Reading Your Critiques

In my head I’ve been mulling over a candid video chat I’ve been wanting to make for some time now, but it’s only these last few weeks of stirrings in our tarot community that concretized my motivation to just go ahead and do it. =)

I’ve only chosen one comment to read as an example of a recurring common critique I get, and the three recurring common critiques I’m chatting about in this video are as follows:

  1. I’m pretentious and elitist, and also an opportunist,
  2. My work is imbued with negative, demonic entities and/or I am possessed by or consort with negative, demonic entitles (evil, dark energy, etc., take your pick of descriptive), and
  3. I say insensitive things at all the wrong times (as interpreted from the writings I’ve put out there).

In the video I also reflect on authenticity, the perception of virtual authenticity, and how true, sincere human authenticity will come back to bite you in the ass online, and the only way to appear authentic is to fabricate and manufacture the illusion of authenticity.

While I don’t have more to add in text/blog form to what I already said in the video, I’m cross-posting here on the blog since many of you with some interest in what I’ve been up to stay up to date here, and not necessarily via YouTube. So here ya go. =)

As to Critique 1, I certainly do not want to come across as elitist, and if that is how I’m perceived, then it means there is something about the way I’m coming across, whether I intend to or not, that causes people to think I’m that way. So I need to do a self-assessment and reflect on this. Why am I coming across as elitist? How do I course-correct? How do I change myself for the better?

Critique 2 is an interesting one and, broadening the scope out, while I addressed the negative, the extreme polar end positive assumption is equally unhealthy, i.e., assuming I’m ascended, transcendent, a starseed, fairy (I don’t know), but you get my drift. Like neither extreme end is okay. I’m not evil, but I can be bad. I’m not saintly, but I can be good. I try very, very hard to be more good than bad.

Oh! One thing I did forget to address head-on in my video that I really wanted to and should have! I can’t believe I forgot! Because my whole objective for raising Critique 2 was to raise this one point! Doh! So I’ll have to do it here in the blog post.

SIGH. And no one reads either. (pouts) So no one who only watched the video will even get to the main point I wanted to talk about, my whole reason for making the darn video! Argh!

The point that has been bothering me the most, tied to Critique 2, is the way we reduce each other into non-human avatars when we interact online. And then because we choose to ignore that there is a red-blooded fully-feeling sensitive and complex human behind what we see as just an avatar, we behave like it’s fair game to say and do things we would never say or do in front of that person in flesh, in real life if our mommas were watching.

What’s scary to me about living entirely on a digital virtual space now is how it’s easier to think only about ourselves, our own feelings, prioritize our own thoughts, and excuse the consequences of our actions. We absolve ourselves of any blame, any culpability for the ripple effects we cause.

When we are in person, and you have to look people in the eyes, and you have to see them again tomorrow, and the day after, and you know their mommas and their mommas know you, it’s a lot harder to be selfish. You are more likely to consider others. Since you have to witness the ripple effect of harm you’ve caused, it’s a lot harder to wash your hands clean and excuse yourself. You’re a lot more likely to feel guilt, and shame.

And maybe feelings of guilt and shame aren’t so bad. Maybe we should feel a sense of responsibility for each other.

I often feel like I’m held to an impossible and unfair standard, one you wouldn’t hold an ordinary human being to. And if you listen to some of the rhetoric, it’s evident that some people forget that I’m just an ordinary human.

I am not a mystic. I am interested in mystical practices and I devote a lot of time to studying them.

An occultist is not someone superhuman. An occultist is someone interested in occult studies. And sure, maybe practices some of it, too.

I am not gifted. I am a hard worker.

I am not “above” anything. My feelings get hurt when you say unkind things. And no I am not going to pretend I’m above that. I’m not going to pretend like I don’t care, that your unkind words didn’t sting. And if you delight in the fact you’ve hurt me, well… I mean… let’s just say I have never, ever delighted in hurting someone. If you’re the type who delights in hurting people, that’s awful.

