Astrology and World Views
I have just returned from a six-week tour of the East Coast, lecturing and doing workshops for astrological organizations on the week-ends and doing mini-readings for the general public at Waldenbooks for the first half of the trip (to help promote my book, Complete Horoscope Interpretation). Part of the reason I enjoy traveling is that I do truly find it broadening to be exposed to other points of view, especially through astrological conferences and other gatherings. When at home, it is easy to be locked into a familiar circle of friends and family who tend to perpetuate the same assumptions we are used to. Meeting and talking with people who have other viewpoints helps me to confront, question and clarify my own.
I was struck anew by the tremendous diversity among astrologers. And yet, the trip also confirmed for me what research in psychology has demonstrated as far as therapists: it is not the TYPE of astrology which one practices or the tools one uses or does not use (e.g., asteroids, Uranian, which house system, etc.) that matter in terms of an effective counseling practice, but rather it is the kind of person one is (empathic, caring, nurturing, responsible, etc.) that matters most. Effective, helpful healers (whether in the field of psychology, astrology, education, etc.) are empathic, genuine, respectful (of individuality and uniqueness), able to get down to the nitty-gritty and believe in personal power and responsibility.
Yet, ultimately, the capacity to respect and care for another human being is rooted in our capacity to care for and respect ourselves. And how deep and abiding a challenge that seems to be for most of us. A recent manuscript I read (by Bill Herbst of Minnesota) states that most people are emotionally crippled due to dysfunctional family interactions. I find this a terribly sad statement, and one I resist accepting. And yet I do see SO MANY people who seem terribly blocked from liking (much less loving) themselves.
I saw a woman in New York who is incredibly bright, amazingly talented and definitely quirky—with a unique fashion all her own. This wonderful woman daily gives herself so much grief because she is not into traditional yuppie pursuits: making more and more money, living in the “right” neighborhood, pursuing power over others, etc. She inherently feels that “instinctive courtesy” (her phrase for what I would call empathy and caring for others) is more important than “making it” in society’s terms, yet she surrounds herself with traditionally successful people and questions her own instincts because her values seem out of sync. Her mother often told her “You’re crazy” when she was young because her mother’s values were not her own. This incredible, loving person is being herself with a lot of pain, because she is still not sure that who she is constitutes an “acceptable” person. I love her and wish SO MUCH she loved herself better. (She’s working on it.)
I saw another woman who is multi-talented, yet cuts herself off from relationships through perfectionistic expectations and “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” When people do not react in the way she had hoped they would, or the way she thinks they “ought” to, she tends to pull back from the relationship. Because no person is ideal, this woman loses out on many relationships that could be rewarding, although not perfect. She is extremely self-critical and I do not think she realizes how much her rejection of others is simply a mirror of a rejection of herself because no one could meet her impossibly high standards.
I saw another woman who is extremely powerful (in terms of emotional strength, endurance and ability to make things happen), yet downgrades herself constantly, feels inadequate and judges herself by constant comparison to others. Even though she is extremely capable in her own way, she feels inferior because she doesn’t do things the “right” way. (For example, she keeps a very detailed schedule which lists her appointments, money paid, etc. and provides all the information she needs for taxes and running her business, yet she feels there is something wrong because she does not do “real bookkeeping.”)
I am not so naive and simplistic as to feel that the problem of self-esteem (or rather, lack of it) is THE major issue of today, or to believe that if only people loved themselves more, everything would be okay. I do, however, believe that positive self-esteem is A major issue of today, and that it would make a marked improvement in many people’s lives. That belief is based on my own experience.
Here are some of the problems I see self-hatred and self-criticism contributing to:
(1) The “groupie” phenomenon. It seems to me that many followers of “channelers” and other guru types are seeking, most of all, acceptance. A common thread through much of “new age” consciousness is that we are all one with God, we are all okay, perfect, a part of All That Is and wonderful in our beings. The hunger to hear that, again and again, is a driving force in many people. Yet, as long as it remains outside—an authority telling them so—and is not incorporated within their own psyches, these people are very vulnerable to such figures of power, and can be led down garden paths (to the dangerous extreme of poisoned Kool Aid).
