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Early this morning, three successive significant cosmic events occurred. The Sun in Virgo opposed Neptune in Pisces, Mars left Leo to enter Virgo, and Mercury has recently pivoted and turned Direct on the Eclipse Degree at 28 degrees Leo.
How are you feeling?
Take an inventory of what has transpired in your life between late July – the beginning of Eclipse Season and the beginning of Mercury’s Pre-Retrograde Shadow period – and today; the end of Mercury’s Retrograde and the end of an Eclipse Season which included a very potent Solar New Moon Total Eclipse in Leo on August 21st.
Take a moment to reflect on any changes or new developments that have occurred in the internal or external landscape of your life in the past month.
You can check out last week’s extended weather forecast for more reflections on the past few days, but in brief: by planting Sunday’s Mars-Mercury conjunction and Mercury’s pivot on top of the Eclipse degree, the Universe is re-emphasizing whatever the Solar Eclipse meant for you.
And yet, while the Universe may have been broadcasting its Eclipse message to you over loud speakers, there is likely still a lot of processing that needs to happen as we work to integrate its “message” into our lives. This is what Mercury’s Post-Retrograde Shadow period is for – processing and integration. Mercury’s shadow period will end on September 19th at 11° Virgo (the degree at which it began its retrograde trek), emerging from its shadow to greet Neptune again through opposition just before the Virgo New Moon on September 20th.
During a Solar Eclipse, the light of the Sun is temporarily swallowed up by the darkness of the Moon as its shadow falls across the Earth. Symbolically, this speaks to an ending and a new beginning, as well as the emergence of personal and collective shadows – all the uncomfortable stuff we would rather not deal with in life.
As Mercury Stations Direct on the Eclipse Degree, it draws a big question mark on the shadows that still cling to us.
“And what are you going to do with these?” Mercury asks.
With the Sun currently opposite Neptune, and a Pisces Full Moon (conjunct Neptune) reaching its peak early Wednesday morning, we are likely still searching for clarity. Some shift has happened for sure… but we are still feeling foggy re: the specifics.
“What are we going to do about WHAT?” We might ask, confused.
Here are 5 prompts that I regularly reflect on to help me explore my shadow material and increase my self-awareness by bringing new insights to light. Perhaps they might also assist you with answering Mercury question…
Why might it be important to reflect on these types of questions? Because, as Jung so famously wrote: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Meaning, as long as we don’t recognize the inner dramas playing out in our psyche for what they are, we may continue to find ourselves enacting the same limiting life scripts over and over again.
I consider myself to be a pretty self-aware person, but I’m always surprised at how much I continue to learn about myself every time I return to these questions – always with my natal chart in hand 🙂 Our own psyches and emotional realms are incredibly complex. We are often a confounding mystery to ourselves. Why do we do the things we do? Your natal chart, as a blueprint of your personality and life story, holds clues to answering each one of these 5 questions.
This is NOT easy work. These questions are best explored slowly, bit by bit, with plenty of breaks and a commitment to self-compassion throughout the process. Regularly check in with your physical and emotional reactions and pace yourself! These are the type of questions that are often explored in a therapist’s office and if you need a safe container for this type of exploration (as to not become overwhelmed by the emotions that they may provoke), then I would encourage you to seek that out.
The goal is to not heap more blame, shame, and guilt on yourself – or to engage in “gas lighting” practices (e.g. undermining and making you doubt the validity of your emotional reactions). ALL emotions are in themselves, valid. However, there is often a deeper story lying beneath the surface of our most intense responses to life events. When we can perceive and understand the deeper story, we can become more empowered agents of our own lives.
Mars and Mercury, the warrior and the messenger, fused through conjunction last Sunday. This merger of action and thought will occur again on September 16th in Virgo, but Mercury and Mars will be in very close proximity to each other for most of September. While this can be an aggressive combination (think verbal conflicts, hectic busyness, rash and impulsive actions and words), the benefit of these two planets becoming travel buddies, is that their partnership signifies there is courage to see and speak Truth to ourselves and to others. As Mars enters discerning Virgo today, with Mercury hot on its heels (entering Virgo on Saturday), we have the opportunity to really effectively clean and organize the internal closets of our psyche.
