Therapeutic Tarot with Jessica Dore

Self reflection. Emotional care. Therapy. And…tarot? Hell yeah. The woman behind a wildly popular daily tarot reading on Twitter, Jessica Dore, shows us how mysticism and science can meet—and bring us all opportunities for healing and self-discovery.

Jessica is a writer and graduate student of social work who reads tarot as a tool for therapeutic healing. Through her spiritual side hustle, she gathers a weekly tarot circle, leads workshops, and helps thousands of people access feelings, thoughts, and life questions to better understand themselves.  

The cards have a unique way of cutting right to the core of things with people. I’ll have people often tell me, “wow, this is worth ten sessions of therapy.” And that’s anecdotal, that’s not to say that tarot reading is a replacement for therapy at all. But people will say that they can just get right to the heart of things.

—Jessica Dore, writer and healer

We talk about:

  • Jessica’s path from working in self-help book publishing to tarot reader to social work grad student
  • How her daily Twitter card pull gained her a huge following, and helps people connect with her—and themselves
  • How tarot can help us access deeper feelings—and feel less alone
  • Why it’s important to feel mentally and emotionally prepared when you’re helping people get in touch with themselves
  • How to get started with tarot!

Links:

Plus

  • Sara and Katel have an overdue friend date
  • We check in with each other using an empirical rating system, and it’s super helpful—for real!
  • Fuck yeah to great roles for women and more diversity of women on screen in some of our favorite shows right now

Sponsors

This episode of Strong Feelings is brought to you by:

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Harvest, makers of awesome software to help you track your time, manage your projects, and get paid. Go to getharvest.com/strongfeelings to get 50% off your first month.

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Lola has you covered with trusted period and sexual health products, delivered to your door. Use code FEELINGS to get 40% off all subscriptions when you visit mylola.com.

Transcript

SWB Do you ever need to track your time or maybe send an invoice? Then you should check out Harvest, a great tool I’ve been using for years to help me manage projects, budgets, and payments. They have all kinds of features, like the ability to start a timer on your desktop with the Mac app, and stop it on your way home from the iPhone app. It’s super easy, has options designed for both indie freelancers and big teams, and best of all, Strong Feelings listeners can get 50% off their first month. Try it for free at getharvest.com/strongfeelings, and when you upgrade to a paid account, you’ll save 50%. That’s getharvest.com/strongfeelings. [intro music plays for 11 seconds and then fades out]

SWB Hey everyone, I’m Sara!

KL And I’m Katel.

SWB And this is Strong Feelings! A podcast about work, friendship, and feminism—and what happens when you bring them all together.

KL So, speaking of friendship, I want to chat about something that I just haven’t been able to get off my mind since last week’s episode. So, we talked to Liz Fosslein, who co-wrote a book with her friend Mollie called “No Hard Feelings.” She’s talked about scheduling friend time into their update calls because otherwise she was kind of realizing that she didn’t know how her friend was doing.

SWB Yes! I think that we are pretty good at that in a lot of ways; we definitely try to make time for that. But I’ve been thinking recently about how it’s hard when I feel like we’re almost running out of time, and so in my head I will think things like, “oh, Katel’s coming over in the morning and we’re going to record this episode and do some work. And then, you know what? We’re going to get a lot done, and then we’re going to break for lunch, and we’re going to go out and have this nice, leisurely lunch.” [KL laughs] And then the reality is not that because we get so busy, and we’re behind because obviously you never get as much done as you want. And suddenly it’s like 1:30 and we’re braindead, and we’re starving, and I’m just fixing us up [KL laughs] some tuna fish sandwiches—

KL Which I love.

SWB Fancy tuna fish sandwiches—

KL Yeah.

SWB —but still tuna fish sandwiches—while we work through lunch. And I’m like, “oh, yeah that’s not the kind of friend date that we need.” And so I’m so glad that we actually had a real friend date the other day. Everyone, I took Katel to some place pretty special, which is my friend Mileka’s amazing comedy festival. She put on this festival called “Mad Ethnic”—it was all comedians of color. By the way, Mileka, if you’re listening, you did such a great job!

[2:21]

KL Oh my god, it was so awesome. And, of course we added a nice dinner to our date, which was great. But I really love that we didn’t just go out for a meal. And that was really awesome because we got to catch up on non-work stuff. At the beginning of it you even said, “alright, we’re not talking about work tonight.” [KL laughs] It was kind of great. But we also got to see this really special show and it was just a really great night we both needed.

SWB Yeah and I think we’ve got to keep on making sure we’re scheduling those. And actually maybe today we do go out for that lunch. It is morning right now when we’re recording.

KL Yeah, I think we should.

SWB But also the other thing I keep thinking about from that episode though is that Liz talked with us about how she started having these check-ins with Mollie where they would report back not just on how they were feeling about work, but kind of where they thought the other person was to see how in sync they were. And so, if you remember, they have this spreadsheet with all these prompts on it like “I feel good about the direction the book is going in” or “I feel good about my contribution this week.” And so every week, they would rate themselves from a scale of 1-10 and then also estimate where they thought the other person was for that factor. And Liz told this story about how she had put down a ten for how she thought Mollie was doing with the question of how she felt about her contribution that week, and then Mollie had given herself a three. [KL laughs]

KL Oh god.