And no I am not going to deny that other people can have power over me nor am I going to resist it, because it’s true that we all hold some degree of power over one another and that is exactly why we should be morally responsible.

That you wield any power over others does not make you great; it means you’ve got a burden and what you do with that burden is what determines whether you’re great.

Finally, Critique 3 is the one that gets under my skin, and in the video I ruminate on whether there might be personal shadow issues. Critique 3 is the one that gives me the most pause for consideration, because what is it about my communication style that’s causing me so much trouble?

In the newsletter in question, I thought I said: (1) let’s work harder at finding actionable solutions because our community deserves answers, (2) let’s not vilify people we disagree with, and let’s try to sympathize with their perspective before we condemn them, oh and an effective debate technique I learned is to start by agreeing with the opposing side– find common ground before you launch into heated disagreement, and (3) the Middle Path.

The community heard me say — well let me quote it in the entirety: “She [meaning me, Bell] posted a blog post [it was a newsletter] about how loud or emotional and I think screechy some people in the group [members of the tarot community who were partaking in a livestream about racial injustice]. That it wasn’t helpful and she basically dismissed the conversation like that.”

The gap between what I thought I said and what people heard was glaring.

I had thought I was sharing a fairly generic plain vanilla insight: You will never get through to someone unless you can demonstrate that you sincerely understand where they are coming from. So what I tried to say, though perhaps poorly worded and therefore coming across as insensitive, was that if you truly want to get through to those across the aisle, we have to find a way to demonstrate sincere understanding for where they are coming from. And that requires compassion.

Somehow that got interpreted as me being sneaky sneaky, insincere, and insensitive. And I believe I also heard pandering at one point? 🙂

The second example is this blog post from a few weeks ago. I thought I said: (1) Mixtress Rae is spot on right about a lot of points, (2) there are complex pros and cons to capitalism, materialism, and consumerism, (3) let me share with you the artist’s perspective on indie deck prices, and so here’s where I don’t 100% align with the current outcry against deck creators.

The community heard me say — quoting: “Benebell Wen chimed in with a blog post, polite as always, but essentially an apology for capitalism . . . [she said that] free market’s fair and if you’re poor suck it, you don’t actually have to buy the deck.”

Again, from my perspective it feels a bit like a twilight zone. Like what in the heck got lost in translation…

The net conclusion from both instances is that I am insensitive, and have a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and there’s something wrong with the tone of what I say.

And this is what gives me the most pause. Maybe if I hadn’t been trying so hard to care, then being called insensitive would just elicit a shrug from me. But when you try as hard as I do with outreach and still people say to you, not good enough, you don’t give enough, that’s not as easy to reconcile.

Like I said in the video, the only way I can fully guarantee that I won’t be insensitive is to totally shut up, and if I totally shut up, then I’m not showing up, and if I’m not showing up for my community, then I am actually insensitive. But if I show up because I care, but in doing so make mistakes and say the wrong things, then I’m perceived as insensitive. Oh, the conundrum.

I posted the video shortly after recording but before I had remembered to write up a companion blog post. I went to sleep thinking I’d just put up the blog post the very next day and no one would notice.

But between when the video went up and this posting, there was a truly touching show of support from the tarot community, and I do want to call that out and convey my gratitude. I haven’t yet had a chance to sit down to read every comment but I definitely will. So much love right back! ❤

21 thoughts on “Reading Your Critiques

  1. KG

    We cannot please everyone or control external factors; we can only focus on our own actions and mindset. The only thing that one can control is our mind and body. If you are well-centered, what people think or say about you becomes irrelevant and meaningless. By staying focused on your own well-being, you won’t be provoked into trying to appease your critics. In the end, it’s important to prioritize your own peace of mind over the opinions of others. This is just my humble opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kat

    What you said is correct: “I often feel like I’m held to an impossible and unfair standard, one you wouldn’t hold an ordinary human being to. And if you listen to some of the rhetoric, it’s evident that some people forget that I’m just an ordinary human.”

