SMALL TABLEAUS as situation analysis

Please note that the following instructions treat Small Tableaus as comprehensive analyses of situations, and they do this in a very specific way. Other (and more traditional) approaches to Small Tableaus can be found online.

Table of contents

1 The layout of the spread

2 When reading Small Tableaus as situation analysis is useful

3 How reading a Small Tableau as situation analysis works

4. Example readings
a) ... for a situation analysis
b) ... for the situation analysis of a person

1. The layout of the spread

For Small Tableaus a selection of cards are laid out in a square, most often 3x3 cards (also called "box spread" or "square of nine"). Here is an example:

^ table of contents

2. Reading Small Tableaus as situation analysis is useful if:

You want a comprehensive look at a specific situation. Variation: you want a comprehensive look at a person's situation.
Please note that if you want a concise answer to a clearly defined question (e.g. "What should I do regarding X?"), a String (or even a Single Card reading) would be a better choice!

^ table of contents

3. How reading a Small Tableau as situation analysis works:
The positions' meanings - and which cards to combine

The Core: The card in the very centre of the Tableau is the core aspect of the situation you asked about. It shows you the issue this situation revolves around. First, the Core is interpreted by itself. If you chose a person card by default (see variation below), skip this step. If a person card is there by chance, this has significance and should be interpreted!

Variation: If it's your own, or another person's, situation you are interested in, you could also pick one of the Men, Women, or the Wild Card as your/their representative and put that card in the centre by default. The advantage of this is that it allows additional specifications when interpreting the rows and columns (see below).

The Rows work a bit like three independent String readings. The central row modifies/ specifies the core aspect. The bottom row represents an aspect of the situation the querent can control - or ways in which they can try to influence, manipulate, steer the situation. The top row stands for aspects of the situation the querent cannot influence - or ways in which they can react to the situation.
In the central row, combine from the centre outwards. Combine the two cards next to the core card with the core card, each of them as modifiers/specifiers of the core card. In addition, you can combine them with each other and interpret this combination as a reason or foundation for the core card's issue.
In the top and bottom rows, also combine from the centre outward. Accordingly: The central card is the topic of each row, the two respective outer cards each modify/specify the topic. In addition, you can combine the two outer cards with each other and interpret this combination as a reason or foundation for the central card's issue.

Variation: If a person card is in the centre, the central row describes that person. The card they have their back to is a characteristic which they heed too little - or which is waning. The card they are facing is a characteristic which they pay a lot of attention to - or which is getting stronger. (Wild Card: the characteristic which is getting stronger is to the right.) The bottom row shows an aspect of the person's present situation they can control - or something they can do - , and the top row, what they can't control - or what is done to them.

The Columns work a bit like three vertical String readings. Each column represents a phase of time. The left column represents a past stage of the situation. The central column represents the present, and the right column, a potential future development.

In each column combine from the centre outward. The central card of each column is the topic, the two outer cards modify/specify the topic. In addition, you can combine the two outer cards with each other and interpret this combination as a reason or foundation for the central card's issue.

Variation: If a Woman/Man card is in the centre, you could take different routes:
a)The central column is the person's present. The column they have their back to is their past, the column they are facing, their future. (Wild Card: the future is to the right.)
b) The central column is what they have. The column they look away from is what they wish to avoid. And the column they are facing is what they want. (Wild Card: what they want is to the right.)

^ table of contents

Tip: There are other reading techniques you could use to further elaborate your Small Tableaus' readings. Popular ones include "Diagonals" and interpreting the corners. I personally don't feel comfortable with them because they make little intuitive sense to me from a visual standpoint. Also, they make the already rather long-winded Small Tableaus really cumbersome. So I haven't written about them (yet). But you can find them online easily.

^ table of contents

4. Example readings

1) Analysis of a situation

Concern and context: Two months ago the querent, C, took on a new job. In this job, C shares an office with three more people with whom he also regularly has to work together on long-term assignments. Unfortunately, the working atmosphere has become unpleasant for him. He suspects that his co-workers don't trust his judgement; it feels like they don't appreciate his input at all. He has no idea why this is nor what he should do about it and would like the cards to shed some light on what is really going on at work and what can be done about it.

