Panic Attacks, Gas Lighting and The Moon Card

Have you ever had a panic attack?

They’re absolutely, 100%, no doubt about it, HORRIBLE.  You can’t catch your breath, your pulse rate goes through the ceiling, your heart is like a jack hammer in the middle of your chest, and you feel like you’re going to die.

And it’s all an illusion.  There’s really NOTHING wrong with you, at all, but it FEELS like the world is ending and vultures are sitting on your shoulders.  

I had a series of them about ten years ago when my life partner was becoming seriously ill.  One of the lovely things about them is that they seem to come totally out of the blue.  With the first one, I was driving merrily along The Great Highway of Life in my little Honda and WHAM!!!  “Danger, Will Robinson, danger, danger!  Be afraid!  Be very, very afraid.”  I somehow managed to get myself to the local emergency room where they examined me and gave me an extremely professional shrug of the shoulders.

“Nothing’s wrong with you, man.  Blood pressure’s normal, EEG’s normal, you’re incredibly sexy and good looking.”

Well, they didn’t really say the part about being sexy and good looking but I’m sure it was on their minds.

I couldn’t believe it.  I was dying and it was just . . . in my head.  Hmmmm . . .

Once I figured out what was going on I did a lot of research on panic attacks.  There are some interesting theories out there about what causes them, but nothing definitive.  Breathing into a paper bag can help.  Benadryl can help.  My favorite piece of advice was, “Think of something else.  Sing something happy.”  Oddly it works.

But I want to go back to the part about them being illusions.  The Moon card is all about psychological illusions.  As I said in my original definition:

Think of seeing the world under the light of the moon rather than the sun.  Shadows and light blend into one another and our eyes and mind see things that aren’t really there.  Or maybe they are.

There is a tendency for the unconscious, unexamined contents of our minds to come forth when The Moon is present.

What I eventually figured out about my panic attacks is that I was living in an illusion and my subconscious didn’t like it.  Not at all.  My partner was becoming increasingly, seriously ill and I was trying to stay very upbeat  about it and reassure her – and myself and her children – that it was nothing to be concerned about, that if we just kept a positive attitude we’d get through it and she’d be just fine.  My subconscious, on the other hand, was looking at it and saying, “Holy shit!  Carol is really, really sick.  You need to pay attention to this, Dan!”

And, when I didn’t pay attention to it, my subconscious said, “Okay . . . well how about this?  How about if I throw an absolute screaming fit and make you FEEL like you’re dying?  How about a nice big fat panic attack or three?  Will you pay attention now?”

I paid attention.  The panic attacks stopped.

The point is that there is something in our psyches that is always watching over us and warning us if we go too far off track, if we get too disconnected from reality.  Eckhart Tolle calls it, “the Watcher.”  Jeffrey Schwartz calls it, “The Wise Advocate.”  I’m referring to it here as, “the subconscious.”  It’s reality based, it’s dispassionate, and it will always blow a very loud whistle if we get too delusional about what’s really going on in our lives.  Some of us may have panic attacks, some of us may start having inexplicable accidents or become very anxious and distracted or angry.  It’s our inner guidance system saying, “Pay attention.  This is serious.”

It’s also a great defense against narcissistic gaslighting.  The term gaslighting is derived from the 1944 film Gaslight, where a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by causing her to question herself and her reality.  Gaslighting is standard operating procedure for narcissists at a certain point in their destructive relationships.

As Doctor Ramani explains in this video, narcissists will eventually begin to treat you like shit and betray your trust in every imaginable way.  It’s what they do.  BUT . . . just to make it a little bit worse, they will always tell you that you’re just imagining it.

They put you down in front of your friends – you’re just imagining it!

They devalue or ignore your opinions – you’re just being delusional!

They screw around on you – you’re just being paranoid!

There’s actually an old joke in Texas where a woman walks in on her husband while he’s in bed with another woman and he says, “Now, darlin’, who are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?”

It’s a funny joke but that’s precisely the level that narcissists operate on.  And it makes their partners crazy, just like in the movie.

But that’s a good thing.  That’s our subconscious, our Watcher, our Wise Advocate, saying, “Something here is very, very, wrong. Pay attention.”

And, if we can manage that shift in perspective, if we can say, “Wait a minute . . . maybe I’m NOT crazy, maybe this really IS happening,” then our so-called symptoms are suddenly transformed into very healthy warning signs.  If I’m depressed, if I’m angry, if I’m anxious – and, yes, if I’m having panic attacks – something is out of whack in my life.  Something in my conscious life is out of synch with my Watcher and my Watcher is ALWAYS right.

When we do that course correction and bring our conscious perceptions back into alignment with our subconscious Watcher, the symptoms disappear.  It’s not necessarily because anything in our environment has changed or gotten better, it’s simply that we’re being honest about what’s going on and there’s no longer a split in our consciousness. 

We’ve achieved integrity as defined by the dictionary:  the quality or state of being complete or undivided. Which is way better than feeling like you have an elephant sitting on your chest and you’re about to die. In the immortal words of Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t panic and carry a towel.”

And you’ll be alright.

Tarot Readings, Archetypes, and God-Fearing Southern Women

I recently heard a very nice woman describe herself as, “a good, God-fearing Christian.”  And it really gave me a bad case of the creepy-crawlies because it’s such a death blow to any true spirituality.

I spent a substantial portion of my life in the Southern United States, so expressions like that aren’t anything particularly new to me.  Many people in the South are not only God-fearing but they also have a lot of things, “put the fear of God,” in them. God, for them, is a pretty scary dude.

I didn’t really think much about those sayings until recently, when my life took a drastic turn toward the worst and I had to reassemble the jigsaw puzzle that my incarnation had become.  When confronted with the death of a loved one and the financial disaster that ensued, I began a spiritual quest of sorts, trying to put some meaning back into a life that had become dangerously Meaning-Less.

The Tarot was a big part of that quest.  In reading after reading it provided a basic framework for understanding where I was in life and where I wanted to go.  It was my touchstone through the darkest times l’ve lived through.

One of the most profound lessons it taught me was, “don’t be afraid.”  The readings were . . . well . . . readings. It was like, “Okay, THIS is happening in your life and THAT’S happening in your life, and in order to move forward you need to do THIS and then THAT.”  Or, to put it in more concrete terms, “Okay, the Death Card is in your life right now and so is The Tower, so you need to channel The Hermit and retreat and heal and then you’ll get the spiritual lessons of The Hanged Man.”

It was a road map, really.  Or, perhaps more accurately, a sort of a spiritual GPS system that kept telling me, “Okay, now turn right and go 12 miles more . . .”  And I learned to see that everything that was happening to me was a necessary step on the road.

I learned to trust.  To trust in the process of life and in the Universe as a loving, benevolent energy that was always there and always supporting me.

That’s a necessary pre-condition for any serious spiritual quest.  You have to believe, deep in your heart and mind, that you are ultimately safe and that you are moving toward something or someone that loves you.  Otherwise, why would you do it? Why would you deliberately seek out something that could harm you?  Something that’s scary?

Let’s look at the way that we, as Westerners, usually view the whole God thing, whether consciously or not.  We see the universe as a sort of a triangle or pyramid. God sits at the very top of the pyramid and everything – all the energy and forms in the universe – flow downward from him/her to us, who live very close to the bottom of the pyramid.

In most mystical traditions and many non-western religions, God is seen as a sort of pure, loving energy that flows down to us, but becomes more diffused and faint as it enters the physical realm where we exist.  The quest for the holy grail, then, becomes a quest to bring ourselves more in alignment with that pure, loving energy and to expand its presence in our lives.  

We may use a variety of means to get there – meditation, psychedelics, yoga, loving/kindness, etc. – but there is a basic belief that the underlying energy in the universe is love.  That it nourishes us and completes us and comforts and guides us through the dark times in our lives. Conscious contact with that energy heals us.

But . . . then we have the Judeo/Christian/Islamic model of the universe.  It’s still a pyramid with God sitting at the top, but God is a sort of a psychotic, abusive, completely unpredictable father.  And not only does love flow down, but a LOT of punishing, sadistic shit also flows down. This God is, a “jealous God,” a, “fearful God,” a God who claims to love you but is perfectly willing to pitch you into eternally burning flames if you even question what he tells you to do.

This is a God who blows up cities because there are gay people living in them.  Who tells Abraham to tie his son down to a stone altar and thrust a dagger into the child’s heart.  Who destroys Job’s family and his bnlife over a casual bet with the Devil.

This is one sick puppy.

There is no, “God Card,” in the Tarot.  We don’t think about it but it really is a curious omission.  The Major Arcana contains nearly all of the archetypes that blow through our lives:  death, love, luck, rebirth, judgement. But no God. And God IS kind of a major archetype, right?

Historians tell us that the first Tarot decks emerged in the 15th century, a time when Europe was absolutely obsessed with and dominated by the Christian God-Model.  The scary, crazy dude who you kind of hoped wouldn’t notice you and do something awful to you. That may be the very simple reason that the creators of the Tarot decided to just leave the God-Model out of the deck:  because a malevolent, harmful God is a complete short circuit to the spiritual quest.