The multiple upcoming oppositions to Neptune may try to lure us into escape routes, easy short cuts, and spiritual bypassing… but if we choose to resist and commit to the tasks of a very-Virgo Virgo Season: all rose-colored filters are off. If we want to, we can replace that long-dead light bulb in the closet so we can finally see what has been hiding out there after so many years.
Aren’t you curious? Playful curiosity is a really healthy stance to take when exploring the strange terrain of our inner landscape 🙂
If you want to use your natal chart as a guide for answering any of these questions, look closely at your 8th House, 12th House; examine your squares and oppositions, especially between personal planets and outer planets; and look closely at the house and aspects of Chiron, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto, Uranus, Sedna, and Lilith.
I will now try to flesh out these questions further with some examples from my own life…
1. What TRIGGERS your wounds?
Life events that become triggers for us are those that prompt extreme reactions and stand out as somewhat unusual because they seem disproportionate to the scale of the life event at hand or seem to emerge out of context (note: there are many situations where intense emotions and reactions are quite understandable and proportionate to the immediate stimulus).
A trigger could show up in your body in numerous ways. Triggers can show up as intense emotions: anger, rage and hatred, fear, panic, paranoia, grief, sadness, anxiety, despair, shame (to name a few). They can also show in your body in stranger ways, like a feeling of being disassociated and disconnected from what is going on around you (e.g. really “spaced out”), a sense of complete overwhelm and numbness, immobilization, compulsive self-destructive and addictive habits, or flashbacks to old memories. A triggering life event can also catalyze a harsh tirade of negative self-talk.
Triggers are often talked about within the context of trauma and PTSD, but even if you haven’t had an experience that you would label as “traumatic”, I would wager a guess that in this messy thing called life, all of us have had some painful past experiences. The pain associated with these past experiences often gets locked up in this big vault in our psyches in order to protect ourselves from continuously feeling that pain.
But, this pain wants to get out of the vault. It wants to be processed. It wants to heal. And thus, this pain jumps at any opportunity that looks like it might hold the promise of freedom. Any situation or interaction that appears to hold even a sliver of similarity to the original source of the pain, prompts that pain to break free from the vault and grip your body with the somatic and emotional memory of what you experienced when that pain was first inflicted.
An example: Why do so many people become extremely emotionally distraught when certain celebrities, musicians or well-known people die – people they never knew personally? I don’t mean to discredit those who are truly deeply grieving the death of the famous person and certainly, a death of a human being is a transition worth grieving. However, oftentimes the death of a famous person becomes a trigger, which for many people, opens up an opportunity to channel pent-up grief from the past that has been locked up in a vault. Sometimes it is actually easier and less painful to channel the grief toward the death of someone we don’t know, rather than when the grief is associated to someone who died that was close to us.
Sometimes a triggering event can act positively as a release valve; allowing us to channel and process different emotions from our past (I am using the word “trigger” in a very broad general sense). However, unfortunately many times, if we are not conscious of what is happening, the emotions will continue to circulate through our systems – we put the pain back into the locked vault in our psyche until it escapes again, wreaking havoc and overwhelming us… until we capture that little bugger and lock it up in the vault again… ad nauseum.
Being “triggered” may not include any cognitive reminders of the original event (e.g. like with visual and auditory memory flashbacks), and that’s what makes them SO FREAKING confusing. What vault just got opened? Where did this pain came from? What is its original source? Sometimes we don’t know.
For a long time I just kind of shrugged off certain triggers – “Well, that was weird. I guess I’m just really sensitive to that sort of situation.” But then I started paying more attention and noticing the consistency in some of the extreme reactions I was having. I started taking notes on when this happened and what exactly I experienced in my mind and body.
Triggers are clues. They suck. They are super shitty. BUT. They hold really important clues that can help you heal – so you can get rid of that locked vault in your psyche completely, or at least begin reducing the power of the trigger. Some of my triggers I’ve managed to trace and track down to their source. Others… the case is still open. Their cases remain, unresolved. But I persevere with playing detective while simultaneously trying to defuse and deactivate them now that I can recognize them.
It’s one thing to notice your triggers, but of course, although self-awareness can take you a long distance forward, it’s quite another thing to defuse and deactivate them. It involves processing and healing the actual source of the pain in the vault that keeps trying to make a break for freedom, rather than putting the pain on a never-ending circuit, going in and out of the vault.
Remember to be gentle with yourself when you start examining and addressing triggers!
If you want to explore the topic of triggers further, I would highly recommend checking out all the trauma related blogs posts at the Crazy Herbalist – they are likely still relevant and useful whether you identify as having traumatic experiences or not. She merges cutting-edge professional knowledge with her own insights into her personal experiences; all synthesized together with a deeply compassionate and supportive writer’s voice.
2. What do you DENY & DISOWN in yourself?
3. How do you PROJECT the source of your pain & internal conflict on to others?
All the question prompts are intertwined with each other, but in particular, the answers to questions #2 and #3 are often closely connected.
We can see an obvious example of disowning and projecting in the news media when time and time again we hear of a religious leader who has been outspoken on a certain issue – such as arguing that heterosexual relationships is the only natural and “right” way to express love, and then their secret comes to light and we find out that they were repeatedly seeking same-sex relationships undercover.
When we are divided against ourselves and denying some desire, behavior, or trait that we are not comfortable with, for whatever reason, we very often try to project it externally on to other people and judge them for it, because this is seemingly less painful than dealing with our own internal conflict and judgement toward ourselves (at least in the short-term immediate future). Incredibly hypocritical, yes, but I suspect we all do it to varying degrees as we try to run from our own pain.
I’ve noticed two types of projections in myself. One is where I find myself judging someone with a trait or experience that reminds me of something that I do not like or struggle with in myself, and the second type of projection is where I judge someone who has that which I feel I lack because I feel intimidated and threatened.
I am an 8th House Pisces Sun/Mercury with Pisces ruling the 8th House cusp (Venus, the relationship planet of love, is in the 8th House as well). The 8th House holds our fears and shadow material.
Read anything about Pisces in relationships and it is soooo sentimental and ridiculously romantic. Like, how do you win the heart of a Pisces? Be that knight in shining armor riding up on the beach under the moonlight… sweep her off her feet and then after a dinner by candlelight, lay her down in a bed of roses… etc., all that romantic shit 🙂
Can you hear my denial? I also fear Pisces’ boundless imaginative nature and strong psychic intuition within myself, and I am always trying to gain control over it.
A friend called me out on that the other day, saying I was actually an ultra-romantic at heart. Ahh… it’s true, I can begrudgingly admit this now – even though I have firmly declared multiple times for the last couple years that I have retired from dating FOREVER AND EVER, and have no qualms about telling people this when they express interest. I’m stubborn.
So instead of dealing directly with my discomfort around vulnerability and my desire for deep soul-fusing out-of-this-world intimacy, it is easier to scorn romantic love and privately judge and roll my eyes at people who seem to always need a partner, or those who are heartbroken at the end of a relationship. I tell myself: “I am WAY too independent for that. Relationships are such a hassle… and lead to so many personal compromises… and steal your freedom!”
I feel super vulnerable just admitting that as I write it! My natal chart really helped me to see this denial/projection more clearly. I do have a lot of markers of independence and a need for freedom in my chart, but… I’m still a romantic Pisces through and through.
An example of the second type of projection – judging someone who has something I am ashamed for lacking or being deficient in:
Except for one outer planet, which doesn’t really count, I essentially have NO Earth placements in my chart. I’m primarily a Water and Fire mix with a Gemini Moon, and therefore, rather deficient in the practical focus that Earth placements bestow. And yet I have this challenging Saturn-Moon opposition which is always telling me to work harder.
