Interview with Frank Kwiatkowski, B.A., CPC & Elise Crohn, B.A.
“Tarot and Synchronicity: Realization of Self through Archetype Engagement“
The Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida (CJSSF) presents “Tarot and Synchronicity: Realization of Self through Archetype Engagement” with Frank Kwiatkowski, B.A., CPC & Elise Crohn, B.A. as our presenters. This workshop will take place on Saturday, January 11th at Palm Beach Quaker Friends Meeting House in Lake Worth, FL. More Info, Registration, and Directions
Frank Kwiatkowski, B.A., CPC is an author and certified professional coach. His early-onset midlife crisis brought about transformational change, and he shares what he learned about spiritual transformation in his book Rise & Shine: A Guide for Experiencing Your Midlife Awakening (RiseAndShineGuide.com). He currently teaches an online course for using tarot for self-discovery and intuition development, provides personal coaching with tarot, and mentors others on what has worked for him, and writes a blog connecting tarot with the music of the Beatles (TarotAwakenings.com). He connects through social media on Facebook @tarotawakenings and on
Elise Crohn, B.A. is an Expressive Arts Facilitator with 25+ years experience leading healing art workshops. An autodidact artist and trained facilitator of creative processes, she holds a Humanities degree in Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Communities. She has completed a two-year in-depth training in Expressive Arts, two-year post-graduate training in Jungian Sandplay Therapy, and facilitator level certifications in SoulCollage®, JourneyCircles™, and Source Painting™. Ms. Crohn is the founder of Juicy Creatives Studio in Lake Worth, FL, where she holds classes and workshops exploring art as
INTERVIEWER: Teresa Oster MSW, MS, CJSSF board member
CJSSF: How did you and Elise come to collaborate on this event about the Tarot as a tool for individuation?
KWIATKOWSKI: About a year ago we decided to collaborate on a fun Tarot program for her Juicy Creatives Studio. Attendees of that program created a 22-card Tarot deck of the Major Arcana of their own. During the seven weeks of that program Elise and I talked a lot about the transformative power of Tarot, and how, when used mindfully, it can be a powerful tool for the individuation process. It just made a lot of sense to propose a Tarot program for the CJSSF.
CJSSF: On your website, you explain that your own early-onset midlife crisis opened you to using the Tarot for personal awakening. Do you share more about this crisis in your book, Rise and Shine? Would you want to say anything about your crisis to us or will you during your presentation?
KWIATKOWSKI: For the first half of my life I was a very rational person, a real “straight shooter” so to speak. I could never have imagined using Tarot. Frankly, I thought it was quite silly, like the horoscopes in the newspaper.
But as I approached my 40th birthday I was struggling for answers. I sensed strongly there was much more to myself and life than I was experiencing, but had no idea what it was or where to find it. When a friend suggested I try using Tarot I was in just the right place mentally and emotionally to consider something really different. Although my rational mind wanted to dismiss Tarot, I couldn’t ignore how my intuition said something very different. I share plenty about it in my book, in the hopes of guiding others who are feeling that aching desperation like I was. I’ll also discuss it a bit during the presentation as well.
CJSSF: Of the Tarot’s 22 major arcana cards, representing archetypal energies, can you pick one or two that have been especially important in your journey and tell us about that card or cards? Are there any cards that symbolize the process of transformation?
KWIATKOWSKI: Collectively they all symbolize the process of transformation, especially when examined in order. The major arcana are like a map of the psyche. The later cards especially, starting at number 15 — the Devil, are most concerned with the stages of the individuation process. I’ve learned personally (and painfully) the importance of confronting and integrating the shadow (The Devil) for personal growth.
All of the cards have played a significant role in my inner workings, at some point or another. Our soul is experiencing all 22 of these cards in various ways, and at various levels of awareness, at all times. That’s one of the many things I love about working with Tarot is I get to engage with that process and see how these archetypal energies are being experienced in my life. Tarot allows me to make the unconscious conscious. It’s painful sometimes but also cathartic.
One card I have always connected to is the Emperor, and not always in the most positive ways. (As a side note, it’s important to remember that there are no strictly “good” or “bad” cards; they all have their positive and negative expressions.) The Emperor is arcanum #4, and corresponds to the zodiac sign Aries. I am an Aries-Sun with a birth number of 4, so the connection in that way is obvious. Plus remember earlier I mentioned how I was such a rational, straight-shooter the first half of my life. Well, part of working with the Emperor is understanding and integrating the roles of rules, structure, and leadership. I find these characteristics to be inherent to my nature, but only find positive manifestation in my life if I work with them mindfully. This is literally a lifelong process for me.
CJSSF: Did the Tarot lead you to Jung? Or did Jung lead you to the Tarot? Which Jungian writers on the Tarot have influenced you? There are: Ken James, Sallie Nichols, Rose Gwain, Robert Wang, and others. And of course, there is Jung himself. Which books might you recommend to us?