If there’s no belief that you’re moving toward love and healing, why would you go there?  And if your God is a foul tempered narcissist who is off of his medications, why would you think there’s any genuine love flowing out of that?

The model of God emerging out of the Middle Eastern religions – the angry, hateful, capricious, male god of war – has been an absolute spiritual disaster for the Western world.  We have been deeply wounded by it and we need to KNOW that and begin to consciously heal our hearts and minds. And the way to do that is to move toward love.  

Always.

The Magician, The Devil, and the Habit of Evil


Have you ever had someone in your life who was truly evil?  I mean, beyond our usual descriptors of, “He’s an angry person.”  Or mean. Or disturbed. Or selfish. 

I mean, really, genuinely evil.  Someone who consciously inflicts as much pain as they can, knowing that it’s wrong.  It can leave you wondering about the world and about everything you believe in.

For most of history, human beings have been using a sort of, “argument from nature,” to excuse their worst behavior.  They point to the world of animals where fangs and claws seem to rule, and pronounce that it’s either kill or be killed, the strong survive and the weak die, and, since we’re animals, too, those rules apply to us, as well.  We HAVE to be cruel because it’s our nature.

Even leaving aside their totally disregarding all of the love and nurturing that we ALSO see in the animal world, it’s a bogus point of view.  They are deliberately ignoring the fact that good and evil are choices and that where no choice exists no concept of evil can exist.

We might feel pretty squeamish watching a cat torture a mouse but we don’t think that the cat is evil because of it.  We recognize that it’s the cat’s nature and instinct to hunt and kill and that the cat hasn’t made a conscious choice in the matter.  There’s no evil because there’s no choice between good and evil and where there’s no choice there can be no morality.

In The Fool card, we see pure energy entering into the world.  In The Magician card we see a human being directing that energy and choosing how it will be used.  He or she can use it for benefit or harm, for good or for evil, and that’s the point where morality is born.

To a certain extent, those of us who have embraced the New Age movement are guilty of being a little goody two-shoes about the existence of evil.  We try to live in the affirmation of love and caring and we try to NOT let negativity, malice, anger, and hatred into our lives or our consciousness.  But, as Louise Hay said, “If you are going to clean the house, you have to see the dirt.” Pretending the evil isn’t there doesn’t make it go away.

The good news is that there’s probably a LOT less evil in the world than some religions would have us believe.  If we recognize that true evil involves a conscious choice to hurt and cause suffering we can eliminate all of the animal world because they operate on instinct, not choice.  

Psychotics – even serial killers – can’t really be called evil in the pure sense because they can’t make rational choices.

Serious alcoholics and drug addicts can’t really be called evil – no matter how much damage they do – because they’re driven by their compulsions and disease.

Sociopaths and narcissists get us into an interesting – and scary – gray area.  Sociopaths actually recognize that other people make moral choices between good and evil but they have no internal moral compass themselves.  They recognize the concepts but they just don’t care about them.

Malignant narcissists also recognize that other people make moral choices but they think we’re stupid to do so.  They delight in manipulating people who have a sense of right and wrong and use those deceptions to enhance their own sense of being superior to everyone else.  “See how I charmed you and lied to you and you were too stupid to know the difference?”

And that’s a strange thing to wrap your head around.  If someone knows the difference between good and evil behavior on an intellectual level, but has no heart, no compassion, no empathy with others, are they actually capable of understanding the hurt and pain they’re inflicting?  And if they don’t really understand it, are they evil or just very flawed humans?

I dunno.

Sadly, it seems that a lot of the evil in the world and in ourselves is a matter of plain old habit and rationalization.

The Devil card is very dramatic.  We see two humans in chains with a literal Bat Out of Hell glowering above them.  The riff on this from fundamentalists christians would be that there is evil everywhere and if you’re not careful The Devil can reach out and SNATCH you up, just like that!

But – again – evil is not something that is external to us;  it’s an internal choice. In fact, it’s a series of choices. Despite the theme in horror films, no one is born evil.  We just get comfortable with it. We CHOOSE to act wrongly, to react with anger instead of compassion, to indulge our rage instead of finding our love, until choosing to be a curse in the world rather than a blessing is a habit.

So the people in The Devil card aren’t just wearing their chains.  They made them, one link at a time.

“Little by little a person becomes evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water… Little by little a person becomes good, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.” – Buddha

Even Hitler was once someone’s beautiful baby boy.  Choose carefully.