The Fool

So what has the above image of The Fool got to do with healing, self-discovery and rejuvenation one might ask? Surely this image is linked to The Major Arcana in the Tarot cards that are used for divination and reading your fortune? Yes, it is but as with any image it can be used as a point of contemplation, a focus to unpack concepts, an inspiration to change directions.


A therapeutic journey starts as a new beginning, a decision we have made to explore some kind of ‘foolishness’ in our lives that has got us stuck, that doesn’t work for us anymore, that we need to shift in order to change.

Let’s go back in history and look at the character of The Fool and the role he played. Known also as the jester and the joker this character has been able to sit at the king’s right-hand and make fun of the proceedings that the king and his courtiers took seriously.

The kind of things that could be made fun of were matters of state such as should they go to war, how to squeeze the peasants to pay more taxes without having an uprising, what affiliations could be made by entering their daughter into marriage with another king.

The jester’s role was to obliquely point out the pitfalls within these serious decisions, to reveal the undercurrents and motivations that could possibly be exposed so as to provide an alternative sounding board through the premise that whatever is considered serious also contains within it the seeds of the absurd.

Yes life is a serious matter but if we take life and ourselves too seriously, if we buy into pomp and ceremony of the role we are in as if it is real, if we get caught up or stuck in only seeing the seriousness of a situation – the one extreme, then the jester points out be careful there is a metaphorical ‘banana peel’ in your path and he does this by demonstrating this by being the one who slips on it. He plays The Fool to enable the king to take all aspects into consideration, to find balance and to remain human despite his position of power.

Modern day fools such as Charlie Chaplin used his talent of revealing the absurd by playing Hitler in his famous film ‘The Great Dictator’. Yes he made us laugh, but he also carried a serious message.

Often our journey into healing and rejuvenation is precipitated by some serious incident. Few people choose to change because their life is great; they only change when they feel that their lives are uncomfortable or unmanageable.

They invariably enter a therapeutic relationship with the therapist because they are in emotional pain and distress. Often they want these feelings to go away immediately. They want a magic wand, a quick fix. They ask: ‘How long is this going to take?’

They feel put out when they are told: ‘Well that is up to you, how much effort are you prepared to apply to your problem/situation?’ Another way of putting this could be – ‘If I show you where to look, how many banana peels are you prepared to take into account?’

They receive this question with disbelief, shock and horror. They begin to look at the therapist as some kind of fool who doesn’t understand the seriousness of their plight or they devalue the seriousness of their plight by making out that suddenly their discomfort or unmanageability for one absurd reason or another is no longer relevant because the thought of going through the pain or making a concerted effort to change a habit of either thought, word or deed is too much. Their King Baby takes over and kicks The True King and The Fool into the ‘dungeons’ below the surface of their rational minds.

Their reluctance/resistance begins to show. Irrational actions that sabotage the healing process take over. This can happen in all sorts of ways. Some of these ways are:

  • Arriving late for a session
  • Suddenly not having the time to do ‘the homework’ or even the time to come to more sessions
  • Devaluing the original reason for coming – ‘You know what I’m going through is not so bad after all. I think I can manage by myself from now on’.
  • Becoming irritated with the therapist and start questioning their abilities, their sex, their age or distance and location of their practice rooms which previously were not a problem
  • Suddenly deciding that if they took up another way to address their discomfort and distress albeit attending yoga classes, going on a retreat, taking up a hobby, getting a new pet or partner or even relocating to a new home or a different part of the country that this will sort out their issue.

This is a critical juncture for both the therapist and the client. In one of our first Creative Contributions there is a poem called Dissociation by Eliza Burke who describes the process this type of resistance can take.

She doesn’t say how the therapist deals with this form of defense/barrier but a clue comes in the court jester’s original historical role and that is – despite being dressed up to look and act The Fool he is actually a trusted and wise servant who has the king’s best interests at heart.

He knows where the metaphorical ‘banana peels’ are and can assist the king by pointing them out so that the king avoids these pitfalls and is able to make wise decisions that make his kingdom stable. The king must trust his servant and have faith in The Fool’s abilities. When each plays their allotted roles harmony and balance within the client’s inner realm is able to be achieved.

For those of you who are not in a therapeutic relationship The Fool’s attributes of pointing out the pitfalls, those aspects of yourself that created disharmony, distress and discomfort can also be accessed within yourself.

As we pointed out in one of our previous replies in the February 2010 edition of Chatbox to a letter from ‘Ground Control’ that – ‘The only thing we can change is ourselves. It is when we are truly committed to changing ourselves to being who we truly are – loving caring human beings that change happens.’

What it requires is for you to get in touch with your intuition, your gut feeling, that inner voice and begin to pay attention to what it tells you and then to trust it sufficiently to makes those changes related to your own thoughts, words and deeds.