    You are popular enough that you are getting a WIDE gamet of the human population, and it includes people who, yes, want to hurt you. It includes people who want to hurt everyone. It includes people who are jealous of you and want to hurt you. It includes people wrapped up in their own trauma that they can’t even see straight.

    You definitely need to put aside the comments from either extreme and focus on the majority. You’re just too high profile to be able to please every person. There are too many varieties of people making it impossible to please everyone.


  3. stankbeest

    Wow, that’s some tough and off-the mark critiques!
    For #1: I say ridiculous. I’ve personally never caught a whiff of pretentiousness or elitism. Just enthusiasm and a lot of willingness to share information and perspectives.
    For #2: No comment necessary. Seems like classic projection for those who make such statements.
    For #3: wtf?! If I had a criticism it would be that sometimes you are too nice. As an example, I would disagree with your seeming acceptance of most AI-generated Art. While there are a few decks that do take advantage of the medium/technique to create interesting work, the majority of them seem to suffer from a sameness in the way images and figures are depicted (like, what’s with all the tendrils and tiny heads with elongated bodies?). But insensitivity, or negativity, do not appear to be characteristics of your posts. To me, anyway.


  4. Anonymous


    First time I have ever replied to a blog but, in this instance, I feel I must make a comment.

    Firstly, Benebell, I am sorry for you that you have had to read such insensitive comments from others. As a very longterm student of all things Tarot, I regard your book as a significant contribution to the

    Liked by 1 person

  5. VulpineBliss

    Your integrity is perfectly obvious in your words and actions. ❤️

    Never underestimate the general public’s schadenfreude in making someone who excels feel shame for that excellence.


  6. Sally

    Good grief. I’m stunned. But then I don’t participate in any social media other than to post my art to a limited number of people. I’m in awe that you show up and comment thoughtfully about controversial subjects within the Tarot/occult/sociopolitical world. I see you as thoughtful and brave and caring.


  7. Hi There Benebell,

    My name is Elaine (Channel is Tarot, Tatts and Tea). I have read this post and just felt the need to say the following:

    I have followed you since I began on YouTube, about 5 years ago now, and despite never having met you, for me, I find you to be a lady who is kind, very giving when it come to sharing your knowledge and experience, a person whose work I refer to when I am questioning something in the world of Tarot by refering to your work, The Holistic Tarot. I find you knowledgeable, creative and quite frankly, unique in a way that I can only see as positive and hard working. You, without doubt, know your subjects and, for me, fall under the auspices of ‘leader” in the world of tarot and divination/Occult in general.

    Unfortunately there are people out there who are just out to try to close down, hurt or humiliate people who are not afraid to share their skills and talents. People who they see as more knowledgeable, intelligent, talented, or simply nice genuine people. This very often comes from the sources of one or all of the following, jealousy, dislike, spitefulness, ignorance and/or bigotry.

    It is all too easy for people who draw from one or all of those sources and then, use those negative tools to spout their ‘cruddy’ views in negative and harmful ways. They hide behind keyboards because they know their written words hurt and they would not have the ‘balls’ (excuse my terminology) to say those things in person. A trait I cannot abide, my philosophy – ‘If you would not say something to a person, in person, face to face, then you don’t write it from behind a keyboard either!’ To me it is one of the highest forms of cowardice.

    Benebell, why am I writing this? Well, I just wanted you to know, that no matter what we do, whether it be in our every day life, in the world of tarot or anywhere where we ‘put ot heads above the parapet’ those sort of individuals will make themselves known. They are, sadly, in all walks of life. I enjoy your work, your creativity, your knowledge, your skill, your talent and ability to study, learn and share all you do in this world of tarot and divination in general. I see you as a source of help and guidance, and as someone I would one day like emulate, despite the fact I am a tad ‘too long in the tooth’ for that to be a reality, but one can dream.

    Keep on doing what you do and doing it as well as you do. I, for one, am very grateful for your knowledge, creativity and willingness to share.

