Neptune Retrograde: Entrapment vs Empowerment

Do you ever wonder if your dreams and visions are merely self-deception? Do you ever doubt your path or wonder if you’re believing what you want to believe instead of seeing what’s actually there? Do you ask yourself if your grand vision is realistic or if you’re just fooling yourself and hiding from the reality of the situation? Do you have sickeningly discouraging moments of doubt when you consider whether the wisest course of action would be to give up on your dreams and just stick with the path that’s less of a stretch for you but also feels disappointing? Do you sometimes consider whether acknowledging and accepting defeat would be the prudent course of action instead of continuing to reach for a desire which, in the end, may very well prove beyond your grasp? Do you find yourself worrying, mentally exploring worst case scenarios, and mentally playing out scenes in which your deepest fears come to pass? Are you ever unsure of whether you’re just being paranoid or your concerns are well founded? Have you ever had a nightmare and wondered if it was actually a warning that would be wise to heed?

If so, good job! It’s very painful for any of us to take a long, hard look at cherished dreams and truly consider the possibility that our paranoia may be valid, but when we’re willing to deeply question ourselves from time to time, we’re more likely to catch our mistakes and correct our course. However, if you tend to get stuck in self-doubt or you are unwilling to consider the possibility that you may be mistaken about something important to you, then it may be useful to consider the nature of dreams and reality.

The essence of this dilemma lies in harmony vs disharmony between our inner world and outer world. These are not two separate realms. Our experiences with the outside world deeply influence us from before we’re even born, and the way we live our lives impacts the world around us. There are, of course, some things outside of us which are completely outside of our influence and direct experience in every way, and there is something very deep within each of us that remains unchanged no matter what we experience in life. However, most of our existence as an individual lies somewhere on a spectrum in between those extremes. I’ll come back to this idea in a bit.

The more harmony there is among the various layers of our inner and outer existence, the more empowered, free, fulfilled, and effective we are in life. Our dreams, visions, and intuition are an extremely important part of us because they bring knowledge of the innermost and outermost layers closer to the middle where we’re able to consciously interact with them. These insights may come to us as gut reactions, daydreams, dreams while we sleep, fantasies, worries, premonitions, hunches, synchronicities, symbolism, divine guidance, and deep, inner knowing that we cannot explain. We may also consciously use our imaginations to help us recognize and explore our innermost layers, worries, and aspirations in life. We can later decide what we intend to do and make plans for the future based on our exploration of our fears and dreams.

In astrology, all of this dreaming, doubt, and intuition falls into the domain of Neptune. However, Neptune also has even less pleasant ways of showing up in our lives, too. When it comes to areas which fall under Neptune’s influence, there is an alarmingly vast difference between the higher and lower expressions of what we do, how we do it, and how it impacts our lives. Neptune’s influences encompasses our aspirations, inexplicable fears, dreams, fantasies, symbolism, synchronicities, illusions, escapism, self-doubt, confusion, entrapment, self-delusion, addiction, imprisonment, loss of identity, powerlessness, resignation, submissiveness, self-sabotage, blindness, insight, clarity, surrender, spirituality, broader truth, and ultimate empowerment.

In short, Neptune broadly represents the subconscious mind, and the way we interact with it can be our self-undoing or the path to attaining our greatest victories in life. Why is there such a dramatic polarity within the realm of this one planet? Looking at Neptune’s retrograde cycle sheds some light on this subject.

What is a “retrograde”? The planets in our solar system revolve around the Sun, but we observe their movements from Earth. In astrology, we track their positions in the sky on a two dimensional chart called the Wheel of the Zodiac. As planets move through sections of the sky, they move around the wheel. From this perspective, it appears that planets occasionally stop moving (go “stationary”), start moving backwards (go “retrograde”), stop again, and then start moving forward once again (go “direct”). On the Wheel of the Zodiac, a planet passes over the same part of the wheel three times whenever there’s a retrograde: Once before the retrograde (the “pre-retrograde shadow”), once during, and then once more as it moves forward again after the retrograde (the “post-retrograde shadow”). The part of the chart that it passes through three times before continuing onward is called the “retrograde window”.

In astrology, the retrogrades of all of the planets can be excellent learning experiences because they give us opportunities to take another look at stuff from our past so we can reconsider it and then, when necessary, do something differently moving forward. They offer opportunities for self-correction and growth. They’re generally a time for reflection and contemplation, repeating the past, and more deeply exploring old or outdated themes. This can be very frustrating for people who don’t understand these cycles because it’s human nature to want to keep pushing towards our goals and get frustrated when it seems like we aren’t making progress. However, these times of repeating our past or taking a step back and turning our attention inward are a critical part of progress. Life is cyclic in nature. When we anticipate taking two steps forward, one step back, and then two steps forward again, we can make the most of opportunities that present themselves as they arise, even if the opportunity is simply to stop what we’re doing and focus on inner contemplation for a bit.

Neptune spends ALL of its time in the retrograde windows. It 2018, it entered the retrograde window on February 26th, went retrograde June 18th, went direct on November 24th, and won’t leave the retrograde window again until March 15, 2019. However, it enters the pre-retrograde window of its 2019 retrograde on February 28, 2019. That means that between February 28 and March 15, Neptune will actually be in two different retrograde windows at the same time, and in the 2019 retrograde, it will retrograde back through part of an area that it had already traveled back through in 2018. It does this during every retrograde. This is a big part of picture when we are considering the nature of Neptune. It graciously gives us many chances to “get it right”! (Pluto has overlapping retrograde windows as well, by the way. None of the other planets in our Zodiac charts do this, though Uranus comes very close. It is also worth noting that the Sun and Moon never retrograde.)