(2) The “scapegoat” phenomenon. Many people who feel inadequate strive to shore up their faltering self-perception by putting down someone else. Groups which are visibly different through appearances or practices (e.g., race, sex, nationality, religion, etc.) are common targets. By putting “them” down, the individual can “raise” him/herself up. (“I’m better than they are.”) Unfortunately, criticizing and judging others does not really satisfy the hunger for self-love. Such individuals continue to feel the craving for self-acceptance and may descend even deeper into hatred and condemnation of other groups as the only way they know to try to overcome the inner lack of feeling acceptable.
(3) The “yuppie” phenomenon. For some people, pursuit of the material “goodies” of life is an attempt to reassure themselves that they are worthwhile people. After all, look at what they have done and what they have amassed in the world! Ultimately, seeking to satisfy an emotional/spiritual hunger with material goods is not possible. (I am not saying this is the only reason people pursue sensual gratification and collect money and material possessions. There are many other reasons as well, but I believe an inner hunger to feel worthwhile is one of the contributing factors.)
(4) The “alienation” phenomenon. If I doubt my own value as a human being, it is easy to wonder if life has meaning, to question my place in the universe, to experience life as a spiritual desert.
I’ve talked with many clients whose major issue was that they had trouble liking themselves. Certainly harsh, punitive, judgmental, flaw-finding, crazy-making and otherwise difficult parents make self-appreciation harder to achieve. But each of us is ultimately responsible for learning to love ourselves (and others). I’d like to explore some of the pathways and options I see for increasing the capacity to love oneself.
I see several basic principles (assumptions) which are helpful for me (and some clients).
(1) ACCEPTANCE (“I am doing the best I can at any given moment. I appreciate that I am a worthwhile human being who can grow and learn. I accept and value my present stage of evolution. I realize that each level of experience makes an important contribution to me and to the greater Whole of which I am a part.”)
(2) RESPONSIBILITY (“I am in charge of my attitudes and actions. I create MUCH—not all— of my own reality through the choices I make. I cannot always control what happens to me, but I have full control over how I react and what I do.”)
(3) UNIQUENESS (“There is no one else like me. I am unique and irreplaceable. I have a special role to play in this world. My mission is NOT to try to fit into anyone else’s roles, but to be ME—as fully, as completely, as joyfully as possible.)
(4) AMBIGUITIES (“Life is not always simple. I understand that I will experience some polarities, contradictions, conflicts and ambiguities. I accept that there may be more than one right answer. I am willing to make choices based on knowledge-at-the-moment and do not demand perfection from myself. I appreciate the myriad possibilities and options of life.”)
(5) HERE-AND-NOW (“I live each moment to the hilt, savoring everything possible. Although I learn from the past and plan for the future, I am fully present. I do not let past experiences stop me from current enjoyments. I can change my perception of the past with new interpretations in the now. I am flexible, and willing to alter my future plans on the basis of immediate information. I live fully in the here-and-now.”)
These principles can be applied to one’s life in a number of different ways. Following are some of the techniques I and my clients have found particularly helpful.
(A) SEEKING POSITIVE FEEDBACK:
(1) Make lists of qualities you like and admire in yourself. Read over them often and add to them.
(2) Remind yourself every evening, before bed, of what you have done that day about which you feel good.
(3) Seek out supportive people. Pay attention to affirming events and comments in your environment. Notice what and who makes you feel good. Seek out such people and such occurrences.
(4) Keep open to turning perceived negatives into positives. In a situation which seems to be a problem, or when you begin to criticize yourself, consider how that “problem” could serve a useful purpose and discover how a “liability” could become an asset in the right circumstances.
(5) Do things which help you to feel good. Make a habit out of doing something EVERY DAY which you enjoy, which gives you a sense of liking yourself, which affirms your uniqueness, specialness and lovability.
(B) VISUALIZATION AND AFFIRMATIONS
(1) Visualize yourself (see/hear/feel in your imagination) doing things which give you satisfaction, feeling good about yourself, liking yourself.