After previously being a very driven and ambitious workaholic, I’ve had a really difficult couple of years where I have not felt capable of working. Earlier this year it was an achievement to have a shower. Or eat. Or do laundry. I really lost trust in my capacity to do life in a basic sense, and I carry a lot of shame around that.
And so… I’ve now found myself struggling with judging (rather than admiring) those who successfully and responsibly manage full time jobs and work very hard to achieve financial security. Why? Probably because I judge myself for being irresponsible and lazy, and so to deflect some of my shame I start judging other people while simultaneously feeling demoted by comparisons to them.
It feels so gross to admit that, but the projection itself is a clue to turn inward and address that shame or internal conflict with honest self-appraisal and self-compassion.
Notice when you are feeling self-righteous about something and judging someone else in order to feel better about yourself – that’s a pretty big hint there is probably some denial and projection going on.
I’ve been appalled by myself when noticing projection showing up even as I pull myself out of this hole of depression. While dealing with depression has deeply increased my empathy for people with similar struggles, I have, at low moments when I am fighting so desperately to move forward in my own life, compared my progress with people in similar situations, thinking something like, “Well, at least I’m not doing that”, etc.
Honestly, the ugliest, most discriminatory thoughts and statements that I have ever made, have (as far as I can recall) always come out of a place of denial and projection.
If every single human being on Earth quit projecting, individually (and collectively) turned around to courageously face and acknowledge their shadows, and then worked to heal the internal conflict, wounds, pain and shame they have associated with their shadows (which would involve addressing oppressive power imbalances in society), I actually think that some semblance of world justice and peace could be possible.
At the very least, romantic partnerships would be far less fraught with conflict since denial and projection is a huge cause for the disintegration of many otherwise promising relationships. In relationships, people commonly (often without realizing it) project their relationship dynamics with their early caregivers onto their partners. This means that when their partner does something that reminds their bodies of a negative memory with a caregiver/parent (such as letting them down or not listening to them), those incidents can become powerful emotional triggers that open a pain vault that first originated out of the early relationship with their caregivers – even if at a cognitive level, they are completely unaware of this memory trigger connection.
Scapegoating is another type of projection that occurs when we experience a lot of anger and frustration about a situation in our lives and we are looking for someone to blame for our suffering – an outlet for our anger. We want some sort of justice to resolve our struggles.
Sometimes life is just really hard. Other times there are people that legitimately deserve blame, but they appear so high up on the power hierarchy in our social spheres or in the broader society, that we instead seek to scapegoat others around us who are also struggling (which is just what the people at the top were hoping we’d do). The image of the “guilty perpetrator”, “the bad guy”, the “reason for my suffering” – is projected onto those who have done nothing to deserve it.
We see this increasingly as the divide between the rich and low-income folks becomes more extreme. Rather than pointing a finger at the greed of Wall Street and the oppressive economic systems that allowed this gap to occur, we often see those under financial strain blame others who are also living life on the margins – often moreso (e.g. as in the case of financially-stressed blue collared white workers scapegoating immigrants for their unemployment and money woes).
Acts of denial and projection are unfortunately ubiquitous in society.
It truly feels really gross to write out my personal examples. Admitting to projecting and judging others feels super ick. This is why it is good to explore the questions slowly and with lots of self-compassion, but hopefully my disclosure assists you with accessing that dark closet and those locked vaults in your psyche (which arguably all of us have to some degree).
4. How do you try to OVERCOMPENSATE for areas of wounding & insecurity to PROTECT yourself?
Overcompensating works like this: we feel really insecure about a wounded part of ourselves and in order to quell the pain and shame and protect our egos from further suffering, we attempt to compensate by trying to excel in a particular area of life, by creating a false cover, and/or by aggressively and abusively trying to take back the personal power that we feel was stolen from us when we were young.
Overcompensating, as a protective coping strategy, can cause brutal perfectionism. It can cause obsessive striving for something, to be someone, to finally prove ourselves as being “good enough”. It can show up as a lot of hot air, exaggerated displays of success, and constant self-absorbed bragging.