While it can be frustrating and quite painful at times when Neptune’s retrograde influences us to more deeply face issues that we thought we had already addressed, it’s a wonderful gift because, for better or worse, our dreams and fears shape our reality. When there’s harmony within the various layers of our existence, our dreams empower us to realize our deepest truths and take effective actions in directions that will ultimately lead us to greater fulfillment in and enjoyment of life. When our perceptions of reality and behaviors are based on our unconscious fears or we cling to our goals despite their disharmony with our inner truth and the outer realities of life, they then become our undoing.

What’s more, it’s very, very easy to misinterpret the meaning of the messages that we get through Neptune, through our subconscious. Humans are indeed extremely prone to allowing their unconscious minds to drive them to repeat the same painful patterns they have experienced in their past because those experiences formed their understanding of how the world works and their place in it. They deeply and unknowingly adhere to that understanding and continue to behave in ways that will allow them to fill the same role and experience the same types of pain they did in the past despite their conscious wish to change their lives. This aspect of human nature is also strongly related to the roles of the Moon and Pluto. The Moon rules Cancer and the 4th House which are about how they way we were nurtured in early childhood forms our psychological foundations, and we most readily notice them through our changing moods and how we’re sensitive to our surroundings. Pluto rules Scorpio and the 8th House which are all about depth. They’re where we face darkness and pain. They’re also where we experience intimacy with others, form deep attachments, and process the pain of losing the people and things we love here. Obsession and addiction to pain are the lower expression of Pluto’s influence. Facing our shadows and depth psychology involving healing core wounds are the higher expression of Pluto’s areas of influence, and if we don’t get stuck focused on the pain, they can lead to profound personal transformation as we let it go when the energy moves into the higher expression of Neptune’s areas of influence.

It’s very important to consider the influence of the Moon and Pluto in order to understand Neptune because each area of influence actively feeds energy and input to the next. The Moon’s areas of influence in large part determine what happens in Pluto’s areas of influence, and Pluto’s areas of influence in large part determine what happens in Neptune’s areas of influence which include Pisces and the 12th house. How we respond to the influence of Neptune then continues to progress back to the Moon’s areas of influence where our emotions and sensitivities are once again impacted by our unconscious minds. If we have experienced healing through this process, then our emotional experiences in life and our attachments and capacity for intimacy will heal as well. Either way, the energy and events keep moving through this progression throughout our lives. (Each of these areas of influence is also directly related to other areas of influence in our charts as well, and the entire interconnected dynamic makes up the whole picture of a chart. It’s fascinating stuff!)

The bottom line is that all three of these areas of influence involve our feelings, desires, fears, and intuition. All three areas also tell us when there’s disharmony among the various layers of our inner and outer worlds.

For this reason, the subconscious messages we get can just as easily (if not more easily) come from our fear-based core beliefs formed in early childhood, from our attachments, and from our addiction to pain (which everyone has to some extent) as from the deeper, unchanging, inner truth at the core of our being or the broader truth that’s so much bigger than any individual. This is why it’s important not to just blindly trust our feelings or our intuition. In order to accurately interpret the meaning of our dreams and intuitive messages, to know what’s real and what’s illusion, we must look to whether we’re experiencing harmony or disharmony among the various layers of our existence.

This is where escapism becomes extremely relevant when we talk about Neptune. This lack of harmony is what we experience when our unconscious fears are holding us back, when our goals do not resonate with our deepest truths, when we’re processing grief, when we’re faced with the possibility that it’s time to let a long-cherished dream die, or when circumstances do not seem to be cooperating with our aspirations. While such experiences can be pretty unpleasant even while we’re doing our best to distract ourselves from them, actually facing them can be excruciatingly painful.

This is why addictions are also related to Neptune’s areas of influence. When we are unwilling or unable to fully face a painful reality, we may find ourselves addicted to ideas, substances, people, or activities that help keep us from facing that painful reality. The disharmony doesn’t just go away though. As time passes and we continue to take (or fail to take) actions based on misconceptions and pain, the disharmony between the various layers grows. This is why addictions are progressive. The pain of living out of harmony with reality gets stronger and harder to ignore, so we have to work even harder to avoid facing it. We become more and more dependent on whatever we’re using to distract, numb, or delude ourselves.

I’d like to pause to make it very clear that this article is in no way judging those who are unable to kick their addictions or face some reality in their lives. All of us do this to some extent. Escapism is very necessary in life! In fact, our ability to keep things out of our conscious experience is an essential survival skill. We need our illusions and distractions. We can only handle so much of reality at once because our conscious minds are not infinite. We can only face so much pain at once because our central nervous systems get overwhelmed and start to shut down if we experience too much at once. This isn’t a race, and there’s no finish line in life where we finally arrive and are fixed, healed, and perfect. We’re all always perfectly imperfect, and if we can deeply accept this about ourselves and life, we can open ourselves up to experiencing so much more joy and wonder and success in life. Each person’s journey through life is unique and a necessary part of the whole of it. There’s no part that’s better than any other because it’s all one interconnected thing. We have to struggle in order to grow, and we can’t experience happiness without also experiencing sadness. It’s important to forgive ourselves for not being perfect and have compassion for our suffering. I’m saying this because I want to be clear that it’s okay to mistake fantasy for reality. It’s okay to get confused. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to avoid facing the truth. If we’re really meant to face something, we will do so when we’re ready. As previously stated, we get many opportunities to see what we need to see, and it happens when we’re ready for it to happen. We will be incapable of seeing it until then no matter how loudly it is screaming at us. There are things we can do to support ourselves in this area, but there’s really no need to push or judge ourselves. We can even just relax and enjoy the ride sometimes! Life will always be messy. Be gentle with yourself.

