We are Always in Choice

What the Two of Swords teaches us about control

Kelly Tatham
4 min readMar 4


A woman sits blindfolded in front of the ocean, behind her rocky crags and an island off in the distance. With waxing crescent moon overhead, she holds two swords in her hands, arms crossed just below the wrists. This is the classic Waite-Smith image, replicated in decks around the world.

The swords in her hands represent two paths or outcomes — the flickering of possible potential.

Her decision will not be based on sight. She cannot see where the paths will take her. Her decision will be based on the feelings and stories inside of her. Her decision will be based on the emotions and thoughts she believes to be true, or false.

She knows her intuition wants to lead her in the right direction but she can’t always discern intuition from impulse. She can’t always hear truth over the noise.

So which direction will she choose?

Will she step forward into the light or will she retreat into sorrow and defeat? Will she let her yearning heart guide her or cutting mind? Or will she find the balance between the two?

Emotions are not truth. Emotions are energy-in-motion. They are an embodied experience in timespace.

In How Emotions Are Made, professor of psychology Lisa Feldman Barrett explains that while it may feel like your emotions are reactions to the world, they are not. Emotions are not triggered. Emotions are made. She tells us that we are active constructors of our emotions, not passive receivers of sensory input.

Emotions are a social reality, not a biologically-wired reaction.

It is the concepts — the stories — of our past experiences that shape our sensory inputs into emotions. If we didn’t have stories, or a society and culture to hand us these stories, we wouldn’t know what to do with the sensations coming at us. Without stories — concepts — for our brains make meaning out of sensations, we would have no emotions.

Emotions that we use to make choices.

Understanding that our emotions are not truth, that our emotions are…



Kelly Tatham

Fugitive. Systemsthinker. Saving the world is easier than we think. There is no world // kellytatham.com