The drive to compensate for an area of wounding and pain also shows up in instances when the abused becomes the abuser – an unfortunately extremely common pattern. So, for example, someone who has been abused in some way in their early years may try to overcompensate for this deeply destabilizing disempowerment by gaining power and control over others in the same way that they lost power (this circularity is a well-documented reality of human behavior, but I am not excusing or justifying any abuse).
In my life I’ve learned that I try to overcompensate for insecurities through obsessive work habits and earning multiple University degrees, achievements, accomplishments, and awards. For a long time I didn’t recognize my overcompensation strategy because my work efforts were all directed toward “good causes” like writing a thesis on disability and inclusion, sponsoring refugees, and creating initiatives for people who were homeless, etc. But then my Saturn Return began and I could no longer maintain my ambitious drive.
However, one of the blessings of my Saturn Return was that I re-discovered astrology and was able to use my chart to gain greater insight on what I needed to attend to and heal. It wasn’t that my efforts or that the outcome of my work was bad in itself. I am genuinely passionate about working in the areas I mentioned, but admittedly my ego’s drive to overcompensate for insecurities played a big role in my exhausting striving toward lofty goals.
As I mentioned briefly earlier, this overcompensation strategy shows up in my Moon-Saturn opposition. I have Chiron, Moon, and Lilith all conjunct in the 10th House of Career and Public Reputation, so Saturn opposes all three from the 4th House. Chiron in the 10th House indicates an early wounding around my reputation, my identity – the way that others perceived me when I was growing up.
I can recognize that Chiron wound in my early life (generally Chiron wounds originate early on). I was a super sensitive, seemingly shy, very sheltered homeschooled kid with plenty of deep insecurities and anxieties that really peaked in my teenage years when I felt so weirdly different from my peers. My continual grievance during these early years (and beyond) was that I felt like I was “put in a box”. I felt like everyone dismissed me on first impression as a loser and boring “good kid”, and that no one truly knew me at all.
Sooo… then Saturn (the stern and practical teacher) began telling me a story that to “make up for what I lacked in terms of my public reputation and status”, I would need to work very, very hard to earn my worth, value, approval, acceptance and belonging as a member of society (symbolized by the Moon) through career achievements and by accomplishing goals that society would approve of (Saturnian and 10th House goals – Lilith’s rebellion was clearly being suffocated in my chart at that time). This is how I tried to compensate for that Chiron-Moon wound.
Saturn opposite Moon (conjunct Chiron) is known as “the orphan aspect,” indicating someone who has learned early on that the world is not a safe place for vulnerability. That one must always be entirely self-sufficient, keep defensive barriers sky-high, and never allow oneself to fully trust and rely on anyone else. This is one of the most difficult aspects in my chart with many different challenging expressions.
My 10th House Chiron wound is not an uncommon one. Many other people have had similar experiences growing up where they felt like an outsider in some way. However, the key area of wounding may show up in a slightly different way for them. So for example, whereas my wound was more focused on how I was perceived by others, someone with Chiron in the 11th House may have a wound around feeling rejected and excluded from social groups, and being painfully lonely as a youth. They may try to compensate for this wound in adulthood by seeking friendships with famous influential people (the cool kids of the adult world), and “name dropping” to everyone around them.
Our natal charts are not static however; natal charts are dynamic and hold so much promise and potential. Just like I don’t have to continue trying to engage in an exhausting struggle to compensate for my wounding and insecurity related to my public reputation and status, Saturn does not need to keep playing the role of a bully in my natal chart.
Every tiring overcompensation strategy can be released when you reach deep to heal those source wounds from which the motivation to overcompensate originates from. I will write another post on rewriting our internal stories and shifting our self-narratives, but know this: You are enough, you are enough, you are enough.
Healing often feels like a process of working toward something, it’s true, but I believe healing is simply pulling back the layers to reveal the beauty of your Truth; forever intact, perfect, and whole. This Truth of yours, this True Self, does not need to be fixed. It has always been there – just waiting for you to fully discover its beauty within yourself and free its expression, piece by piece, into your lifeworld.