SWB Which obviously was showing—

KL I know.

SWB —that they were just not on the same page and sparked some conversation. And so, I’m wondering… can we try that?

KL Okay, let’s do it. [laughs]

SWB Okay! So, we’re going to try it live. We’re just going to do one prompt, we’re not going to do ten of them. So, that prompt is “I feel good about the direction the podcast is taking this season.” Yeah, so Katel, scale of 1-10—where are you and where do you think I am? And I have my answers prepared as well.

KL Okay. So, I think for myself, I feel like I’m somewhere around a 7 or an 8. And I think you are probably around similar? Maybe like an 8 or 9? But I don’t know! So, this is such a good exercise. And I will give you a reason for why I chose those numbers. And I think for myself, I do kind of like to be conservative and I kind of want to be like, “oh, ’it’s a ten!” because I feel good about it right now. But also feel like I constantly struggle with feeling like I’m not working enough on developing the show in all the ways that we want to. And, granted, I know that worrying about that isn’t actually going to help anything, and that juggling takes time. But I am really excited about what we’re doing this season, and who we’re talking to, and just all the things we’re deciding to explore and spend time on. So, I am really excited about that. And I think you feel the same way, but I’m not sure now. [laughs]

[5:03]

SWB Oh gosh, this is a little bit nerve-wracking for me! So, I put down for myself—actually, here’s literally what I wrote down. 6.5 question question question question. [KL laughs]

KL That’s fair!

SWB I think I feel similarly to you, which is that I do feel like I’m super hyped about the guests we’re having—that we’ve had and that we have coming up. I feel like we are getting really into a grove—logistically, things are getting easier too in terms of making sure we’ve always made time for this. There’s some stuff I still want to work on, of course, but the real reason I was kind of not sure where to put it was that I feel like we poured so much time and energy in over the winter on redefining our brand, and repositioning, and then trying to get the word out about our show. And I think that that has been really good and I think we’ve started to see results of that. And I’m happy with all of that, but I think that we’re still in a little bit of a funny spot—

KL Yeah.

SWB Where we’re big enough that we have an audience, we’ve got fans, we get emails, and we get some financial support, but really still kind of at this cusp of a place where we’re only just barely paying the bills on the show. And I think that for me, that gives me this little bit of stress all the time of how do we get past that cusp, and feeling a little bit stuck. And I think—we’ve talked about this before—when I feel stuck, that’s a tough place for me to feel. So, I think that that was really contributing.

KL Yeah, I very much get that. And just hearing you talk about all of that out loud just helps me so much see where you are, and it helps me feel connected to you in this.

SWB Aw, that’s good. [KL laughs] And it made me feel connected to you when you were describing where you are with the show. What’s interesting is that I had pegged you a little bit lower, and it’s a little bit reassuring that you’re at a higher number because I had said maybe a six for you. And the reason I’d said that is that I felt like you would agree that we were really in a groove on a lot of things and feeling really hyped about our guests. But that I know that you have been feeling recently a lot like you’re a bit overloaded and like you need more time to decompress and rest, and you weren’t getting enough of that time. So, I’ve been a little bit worried about whether you felt like things were really going well from that sustainability perspective. And so that’s why I was like, “oh I shouldn’t assume [laughs] that she’s an eight or a nine.” [KL laughs] So, I’m glad that you’re feeling like—I know that that’s true, right? That you have been—

KL Right.

SWB —feeling those feelings, but that those feelings aren’t totally weighing you down when you think about the show.

[7:34]

KL Completely. And I do want to note that we both sort of set both of us at similar numbers, and I think that that’s so beautiful! I think we were seeing each other in a way that’s very accurate.

SBW Yeah! Even if the numbers don’t perfectly match, I also feel like when we start talking about our reasoning and stuff, it’s like, “oh, yeah, that totally resonates.” I am so glad that we can check in with each other, and even do it live on the show, [both laugh] which is a little scary! Uhhh, everybody, we did not know what the other person was going to say.

KL Nope!

SWB Because I think it’s great to acknowledge that yes, I love doing this show—and I love doing so many things that I do for work—but that also there’s hard parts, and it’s not always perfect. And I guess I feel this pressure—and I’m not even sure where the pressure is coming from, except for like the world—[KL laughs] but I feel this pressure to be sunny, and positive, and be like, “no, everything’s going great, it’s very popular, everybody loves this show, we get so much fanmail.” And not to lie about it, [laughs] but just that you want to perceive of what you’re doing as real, and legit, and credible. And so being able to be like, “everything’s going great” makes it seem real, and legit, and credible, I guess. That’s probably the underlying thing for me. And it is! Our show is real, and legit, and credible, and it has fans. But also, there’s some parts that are tough. We got a review the other day that gave us one star. [laughs] They said that they couldn’t listen to the content of the show because of our “giggly, self deprecation attitude.” Which I don’t think that’s actually accurate, but whatever. You can have your feelings, and opinions, that’s fine. But then it said, “why do women have to talk like this?” And logically, I know that policing women’s speech is “a thing.” And I also logically know there are a ton of people out there who want to hear women finally speaking in their own voices and demanding to be taken seriously when they speak in their own voices. Logically, I know that’s true, but I still read stuff like that and I have this little bit of like crushed feeling, and this sort of second guessing that I go into. Should I take the time to remake my voice to get rid of all my normal pieces of filler words?