That said, I will discuss some perspectives that may help find the highest expressions of Neptune’s areas of influence, but first I’d like to briefly describe how Neptune’s retrograde cycles can influence how we experience truth and illusion. When we’re able to work with the natural influence that Neptune’s path has on our lives, we can make the most of her retrograde phases.

The first phase of Neptune’s retrograde cycle is when Neptune is direct and no longer in the previous retrograde’s shadow. In 2018, this was from mid March to mid June. This phase is relatively straightforward for Neptune. It’s a time for just dreaming our dreams and attempting to bring them into reality. It’s a good time to try new things and put previously clarified insights into action.

The second phases is Neptune’s retrograde. In 2018, it occurred between mid June and late November. During Neptune’s retrograde, we’re likely to be influenced to face our fears, take a closer look at our dreams, and struggle to figure out what’s real and what’s just wishful thinking. It’s a time of confusion, but we may not see the confusion for what it is until we look back at it later. At the time, it may instead feel more like a struggle or like we’re fighting for our dreams. We may consciously or unconsciously halt progress towards one dream to work towards another in order to see what we need to see about it. Circumstances may even force us to slow down or stop working towards one or more of our dreams during this time. If we take the opportunity to work with the influence of the retrograde, this struggle or confusion will eventually give way to a whole new level of clarity.

Some clarity may arise during the retrograde, but typically, the fog doesn’t fully lift until Neptune goes direct again. Those who are particularly in tune may have sudden realizations or epiphanies as Neptune stations or begins to move forward again. If we used the opportunities to deeply question ourselves that we encountered during Neptune’s retrograde and we stuck with them until clarity arose, then during the third phase, we’re able to begin to apply what we’ve discovered. We may begin to correct areas that need some adjustments, or we may wrap up whatever old business we needed to address and begin to move towards other aspirations once again. We may also simply renew the same dreams and continue on the same path with increased confidence and empowerment. Towards the end of this phase, we may finally get some of the answers for which we have been searching.

In the fourth and final phase, the pre-retrograde shadow starts before the post-retrograde shadow of the previous retrograde has ended. What happens during this phase may lead us to realize that the answers to our questions raise even more questions. We may begin to feel a new stage of our journey beginning despite not having much, if any, clarity about what it will entail. It may feel like everything is coming together all at once. We may even feel a sense of events being tied together in beautifully expansive and intricate ways. Or we may simply begin new endeavors and develop new dreams as we move on from our past. Stay alert and ready to make big changes during this time. In 2018 and 2019, the fourth phases occurs between late February and mid March. Once the fourth phase has ended, the first phase begins again. Watch for the theme of a realization received towards the end of the fourth phase to repeat itself with increased clarity and depth the following Autumn.

I’d like to take a moment to point out that transits and natal chart placements are not definitive predictions. They are, for the most part, simply natural tendencies. Also noteworthy is the fact astrology is incredibly complex. Our natal charts are simply snapshots in time, and they’re impacted by current transits (what’s happening in the sky now), the charts of people in our lives, and other factors. Additionally, everything in any chart is connected to everything else in that chart one way or another. No placement is an island. I’ve read books by people who have been astrologers for four decades, and those astrologers say that they’re still seeing things in their own natal charts that they’d never noticed before.

One of the things in a chart that can impact how Neptune’s areas of influence impact us is placements in those areas and aspects to those placements. For example, if Neptune in your natal chart is in hard aspect (square, opposite, or conjunct) to a personal planet (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars) or if you have personal planets in Pisces or the 12th house, than the cycle I described related to Neptune’s retrograde may impact you much more strongly. You may also find that you experience this cycle more often and in shorter periods of time than what is described in this article. If, for example, your natal Neptune is in hard aspect to your natal Moon, then you may find that you experience these cycles every month as the transiting moon conjuncts your natal moon.

How might we make the most of Neptune’s influence? As mentioned above, people usually see their inner world and the outer world as two distinct things, but they are not actually two separate realms. Our experiences with the outside world impact us from before we’re even born, our perception of the outside world is a direct reflection of our inner state, the way we understand our perceptions influences our behavior, and our behavior impacts the world around us and the types of experiences we will have in the future. We are an inextricable part of the world and people around us, and vice versa. There are plenty of things in the world that are entirely beyond our influence and direct experience, of course, and there are things within us that are so deep that we never consciously observe or alter them.

There is an entire spectrum of levels ranging from the deepest level within us, the part of us that never changes, to the outermost level. One might say that the second to outermost level is existence itself. The universe. Life. Science says that matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed. They just keep changing forms. Everything exists within, arises from, and returns to the same universal pool of matter and energy. The very outermost level is the timeless stillness, silence, and space upon which the dance of existence manifests as it swirls into and out of a myriad of forms throughout time.

Our conscious awareness lies towards the middle of these levels. Some people naturally focus more attention on the outer, and some people focus more on the inner. Our range is generally pretty limited either way. We can explore in either direction, and when we do, we also wind up with a better understanding of the other because our outer world is a direct reflection of our inner world. We can learn about ourselves by going out and experiencing more of life in the world around us, and we can learn about life and the world around us by diving to new depths within our own unconscious minds.

