Person Power versus Planet Power

Maritha Pottenger

There seems to be a proliferation of astrological advice columns these days giving us daily or monthly read-outs—usually based on transits. The tenor of almost everything I read is very disheartening. Each author seems locked into the old traditions of “good day/bad day” astrology.

Random columns I have read contains advice such as “Keep your mouth shut as much as possible today. You are likely to have big mouthitis,” or “Women should be very careful today as coercive sexual situations are possible,” or “You’re not likely to get much done today, so just relax.”

The major flaw that I see in such approaches is that they are focusing on (and hence feeding) the NEGATIVE. Apparently, with certain aspects, the ONLY option the authors can conceive is trying to avoid the negative potentials they envision. I want to both cry and rant at such a depressing view of the world as this reveals! How sad that these writers can see only painful possibilities to be side-stepped.

A major talent identified within the greatest of our psychotherapists (e.g., Jung, Perls, Satir) is the ability to turn negatives into positives. How I yearn for astrologers to learn from the example of these therapists!

Focusing on the negative is feeding it. Attention is energy. When we fear something, we make its occurrence a little more likely. (I am not talking about sensible caution and taking realistic steps of self-protection. I am talking about feeling threatened and powerless and stuck.) The best way to get rid of a behavior is to IGNORE it! Psychology has demonstrated, over and over again, that NO reinforcement is much more likely to get rid of a behavior than negative reinforcement (punishment). But MOST EFFECTIVE OF ALL is POSITIVE reinforcement (reward) of those behaviors which you WANT to see. Thoughts and visualizations help create reality. The more we dwell on negative options, the more reality we give to them in our lives! The more we envision positive options, the more reality we give to them in our lives!

Apart from that, what is “positive” and what is “negative”? In my world view, ANY human drive has a potentially positive manifestation. It is up to us to create it! Take the example of the “big mouthitis” above. I would not disagree that certain planetary combinations (especially Mars/Mercury, Jupiter/Mercury and even Sun/Mercury) are likely to indicate rapid, perhaps impulsive speech. Fire shows our need to pour out into the world and express, so fire connected to Mercury is likely to express with the mouth. But is this necessarily bad? With such aspects, is it not an excellent day for sales, for debating, for off-the-cuff storytelling, for dealing with the complaint department of a store where you need to assertively express yourself or for any other activities which require thinking and speaking quickly or assertively?! Is it not a super day for starting a class in assertiveness training, for teaching, for lecturing or to make phone contact with lots of friends? There are as many possibilities as there are people out in the world.

It is also the case that advising people to AVOID certain activities can often be counterproductive. When a certain drive in our nature is in high focus (through transits or progressions), it represents a strong urge to face and express that drive in our lives. If we ignore it and try to suppress it, the most common result is that we drive it underground—where it pops out periodically in most unpleasant ways!

If, for example, we have a Mars/Mercury aspect and try to stay quiet all day, lest our “big mouth” get us into arguments, we are MUCH more likely to have an argument by the end of the day, because all of our pent-up need to express has just been building and building with no outlet. If, by contrast, we express freely and easily all day, with no tension, in arenas which are HELPFUL to us, we are much LESS likely to have any arguments, because we are manifesting the drives involved.

Furthermore, if we repress ourselves too severely, another possibility is some kind of physical illness. Blocked drives, if held down and in too long, will eventually hit the physical body. If we completely sit on our own need to express, to be assertive and spontaneous, we are likely to experience being tired all the time (a symptom of blocked energy, the body fighting itself), sinus colds or minor cuts, burns or accidents (where the assertive energy is blocked and turned against the self). How much better to express moderately all along the way and not have to experience such physical forms!

Of course, this approach DOES assume a certain world view. It does assume that there are ALWAYS positive options, fulfilling ways in which we can express supposedly “negative” aspects and “negative” personality qualities. It does assume that even such things as (horrors!) void-of-course Moons and retrograde planets can symbolize positive possibilities. It does assume that the PERSON—not the planets—is running his/her life. It does assume that planets are mirrors to inner drives, and each inner drive can be manifested in the outer world in a myriad of ways. It does assume choices—and personal responsibility. It assumes personal power.

I prefer this world view. What about you?

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Following are some examples of “old-style/negative” astrological transit columns versus “new-style” giving options.



Do not argue today.

Use your quick tongue today for increased sales, humor or fun.