KWIATOWSKI: Tarot led me to Jung. Although I earned a BA in psychology in the 1990’s, it amazes me how little I learned about Carl Jung. Part of me wishes I learned about him earlier because frankly the psychology I learned about in school was quite boring and did not inspire me to do anything with the degree. Jung is so fascinating, but I know that I was not developmentally mature enough back then to appreciate him as I do now.
As far as books I would recommend, there’s a new edition of Sallie Nichols’ book, now titled Tarot and the Archetypal Journey: The Jungian Path from Darkness to Light. It is essential for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the major arcana. Although I like the book, I don’t agree with her assessment of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which she is not a fan of but I love working with. Another Tarot book I highly recommend is Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. It is seminal reading, and she’s a much bigger proponent of the RWS. My favorite Tarot-related blog is that of Mary Greer, who takes a Jungian approach to the cards.
CJSSF: Jung found depth and meaning in the ancient Tarot cards. How does his principle of synchronicity apply to the cards? And can you explain the difference between using the cards to divine the future and using them as tools to divine ourselves? Also, how do you integrate the cards in your life coach sessions?
KWIATOWSKI: Tarot is a highly effective method for going within. When we gain some level of comfort using it our intuition is activated and we connect with our essence. That is where our inherent truth, wisdom, and source of love is found, waiting to be accessed. Once we connect to our own essence we trigger a process where we can connect to the essence of the world around us. I’ve been astounded many times by the non-causal coincidences that have occurred while doing my best tarot work. It is because I am connecting to the essence.
I hear myself describe this and it sounds so ethereal that I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t experience it personally. I’ve never lost that rational side that sometimes struggles to believe the experience of synchronicity. It is hard to explain to non-believers because it is experienced so powerfully and subjectively. Fortunately for me this is a Jungian group who understands what I’m talking about.
The reason I disregarded Tarot for so many years, and why society continues to do so at large, is because we have a picture of the fortune-teller predicting the future. Frankly, when I stared using the cards I wasn’t sure if that was what I was supposed to be doing. I would turn over the card, look up its meaning, and wait to see what would happen. Very quickly it occurred to me that the cards were telling me what IS occurring in the here and now, not what is going to. This was a crucial switch that changed everything for me.
When using cards with clients we take the approach of co-creating the meaning of that card, based on what is currently going on in that person’s life. Every card is an opportunity to see something that is ready to be understood and integrated consciously. The life coaching aspect of this is that those insights can be used to create positive change in their lives, generally through mindful action and positive support.
CJSSF: There are many Tarot decks, from the classic Rider Waite deck to the modern collaged Voyager deck by James Wanless. What is the difference between using one of these decks and creating one’s own deck?
CROHN: Creating a Tarot deck yourself is a quantum level of difference in engaging with the symbols and archetypes represented within the cards. One of my first expressive art mentors used to say to me: “if you really want to understand something create it (and that was especially true for abstract things like emotions, states of beings and relationships). It is the same with creating a collaged Tarot card representing an archetype. Rather than take someone else’s interpretation of the essence of a symbol at face value, in the process of creating you are forced to begin to metabolize that symbol and ask yourself probing questions: What does this mean TO ME? How has this symbol presented and acted in my life and in the life of others I have known? How would I represent that? Why does this image just speak to me as expressing the essence that I don’t even have words for? The creative process actually puts our psyche in the FIELD of the archetypes and calls forth a combined personal and transpersonal response. The process of collage, the act of finding images, trimming them, finding backgrounds, moving them into and out of relationship with each other as you work is mildly hypnotic, deeply calming and almost a ceremonial presencing with archetypal forces — an active imagination if you will. As the hands move, creating a collage, parts of self and psyche are moved too. As Jung himself realized in his own life and with his analysands working with symbols in a playful and/or creative way often leads to fresh insight.
“Often the hands will solve a mystery the intellect has struggled with in vain.” — CG Jung
CJSSF: How much of this workshop is experiential? For those who may want to continue on to create a full deck of personal cards, can you tell us about the series of workshops you offer?
CROHN: Frank and I have designed this to be exciting and fast-moving going back and forth between participants selecting and working with symbols and didactic portions. No one should be concerned about having “enough training or talent” to participate. The “job” of anyone attending this workshop will be to let yourself remain open in the intuitive process of absorbing the intellectual information AND selecting and working with the images. Creating collages with powerful images you are attracted to from the curated and diverse image library that will be provided is a powerful medicine regardless of aesthetic concerns of how the card is put together. We are going for the experience with the images and the joy in the creative process as primary motivation. Out of that genuine creative experience you will be able to find a personal message from the archetype to your Soul with a writing exercise.
Frank and I have brainstormed a course called “The Journey Within: Create Your Own Tarot Deck“. We delivered the class at my studio in Lake Worth over the course of seven weeks. This was a lively and deeply engaging romp WITH the archetypes of the major arcana. It was so profound for us and all the participants that we tweaked the course and will offer the series again starting in February at my studio. Here is a link for details: