know how to spot the clues of projection, it’s like finding a telescope into our own unconscious, allowing us to see things that, otherwise, would be impossible to spot because they’re, well…unconscious.

But the potential downside of projection–and wowza, it can be a biggie–is that we stay trapped in the illusion that what we’re seeing has nothing to do with us, that it exists solely “out there.”

And the more we deny our relationship to these projected contents, the stronger and more magnified they become

…until we’re trapped in a metaphorical dungeon with a hairy-ass Devil who’s got rusty chains around our necks.

Do you see the cycle here?

The monster is so heinous that all we want to do is reject it even harder. We continue to disown those projected contents, and the monster gets bigger, and around and around we go.

So, how do we take the chains off?

Well, we need to recognize that there’s something in the Devil that belongs to us. Something that’s been trying to find its way home, so that we can feel more whole, integrated.

And here’s the rub: It’s our rejection of these aspects of ourselves that’s preventing us from living the life we want, not the Devil.

Or, said another way, it’s our rejection of these qualities, not the qualities themselves, that’s the issue.

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up the thread with a story about someone who loves fighting with their boss.

>> read the next in the series

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