Avoid driving today. Accidents could happen.

Your interest is likely to be piqued by everything and you could be easily distracted, so pay extra attention when driving or operating machinery. Give your rampant curiosity an outlet.

Avoid higher-ups lest you find yourself in hot water. Authorities may be too hard on you.

Your competitive instincts are strong today. Find a sensible and safe outlet through sports, games or business for your drive for power.

Not a good day for accomplishing much at work. Put off important tasks until tomorrow.

You are likely to feel restless on the job today. Break up your routine and find new challenges so that boredom is not a problem.

You may feel depressed this week, but your mood is likely to improve by early next week.

You could easily be too hard on yourself. Count your assets instead of your flaws and seek out situations where you can laugh and lighten up.

The theme is pointing out what people CAN DO to experience the most positive outcomes with the potentials involved. For that, they need the power (and responsibility) INSIDE—rather than projecting it onto the planets. I do NOT wish to frighten people, or start them visualizing (and thus helping to create) negative potentials. I want to encourage them to see CHOICES and to continually seek the fulfilling alternatives!

Following are some examples of what I consider helpful versus nonhelpful interventions in terms of natal interpretations. The key factor is whether the person is assumed to have power over his/her life.

NONHELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You are likely to marry an alcoholic or someone who will deceive you. ... You will be disappointed in love. ... Your spouse is not what s/he seems. ... Your partners will want more than is possible from you.

HELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You have a strong urge to seek the ideal in one-to-one relationships. This can sometimes feel like the search for the perfect “made in Heaven” relationship, or the quest for a Prince or Princess Charming partner. If this search for something Higher is carried to an extreme, you could unconsciously attract victims—people you try to “save”—to help them live up to their fullest potential. Or, you could search for someone to provide your sense of ultimate meaning in life, to be a godlike figure. If you and a partner can share the quest for meaning, the searching for ultimate answers, you are less likely to be mutually disappointed or disillusioned. By meditating together, praying, sharing musical interests, a religious or spiritual quest, you can make that yearning for something Higher, something inspirational, a part of your life together—without either of you expecting the other to BE your all-in-all, or to make your life ideal. Striving to create a relationship which is ideal as possible and looking for God (an ultimate inspiration and sense of purpose and meaning) together, while allowing each other to be human, makes the possibility of satisfaction much greater. Creating the ideal, tuning into the Source of infinite love and beauty becomes a daily process which you share—not an end result that one of you expects the other to provide!

NONHELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You are likely to be too critical of your children. ... You will have problems with your children. ... Your kids do not appreciate you. (Editorial aside: How many children DO really appreciate their parents when they are young?!)

HELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You have an excellent ability to see the flaws in things, with a motivation to fix them and make them even better. This analytical ability can be quite useful in business, in household tasks and with other projects dealing with the physical world. However, in your horoscope, it is also connected to the area of children and lovers, indicating that you may find yourself sometimes picking at the flaws in your loved ones—or experience them pointing out all your shortcomings! If you consciously arrange to share tasks with loved ones, to have projects you can work on with one another, the critical judgments can be channeled into the practical achievements which you are accomplishing—rather than toward one another’s personalities. You’ll all end up getting more done and liking each other better.

NONHELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You could have problems in childbirth. ... If you decide to have children, go to the hospital as surgical intervention is likely to be necessary. ... Be very careful when giving birth; arrange beforehand to make sure every contingency is accounted for and any emergency can be handled.

HELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: The horoscope suggests some inner ambivalence in the area of being a mother. You have a strong nurturing instinct, but you also need quite a bit of independence. In addition, you tend to take your responsibilities very seriously and may sometimes be afraid to try something, lest you fail at it. It is important for you to achieve a reasonable compromise in this area, to make room in your life for these somewhat contradictory drives. If you deny the independent and responsible side, you might experience some difficulties in getting pregnant or carrying the child—due to your unconscious fear of not being a “good enough” mother and fear of being tied down.

By paying attention to all your needs and making sure you have a place in life for each of them, you can have fulfilling results rather than frustrating ones. You can certainly satisfy your nurturing side, while maintaining room in your life to express your need for personal freedom, and keeping an arena for expressing your responsible, hardworking side—without being too self-critical. When we are in inner harmony, life flows more smoothly.

NONHELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You are likely to be fired. Start looking around for a new position and be prepared to move on.

HELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: Your current patterns show a strong desire for change and independence in regard to your career. Restlessness is likely and you may feel the need for variety and new challenges. You could find yourself less willing to take orders, with a desire for more personal control over what you do.

If these needs are not faced directly and met—in some way—in your life, you could unconsciously act in a manner which ends up with you getting fired. (Your unconscious desire for freedom sets you up to be “freed” from your job.) It would be helpful to examine carefully what you are getting out of your job, how important it is to you, the financial realities of your situation, and whether or not you really want to stay. If you are unhappy, you may wish to quit and look for a different position with more freedom and variety. Or, you may decide to stay where you are, but change your attitude about what you are doing, so that you focus on the positive and what you like about it. You could also gain new stimulation outside the job—e.g., through personal hobbies, an avocation, volunteer work, etc. By deliberately creating a useful channel to express your desire for change, uniqueness, personal action and independence, you can insure that what occurs is something you will like—not an unpleasant surprise!

NONHELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You are going to have problems with your teeth. ... I bet you have a bad back. ... Is your hearing below average? ... Do you have bone problems?

HELPFUL INTERPRETATIONS: You have a strong sense of personal responsibility and tend to take many things on your own shoulders. If something needs to be done, you are likely to step in and try to do it. Sometimes you can be prone to guilt, when you believe you have not done as much as you could have done. You may have a tendency toward self-criticism as you probably see flaws and shortcomings more easily than assets and accomplishments.

If your productive, hardworking, responsible side is carried too far, you could operate as a workaholic. In extreme cases, the body may break down on some level—as the only way it “knows” to take a vacation! Areas which are particularly susceptible in such cases are the teeth, the back, the hearing and the bones in general—especially the knees.

If you maintain a good balance between your need for results and attainments versus the other parts of life (e.g., expressing your personal desires as well as doing your “duty”), you need not have health problems. (This includes balancing work and love, duty and pleasure, a “realistic” and “optimistic” viewpoint, etc.). Physical difficulties are usually a sign from the psyche that something is not integrated with other sides of our nature. We can treat those imbalances on the physical level, while also making the necessary mental, emotional and spiritual adjustments so that we need not experience those symptoms again. We regain and maintain the natural state of good health.

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I have broken my philosophy about astrology into a few basic assumptions and steps which I follow (mentally) in a consultation. Perhaps these will also prove useful to readers.


1) Each of us has the power (and responsibility) to change our lives.

2) The basic thrust of life is toward health and happiness (with the corollary that many people are nicer, more talented, more capable, more loving, etc.—than they think).

3) Some conflict is a natural part of life and is no reflection on the worth of the person.

4) There is usually more than one “right” answer.

5) Acceptance is a great healer. (What we resist—persists. Many times, allowing ourselves to be—halting the flow of self-criticism—is all that is needed for people to be healthier and happier.)


When I—or a client—run into a “problem” or “difficulty” in life, it can be helpful to ask the following questions:

(1) What personality characteristic or quality within me may be contributing to the difficulty?

(a) Would this quality be positive if expressed in a different situation, or in different circumstances of my life? That is, have I been DISPLACING—doing the “right thing” in the “wrong place”? What arena(s) would allow me to manifest this characteristic for a more positive result?

Astrologically, any mixtures in the horoscope point to the POTENTIAL of displacement—where you express one drive in an area that is less than optimal. Two of the most common displacements which create problems for many people include:

1. Looking for God in people, a job, etc.

2. Expressing one’s critical nature in relationships.

The quest for God (or ultimate meaning) is generally connected to Letters 9 and 12 in the horoscope. If they are mixed with 7 and 8 (partners), we may displace our idealism and yearning for the infinite into our close relationships. If 9 and 12 are blended with 4 and 10, we may want more than is possible from our parents, feel our parents wanted the impossible from us, etc. (The positive options for handling this displacement were discussed earlier.)

The critical side of life is represented by Letter 6 and 10, which can also be mixed with other sides to show the danger of self-criticism (Letters 1 and 5), judgmental focus with children (Letters 4 and 5), mutual criticism society in relationships (Letters 7 and 8), etc. The positive options for handling such blends were also discussed earlier.

A basic principle for me in dealing with displacement issues is: ONE’S GREATEST WEAKNESS CAN BECOME A STRENGTH IF APPLIED TO THE APPROPRIATE AREA OF LIFE.