KL [laughing] Yeah.

SWB Should I do all of that in order to fit some sort of perception of what the right way to be speaking is? And I guess it feels good to admit that I read that and feel a little bit crappy. And then also to say—and I bounce back from it, you know?

[10:04]

KL Yeah. And I do feel like every time I start to worry about whether I’m being judged or perceived in a certain way because of what we talk about on the show or how we talk about it, I will hear from a friend that they listened to an episode, and it helped them because they don’t get to have some of the conversations we have in their lives. And to me, that negates all of the negative stuff. I’m like, “okay, this is meaningful.”

SWB Absolutely. I think any time somebody has said something like that to me about how the show has made them feel less alone, that’s been so powerful. And I think if I can make that happen for someone, it’s worth it to get negative feedback here and there. And I also think that the show has been helpful for me. It’s been helpful in me bringing more emotional honesty to my work, and to my friendships, and to kind of every relationship that I have because it’s given me a lot of good practice doing that, and it’s sort of made me reflect a lot more. And actually, this is a good time I think to talk about who is on the show today. Because our guest today is also somebody who is making people think and reflect a little bit more. That is Jessica Dore. And you might know her as “the” Jessica Dore because that’s who she is on Twitter, where she has this huge following for her daily Tarot readings, which bring therapy and mental health into the Tarot process. And she is so fascinating, I’m so excited to talk with her.

KL I know. It’s so awesome, I’m so excited that we got her on the show. One thing that actually really stuck out to me in the interview was when she talked about being popular on Twitter for those therapeutic posts has led to a lot of people quote on quote “dumping feelings into her DMs.” And it made me think of this other tweet that went around recently from someone whose handle is @itsmirii. And it says, “I have a friend who always asks me before venting or sharing concerns if I ‘have the mental space for it right now.’ And got to say, that willingness to respect boundaries and not demand a loved one dedicate emotional energy they may not have that day, that’s the healthiest shit ever.” [laughs]

SWB Ahh yes! I love that so much! I feel like this is something I learned a little bit about a couple years ago. Back in 2015, I started giving this talk where—it’s a really vulnerable talk—where basically in the first slide, [laughs] I disclose that I was sexually abused as a kid. And I remember trembling the first time I gave this talk.

KL Yeah.

[12:32]

SWB But what happened after I started giving this talk is that a) it was really popular, so people asked me to give this talk a lot of different times, which was great. But b) it brought up a lot of feelings for people. And so what I found was after I’d give the talk, people would want to sort of open up to me about all the stuff it had brought up for them. And sometimes I would say it felt a little bit like they were dumping their emotions [laughs] out on me. And I mean, for good reason in a sense because I opened this door for them and I had been vulnerable up there. But what I realized was right after I would get off stage, I was also feeling pretty raw myself because I had [laughs] just given this really vulnerable talk.

KL Yeah.

SWB And just being on stage takes a lot out of you. And then I would have this line of people wanting to have these intense conversations with me. And at first, I was not at all prepared for that because like that tweet said, I didn’t have any emotional energy. I’d used all the emotional energy, did not have any left, and then there were people who felt like they needed to talk to me. And so what I realized was that it made sense that people wanted some of that after I gave that talk because it felt like I was inviting that in a lot of ways. And so I decided that I wanted to do a better job of preparing myself to be ready for that. And so what I started doing was mentally and emotionally preparing myself for a) you’re going to get up and give this talk, and it might take a lot from you, and then b) after that, people might want to kind of open up [laughs] about things that have happened to them, and that might also take stuff from you. And are you well rested? Are you well fed? Have you prepared your brain and your body for it by saying that to yourself? Like “okay, this is something that’s going to happen. Prepare.”

KL Yeah.

SWB And then have you given yourself time later when you’re alone where you don’t have to rush off to a dinner reservation with eight people, where you can have some decompression time, you can sit quietly in a dim hotel room alone. [KL laughs] Because you’re going to need that! And I feel like that was really helpful for me, so that I could both give this talk that was really powerful, and still have some emotional energy left to be there for people when they needed it after hearing that talk. So, I think it’s hard to do that. I think it’s definitely a skill to practice, but I feel like that was something I have found is really important if you get yourself into that place where people are sharing those things with you.