Cards drawn:


The Core: The House at first seems a strange card as core answer. After all, C's concern is work-related, and also, it's about a relatively new job, not a familiar one. Interestingly, when I voice my confusion about the latter, C immediately says: "Yes, the job is new, but the problems are familiar!". He then explains that the reasons for leaving his old job were very similar to his problems now: that his input wasn't appreciated by his boss and colleagues. And then he says that not being appreciated is winding itself through all his life like a red thread and that it all started in his childhood when his father never demonstrated any pride or even interest in C's ideas and inventions. He gets increasingly upset that "and now it's happening again!". This gives me an idea that I'm at first hesitant to voice. I usually tend to take people at their word, at least initially, so when someone tells me they aren't being appreciated at work I at least initially believe them that this is in fact the case. Hesitantly I ask C if he would be willing, just as an experiment, to look at the cards from the perspective that it actually is not the case that he is not being appreciated at his work, but that he is so familiar from way back with not being shown appreciation that he sees non-appreciation even when it isn't in fact there. I ask C if he would be willing to look at the cards, just as an experiment, from the perspective that feeling unvalued is a learned habit of his, and not an actual characteristic of his work environment. C seems both thought- and doubtful about this and agrees to proceed along this line of thought for as long as it makes sense.

The Rows:

Central row: The central row as a whole seems to confirm my tentative core answer on several levels. The combination of House and Crossroads suggests that by feeling unvalued C is going along the path he is familiar with. And the combination of House and Sun says that this familiarness with feeling unvalued is also why he is unable to see anything else - it seems just so obvious to him. If all you're looking for is what you are familiar with that's all you're going to see. Combining the Crossroads and the Sun confirms that the foundation for again feeling unvalued by his colleagues is that C is again looking from at the situation from the perspective that is most obvious to him.

Top row: The top row seems to suggest that something C can't directly control, at least not at the moment, is the continuing resurfacing of the familiar destructive thought process itself - Whip. But he can learn to react to it more productively by allowing himself a more positive, hopeful perspective at the future of the conflict (Whip+Stars), and by learning to catching himself more quickly (Whip+Birds) when he has started walking down the familiar destructive path, and interrupting it as quickly as possible.

Bottom row: A way in which C can try to influence the problem is by learning to give himself and everyone else the benefit of the doubt, by learning to leave things potentially open to interpretation, by not putting his colleagues' interactions with him in precast categories - Wild Card. Especially, he should learn to take a less categoricallook at assertive behaviour, self-confidence, of others (Wild Card + Bear). Maybe where he thinks they are deliberately not appreciating him, they are actually just clearly - but still very respectfully - taking a different stance. Wild Card + Key confirms all this - their >> combination through amalgamation strongly suggests that the adoption of a very unbiased, open-minded disposition would help C.

The Columns:

I don't always interpret the columns in a Small Tableau. Sometimes, the past or future development of a situation isn't relevant to the concern. In this case I think it would be useful to have a look at how the current problem developed, and where it could be going.

Left column: The left column could be saying that before the problem arose - before C once more felt unvalued - C hoped or assumed that this time was different, would be a different experience, a different route (Crossroads). C agrees, he says that yes, that's what he was convinced of initially.
I continue that the combination of Crossroads+Stars suggest that C might have idealised the new job, might have envisioned unrealistic things about this different situation. At first C looks defensive. Then he says that while he never thought about them as unrealistic, he did indeed indulge in daydreams about how his new boss and co-workers would listen to him, how they would be intrigued by his input. Were these daydreams, he asks insecurely, really overly idealistic, unrealistic? I don't know either, I tell him, but I suggest that focusing on ideals - be they at all possible or not - would at least have made it quite difficult to recognise actual, real appreciation. He'd likely have overlooked it, if it didn't look like what he envisioned. So by idealising his new job C might have been setting himself up to fail.
I then suggest that Crossroads+Bear could mean that C had tried, in this new situation, this new place, to be a leading figure - or had expected he would be. I ask C if this was the case - he nods, apparently a bit embarrassed - and suggest that this maybe was a reason for discord right from the start. For even if his job description puts him on even footing with his colleagues: In the beginning, just because of his inexperience with the new place, the new rules, the new situation, he'd have to allow the others to teach him, he'd have to accept the others telling him what to do. And this would have nothing to do with the others not appreciating him but with him actually respecting them and their superior experience. C becomes very quiet after I say that.

Central column: The main feature of the present stage of the situation we already addressed when we talked about the core issue of the reading. C is at a place he is familiar with: he feels unvalued. While the combination House+Whip says that at the moment the situation is quite destructive, the combination of House+Wildcard offers the hope that there is something different, unexpected hidden within the familiarity, too, something that might still become something else.

Right column: What the cards show of the potential future development of the situation looks quite bright. The Sun might be saying that happiness and ease, and a sense of "I'm shining! My light is being seen!", are possible for C at his work place. Sun+Birds suggest that this will probably still be a bit unreliable, though, prone to fluctuations and ups-and-downs. But Sun+Key confirms that it will be something real - because it would come from open-mindedness and open-heartedness. Birds+Key confirm that yes, joy and ease will become possible if C learns to welcome good things quicker, be more ready for when good stuff comes towards him.

^ table of contents

Example reading for the situation analysis of a person

Coming soon.