Our subconscious minds deliver information to us from the levels outside of our conscious awareness. These messages come to us through our emotions, dreams, visions, intuition, symbols, synchronicities, imagination, IFS, etc. The information in the messages could come from our own unconscious minds, or it could be from something bigger than us.

Rainbows are a wonderful analogy for these levels. If the warm end of the color spectrum is the innermost layers and the cool end is the outermost layers, our conscious minds would generally focus on yellow and green. We can explore orange and blue through introspection and experiencing the world. We can, if we so desire, explore further and learn a bit about our deepest unconscious workings and our individual Selves in red as well as the broader spiritual truths of the universe in violet.

There is, however, another color in the spectrum. The same color can, at times, be seen either the red side or the violet side of the spectrum. It’s the color magenta. In this analogy, magenta represents that unchanging level of ourselves that lies beneath everything else. It also represents the outermost level, the void that allows for the birth of the world of form. It is the timeless stillness, silence, and space that exists within, beneath, and beyond all things. It is awareness of this level of our being that makes us one with the whole of existence. It opens us up to experiencing the entire rainbow. It is why surrender is the only thing that leads to true empowerment.

We can most fully access “magenta” by looking deep within ourselves. This is much easier said than done because there is a gaping hope, a void, an emptiness within all of us that we feel threatening to swallow us and spend all of our efforts trying to avoid. It’s the pain of separation, of aloneness. We must allow it to consume us entirely in order to realize that it is not our end, but our beginning. By allowing ourselves to be fully annihilated by the aching chasm we feel within us, we find home, wholeness, and unconditional love and acceptance. We finally find the fulfillment that we have been searching for somewhere out there all along by surrendering to the very pain we have been trying our very best to avoid and finding that this pain is “magenta”. The void is true freedom. We cannot know this until we allow ourselves to be fully engulfed by it. Until then, it will feel like we must avoid it at all costs.

We can also catch little glimpses of “magenta” by experiencing the world around us in a way that causes let go of our attachment to our personal significance in the world. This may be done through activities such as staring into the night sky or observing the view from a mountaintop while contemplating how infinitesimally small we are.

Either way, there must be a loss of ourselves as an individual in that moment in order to experience “magenta” and know that everything is right in the universe. Magenta is Oneness. Magenta is the highest expression of Neptune.

It’s entirely natural to fear death. Humans have a very strong self-preservation instinct. It keeps us alive as individuals and as a species. Facing any kind of death, whether it’s of our bodies, dreams, ideals, beliefs, relationships, or anything else can be extremely difficult. Even change can be difficult, especially if we don’t know how things will turn out. There’s a part of all of us that craves stability.

Consider the position of Pisces on the Wheel of the Zodiac. Each sign resolves an issue created by the previous sign, but it also creates an issue for the next sign to resolve. In Scorpio, things are dark and intense and very personal. Sagittarius comes in with a drive to lighten up, let go, and explore the world in search of Truth. Capricorn comes in with traditional values and society’s expectations, and it seeks to create material gain in the world as it exists. Aquarius comes in and says, “You know what? There are some things about the way the world currently works that are messed up. Let’s fix it.” Aquarius is very idealistic, progressive, and driven by its belief systems. Pisces comes in and just lets it aaaaaaaaall go. It’s the end of the cycle. It’s where we release our attachments and beliefs and allow things to change or end. And what comes next? Aries. Aries is the spark of life. It’s the creation of new energy. It’s passion and strength.

The lesson of Neptune, Pisces, and the 12th House may best be summed up with the old adage, “If you love something, let it go. If it returns to you, it’s yours forever [or at least until the end of the next cycle]. If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.” When we allow our dreams to just entirely die, we’re allowing the opportunity for them to be reborn full of new life or for new and better aspirations to take their place. It’s scary because we don’t know what will happen, but if we can allow ourselves to stay in the space of not knowing for a bit, it gives way to a much deeper clarity when the time is right.

One final thing to consider is that the higher expression of every sign of the Zodiac incorporates a bit of its opposite, so it’s necessary to stay grounded in Virgo in order to realize healthy expression of Pisces. The old proverb, “Before enlightenment, chop wood; carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood; carry water,” describes this dynamic quite well. The higher expression of Pisces is very much about opening ourselves up, but in order for it to be safe to do that, we need to make sure our physical and practical needs are met. One area in which Virgo particularly excels is keeping our surroundings well organized, so de-cluttering can be an excellent way to support higher Pisces expression. Physical self-care such as eating nutritious food, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and getting enough physical activity are also part of Virgo’s domain. There’s much more that could be said about Virgo, of course, but the main idea here is to remember that balance is important. Take good care of yourself!

It’s okay!

I’ve recently been reminded that we heal in layers. If it seems like you’re struggling with the same old stuff that you thought you already released, it’s likely either a deeper layer or someone else’s. We unconsciously “learn” fear-based conditioning just by living in the world. There’s pain all around us, and when we process it, we walk back out into the world as healers.

The source of your pain doesn’t really matter. Treat whatever comes up for you the same as any other pain you experience. Hold it in a space of loving compassion. Allow it to just be whatever it is in the moment. While you’re processing feelings, keep reminding yourself to focus on the sensations you’re feeling instead of your thoughts about your feelings (including why they’re there and if you should be feeling that way). Take care of yourself as if you were taking care of someone you love very much who is completely dependent on you and is going through whatever you’ve been going through.