[15:05]

KL Yeah, oh my gosh. That sounds so critical. I know about myself that I’m really sensitive to, and absorb other people’s emotions and energy, but that is also a really important and critical way for me to connect with those same people. So, I really have to keep that in mind and pay attention to it because I want to be there for folks, and I want to share my experience with them, and I want to have that back and forth. But I’ve just got to make sure that I’m in the best mindset for it, so I can receive it and be helpful. And also stay emotionally healthy and protect myself a little bit. And I think you’re talking about that too.

SWB And not carry that shit around with you—

KL Yeah.

SWB —because you take it all on yourself.

KL Exactly.

SWB Yeah, I think that that’s such an important skill to learn. And actually, I think we should talk with Jessica because Jessica has a lot of really amazing stuff to say about mental health and about self care in all of its facets. So, let’s hear from Jessica right after we pay some bills. [short transition music plays]

Promo: Lola

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SWB That is great because I was just reading about how tampons don’t have to tell you what’s in them, and most of them don’t…and it’s a bunch of chemicals. So, I’m excited to hear more about Lola.

KL Yeah! So, last week, I used my completely customized box of tampons—I am so into this. Lola delivers my tampons right to my door as often as I need them, and can I just say, they are really pretty. My favorite part is not only can you choose your own mix of products like tampons, pads, and wipes, and absorbency needs, you can also change, skip, or cancel your subscription at any time. And, for every purchase, they’ll donate feminine care products to homeless shelters. I love Lola because they make me feel good inside and out. And now, Lola is offering Strong Feelings listeners 40% off all subscriptions. Just visit mylola.com and use the code “feelings” when you subscribe. That’s mylola.com, code “feelings.” [short transition music plays]

Interview: Jessica Dore

KL Jessica Dore is a writer and graduate student of social work, who reads tarot as a tool for therapeutic healing. We connected with her through a friend on Twitter, but I can’t help thinking maybe it was meant to be. Jessica, welcome to Strong Feelings.

Jessica Dore Thank you so much for having me.

KL So, there’s so much we want to know about the practice of tarot. When did you start reading tarot and what did you like about it that brought you to it?

[17:45]

JD I kind of grew up around tarot because my mom, who is a social worker, had tarot cards. And she used to pull them out for fun at parties and do more of like a fortune telling—kind of like what you think of when you think about tarot readers. She would pull them out and threaten me with them like, [laughs] “I’m going to read your cards if you don’t”— [laughs] And I never wanted her to because they were always eerily on point and I didn’t like it as a kid. But later—many years later when I was living in the Bay Area actually, I was living in Oakland—I had some coworkers who were really into tarot. They wanted to have a tarot circle at someone’s house where we would study the cards and learn about them. And I was like, “okay, I guess I’ll come.” I didn’t have cards of my own, but my friends were doing it, so I wanted to do what they were doing. And that was kind of how it started—we would read cards for each other. And I didn’t know anything about them, but I was always so amazed at how on point they would be, how resonant they would be with something that I would be going through at the time. I felt really seen by them in a weird way. And so from there, that was how I started my own practice. And I got a deck of cards and started studying them and learning them, and it’s just been a journey since then.

KL Are there common ways people practice tarot? Did you learn by watching or studying other practices?

JD No actually. And that’s very my personality. [laughs] I am someone who likes to just do things my own way. And so I bought a deck of cards, and then I would pull a card every morning and every evening. And I had one book called Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom By Rachel Pollack. And I would just look up the meaning of the card in the book and make some notes in my little notebook. And I did that every day for years—probably three or four years—until I started to have a sense that I knew what the cards meant. And then I would give readings to people. It wasn’t until a few years in that I myself had a reading from a professional tarot reader and saw how people were doing it. I didn’t really have a framework or anyone teaching me.

KL It’s really interesting to hear the evolution of how you got into it because I really also want to know about when you realized that reading tarot could potentially complement or assist with some of the emotional healing that you talk about?

[20:23]

JD I was really lucky in that the company that I was working for—New Harbinger—is a publisher of psychology and self help books. And so I was there for six years. I was a publicist when I first started working there and then I transitioned into an editorial role. So, I was spending all this time with these books about these different mental health disorders, and protocols, and treatments, and ways to help people with these problems. And that was my job, and I was doing that 40 hours a week every week. So, I was learning all of this stuff about psychology and the mind and behavior. At the same time, I was also studying tarot cards. And it was very quickly that I started to see connections between the images and the metaphors that show up in the tarot cards, and the concepts, and the skills, and theories that I was reading about in the books at my job.

KL What is it about tarot that you think helps people connect with and process their mental or emotional health or potential challenges that they’re having?

JD I think the cards have a unique way of cutting right to the core of things with people. I’ll have people often tell me, “wow, this is worth ten sessions of therapy.” [laughs & KL laughs] And that’s anecdotal, that’s one person’s experience, that’s not to say that tarot reading is a replacement for therapy at all. But people will say that they can just get right to the heart of things in a way that I think can be more challenging to do—and as a graduate student, I’m studying and training to be a psychotherapist. And I’m learning about you do all this stuff around building rapport and connecting with people, and you have to do all this work to build the relationships before you can kind of go into some of the more intense stuff with people. Tarot cards don’t require [laughs] all of that. They kind of just—you flip the cards over and it’s like, “woah, there’s my life. [laughs and KL laughs] I just got read.” And it disarms people I think in a way and gets people immediately in touch with things that they might have been feeling modest about or maybe weren’t quite ready to just bring up in conversation and just the cards give people permission to access that stuff in a way.