    Thank you Benebell.

    Kind regards

    Elaine (Tarot, Tatts and Tea)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am very happy that I don’t have the time to even notice what new scandal is running through the Tarot scene. And I can’t believe what people are saying about you. I am very grateful for your work and you have inspired me often.


  9. Jo Ziggy

    Wow Bell, !! I’m side-swiped to read that these 3 critiques have been leveled at you
    . I’ve been reading your work for 4 years now and have only found curious intelligence , balanced opinion , equality of self towards others and ongoing generosity of sharing your esoteric research, personal experience and hard work. I feel your warmth and your humor, and feel so blessed to be on your mailing list. In fact , your one of a few people I’ve never met in person but feel I know your your mail is always opened and read! I’m sorry someone has misread you; its all too easy in this virtual world. I do wonder though if they too would do a self imposed inquisition to nut out Shadow, etc.? I hope you continue to publish and share your reviews, research, writing and art. The Tarot community would be so much poorer without you.
    Ĺove to you and hubby. Ziggy


  10. Margareth S

    One thing you really can’t fix is people’s reading comprehension, and there’s some bad faith actors out there (negativity sells unfortunately). Just wanted to say I massively appreciate the time and effort you put into the community.


  11. Samson Bula

    As a new viewer ive been bingeing all your videos for the last week or so.
    Ive found your work full of knowledge and depth one would expect from an erudite scholar. Im so blown away by what you are sharing and it inspires and motivates me on my path and practice.
    The critiques you have chosen to focus.
    Pretentious, i only see someone who shows alot of care, attention and diligence in their work.
    Demonic, if you are demonic then sign me up for demon classes lol.
    We cant control how others perceive us but we can choose to focus on the people that uplift us and take note of genuine feedback not this critique that one cant really do anything about except lol at the trolls.
    Ive watched all your court card videos and wanted to know if you have done the major arcana card videos yet?
    Many thanks
    WayFarer WiseFool


  12. TarotSparks

    Well, for sure you cannot please everyone. But, you and your close ones know what is true, the passengers create their own picture based on a few moments. Sometimes life is not fair and it is not easy to read criticism about yourself, although it is a good exercise to evaluate your own public apereance.


  13. People are always going to say nasty things, especially on the internet, where they are sitting behind a screen. Be like a duck; let these comments ripple off your back like beads of water.

    I love your blog & read every single posting. Some I keep for reference.


  14. Alchemy

    Just pls do me a favor and don’t stop being you. Pls don’t become fake. Don’t change what you do or how you communicate. And pls don’t stop sharing with us. And more knowledge on Daoism is very appreciated.
    Thank you so much for what you do.


  15. Shadowrose

    Hi Bell,
    I’m sorry to hear that you got so much trouble right now.

    As far as I could see, there are the following (main) reasons for what happened to you: 1. The general mind set in society is pretty much heated up at the moment – especially concerning social differences. So you’re basically hitting a weak spot for many (although not intended). And this is enhanced by envy. See, people get snap shots of your personal lifestyle, as well. They can see, you own a house, participate at the stock market, have a job as lawyer, etc. You’re playing in quite a different league than many. And being reminded on how low their standard is compared, hurts. That might also be the reason why you are coming across as elite for many. And it might also be enhanced by the speech you’re using. You are used to that kind of speech, due to your job and surroundings. We all live in some kind of parallel universe. Thus often we don’t realize just how big cultural difference is from door to door or between social standings. (It can be bigger than cultural difference between borders.)
    2. You and many other bloggers experience what it means to be a celebrity. Celebrities are a wall for projections of any kind. And as much as there will be fans there will be haters, as well. And they feel save in their anonymity. I think best way to cope with it, is to simply ignore them. Don’t give them too much power. Distinguish between the public persona you are as a blogger and the private person you are really and of which we only get an incomplete glimps.
    I totally agree with you, that it’s pretty much faking authenticity that comes across as authentic to most. Unfortunately.