This means pampering and nourishing your body, giving yourself a serene sanctuary in which to rest, allowing yourself time your renewal, lovingly protecting yourself, meeting your needs for socialization with with people who enrich your life, doing nice little things for yourself (such as giving yourself a small frivolous gift) just to show you how much you care about you, addressing any unpleasant tasks that putting off is causing stress (either by doing it as a form of self-care or just letting yourself off the hook), feeding your heart and spirit with soul food, getting help when you need help, and just cutting yourself some slack.

Remember, we’re always perfectly imperfect. There’s no such thing as healed. There’s no finish line towards which to race. There’s nothing you need to do to make yourself worthy of love, acceptance, support, protection, peace, joy, or rest. Remember:

– It’s okay to feel the way I feel right now. Just about anyone would feel this way in this situation given ALL of the factors involved.
– This, too, shall pass.
– This is hard, but I can do hard things.
– I don’t need to understand everything right now. It’s totally okay to just not know something. If I can make peace with not knowing, whatever answers I truly need will become clear to me when the time is right.
– Everything is perfectly imperfect. Everyone is perfectly imperfect. It’s perfectly okay and even beautiful that my situation and I are not perfect and never will be.
– Happiness is always NOW. It can never be experienced in the past or future, only in the present moment.
– It’s okay to be just allow myself to happy.
– It’s also okay not to be happy right now.
– It’s okay to say no.
– It’s okay to take time to rest.
– It’s okay to ask for help.
– If I fill myself up first before giving to others, I can give from a full heart and feel blessed by the giving. If I do this, I will never be depleted or resentful, will be able to see the true needs of others more clearly, and will have SO much more to offer the world!
– Nature heals.

Take good care of yourselves! ❤

Inner Peace: What Usually Works, Why It DOESN’T Work for Everyone, and What Else Can Be Done

There is no peace without surrender.
 
I’m a recovering alcoholic and love addict. The love addiction is actually what drove the alcohol consumption (though, of course, there’s a genetic component to alcoholism as well), and I was not able to address one addiction without addressing the other simultaneously. Learning how to process my feelings was both the key to motivation behind and the key to my recovery, and it all comes down to surrender.
 
What is surrender? Many people equate surrender with passivity, resignation, or defeat. It is none of those, though it may feel that way from a position of clinging to the edge of the abyss.
 
Surrender is basically just radically acceptance of what is. If pain is the reality of the moment, then it is accepting that reality without resistance, judgement, hope for a certain future, will, or any concept of “supposed to”. It is about just experiencing the situation without trying to make sense of it or otherwise control it.
 
It is also necessary to give up all beliefs about how awful or hopeless everything is in order to surrender. This is, perhaps, the hardest part! Beliefs such as, “I will always be in pain,” or, “Things will never get better,” or, “I will never be enough,” are JUST as much a defense mechanisms as addictions and other forms of escapism. They prevent us from the most intense and terrifying of all vulnerabilities: happiness.
 
Surrender is releasing the notions that drive our suffering. It’s acknowledging that we don’t understand and can’t know or control what will happen and that we can no longer pretend that we’re capable of adequately preparing for or shielding ourselves from all of the intensity and pain in life, that sometimes things just really, really suck for a bit.
 
It’s accepting that that the experience of the present moment just is whatever it is in THAT moment, and we don’t know what to do about it, how long it will last, if there’s a way to prevent the same pain in the future, or even why it’s happening.
 
This is why it’s possible to be in pain and be at peace at the same time. In fact, inner peace is not dependent on the presence or absence of pain. Peace is truth. When we’re struggling to hold onto our untrue ideas about a situation, we experience turmoil in direct relation to how strongly the situation is showing us our error. When we release those beliefs and open ourselves to experiencing the situation for whatever it truly is right then and there, we have peace.
 
The trick is that there’s a physical component to this, too. For example, some people’s brains are wired in such a way that their emotions are overwhelming and drive their thoughts to be unrealistically negative. The unrealistically negative thoughts, memories, and beliefs then feed the emotions which feed more unrealistic negativity, and it just continues to spiral. In their case, mindful acceptance of what is can be impossible at times because intense emotional suffering is currently their natural set point.
For people who do not experience fast, incredibly profound relief from just allowing themselves to experience the reality of their pain for a bit (10 or 15 minutes), a different approach is necessary. For those individuals, steps must be taken to gradually re-wire their brains and heal their nervous systems so that they will be in a position to experience distress without being sucked into a vortex of pain and spiraling downward. Their brains are wired to remain stuck in turmoil, so pushing themselves further into it may only make things worse for them.
 
For such individuals, studies show that the most beneficial things they can do are to join a DBT group and learn DBT skills, to receive treatment from qualified professionals, and to have the ongoing support of loved ones who have learned about how their brains work and are committed to doing what they can to support their emotional needs. Many of the responses involved in providing this type of support seem counter-intuitive, but over time they have an incredibly healing impact on the individual. (The brain is, after all, plastic.) It takes time and practice to learn them, and it takes time for them to work. Understanding and accepting that mistakes will be made and progress will be gradual is important for success, but if you love someone with this type of struggle, it’s well worth the commitment, effort, and patience.
It’s worth noting that sometimes, a person isn’t even for DBT or even professional help yet, and in those cases, the knowledgeable and loving support of the people closest to the individual is the most critical factor for healing.
For more information, I very highly recommend checking out book Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder: A Family Guide for Healing and Change.

