LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN
Strange title for a column on
counseling? Not if the basic principle of counseling is to guide the
client to the awareness of what he wants to do rather than to tell the
client what to do.
The ability to listen with an open mind
and a compassionate heart is the key to counseling. Astrology is only
a tool -- a major tool, certainly -- but only a tool which
supports and validates the process of both the client and the
This first column explores the general
role of astrology in counseling and provides examples of
successful and unsuccessful counseling. Future columns will present
more detailed ways to use astrology as a counseling tool.
In counseling, the natal chart becomes
a map of the client's psyche. Touching a person's psyche
is sacred work to be approached with awe, respect, care,
compassion, and patience.
The chart shows the energies a person
was born under, not the energies a person is stuck with. The
energies that existed when a person was born move constantly.
Movement of energy within the person is reflected and symbolized by
the movement of the planets in the sky. Planets do not rule life in
any way; they are only a symbolic reflection of the energies a person
experiences, of the changes happening in and around a person.
The natal chart shows the client's
potential but does not show how the client used her potential. Only
the client knows, and, as we shall
see, knows only to a certain degree
how she has used energies available to her. The astrologer has to
ask questions, offer information undogmatically, tentatively,
following up the client's reaction with sensitively-worded
questions and careful listening.
If the astrological chart does not show
how a client has used her potential, it shows even less how the
client will use her potential in the future. Predicting a client's
future is probably the most harmful information a counseling
astrologer can offer a client.
A prediction projects the astrologer's ego
and needs on the client in the form of a more or less detailed
A prediction locks the client into
expecting a situation without giving her free choice. If the
prediction is of a negative and restrictive nature, the psyche tends
to accept the defeat, gives up hope, and by believing in the
negative event, invests it with its best chance to occur. On the
other hand, a constructive prediction may not necessarily occur
because usually it involves change, and the psyche tends to resist
change in any form. In addition, what may seem positive to the
astrologer may well be experienced as negative and destructive by the
client, and vice versa. The client's inner strengths and inner
conflicts are reflected by the planetary aspects in the natal
chart. Just as the concept of benefic and malefic planets and aspects
is long gone, the concept of hard and soft aspects also ought to be
considered obsolete. For example, a trine denotes harmony between
aspects of the self, but it also symbolizes a tendency to overdo.
A square denotes tension, but can also indicate a saving grace, an
ability to take action, to get things accomplished. In other
words, one's interpretation of aspects should not differ
from one's interpretation of anything in astrology:
Nothing is good. Nothing is bad.
Everything is an opportunity.
The client's inner strengths and
conflicts have been greatly influenced by the psychological
environment in which the client was born and raised. The emotional
atmosphere in the environment, its joys, and especially its
unexpressed tensions, are absorbed by the psyche and become the
bases of behaviors that can be experienced later as
facilitators or barriers to growth and happiness.
Usually, the client arrives with a
well-defined external problem. Usually also, the client has no idea
what the inner basis of that outer problem is. The work of the
astrologer is to help the client understand his behavior in
relation to its inner roots. Ideally, the astrologer should achieve
this before giving support for changes in the client's life.
A few years ago, I visited a client in his
office (see Chart 1). The client shared with me his difficulties in
sustaining a close relationship. His seventh house of
relationship is in Sagittarius. Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius,
is in Cancer. The Moon, which rules Cancer and symbolizes the concept
of the mother, is squared by the Sun which represents the concept of
This combination of planetary aspects and
placements indicated to me the possibility that, soon after a
relationship began, some argument would arise that would bring an
end to the relationship. My client confirmed that he experienced a
repetitive cycle of this nature. I explained that, somehow, during
his childhood, there was some unexpressed tension between his
parents. He absorbed this tension, never learned to resolve it,
and, unconsciously based his behavior in a relationship on the
behavior learned from his parents. My client was very puzzled,
for he had always experienced his parents as getting along very
As a few other questions had also come up
about his childhood, he got up and called his mother. He hooked up
the speaker phone so I could hear the whole conversation.
To my great surprise, he told his mother
that there had been some tension between her and his father when he
was a child, and this problem between them was the reason for his
current problems in relationships!
The mother immediately answered that
this was not the case, that he was a wanted child and had always been
very loved. I shook my head in agreement with this statement. I
suggested he ask her how her husband and she resolved conflicts.
