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Magical thinking, Limerence, and the Tarot

Let's chat about magical thinking. Magical thinking is when you believe that your thoughts, actions, or even random objects can somehow shape the outcome of events in your life, even if it doesn't make logical sense.

We lean into magical thinking to give ourselves a sense of control or comfort when things feel uncertain. During tough times or when we're grieving it’s a coping mechanism that help us regulate our nervous system.

This might look like having a lucky object that we have in our pocket or turning to rituals or believing in supernatural forces to help us navigate through the rough patches.

Cultural influences play a big role too. Our traditions and folklore often weave magical elements into our lives, passed down through generations and becoming a very real part of who we are.

Magical thinking lets us find hidden purpose or significance in things that might otherwise seem random. Seeing Angel numbers are a great example of this. And ya know what, If it helps you stay positive during tough times, I say - go for it.

But it's important to keep things in check.

Relying too much on magical thinking is a set up for disappointment when reality doesn't match our magical expectations.

So, it's gotta be a bit of magical thinking with blended with some rational thought. Go ahead and put those lucky socks but make sure they are on feet that are standing firmly on solid ground.

Magical thinking is a normal developmental stage that we all go through. It usually kicks in during early childhood, around the ages of 3 to 5 and tops off around 10.

It's during that time when kids start to believe in fairies and gnomes living in the forest or their teddy bear truly coming to life.

For kids, it's their way of making sense of a world that can seem pretty mysterious and unpredictable to them. Magical explanations fill in the gaps when they don’t quite understand. It gives them a sense of control in situations where they might feel a bit out of their depth. It also lets kids unleash their creativity and imagination and is their way of exploring and having fun while they learn and grow.

If we have experienced early childhood developmental trauma, (usually caused by caretakers creating relational wounds), magical thinking as a coping mechanism can stay with us into well into our adult lives.

Let’s talk about how magical thinking and developmental trauma can be linked. When kids go through tough or traumatic times, it can shake up their view of the world and their developing sense of self. This is what we call developmental trauma, and it leaves a lasting mark on how they think and feel as they grow up.

One way this trauma can show up is through magical thinking as a coping skill.

 Imagine a kid dealing with scary or confusing situations; they might turn to magical rituals or imaginary friends to feel safe or in control. Remember, coping skills are what we use to regulate our nervous systems. It's like their mind creates this magical protective bubble to help them cope with all the chaos around them.

Trauma can really distort a kid's sense of reality, especially if it’s the only reality they know and there is no real way to escape except in their mind.  This is when they might start using magical explanations to make sense of all the confusing and painful things happening around them.

Magical thinking is their way to escape and survive….and that’s a really good thing!

But - while magical thinking is a great way to cope with trauma in childhood- it can also hold them back in the long run. If they rely too much on it, it can make it harder for them to deal with their real feelings or stay present to solve problems in healthier ways.

This is why it's important to recognize when magical thinking is linked to trauma and to get the right support to help them heal and find healthier ways to cope.Therapy from a licensed counselor, especially when it's trauma-informed, can be a really helpful tool in this process.

Now, let's dive into how magical thinking and limerence aka romantic obsession – go hand in hand.

What is limerence? Limerence is an intense and involuntary romantic obsession or infatuation characterized by obsessive thoughts, fantasies, and longing for reciprocation from the object of affection.

Individuals experiencing limerence often idealize the person they're infatuated with, attributing exaggerated or unrealistic qualities to them. This idealization can involve magical thinking, where the person is seen as perfect, flawless, and like no other.

Limerent individuals frequently engage in elaborate fantasies about their romantic interest, envisioning idealized scenarios or believing their love interest has some kind of magical power to understand or return their affections.

Limerence may also lead individuals to believe in fate or destiny, viewing their intense feelings as predetermined or guided by external forces. This is often how “Twin Flame” relationships are characterized.

It's crucial to maintain a critical perspective and differentiate between fantasy and reality for our overall well-being and may truly believe that this is what we are doing....

The thing is- limerence feels SO REAL.

So How can I tell if its limerence or true love?  

Unlocking the Mysteries of Love: Four Key Questions to Differentiate Between Limerence and True Love, Enhanced by Tarot Guidance for Finding the Love You Deserve

1)   How big is the gap between your idea of who that person is and where they are in your life and the reality of who that person is and where they are in your life?


How would you feel if you had to admit to your crush all the fantasies you have in your mind about who they are and what your relationship is and could be?


If you have a secure attachment style, you are probably only a few steps ahead of where you are in reality – checking out compatibility and life goals, figuring out if you are a fit with their friends and they are a fit with yours -  and the conversation will feel grounded.

If you have an limerent attachment style your fantasies are very likely going to feel embarrassing to share, based far ahead in the future (example: you’ve had one date but you are imagining what it would be like to build a family together and what kind of marriage partner they will be and how they will romance you and what your love story will look like……) 

The bottom line is this: If you are obsessing over romantic fantasies with someone that you have only had a few dates with, those long term romantic fantasies are not based on the reality of who that person is. You don’t know them yet. This is limerence.

Please know – Limerence is usually a sign of early developmental emotional wounding and there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a sign post that there is work to be done on yourself before you are ready to be a romantic partner to anyone else.