How to Get With Someone

You meet a person. You’re attracted. You learn more about him or her, and you become interested in the possibility of pursuing a relationship with the person. What now?

Here’s what doesn’t work:

  • Directly tell the person that you want to be together without a bit of back and forth flirtation, hints, and time spent together leading up to it.
  • Think about the person constantly even though you’re not actually dating him or her.
  • Plan your future with the person in your head in ways that wind up causing you to feel empty or discouraged.
  • Worry a lot about whether or not the person will be interested in you, will stay interested in you if you do get together, and will actually make you happy once you’re together.
  • Debate or criticize yourself about whether you should feel this way about this person.
  • Get way more emotionally invested in the outcome of your interactions or relationship than the other person is.
  • Get caught up in waves of intense highs of hope and lows of despair.
  • Determine that this person is the one person you want, and no one else will do before you’ve even dated.
  • Get ahead of where the relationship is.
  • Contemplate how to potentially get with the person for hours upon hours.
  • Learn as much as you can about the person before dating him or her.
  • Believe that this person could save you from feeling empty inside.
  • Talk about the person to your friends constantly.
  • Contact the person a lot even though they don’t contact you as often, doesn’t always respond, and don’t seem to care as much about your interactions as you do.
  • Spend more time focused on the other person than your own life.

When you’re very focused on the other person, your feelings for the person, how to get with the person, or what a relationship with the person would be like, you’re filling up a whole lot of room in your mind and heart with ideas about the person. It doesn’t leave much room for the actual person even if he or she might otherwise be interested in being involved with you.

When you’re significantly more emotionally invested in a person than they are in you, you’ll unconsciously send out that message, and it will repel the person whether he or she realizes it or not.

When you believe that another person can save you from loneliness, you’re setting yourself up for severe disappointment no matter what happens because while human being do need connection, affection, and intimacy, whether your need for those things will be met is entirely dependent on you, not your partner or a potential partner.

When your moods are very dependent on your perception of how things are going or your sense of how likely it is that your feelings will be returned, you won’t be capable of truly receiving the person’s feelings, particularly his or her feelings for you. You can’t truly understand and connect with another person unless you’re able to accept his or her feelings in a given moment, whatever they are. When your own feelings hinge on other people’s, not only are you not able to see theirs clearly, but you’re also prone to reacting to them in ways that make it unsafe for them to truly show you themselves.

So what does work?

  • Go ahead and appreciate the things about the person that you admire. Feel the warmth of the experience, and then let it go when the feeling passes. Don’t go out of your way to do or think things to feed that feeling outside of your interactions with the person. It will come back if you and the person are a good match and proceed towards dating and then being together. Do this for anyone you meet, not just that person.
  • Do daydream about your desires if you’re able to do it in ways that leave you feeling good. It’s okay to put that person’s face to your daydream if it helps you create the feeling of being in a happy, healthy, loving, supportive relationship. However, know that this mental practice is about showing your unconscious mind what you want in a relationship, not about getting exactly what you see with exactly that person. If your daydreams leave you feeling deflated or lonely, then you’re putting too much expectation into it. Back off and focus on other things that work for now.
  • Ask yourself what conditions would make you feel better about yourself. Explore how it would feel to feel better about yourself. How would you act? How would you interact with others? What would it look like? What would your home look like if you felt better about yourself? Then ask yourself if there are any little steps you could take right now that are in line with what you saw. Focus on the things that are within your power to do right away. Consider this multiple times per day. Do those things.
  • If you find yourself thinking about the person in a way that makes you feel bad, just notice those thoughts and feelings, and then either sit with the sensations you feel (refocus your attention on the sensations when your mind wanders) until they pass or up to fifteen minutes, whichever comes first, or…
  • Do something nice for yourself. Ask yourself what you need right now. A night out with friends? A delicious meal from your favorite take out restaurant? More sleep? A hot, relaxing bath? Time in meditation? To wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and watch your favorite old movie? To go for a hike? To go back to school for a new career??? Ask yourself this multiple times per day, and then tune into the most compassionate, loving, wisest part of yourself. Use that part to decide whether or not to do it.
  • Focus on the above actions until you feel you can interact with the person without being too invested in the outcome. When it feels right and you’re in a pretty positive place with yourself regardless of what that individual says or does, it’s time to put yourself in his or her path. You’ll be in a position to casually show positive reactions to the person, to truly see and feel how the person behaves and interacts with you, to develop an equal relationship if that’s where it goes, and to happily walk away if you discover that you’re not as good a match with the person as you might have previously suspected. If you do walk away, you’ll then be in a position to start a happy, healthy relationship with another person with whom you’re more compatible whenever he or she happens to walk into your life. You also won’t be as likely to carry the baggage of past loves and rejections into the relationship, and you won’t just restart the same old pattern of longing and despair from which you finally just escaped with another person.
  • If you do wind up dating and in a relationship with the person, take one step at a time. Make a conscious effort to communicate openly about where each of you is, including openly receiving their feelings for you, so that you’re both connected to where the relationship actually is and are open to each other instead of getting caught up in your ideas and disconnecting from each other.

In short, be AWESOME to yourself, and you’ll wind up in a position to attract, date, and get into a relationship with the right person for you. That person may very well be the one who initially caught your eye! If it’s not, you’ll feel just fine about walking away from that possibility because you will see it for what it is and know that there are better options for you (even if you don’t know what they are yet).