    I personally appreciate that you always consider as many aspects to think about as you can. However, trying to be the neutral one leads to isolation way to easy. For both sides of a conflict consider the neutral one to collaborate with the enemy. Still, I hope that does not discourage you to continue your good work.

    Best wishes, Shadowrose


  16. I don’t know anything about Tarot Tube; I like tarot decks for their beauty and magic. As an artist, I don’t know how anyone can complain about the high cost of an artist-produced deck. Artists NEVER get properly compensated for the hours of work they put into producing something. Instead of buying a Starbucks every day for a few weeks, save the money and buy the deck you love that was a labor of love. And help the artist to pay their rent.


  17. Anonymous

    I know there’s that communication gap (the 4 steps as in, 1. what I meant to say, 2. what I said, 3. what they heard, 4. what they understood) that can exist in any of the four stages of communication, and I think it’s a great thing that you’re aware of it and try to control for it as much as you can.

    …but that’s where the power of good faith, understanding, and forgiveness come in. We should ALL be engaging in good faith and allow for mistakes and misspeaking in our communication, but that doesn’t always happen.

    There are some things that no matter HOW well you articulate yourself and how perfectly clear your meaning is, someone will STILL find a way to misinterpret what you say, and this is especially relevant when it comes to them doing it on purpose. It doesn’t matter how much good faith YOU put into your communication, or how much effort you put forth to sincerely get the other person to understand you and reach mutual understanding. All it takes is one bad faith actor (and there are unfortunately several in this world) to completely negate ALL your efforts. You can’t get someone to listen and understand if they don’t choose to listen and try to understand in the first place.

    There is genuine misunderstanding, and then there is willful ignorance and even intentional twisting of words. Some people have an agenda and There’s nothing anyone can do to communicate with someone who refused to communicate with YOU, in good faith. I say this to you because I don’t want you stressing over something not your fault and out of control. Even if you do actually misspeak griveously, people should be gracious enough to allow you to explain yourself; why are we holding people accountable and expecting them to speak everything PERFECTLY and PRECISELY worded the first time, every time?!?! (goddamn childish Ti fixated only on empiricalism….anyways…..).

    (This is actually a personal gripe and huge frustration I’ve been dealing with VERY lately myself: a huge blowout fight between my now former best friends and I, because the other party refused to engage in any kind of good communication and took EVERY opportunity to twist innocuous actions and even completely lie about/”misremember” past events to fit their pre-conceived narrative that villified me, instead of looking at what actually happened objectively, and drawing conclusions from THAT. They stonewalled any attempt I tried to explain and wouldn’t let me defend myself. At the same time I’ve been mulling over what to do and whether to even try reaching out again, your post came out and strongly reminded me you can’t reason with bad faith actors, which seems like another sign from the universe…but that’s kind of besides the point lol.)

    I found that post you’re quoting myself on Reddit and remember being surprised that was the takeaway they got from your post, because that’s not what I was reading. I’m always reminded of that tweet that said:

    “Twitter the only place where well articulated sentences still get misinterpreted.
    You can say ‘I like pancakes’ and somebody will say ‘So you hate waffles?’
    No bitch. Dats a whole new sentence. Wtf is you talking about?”

    I’m not sure if they missed the point on purpose or if there was genuine misunderstanding and misreading, or they were leaping to unbased conclusions, or maybe some lack of reading comprehension…but I’m saying all this to tell you that you shouldn’t stress out too much over all of this. A lot of it is out of your control. Don’t hold yourself to perfect expectations thinking if YOU just spoke perfectly enough, everyone would be able to understand you. There is nothing that anyone can say to make every single person understand even simple concepts and truths. People choose whether to listen and reach understanding or not. Good people will be gracious, bad people will not be, and there’s nothing we can do to change what other people choose to do.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I love your work and I trust you to do your best to do good 💖


  18. Shelly Nakagawa

    Hi Benebell,
    I feel you and understand about how painful people’s comments are. But remember that you cannot please everybody 100% and there are so much growing population of miserable people, racist, biased, envious and all negative things, thoughts, etc. in the world today. Those who are committed in spreading loving kindness must work more harder to spread loving kindness around.