KL So, you were talking about studying psychotherapy and exploring that field. What made you decide to become a therapist?

[22:52]

JD I am fascinated by the mind and behavior and psychology, and kind the intersection of thoughts and feelings and behavior and change and how it happens—all these things. And as I was doing tarot card readings, I noticed very quickly that people were coming to me with things that I felt like, “you know what? I don’t feel like I’m really qualified to be working with this person in this way right now.” Like I know a good amount about behavior and psychology and thoughts and feelings and all these things intellectually, but I didn’t really feel like I had the proper training. People come to you with all kinds of things and tell you all kinds of stories about their lives when you are a tarot reader. And it’s a big responsibility. [laughs] It really is a big responsibility. And I think especially in an environment like the one that we live in where so many people don’t have access to mental health care, so many people don’t have access to therapy, so people do go to things like tarot readers and astrologers and use the mystic healing arts for help. And I felt like it was my responsibility to gain some tools, so that I could be more useful to people. And at least not do harm.

KL What does a typical tarot reading session look like? What can someone expect if they’re getting a reading for the first time?

JD People that come to me, tend to fall into two categories. One—they are in the middle of making a big change and need validation and support and they kind of need someone to say, “yes, you’re on the right path.” They need the cards to validate them and affirm where they’re at and what they’re doing. And then on the other side, there are people who are sort of at a crossroads or they’re feeling stuck in some way, and they need guidance. So, I’ll kind of spend some time with people in the beginning, just helping them clarify what it is that they’re hoping to get out of the session. And as they’re sharing with me, I’ll be asking them questions and shuffling the cards. And then I pull the cards. I do a ten card spread, turn them over, and then—I do a lot of my sessions virtually over Skype—so I’ll take a picture of the spread and send it to them so they can look at it while we’re talking. And then I’ll just start by picking out some of the cards and saying things and asking them, “what does that bring up for you?” It’s a combination usually of again, either me supporting people and validating them and affirming that they’re making the right choices and they’re doing the right things. Or it’s helping people figure out why they’re stuck and then sometimes helping them to figure out how to take next steps. And it’s very collaborative. My sessions are different in that I believe that the client or the person who is seeking the reading should be working too. I don’t think it’s useful for me to just sit there and interpret the cards and tell people their life. That’s not really the work that I like to do. I use the cards to ask a lot of questions and to help people come to conclusions on their own. And that’s something that I’ve learned through my training in psychotherapy.

[26:15]

SWB This is so interesting. Thinking about the way you look at tarot as almost like a reflection exercise versus how a lot of us maybe have come upon it before, which is more like what you mentioned with your mom—being more like a party trick, divination exercise. And I wanted to talk a bit about something else that is part of your practice, which is the single card pulls that you do on Twitter every day. So, for those of our listeners who have not yet followed you on Twitter, every day you pull a card and use it as a focal point to talk about some topic. So, here’s one from January that really got me. I believe it was the Four of Cups and the tweet said:

Today’s card: many of us are deeply terrified of slowing down for fear of what awaits us in stillness. Emotional and psychic backlog waiting to be processed, behaviors we’re afraid to fall back into, fear of getting left behind, depression. Interrogate your aversion to idling.

[all laugh] So, that one really got me because literally a month or two before, Katel and I had a conversation on the show where I was like, “yeah, I have a strong aversion to idling.” [KL and JD laugh] I mean, almost those exact terms, honestly. And so that one really gave me a lot of pause. So, I am not the only one who feels this way about your daily Twitter pulls because you have a huge number of people who follow you for them. They are very, very popular, they get shared around a lot. So, I’m really, really curious—how did you start doing that and what made you make that part of your practice too?

JD I had a blog that I started—I was doing a tarot Tuesday thing. I would pull some cards and write about them every Tuesday on my blog. And I would use Twitter just to promote the blog posts or whatever, but I didn’t really do much and I didn’t have many followers. And one day, I pulled a tarot card for myself and I just decided I was going to post it on Twitter. I think it might have been Knight of Pentacles or something. And I think fifteen people liked it or something like that. [laughs] And I was like, “wow, okay, people like this!” And really I was just like, “oh, people like this, I’m going to keep doing it.” [laughs]

SWB Yeah! I mean they get thousands of likes and retweets and stuff now. And I heard that you were on NPR recently. I mean—

JD Uh huh. [laughs]

SWB —why do you think those daily pulls have become so popular?