2)   Ask yourself in the early stages of the relationship: Am I genuinely open to learning things about this person that would disqualify them as a potential partner? Or, am I putting blinders on and only seeing what I want?

Secure attachment styles are ok with it not being a fit. There is equal attention given to the Green, Yellow, and Red lights that you encounter on your journey together. The goal is to get to know the person and see if they make sense in your world.

 Limerence is not about the actual relationship with your person of interest. Limerence is less about discerning true compatibility in the relationship and more about maintaining the fantasy that you are using to regulate our nervous system.

You are more attached to the fantasy than you are to the actual person and the relationship as it truly exists. The reality is just a jumping off point for the limerent fantasies.

Often, the fantasies feel better than the actual time spent with the person of interest and the priority is put on maintaining the feeling the fantasy give you when you are away from them, not on working on the actual relationship with your person of interest.

Remember when the wounded child we talked about before had imaginary friends to regulate their nervous system? Sound familiar?

3) As you are getting to know them ask yourself – Am I aware of potential problems and non-delusional solutions to them? 

Limerent people actually do perceive the areas that are non compatible -  its what they do with them that makes the difference. Limerent people idealize theses flaws, whereas Secure attachment style people will call a spade a spade.

 Example: You want a family and they don’t.

Secure attachment solution: In this way you will be sharing values and checking out potentials with communication over time, understanding the relationship may end and while painful, that’s ok. Problems are identified, the pain is felt, the issue is dealt with explicitly with the other person.

Limerent solution: In this way you will find yourself thinking: I will love this person in a way that they have never been loved. They will see the beauty of this and want this to grow into a family with me.

You are working out these issues in your mind, not in relationship WITH the person of interest. You are relying on a magical solution (like the power of your love) OR you discard your wants and needs to maintain the relationship with this person and decide that you didn’t want a family after all. Either way, the problem goes unaddressed with your person of interest.

Problems are romanticized, or ignored or delusional solutions are used.

4)What do I want from this person in reality verse what do I want from them psychologically and how realistic is my psychological want?

In real relationship there are elements that are quantifiable and part of your shared lived experience: how much time you spend together, your living arrangement together, how you share expenses – all the tangible realities of being in relationship with someone else.

In a secure long term relationship, there are psychological expectations that are a normal and expected part of bonding with another: co regulation, emotional Intimacy, trust. Emotions based on building a safe emotional experience in concert with another person.

In secure attachment relationships, we know that its not our partners job to make us feel good about ourselves. Its our partners job to be authentically who they are and show up for companionship, trust and emotional intimacy. Of course, if it doesn’t work out, that’s painful and very personal- but it doesn’t shake your core sense of self.

Limerent relationship: there may not be any tangible realities of shared experience with the person of interest. The relationship may exist solely or mainly in your imagination. Psychological expectations in limerent relationships are based on self-esteem and how you want to feel in relations to the person of interest.  Such as: I want to feel good about myself, like I am cool or important or xyz, based on knowing you are into me.

These psychological expectations are not about building a relationship with the other person, they are about fulfilling a need inside yourself. They are not about caring about who the other person really is or what they want in their life, they are about caring about how that person makes you feel about yourself.

In Limerence we're getting our core self-esteem or psychological needs met through our idea of a relationship that we're having with this person. This means that we're going to get dysregulated anytime they're not acting in a way that preserves the idea we have about ourselves in relationship with this person.

As a Tarot reader, this is when I get the client who seems embarrassed or distraught and asks: “What is he/she thinking?”

This brings us to the Tarot. The tarot is a powerful tool for self-discovery and reflection. It can offer us valuable insights and new perspectives to solve the problems we face in our lives. Its important to understand though, that it is only a reflection of the energy you possess. There is no force outside of you guiding your life. It is you and you alone calling the shots in this choose your own adventure that we call Life.

As a trauma informed tarot reader, when it comes to figuring out if it is Limerence or True love, I always start by asking my querant: What did he say when you talked to him? How has he been showing up for the relationship?

I am discerning if my client is a wounded child, attempting to use a magical solution to bring her imaginary friend to life to regulate her nervous system or someone with a secure attachment style trying to make the best choices for their own life.

Regardless of how they answer – with clues of secure attachment or limerence – I frame my reading around my client – the person who agreed to the reading and not their person of interest – who did not agree to a reading. Free will makes spiritual voyeurism a fools journey and more importantly, consent is a must in all things, always.

I believe that if I facilitate a tarot reading to validate the fantasy of the limerent relationship that is both unethical and cruel. I become someone who is perpetuating the childhood trauma by keeping my client hanging on to false hope in a situation where they will never get the love that they deserve.

I don’t want to see my clients getting painfully bread crumbed in relationship – then bread crumbed and financially depleted seeking “psychic readings” to validate the fantasy of their limerent relationship.

As your trauma informed Tarot reader, I am going to tell you what you need to hear- and in this case, its probably not going to be what you want to hear. I am going to focus our time together on helping you find ways to deal with your real feelings, and to make it possible to stay present to solve problems in healthier ways.

I want to help you come home to YOU and make that home a beautiful place to be. From that position of power, you’ll make better choices about who you let in and who gets to stay.

I want to see you getting the love and success you deserve, and together we can get you on that path. Can’t wait to see you!

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