(2) Do “re-taping”—repeating positive, affirming messages about yourself aloud, to tape over any old, negative material. You can re-tape for yourself, and also ask supportive friends to help you re-tape by regularly giving you positive feedback.
(3) Create affirmations (e.g., “I like myself. I am making an important contribution to the world by being my own individual person.”) and read them (silently, aloud, etc.) often.
(4) If audio or videotapes from other people are helpful for you, use them. Be sure the messages are affirming for you personally. Be wary, however, of turning any other individual (whether a guru, channel, spiritual advisor, teacher, writer, etc.—including me) into an authority. Expressions of love and support from others can contribute to the process, but the final authority is YOU. Until you begin to fully love and appreciate yourself, dependency on others can be overdone, and there is the danger of giving too much of your own power away to such “authorities.” No matter how well-meaning any authority is, none of us has all the answers for you. All we can do is affirm your inner being, your innate worth, and your ability to find your own answers and meaning. We can offer suggestions, possibilities and options. You will find your own best path — the one no one else will tread.
(C) ACTING “AS IF”
Act as if you really like yourself. The more often you build in a pattern of self-appreciation through your behavior, the more natural and instinctive it will become. Make liking yourself into a habit!
In the process of becoming more self-loving, we may need to transform some aspects of our behavior. Following are some ideas which might be useful.
(1) Listen for the hidden “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” Whether in what you say or think (or what others are telling/suggesting to you), be sensitive to messages implying you “ought” to do this or that. Some issues to consider include:
(a) Is this a societal value or attitude which does not fit my personal desire for uniqueness? Would I be happier following my personal instincts? For example, some segments of society imply that “the person with the most toys wins,” but I believe one’s day-to-day kindnesses (or unkindnesses) to others matter much more than material “accomplishments.” Am I willing to trust my inner instincts?
(b) Is this an old message from my parents or family which might have been appropriate for them but is not helpful or positive for me at this time? If so, what can I do that will be supportive of me and my needs?
(c) Am I expecting more than is reasonable from myself and/or other people? Do I have a “hidden agenda” about what “should” be happening and punish with guilt or resentment when I and others do not meet the mark? What can I do that will bring me satisfaction in the here-and-now?
(2) Beware of either/or situations. Dichotomies are often artificial. You may be able to find more satisfying alternatives when a seeming forced choice is presented. Consider the possibility of other options, of multiple answers and many possibilities.
(3) Be sensitive to self put-downs. When you notice, do not criticize yourself more. Do praise yourself, notice something positive about what you are doing, feeling, expressing, etc. Focus on your strengths.
(4) Look for patterns in when/where and how you feel bad. Do certain situations regularly arouse your guilt (“I SHOULD call my mother.”)? Do particular occurrences contribute to a sense of inadequacy (“I HATE feeling stupid!”) Are there some people in whose company you generally feel bad about yourself?
Are you willing to change your attitudes about guilt, change your expectations/demands on yourself and other people? Are you willing to seek out different people, to surround yourself with individuals who are supportive and affirming rather than draining and demanding? Are you willing to accept and like yourself as you are now?
(5) When you feel powerless, step back from the situation mentally. With a little detachment, consider other alternatives. Brainstorm possibilities, even wild ones, to loosen up your thinking. Figure out what you CAN do that is positive and constructive for you, within the context, and DO IT. Often, a situation will seem overwhelming at first, but can be broken down into pieces. Figure out the smallest step you can take that will be on a path of improvement. Take that first step, then plan a second, a third, etc. Be sure to praise, support and reward yourself for each success along the way.
(6) If you recall certain events/ feelings/ experiences from your childhood which you feel have a bearing on your current level of self-esteem, you may want to run through them again, with the perspective of today. It may be that talking about certain events (e.g., sexual/physical abuse) will help you to release old feelings and move on. You may wish the supportive atmosphere of a therapy situation, a self-help group, or a good friend to listen and be non-judgmental. Be willing to forgive yourself and realize that such childhood experiences are NOT your fault (you did the best you could at every moment of your life). It may also help to recognize that parents and other caretakers are human and did only what they were capable of doing at the time. If confrontation or public revelations feel right and are basically a safe thing for you to do, that may be helpful for certain circumstances, and speed the healing process.