[28:32]

JD Certainly we’re in a time where people are seeking alternative ways of understanding themselves. People are seeking healing. I use a lot of concepts from different therapies that I have studied and learned over the years—cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, ACT, mindfulness-based therapies—I use a lot of those concepts. And they work and they’re effective, and so I think I sort of disguise them in the form of a tarot card. And it makes them more interesting. But I think probably the biggest reason why people like them so much is that when you see a card come up and the message that comes with it, and it’s so applicable to you, and then you see, “oh wow, 2,000 other people liked this or retweeted it. That means I’m not alone.” And honestly, that is a big appeal of the practice of tarot to begin with. I remember when I was first learning and I would be pulling cards, I remember feeling very alone in a lot of the things I was going through in my early twenties. Nobody else is going through [laughs] this thing that I’m going through, surely. And then I would pull tarot cards and it would be like, “wow, this card is talking about this thing that I’m going through that I thought I was the only one, but surely I’m not because someone created this card like one hundred years ago.“ [laughs] So, there’s something about the tarot cards and the archetypes and the symbols and the metaphors that just make people feel seen and less alone. And people say all the time, “how do you do this every day? How do you know? How do you drag me every day?” [all laugh] And I’m just like, “it’s because we are so much more alike than we are different!” And that blows people’s minds. Like someone asked me the other day, “how do you do this every day? How do you always say the exact thing that I need to hear?” And I said, “because I too am [laughs] a human being with a human brain and human experiences and human relationships, and I’m going through all the same things that you’re going through.” Obviously not all the same things and our experiences are vastly different in many ways, but in terms of our emotional lives and our relational lives, I think we have a lot more in common than we have different.

[31:00]

SWB Yes. Yes! I definitely have a strong vibe of “thank you/how dare you.” [all laugh] And I think that’s good! One of the things that we talk a lot about here is we don’t talk enough about our emotional lives. And there’s so much stigma about doing that openly in public. And so that’s one of the reasons we talk about our feelings all the time because I think that it’s so valuable—like you said—to not feel alone. But it’s not always easy to occupy that space. So, I’m curious if it’s ever difficult for you or if it’s changed your day to day to have such a large social audience paying attention to these very intimate thoughts that you’re sharing?

[31:42]

JD Yeah, definitely. Things that I’m having to navigate and figure out as someone who is—I’ll be sitting for a license to be a licensed social worker and to be practicing psychotherapy, and there’s all this stuff about self disclosure in therapy and how much of yourself is appropriate to share with clients because that stuff can get in the way of the therapeutic process. If I share, “oh yeah, I’m going through a break up,” the client may start to feel bad for me or they may be worried that something that they say is going to trigger me. There’s all these things that happen that can impede the process. And I think even though I’m not doing therapy right now with clients, I’m just doing tarot sessions, it still feels that way too. I can’t share too much about my own personal life because I’m concerned about me sharing personal details of my life potentially affecting the work. So, that’s been a really interesting thing that I’ve had to navigate. And there’s not a lot of people in my graduate program that has 35,000 followers on Twitter and is posting daily tarot cards that I can ask. Or even any of my professors. Certainly there are people who are in similar situations, but I haven’t really found them yet. So, I don’t really know, I’m just trying to do my best. And I will say that it is taxing sometimes to not be able to be a person. Or I’ll get a lot of emotional dumping in my DMs. People don’t think that there’s a person on the other end of this that is having to read this. And I’m impacted by it, I’m impacted by people’s stories. And I read all the DMs that I get actually, but sometimes it’s a lot.

KL So, given just how many people you’re really affecting with this and how many people are following what you’re doing on Twitter and how they can apply it to their own lives, is there any misconceptions folks have about tarot or what the practice can do?

JD Well, I think there are some people who practice in different traditions that do more channeling. Like they’ll do at the start of a session—I described how I conduct a session, it’s very straightforward. [laugh] I don’t say a prayer or I don’t—people will say things like asking that the messages that are received are for the highest good of everyone involved. People will do things like that that are more invoking spirits or ancestors or guides. And that’s not really how I practice currently, but I think there are just different ways of practicing. I wouldn’t say, “yeah, tarot cards can’t be used for psychic work.” I think they can. I think if you’re a person who has developed psychic abilities and skills, you can use tarot cards to do that work absolutely. I believe in that stuff. Is that how I use them? Not really. Very rarely, I’ll have clients who expect me to sort of give them answers to questions that there are no answers to yet because we don’t know yet. People will ask me things like, “well, what’s going to happen with this?” And I’m like, “okay, I don’t tell the future.” Some people are clairvoyant and use tarot cards to do that practice. So, I think it all depends on the practitioner and what the expectation is of the person who is receiving the reading.

[35:25]

KL So, we recently had a guest on the show—a photographer who had worked on a story about contemporary witchcraft. And we briefly discussed the commodification of witch stuff that you’re seeing a lot of, like being able to pick up cleansing sage while you’re shopping for thank you cards at the gift shop, which just feels like sigh. [JD laughs] Is there commodification of tarot and that side of things? Is that happening with tarot as well?

JD Yeah, definitely! I think I was reading something somewhat recently that was put out by U.S. Game Systems, which is the company I think that published the Rider Waite-Smith tarot deck. They have had a massive increase in sales over the last couple of years from the last, big upswing, which was I think in the seventies. And there’s a lot of people that are coming out with new tarot decks, which is a good thing absolutely because that original Rider Waite-Smith deck is not the most inclusive. Actually, not inclusive at all. It’s very white, patriarchal, cis gender, heteronormative images. But yeah, absolutely. I think tarot is part of that whole commodification of the witchy stuff that’s happening right now, for sure.

