When you need a little discipline – The Emperor

Sometimes, everybody needs a little discipline.

That can be hard to admit, if, like me, you like to think of yourself as all free-spirited and floaty-like, easily wafting from lovely thing to lovely thing. News flash: rules can be good.

I’ve been practicing a few of my own lately. Here are some examples:

  • Wait a full hour before turning on my computer in the morning.
  • Write one page of my book each day.
  • Turn emails off when working.

You know, that sort of thing. Guess what? They work! For example, if I’m not busy distracted by the millions of emails which fling themselves into my inbox throughout the day, I can actually get something productive done. And so on.

Then there are the rules that come from other people, but for which you willingly sign up. Today I restarted The Artist’s Way – that infamous 12-week course in unlocking your creative powers through daily and weekly practices, and through a series of exercises. I’ve tried it before and…guess what? I gave up. But I loved the discipline it imposed upon me during the six weeks I followed it. Someone was making me write those morning pages and take myself out on dates, weren’t they?

The Emperor tarot card shadowscapes

The Emperor, from the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Piu-Mun Law

I respond well to structure, though I know not everyone does.

This might inform how we feel about The Emperor in the tarot. If you hate to follow rules, have a naturally anti-authoritarian tendency and a dislike of right angles, it’s likely you won’t be too fond of tarot’s tough-loving parent. I sure as hell wasn’t impressed when I first met The Emperor. But in recent weeks, reflecting on how I find the constraints of a few simple rules to have a positive influence on my life, I’ve seen a different side to this card.

True – The Emperor can represent authority figures in our lives, and often the need to buck against their dogmatic rules and regulations. It’s not good to be handed your entire world view and social/political beliefs and gobble them up without question. And sometimes life can get so structured and regulated that the tarot cards are telling you to kick and scream and burn the place down.

But lately, I’ve softened towards The Emperor.

I’ve found myself craving a little of their structure. I’ve found that, in imposing a rule here, a constraint there – even if only temporary – I’m actually able to get rid of some of life’s tyrannical distractions and thus end up feeling freer.


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  1. Ellen says:

    I think that freedom can be enjoyed mostly in structure or else it can lead to chaos. It is difficult for me too to stay focused or maintain a practice (like writing morning pages:)) I can start with great enthusiasm and a few days later I seem to have forgotten all about it. So waking up my inner emperor ( I don’t like that card at all) could be a good idea 😀

    • Little Red says:

      I know what you mean Ellen. The truth is I make little rules for myself all the time and most fall by the wayside. But the ones that work, stick 🙂
      Was nice to find a happier interpretation for The Emperor…though so often the card appears to me as a symbol of something oppressive/ restrictive-in-a-bad-way.

  2. chloetarot says:

    I’ve had interesting experiences with the Emperor, too. Seeing him as needing to bring more structure to my life, or as the petty tyranny of other people’s rules. And even the combination of having to create some structure to combat the petty tyranny of others trying to impose their dictates 🙂

  3. Little Red says:

    Absolutely Chloe! I like the doubling up of meanings there – so satisfying when a card gives both the problem and the solution in one 🙂

    Just shows, there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cards in the tarot (depsite what my fledgeling tarotist mind felt when reacting to the cards in the early days!)

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