Blessings ❤

This again?!

Have you ever noticed that you can do some really amazing, deep, transformative healing, and then six months later, the same freaking thing comes back up again? I have found that it does for me, and I used to wonder why it happened and whether I was ever actually as “healed” as I thought I was.

Here’s the thing: The human mind is fantastically brilliant! Our unconscious minds compute unfathomable amounts of data from everything around us, and they are like incredibly powerful computers that can use that information to calculate things that our conscious minds cannot. The book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell explores this in detail with case studies and scientific research.

Everything we don’t even realize we see around us is computed. Even seemingly meaningless things like how well the lawns in our neighborhood are maintained and slight changes in someone’s pitch as they speak go into the calculations. The conclusions of those calculations are generally only available to us through our feelings, such as our emotions, sensations, and intuition.

Our minds develop rules for how to function to help us avoid pain, though usually we’re not consciously aware of those rules. Everything we feel changes our brains, but pain is more impactful than anything else. Our minds are so brilliant that they don’t just use our own personal experiences to create rules for how to avoid pain. They also see the evidence of the pain of others and use that information as well.

In this way, we take on the pain of others even if we don’t see the original cause of that pain. The core wound from the neighbor’s early childhood can indirectly impact us even if we never pay any attention to the neighbor. Our minds are just THAT powerful!

This is part of why you may sometimes find that you have core wounds that don’t seem to make sense based on the life that you’ve lived. Another reason is that we also have genetic memory. Scientists believe that our memories actually change our genetic material, so we pass our traumas from before having a child onto future generations through that child. Traumas experienced many generations ago due to war, practical realities of life, and social injustice can show up as core wounds even if we don’t know that they happened!

And just like other people’s core wounds can unconsciously or consciously impact us, when they heal those core wounds, the manifestations of their freedom to live their truth also impact us. When we heal our own core wounds, we walk out into the world as healers because our very presence has a healing influence on others even if they initially react negatively on the surface. This then creates a ripple effect. The people with whom we come in direct or indirect contact go on to impact others around them, and those people impact others around them, and so on. The very best thing we can do for anyone and everyone is to take very, very good care of ourselves!

Living in the world means absorbing the pain of others, and continuing to process our feelings means healing that pain not just in us, but also in others. When we heal ourselves, we’re indirectly healing everyone!

This is one of the reasons why it is unhelpful to try to figure out why you feel the way you do. You may never know, and if you make an assumption, the pain that you are experiencing will reinforce that assumption and change or reinforce your mental model. This also causes you to hold onto that pain. However, if you just go ahead and feel it without assigning meaning, you’ll likely release it. Whether or not you have an epiphany about why you felt the way you did, you’ll be better off for having processed your feelings. 🙂

Blessings ❤

“Why is this kid so freaking DIFFICULT?!” An important consideration when dealing with frequent meltdowns, temper tantrums, or aggression in small children

Do you know any young children who are difficult, uncooperative, or aggressive? If a kid younger than 5 or 6 is frequently acting this way, usually it means that there’s something with which he or she is struggling but doesn’t understand or know how to articulate. Small children NEED to be loved and accepted. From a biological standpoint, for a creature as small and helpless as a young child, acceptance by caregivers and “the pack” is necessary in order to survive. For this reason, they are generally very eager to please. They desperately want to do what’s expected of them and be well liked.
They’re also sensitive to any possible indication that they’re not loved and accepted, and for them, feeling unloved and rejected is felt as a threat to their survival.  Even things as simple as their caregivers not delighting in them or meeting their specific Love Language needs are felt on a visceral level as being unloved. This reaction is felt even more painfully when they are disciplined, scolded, or responded to with annoyance or anger, so they try very hard to avoid experiencing these things. Of course, children also need discipline, but there are things that make attempts at discipline more successful or less successful.
No matter how contrary or even violent their behavior, they’re trying their very best to fit in, get along, please their caregivers, and succeed socially. They’re trying like their life depends on it. If they’re doing things that upset people around them, it’s not because they enjoy being difficult. It’s not because they don’t care. They’re not willfully deciding to aggravate or hurt others. It’s happening because there are one or more unmet needs are overwhelming their long term survival needs.
Of course, it’s always important to consider whether a child who’s acting out is hungry, tired, sick, etc. There are also some long term conditions that can cause kids to act out over and over again.
 