SWB Is there a little bit of almost a double edged sword there? Like on the one hand, that can make the practice much more accessible to people and sort of open it up to a lot of new audiences in the way that your Twitter pulls have, but also it can lose some of its power or significance along the way?

JD I haven’t been able to find any downside to more people having tarot decks. For me, there’s no downside to that because I believe it’s a tool that has a lot of therapeutic use and value. I think with some of the witchcraft stuff and the things like the sage and all of that, there are issues of appropriation. There are issues of taking cultural objects and marketing them as something different than what they originally were and separating them from the culture they belong to. I think that’s a different story. There is harm that is done to people in those cases—like corporations making a lot of money off of things like sage bundles that don’t belong to them, that belong to other cultures. But with the tarot decks, I can not see any downsides.

SWB Yeah. I think it’s pretty interesting to think about the issues of appropriation that exist with so many of these other kinds of spiritual practices. For example, burning sage in indigenous or native cultures. Whereas, I was looking a little bit at the history of tarot before we had this interview, and what’s pretty different about it than a lot of these other things that we’re starting to see crop up and have a resurgence is that it’s mostly a European tradition, where it’s not 100% clear exactly where it comes from or who created the first stuff. I read a few different potential undocumented or unproven places it could have come from, but it’s not tightly tied to any one particular group of people or spiritual practice, which I guess makes it so much more open to be used in lots of different ways.

[38:52]

JD Right, yeah exactly.

KL So, tarot is your side hustle right now—you offer readings and classes and workshops, which is amazing, and I think we’re going to have to get in on. But you’re also currently working on getting your masters in social work. What does that mean for your day to day? How are you balancing everything?

JD It’s… it’s been a lot. I am balancing it by—I mean, it’s actually great because I think having the tarot practice and then the writing work that I do and the classes, my schedule really is flexible. So, that’s been really helpful for me as I’ve been getting through graduate school. But really, the bulk of the program—what takes up the most time—is the clinical work. The social work program requires that you do two year long internships. And I did my first year in an agency in centre city Philadelphia working with folks with eating disorders, as well as people with mood disorders—depression and bipolar—who are in an intensive outpatient program. So, that meant that they would come in for group therapy most mornings out of the week and we would do work there. This year, I’m working in a community mental health agency for adults with mental health challenges. So, I’m doing psychotherapy there and I’m also doing intake evaluations, so people can walk in and you sit with them and take their history and all of that stuff, and then get them on track for treatment. So, that’s definitely the most demanding part of the program because it’s emotionally taxing. And it’s just a lot of learning and a lot of interfacing with people who are going through a lot of challenges and having to hold space for that and learning how to do that. So, it’s a lot. [laughs] I’m not really sure how I’m balancing it all, but I’m doing my best. [SWB and KL laugh]

[40:45]

KL I hear that. So, what do you want your work to look like when you’re done with your masters? Do you see your tarot practice growing or even evolving with your other work?

JD Definitely. I mean, I would love to continue to do tarot sessions. I’m really interested in studying—I’m getting ready to do a training in energy psychology, which is kind of a style of psychotherapy where you work with—it’s like a somatic psychotherapy where you work with different meridian points in the body if you’re familiar with tapping or EFT. You tap on certain spots on the body to clear trauma and it’s a really amazing modality. So, I’m hoping to do more of that work. But I really love teaching, so that’s been really fun—the teaching tarot. I love the fundamentals class, it’s always fun. And then the therapeutic tarot webinar that I’ve been doing is where I’m sharing how I’m combining behavioral therapies with card work. So, how to use cards in a way that’s therapeutic—meaning in a way that helps people make changes in their lives and helps people function better and feel better. So, yeah. I mean, I definitely see all of these things combining. [laughs] How it will look, I’m not exactly sure. Actually, something that I love doing—I run a group in West Philly called “tarot Circle”, which is a support group basically with tarot cards. So, the group meets once a week and people pull cards for themselves and then we open it up to the group for collaborative interpretation. So, someone will say, “okay, I asked this question, here’s something that I’m going through in my life, and here at the three cards that I pulled. Here’s what I’m thinking what it means, I’m not sure, what do you guys think?” And then the group will weigh in and do its thing and help people. And it’s been really amazing. I’ve been doing that since the summer and I like that work, I like group work a lot. [laughs]

[42:36]

KL That sounds awesome. So, we’re running out of time, but before we go, we wanted to ask you if you can give our listeners a little bit of advice. If they’re interested in starting a tarot practice or trying it out for the first time, where would you recommend they start?

