The Seven of Wands is a less-than-welcome sight for those who prefer to avoid conflict, but this card is showing up to encourage us. When you are asked to do something, do you consider this an expectation on the part of the person asking? If you do, there is a good chance you had the unfortunate experience of growing up with a manipulative or tyrannical parent. Generally, a question regarding our willingness to do a favor or engage in an action can be taken at face value, rather than being perceived as a command. This is just one example, but a variety of common disagreements might register the same level of distress as conflict. If this sounds like you, learning how to manage your response will change everything in your life. In circumstances of actual conflict, reasonable levels of distress will be notable but should not overwhelm our nervous system to the point of activating fight-or-flight reactions. The Seven of Wands is not a warning—it is a reminder that we can handle what comes our way and that we are fully capable of adopting skills of assertion if we were not gifted these by our family of origin.

Listening is a powerful tool and is the primary foundation underlying effective assertiveness. Most of us would like to be unflappable, though very few of us actually are. Those who do possess the sturdy veneer we seek will tell us there is no magic or grit that spares us, but rather it is an active stance we must hold. Temperance teaches us the secret kept in plain sight; she teaches us the art of listening. When we listen closely, we calm the mind and hear what is actually being said, which opens our opportunity to ask clarifying questions and keep our requests and points simple. Even if the other person is operating in bad faith, listening still provides us the advantage to notice weaknesses in our opponents and use their hubris as leverage when needed. As an added bonus, listening allows the verbose to ruin their own game with too many words and stark contradictions. The stoic repose we seek is not a product of toughness or slick detachment but rather of focused action.

The Five of Wands represents the upcoming opportunity to disagree strongly but still hold our composure or show ourselves as formidable by keeping focused on what we know in the face of strawman arguments or other detours and deflections. A blustery personality is accustomed to taking charge by throwing everyone and everything off balance, but these types tend to be lacking in tools when they are confronted by those who see their ruse and keep themselves centered. The Five of Wands can offer us a creative conflict that manifests more than simple winners and losers. This exchange is uncomfortable, but if we are to grow as people we cannot be consistently comfortable. If we are to experience meaningful connection with others we need the ability to be directly assertive rather than accommodating or controlling. May we take a deep breath and show up for the task.