Above all, a reanalysis serves to remind you that you are now an adult, with all an adult’s powers of discrimination, objectivity and taking personal control. You need not continue with a child’s sense of helplessness. You need not accept any statements, any actions done to you, any circumstances as a reflection of your innate worth. You are yourself—unique and irreplaceable. Your child side deserves the support, protection and love of your adult strength and competence.
(7) Stay in touch with your time frame. Are you spoiling the present with a preoccupation with a past or obsession for the future? Are memories (good or bad) keeping you from fully enjoying the here-and-how? Are hopes, wishes, or fears about the future interfering with day to day enjoyment? What can you focus on RIGHT NOW that will bring you pleasure, help you to feel good, affirm your personal sense of worth and well being?
* * * * *
Here are some of the qualities I notice in my life and the lives of other people when we are feeling good about ourselves, in touch with a sense of self-worth. Perhaps these qualities will suggest other paths and possibilities for increasing self-esteem.
(1) PLEASURE IN BEING ALIVE. Life is exciting. Each moment offers the potential of new discoveries and new experiences. Each person presents the possibilities of new learning. There is an openness to the future, a sense of optimism, a faith that life is good and will continue to get better.
(2) “BIG” AND “LITTLE” MESH. Feeling good is not based on having to move mountains or accomplish great projects in the eyes of the world. Pleasure is taken moment-to-moment. As much satisfaction may be gained from helping a neighbor mow the lawn as in finishing a year-long project at work. (That is partly because the moments of that year were savored while the project was being accomplished. No one was waiting until it was done to feel good about it.)
(3) LACK OF JUDGMENTALISM. When we are feeling good about ourselves, we are less prone to find fault and criticize others. (This is NOT the same as lack of judgment. People have values, but do not automatically assume that others should follow their values. Blanket indictments are unlikely. Self-confident people will investigate the circumstances and try to understand the parameters involved, rather than making a snap judgment.)
(4) RESISTANCE TO STEREOTYPES. With a firm sense of self-love, people do not feel a strong need to fit into the expectations of others. They are truer to their own inner needs and rhythms. They need not dress, act, talk, or otherwise try to fit into certain patterns of which society approves. They approve of themselves; they need not seek outside validation. Similarly, they are less quick to judge others based on traditional categories. There is an openness to discovering the essence of the other person.
(5) OBJECTIVITY ABOUT PRAISE AND CRITICISM. With a grounded sense of self-esteem, individuals are less vulnerable to criticism (they do not automatically assume there must be something wrong with them) and less susceptible to praise (they still like receiving it, but do not automatically assume that it is all correct either). Both praise and criticism are examined from a more objective stance. Considerations of: who is saying this, why are they saying it, what does it mean for them, how does this fit with what I know about myself and the situation? enter into their reactions.
(6) INTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL. People who believe in themselves tend to feel that they are the masters of their fates, the “captains” of their souls. They assume a sense of power and responsibility over their lives, and examine situations for what they can do to improve them. Rather than focusing on blocks, barriers, and problems, their perceptual screening gives high priority to possibilities, potentials, assets and what might be accomplished.
(7) TRUE MUTUALITY. When we deeply and fully value ourselves, it is natural to feel the same way about others. The more we appreciate our own inner essence and individuality and specialness, the more apparent it is that each one of us is making a unique and essential contribution. We seek to encourage the full flowering of each person’s potentials. We truly enjoy relating to someone else. The differences between us highlight the uniqueness of each of us, and affirm our worth.
I do not know of anyone who expresses these seven qualities all the time in life. I have known moments myself, however, and enjoy the process of creating more and more such moments in my life. I’d love to hear from readers who are working on this themselves. How do you affirm, support and love yourself and what techniques or ideas or experiences are particularly helpful to you?
May the circle of love and self-appreciation widen in all our lives.
Copyright © 1987 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.