One of the most common things that can cause or contribute to this is Sensory Processing Disorder. People with SPD experience sensory input differently than how most other people do, so an environment, object, or activity that’s comfortable or tolerable to everyone else in the room might be overwhelming or otherwise intolerable for them. When this happens to small children, they may not be able to communicate that there are too many chaotic sounds in the room, that they’re hot, that their shoes are uncomfortable, that the lights are too bright, that holding still that long is very stressful, that there are too many people too close to them, or that the tag on their shirt is aggravating them. They just go into panic mode. They can’t think or communicate effectively, and that includes listening to others no matter how clear and simple their requests may be.
When too much unpleasant or overwhelming sensory input causes them to go into fight or flight mode, they react and often lash out in illogical ways. These are not the type of emotional reactions that you can read on their face or in their voice like when they’re afraid because of a scary movie. Their expression may look angry or may have a “deer in the headlights look” instead of looking scared or pained. They may run away from their caregivers, physically attack something or someone, yell, or otherwise have a meltdown.
It is not possible to reason with or successfully discipline them while they’re in this state, and attempts to do so will only make the situation worse both short term and long term. Short term, attempts to get them to change their behavior without addressing the cause just adds to their feeling of being overwhelmed and their inability to use executive function in their brains instead of just reacting with fight or flight.
Long term, they don’t understand why they just can’t seem to behave. They want to, and they really do try their best. They think there’s something wrong with them, but they don’t know what or how to change it. They quickly begin to lose hope, believe they are unlovable, and develop psychological defense mechanisms. This manifests over the course of hours and weeks as no longer even trying to please their peers or caregivers or even claiming that they want to be bad or don’t care about hurting others. Those claims are very, very rarely true. They say these things because they cannot face the pain of rejection. Because these are their formative years, this impacts their sense of who they are and how the world works for the rest of their lives or until they heal those core wounds.
Different people with SPD have different tolerances and needs for different things, so figuring out what’s going on is largely a matter of observation and experimentation. The right technique or product (such as minimalist shoes or hearing protection) can dramatically change the child’s life and the lives, or at least comfort, of those around them. There are many great resources out there! Here are a few that I’ve found recently:
The most important thing is to look for the unmet needs instead of focusing on the behavior as a discipline problem. Yes, children absolutely need boundaries, rules, expectations, and discipline. These are excellent areas on which to focus after meeting their needs. For a kid with SPD, managing their environment so that they’re not in panic mode is a need!
Thank you. Blessings! ❤

Conjunctions and Stelliums

What Are They?

When Planets are conjunct ☌ , it means that they’re close enough to each other that their energies combine and work together as one. It’s like mixing blue and red and getting purple. Look at Mars and the Moon in the chart below for an example of what it looks like. The red line between them indicates that they’re conjunct.
A Stellium is when there are many planets conjunct. Some people define it as three or more planets. Some say it’s four or more. Define it however it makes the most sense to you, but just keep this in mind: The more planets are conjunct each other, the more strongly that area of the chart is emphasized. More planets in one area simply means more emphasis there.

Case Study

How does this look in practice? If someone, for example, has a stellium of six placements including their Sun and North Node all conjunct in the 2nd and 3rd Houses in Capricorn plus Mercury in Sagittarius in their 2nd House, would that person be the most accomplished, successful, well spoken, polished professional out there? A self-made millionaire before age 25 who does Ted Talks on how to be successful in the businessmen world? In my experience, no. See the chart below for an example of a friend with whom I was very close.
 
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My friend cared a great deal about what people thought of him, being successful, doing a good job at whatever task was in front of him, thriving in life, and making others happy. He cared so much, in fact, that he was plagued with debilitating anxiety that led to a very strong tendency towards addictions. He always tried so hard. Too hard. I’ve never seen anyone care so much OR fail as hard and as often as he did. He tried to be generous but was blind to how incredibly selfish he usually was. He was the most affectionate and most self-sabotaging person I’ve ever known. Nearly everything he ever tried to do somehow blew up in his face, and it was typically the result of silly or even ridiculous mistakes or oversights on his part.
He was ditzy, clumsy, intense, forgetful, and awkward. He had a very poor sense of professionalism, common sense, and personal boundaries at all, yet he was so incredibly charming, loving, sweet, and funny that, where ever he went, he always made a lot friends and really touched the lives of many of those with whom he came in contact. He was good at cheering people up and always encouraged others to be themselves. He loved and accepted them exactly the way they were, and that’s something that’s very rare. He was also an empath and very sensitive to the emotions of others, particularly towards him. This was often overwhelming for him, and as a result, sometimes he’d become avoidant and take some “me time” for a week or two during which time he failed to show up for jobs or meet other responsibilities.
His anxiety made it pretty much impossible for him to function effectively socially or especially professionally, so he self-medicated with many types of drugs and alcohol. Not surprisingly, the substances he to which he turned to make him more functional had exactly the opposite effect. He rarely held a job for more than two months much less excelled in his workplace. Towards the end of his life, he had managed to find a job which he not only managed to keep for an extended period of time but also progress. He had found some success.
Despite all of this, no one who knew him even somewhat well ever questioned whether he did his best. He, like all of us, just wanted to be loved and did his best to be worth of that love in the only ways he knew how.
Does this sound like a Capricorn to you? I wouldn’t imagine so! This is the impact of having so much focus on one particular area in our chart. The pressure is just so high, and sometimes it can even be unbearable. What can we do?

How to Handle a Stellium

Astrology shows us not only how we’re all naturally unbalanced but also how we can focus our attention on other areas in our charts to help restore balance to our lives. This can lead to greater peace, success, and whatever else it is we hope to find in life.
Having no placements in a particular Sign or House doesn’t mean we can’t express energy in that manner or in that area of our life. It simply means that it’s not our natural tendency to do so. We can, however, be mindful of our natural tendencies and purposely put focus on the areas of our charts that help bring balance to us and our lives.
To balance a stellium, the first place to look is the opposite side of the chart. Which Houses and Signs are opposite that stellium? For Capricorn, that’s Cancer. For the 3rd House, it’s the 9th House. Consciously put your attention there as you go about your day and life.
What else can be done? If you’d like to experience significant growth, look to the Signs and Houses that are square the stellium (same modality), particularly the closest one counter clockwise the stellim. If you’d like to experience comfortable assistance, look to the Signs and Houses trine the stellium (same element), again, especially counter clockwise.
There are also other tips that can be suggested by looking at other aspects and placements in your chart. This is where studying astrology so you can read your chart or hiring a professional to do it for you can be an excellent investment.