She was adamant: "We agreed long before getting married that we would
never argue when angry. We agreed that we would cool off before
discussing any issue. So, usually, we would talk in the evening
after you and your brothers were asleep."
At that instant, my client remembered his
father leaving the house furious and his mother crying while washing
the breakfast dishes. He realized that he had witnessed his parents
argue but he had never witnessed the resolution of any
conflict. Therefore, he never learned to resolve conflict within a
relationship. There are many classes and books on
conflict-resolution these days from which my client could now
benefit. A few months later, he was happily experiencing an
Not all consultations are as easy as this
one. Not all clients are that willing or able to bring up issues,
face them, and make so drastic a change. When clients are less
self-reflective, are overwhelmed, or are unwilling to accept
responsibilities for inner chnges, then the key to counseling is to
ask questions, listen to answers, hear the planetary archetypes at
One of my experiences with this
reality involved a man born in Central Europe during World War II (see
chart 2). Since his time of birth was uncertain, I could not rely
much on house placement. His retrograde Saturn conjuncting Mars,
opposing Mercury, and squared by Jupiter spoke to me of a
restrictive father image as well as restrictive authority figures.
My client would have experienced these restrictions and
internalized them in terms of action (Mars), communication
(Mercury), and expansion, freedom (Jupiter). In addition, this
man's Sun in the male sign of Aquarius emphasized his
identification with the father image.
At the same time, and possibly in
conflict within the client's conscious understanding of
himself, the chart denoted a strong mother influence.
However, at the time of the consultation
(mid-November 1987), the transiting planets directed my attention
to the concept of the father and its influence on my client's current
life: Pluto square Pluto, Uranus semi-sextile Mercury and sextile
Jupiter, Saturn quincunx Saturn, Jupiter square Saturn, Mars having
squared Saturn a few days earlier and now squaring Mercury before
conjuncting Jupiter. In addition, Neptune was within a two-degree
orb from squaring Neptune.
The client talked about his
difficulties at work and especially his difficulties with his various
managers with whom he argued quite a bit and who, of course, were
always at fault.
I explained that often our current
behavior stems from our childhood experiences, and went on
talking about what the chart described in terms of father image. I
did not talk about his father, but about his concept of father
and of authority figures. I was rapidly interrupted: "I was born
during the war, in a little village in Central Europe, and I was
the only man within a hundred-mile radius; therefore, I cannot
have any problem that relates to my father."
Needless to say, I never saw that client
But I learned! I especially learned to
ask. I learned that, no matter what the chart indicates to
me, it does not tell me anything about the client's awareness.
Hopefully, I had not done too much
harm (except, maybe to the astrological profession!). But I have
heard, and been at the receiving end of, many statements
about personality made in a dogmatic and abrupt manner by a person
interpreting the natal chart.
When a client listens to an astrologer,
she experiences the "it's about me" feeling. A few good 'hits'
about the person's traits are not hard to find and these hits are the
'magic' of astrology. While the client is usually delighted to
hear such 'right-on' statements about herself from someone who does
not know her, she is also in a most vulnerable position.
This is when the astrologer can do the most harm.
Describing the person to herself, like
predictions, creates the risk of locking the person into the
character traits the astrologer describes. The astrologer has to
remember that what looks like strengths in the client's chart may
have been diverted or distorted in a devastating way at some time in
the past. The chart does not indicate how the client has used her
potential nor the difficulties it symbolizes.
I recently saw a woman whose chart clearly
indicated difficulties relating to her womanhood due to the
influence of both the mother and the father. The chart made me
suspicious of her relationship to her mother. Carefully I said:
"Tell me about your mother". The answer was: "She is my best
friend." However, little by little, during the consultation,
elements of strain and question marks started to emerge from the
client about her mother. I simply had to ask her to hear what
she was saying to bring her to the awareness that she had to look at
herself as a woman who had absorbed and learned both positive and
negative concepts from her mother.
The answer the astrologer may get when
asking a question is: "You tell me!". This is the perfect time to
demystify astrology. This is the perfect time to explain to the
client that astrology is only a tool to help him understand better
his journey through life, that the planets do not rule our lives but
are sign posts to better awareness, better self-acceptance and