JD Well, I think the best place to start is to just get a deck of cards that resonates with you and pull a card a day or as often as you can. [laughs] And there’s a ton of resources. If you don’t want to buy a book, you can just google the name of the card. And what I did that was really helpful for me when I started was I had a notebook—a blank notebook—and I made a page for every tarot card. And when I would pull a card, I would make notes on that cards page based on what I was finding on the internet or in my book about what the card meant. And then after I had been doing that for a while, I had this really great notebook that was like my own personal book of interpretations that I would use then when I give readings to people. And I still use it actually now. So, the best way to start a tarot practice is to just start. Get a deck of cards and get familiar with them and pull them. And definitely don’t expect to memorize all the cards or have to know everything. Really, it’s meant to be an intuitive practice. You can look at a card and just sit with it and let it do its thing to you [laughs] without having to know exactly what it means and what it’s for. And that’s part of it, that’s part of the practice—just allowing magic and mystery a little bit and letting go of the need to know everything and know what everything means.

SWB Ahh, letting go of some control, [KL laughs] and having to know what everything means. [KL laughs] That’s hard!

KL Yeah.

SWB But that’s a really valuable practice all by itself, huh?

JD Mhm. Yeah.

SWB Jessica, thank you so much for being on the show. So, where can folks learn more about your work and support your work and maybe even get involved in one of those workshops that you’ve been talking about?

JD So, my website is probably the best place to go. It’s just my name dot com. I have information on there about booking a session with me, as well as the workshops that I’m offering or the classes. And my email and everything is on there if people want to reach out.

SWB Great! And that’s Dore d-o-r-e, right?

JD Yes.

SWB Alright! jessicadore.com. Well, thank you so much, Jessica!

KL Thanks!

JD Thank you so much for having me, this was really fun. [short transition music plays]

[45:00]

Promo: Double Shift

[music starts playing with voice coming in over the top]

Katherine Goldstein This is the Double Shift, a show about a new generation of working mothers. It’s not about parenting or kids, it’s about us! And challenging the world we live in today.

Women have changed about as much as they can, and now it’s time for the workplace to change, and it’s time for men to change, and it’s time for policy to change.

KG Mothers are breaking all the rules and writing new ones.

I remember this one particularly person saying, “oh, that’s definitely not going to work. There’s no way that’s going to work.” It’s like, “alright, thank you for your feedback.” [laughs] I’m still going to do it!

KG I’m Katherine Goldstine and on February 11th, join me for the Double Shift on the Critical Frequency Network. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts, no permission needed. [music ends]

Fuck Yeah of The Week

SWB Okay, Katel, I did the fuck yeah last week, so this week, I need to hear from you. What is making you say fuck yeah right now?

KL [sighs] So, I am so into some really great roles led by women in a couple of my favorite shows at the moment. So, Sex Education is one show I’m watching and it’s amazing. There are two actresses in it who play lead roles. One is Emma Mackey, who plays Maeve, [laughs] one of our favorite characters I think. And Gillian Anderson, who by the way, is 51, and is so badass and so sexy in her role without having to be like… naked [laughs] or overtly so. And I really, really love that.

SWB I have been loving Sex Education also and particularly, Gillian Anderson. And also, by the way, if she does want to be naked in it, that’s fine too.

KL Oh yeah.

SWB But did you see her in The Fall a couple of years ago?

KL Ughh, so good.

SWB She’s so good. And yes, and she’s very sexy. So, big fan of that show. Absolutely check!

KL Totally. And another one I’m watching is called Black Earth Rising. And an actress called Michaela Cole stars in it, which we just do not deserve her. I first saw her in Chewing Gum—

SWB Ooh I love Chewing Gum too! Okay, yeah. Chewing Gum, if you haven’t seen it, is a British comedy, and it’s so… weird and hilarious. [KL laughs] Just watch it. Michaela Cole actually wrote it too, which is great.

KL That’s so amazing. So yeah, she wrote and starred in that a few years back, and now she stars in Black Earth Rising, which focuses on the absolutely horrific 1994 Rwandan genocide and its ongoing aftermath. So, she’s amazing in both dramatic and comedic roles and she’s just brilliant. I love that she’s so front and centre in this story.

SWB I need to check that out because I would love to see that range. Because Chewing Gum is so [KL laughs] funny and weird, and this must be completely different.

KL Yeah.

SWB Okay, I’m going to check that out. And just fuck yeah for way more great roles for women, way more women on screen, and then way more diversity of women on screen. So, I want to say fuck yeah to all of that!

KL Fuck yeah!

SWB Well, that is it for us this week! Strong Feelings is recorded in Philadelphia and produced by Steph Colbourn from Edit Audio. Our theme music is “Deprogrammed” by Blowdryer, and you can check them out at blowdryer.bandcamp.com. Thanks to Jessica Dore for being our guest today, and thank you all for listening! If you liked the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us wherever it is that you listen to your favorite podcasts. And hey— you can get strong feelings right in your inbox! Sign up for our newsletter at strongfeelings.co. See you again next week! [theme music plays for 15 seconds and fades out]



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Welcome to Strong Feelings

Best friends and business partners Katel and Sara let it all out in a weekly show about work, friendship, and feminism. Because life’s too short to bottle things up.
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