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I Ching Hexagram Interpretations

47: Oppression


One image of oppression is a dried-up lakebed with scavenger crows stalking the shoreline. Hard times shrivel our spirits, and give rise to a multitude of “crows” in the form of troublesome worries. Times of great loss or personal failure can break weaker people, but the strong of heart are able to bend with their fate. To endure hard times — or even benefit from them — you are called upon to tap the deepest stratum of your identity, which is stronger even than fate and essentially incorruptible by even the harshest realities. It is essential, in other words, to tap that wellspring of human endurance — hope.

In one sense, there is no such thing as failure. There is only sweet-and-sour reality. Often more is learned from the sour than from the sweet. As for our failures, as hard as they may be to accept, they can open our eyes and reawaken a clarity of vision only known by those who have risked — and tasted — disappointment. This clarity and learning is the silver lining of dark clouds.

When in the throes of hard times, it is important to be strong on the inside while remaining quietly cheerful on the outside. Avoid too much talking — except to your closest friends. Your words will have little effect on most others, since your influence will be at low ebb, and aimless talking costs you vital energy. A strong silence is the most skillful posture when facing the public during adversity; it shows that your inner core is strong enough to withstand the current troubles, and suggests that your recovery will be complete. At the same time, communicating openly with those you trust is also important, for in times of calamity, talking and feeling are part of the healing.

Failure — the final taboo in modern society — is but one part of the inevitable cycle of life’s up and downs for those who dare to live fully and completely. Never to fail is to fail in the biggest way. By avoiding risk altogether, one will always fall far short of what might have been.

Changing Line Interpretations

Line 1 (bottom line)

No matter how overwhelming challenges seem, an attitude of gloom or melancholy only makes them feel worse. By working to overcome problems inwardly, and committing to move forward without despair, progress is still possible. Banish the phantoms of self-pity before moving to slay the dragons of misfortune.

Line 2

Does this situation seem familiar? Outwardly, things appear fine; but inwardly, you feel oppressed, weighted, and dreary? At such times, help often appears suddenly, randomly, as if miraculously from the gods. Problems may remain after such help arrives, but the anchor that kept your mind mired in your troubles -- real or imagined -- is being raised. At such moments, personal effort may be necessary to smooth out the wrinkles in your life, but strong new energy becomes available to do so. When you find yourself in the dumps, hitch a ride to higher ground with whatever will get you there. And don’t look back.

Line 3

Indecision in times of adversity only brings added misfortune. The image is of a man who has gone on a walk in order to wrestle with a personal dilemma involving a relationship with his partner. Failing to resolve the problem within his own mind, he becomes more and more frustrated. He comes across a tree whose position annoys him, so in his frustration he kicks at it, stubbing his toe. He then sits down to examine his toe, only to find he has chosen to sit on thorns and nettles. Screaming with anger, he races back to his house … only to find that his mate has left him. What good advice can reach an individual who has become his own worst enemy?

Line 4

Progress in helping others is still possible, but due to obstructions, it may seem as if you are the one in need of help. This may feel embarrassing, but it will pass. In times of misfortune, it’s good to accept help where you find it, as long as your inner dignity is preserved. On the other hand, if charitable aid is being asked of you, now might be an very good time to give. In the end, due to one’s strength of character, the obstacles are minor compared with the ultimate value of the desired result.

Line 5

When you find that your best ideas and good intentions are stifled by red-tape-emitting bureaucrats, your only course of action may be to suffer patiently, and consider your efforts until this point as a sacrifice to the gods of efficiency.

Line 6 (top line)

The future suddenly grows brighter. You have been oppressed by bonds that can now be broken, and recent troubles are drawing to an end. Allow yourself to go forward and even kick up your heels -- there’s no need to be extremely cautious any longer. Your problems may be more illusory than real at this point. As soon as you grasp the possibilities, take a positive attitude, and become determined. You will then master the situation, and reap your rewards.