5. When & Why do you self-consciously HIDE your beautiful True Self and/or UNDERMINE your boundaries?
Sometimes we deny and project internal conflicts and traits within ourselves in an unconscious way, and other times we consciously hide them from the world. With this question prompt I’m referring to your gifts and strengths that you may find yourself doubting.
For example, I have a Leo rising that is very hard for me to express because it forms an awkward quincunx with my Pisces Sun in the 8th House (the dispositor of my rising sign and chart ruler, as well as symbolizing my core identity). There is a very theatrical and dramatic (and completely wacky) side to my personality that even some of those close to me never truly see. Even though an 8th House Pisces Sun shrinks from being the centre of attention, the Leo part of me really loves being on stage and has a storehouse of creative inspiration that it longs to give expression to – out there in the public sphere.
Asking “‘when’ and ‘why’ do I hide my Truth?” may help you get at the core of what is preventing you from embracing freedom. When you can perceive the origin point, you can work toward tackling that root issue directly.
My insecurity around my creative capacity can be traced back to my struggles with anxiety as well as a number of moments in my past where people’s perceptions of who I was and what I was good at, made me second-guess my artistic pursuits. Insecurities and anxiety has kept this Leo rising firmly in check, but perhaps once transiting Chiron is done dealing with the issues of its ruler in my 8th House (it is currently transiting retrograde back over my Sun for the 3rd time!) it can step out into a new freedom grounded on a more solid sense of self-worth.
Most of us have gifts, talents and strengths that we hide for fear of rejection or disapproval. To just say – “What are you waiting for?! Go do your awesome thing and you shouldn’t care what other people think!” – can sometimes seem dismissive of the intimidating wall of fear which keeps these gifts imprisoned. It isn’t always easy to allow ourselves to vulnerably channel our giftings and passions into the world to be seen by others. It often demands considerable courage and it can take a while to work up the strength to do so – which is totally okay.
I think that a good starting place is simply to begin recognizing and claiming the gifts, abilities, strengths, and passions that you have. Even if you don’t introduce them into the public sphere for a while, strengthen your courage and confidence by owning them in your own private thoughts and actions!
A natal chart can be so, so helpful in this regard because it provides that tangible external blueprint that validates what you already know in your heart to be true.
The other part of this question prompt is about when and why we undermine our personal boundaries by deferring to the needs and demands of others. I grouped these two together because both of them have to do with “staying small”. When we undermine our boundaries, we neglect our Truth and are often inhibiting the expression of our gifts into the world.
When we consistently find ourselves dealing with the same type of boundary issue, there is likely a core wound from our early years. For example, we may have grown up in a home where we felt we had to constantly please others and meet their desires in order to have our basic needs for affection and physical nurturing met. When we go deeper to address the root cause, we can then work to effectively re-establish healthy personal boundaries and confidently utilize both a strong “no” and “yes” in our lives.
Trust yourself, and trust your intuition and gut sense. Trust your life and your ability to “do life”. Trust in your value, your strengths, and in the boundaries you set. It can feel like an uphill battle sometimes, but cultivating trust in yourself will give you the courage to go forth with confidence!
So! Continuing to explore these questions is part of my Mercury Post-Retrograde Shadow homework. You are welcome to join me!
My next post (for the Pisces Full Moon) will be about rewrite remedies for our internal stories and narratives. September’s cosmic weather is really so well suited to this task. Virgo’s thorough determination and penetrating, discerning analysis are at our disposal. We will also experience successive oppositions to Neptune blessing us with the powers of imagination to envision a new life story for ourselves while providing epic doses of compassion for us to draw from as we clean out our closets and deactivate locked vaults.
Many Full Moon Pisces Blessings! It will be exact on September 6th at 4:02 am (ADT). You may be receiving my Full Moon post and weekly weather forecast on the other side of this lunation chapter…
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