(b) Am I UNDERDOING a certain quality in my life? Am I OVERDOING something?

Astrologically, a stellium (by house or sign) often points to a major talent. But talents—when overdone—can lead to problems (e.g., the super-bright person who tries to use his rational intellect at all times—because he is so GOOD at it—will discover straight logic is not very satisfying in situations calling for intense emotions and a depth response.) Stellia can also point to a person who is “burned out” in the area involved, and appears nonfunctional. The issue is doing as much as we can, in ways which we find fulfilling.

Some questions to ask ourselves include: how can I be more moderate in my expression of this drive? When and where are the best ways for me to actualize this characteristic? How can I create a place for this motivation to have satisfying rather than frustrating results?


Another astrological possibility is the involvement of the basic dilemmas of life. These could be indicated through any conflict aspects (e.g., square, opposition, quincunx, octile and trioctile-octile) including T-Squares and Grand Crosses. Even without the actual aspects, certain planet/house/sign combinations point to an inherent conflict, e.g., Saturn in Libra in the 4th house is three corners of the cardinal dilemma (square from Letter 4 to Letter 7 to Letter 10).

Many people seem to succumb to artificial dichotomies, e.g., “If I am not perfect, I am nothing.” We would particularly suspect the polarities of astrology, but any of the natural conflicts can be involved. It is very easy to identify with one side of an inner conflict, and disown the other sides. So, we overdo the side which we recognize and underdo and deny the other, contradictory drives.

To heal the split, we must assume that all the drives have potentially positive outlets. We can then look for ways to organize our lives to make room for these different needs and emphases. We can be open and tolerant toward ourselves and other people, accepting many ways of being. When we notice underdoing, we can look to the opposite polarity (or the square or quincunx) to see if that is being overdone. When we notice an overemphasis, we can consider the polar opposite (and square and quincunx positions) to see if they are receiving short shrift. Once the various needs are identified, we can look to our lives to figure out ways and means for allowing the flowering of more of our potentials!

(c) Am I prone to extremes? Do I tend to dichotomize? Am I seeing life in either/or terms or forced choice options?

Astrologically, we would again check out all the natural polarities (especially where oppositions exist) and the cardinal, fixed and mutable dilemmas. Underdeveloped air may lead to over-intensity and lack of objectivity. We would work with the individual on discovering places and methods for incorporating more options into the life. As Zip is fond of saying: LIFE IS NOT AN “EITHER/OR;” LIFE IS AN “AND.” The more we can visualize multiple choices, multiple “right” answers for ourselves and our clients, the more likely we are to achieve them.

(2) Am I experiencing physical blocks, ailments, or illnesses?

If the answer is yes, I can review the astrological associations for various body parts and physical problems. I can then consider the psychological drives represented by each of those body parts and illnesses. I can examine my life for ways to express those inner needs which are positive, fulfilling and in harmony with other motivations. (I will also treat the physical problem with physical solutions—if appropriate—as well as meditation, prayer or relaxation for the spiritual side. I will get the proper rest, food, air and love to support my body.) By resolving the inner, psychological conflict and making a place for my many desires, I no longer need to experience a struggle on the physical level.

(3) Do I feel as if some other person is the major block or problem?

If the answer is yes, I need to allow for the possibility of projection: that I may be attracting someone into my life who will OVERDO a potential which I am UNDERDOING. If that could be the case, my task is to figure out what characteristics this “problem” person is living out (in exaggerated form) for me. I then need to plan, organize and actualize ways in which I can express those characteristics IN MODERATION in my life—with positive results.

Astrologically, any portion of the horoscope connected to other people can indicate projection. If it is occurring, we can look to the horoscope in terms of the person involved. (For example, if my brother is a “problem” for me, I can look to all forms of Letter 3 in my horoscope to see what I might be projecting.) I can also simply look to the behavior. (If I feel someone around me is “horribly self-centered and selfish,” it is likely that I am being too self-effacing, giving up what I want for the sake of others, my sense of duty, etc. I need to work on making myself number one more often. I can look to all forms of Letter 1 in my chart for possible avenues of expressing that self-assertive potential.)

Of course, all of these approaches can also be used WITHOUT a horoscope! The basic philosophical assumptions involved do not require the use of astrology. The bottom line is, the more we assume there are positive alternatives and other options, the more likely we are to find them in life!

Copyright © 1986 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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