    For me, as long as you are authentic true to yourself and tried very hard to avoid saying the wrong things, then, in my opinion, these negative comments are simply detractors trying to pull you down and create hurt. Remember “hurt people hurt.” These people should not watch your videos if they find it distasteful or disturbing. Did they see any evil or demons around you? NONE! So then the negative people must stop watching your videos and following you around.

    I like your videos when I see them, they are very helpful and you are so kind and helpful informative to teach your knowledge for free. I am very grateful for all that you do. Keep your heads up and continue what you’re doing. The higher you get on, the more detractors there are. They are the unnecessary items in life to keep us humble or grounded. Just smile and send them Love and Light that they may find what is lacking in their lives.


  19. MST3Kakalina

    Two cents in here:

    “#1. I’m pretentious and elitist, and also an opportunist,”

    You’re highly educated and you articulate yourself well. (When you mentioned being an English major in undergrad I was like, ah, yes, of course, there you have it.) We live in a society that privileges those qualities and people who’ve had those opportunities, and dismisses those who haven’t. As a collective we’re right to point out that such de facto privileging is unfair (sometimes it’s warranted: because of their high level of education and professional experience, I will privilege medical advice from my doctor over medical advice from someone without that education, but that doesn’t mean I will treat my doctor with more respect and courtesy than any other person, or assign them more inherent social value or moral worth) but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly helpful to just categorize e.g. educated and articulate people as pretentious etc. (Will people have opinions about who is and isn’t pretentious, still? Yes. Will people still complain about elitists in conversation among friends? Yup. Am I okay with that? Absolutely, because I get that we all need to blow off steam sometimes.) But it just seems petty and mean-spirited to turn up in people’s YouTube comments to do so (which is what I’m assuming is happening here, as opposed to you just, idk, searching out unrelated Tweets about you).

    “#2. My work is imbued with negative, demonic entities and/or I am possessed by or consort with negative, demonic entitles (evil, dark energy, etc., take your pick of descriptive),”

    I feel like this is just down to a difference in paradigms and there’s nothing to be helped here.

    “#3. I say insensitive things at all the wrong times (as interpreted from the writings I’ve put out there).”

    There are a couple of your hot takes I just fundamentally disagree with you about. Of course I think I’m the one in the right 😉 but I’m willing to hold space for the fact that we’ve had different life experiences and that we have different areas of expertise. I think sometimes when people are sitting in a similar intellectual space to what I just described, the discomfort of the disagreement makes them want to lash out and be dismissive. I think we, as a collective, also have a tendency to put people on pedestals and that only gets even more extreme online. Thus when that disagreement happens, the person falls from the pedestal and we’re bereft and angry and disappointed. And, like, even now I can sense the urge to start Debate Bro-ing you about those hot takes, but if I did that I would kind of be missing the point of the sentiment I’m trying to convey.

    However, unlike points 1 and 2 above, I can see a logic behind the comments that fall under point 3. While the expression might sometimes be off the cuff, in the heat of the moment and not well thought-through, they’re an actual attempt to engage with the content of what you’re saying, rather than your presentation (point #1) or their own assessment of you according to their paradigm (point #2). Maybe there is a gap in what you mean and how people are interpreting it, but also…maybe people are understanding what you mean perfectly well, and are engaging with exactly that intended meaning. I hold a lot of space in my heart for people with communication styles that are naturally…bombastic? dramatic? over the top?…because my Mercury in Leo will not have it any other way, LOL. (I probably tell my bosses “this is the worst, most ridiculous project I’ve ever had to work on” like…two or three times a week. Except what I actually mean is “ugh this project is mildly annoying.”) And while I think all of social media should dial back the Leo a few notches, I get where that energy is coming from in comments like that and try to see the ideological kernel of the disagreement beyond the striking language.


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