It’s Not Hubris to Play With Crayons

Dear Friend and Reader:

You’re familiar with the idea of hubris, yes? It’s that amplified blend of blind, stubborn ego and overreaching that spelled the tragic downfall of many a character in the myths and dramas of Greek antiquity.

Art supplies out for their morning constitutional along the Eastern Prom in Portland, Maine. Photo by Amanda Painter.

In our society, lack of self-esteem seems to be a much more common and debilitating condition than hubris.

Yet when it comes to living creatively and trusting that our gifts are worth trying out, expanding upon and even — gasp! — sharing with others, so many people live as though Zeus himself might strike them down with a lightning bolt should they dare.

You may or may not see yourself in that. At the very least, you likely know someone who shows creative promise but shies away at any suggestion of ‘doing something’ with it.

The astrology of these current weeks has focused on variations of the theme of creativity. This has included acknowledging and understanding ‘the inner critic’, and putting that voice in its place; expanding into career and creative opportunities that present themselves, yet also seeing where some restraint (possibly financial) is warranted.

It’s also possible that any interactions you’ve had in public forums have been especially fruitful, or that conversations in your intimate relationships have been noticeably heartfelt or articulate, particularly if they’ve contained an element of reevaluation.

All of these ideas and the events in your life that they relate to are indicated by the activity in the signs Leo and Virgo. Two weeks ago Venus stationed retrograde in Virgo (cue the inner critic); last weekend, it moved back into Leo (reclaiming a sense of play).

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing…then again, maybe it doesn’t have to ‘mean’ anything at all? Photo by Amanda Painter.

This week, retrograde Venus, Mercury and Jupiter are engaged in a series of conjunctions to each other, and squares to Saturn in Scorpio (still developing). This is the continuing story of integrating where you can expand with where you need to observe certain boundaries.

Between now and through the weekend, the story shifts yet again — though we’re still in the same basic ballpark. On Friday at 3:15 pm EDT (19:15 UTC), Mercury leaves Leo and ingresses Virgo.

Then on Saturday at 7:32 pm EDT (23:32 UTC), Mars leaves Cancer and enters Leo. When Mercury and Mars enter their new signs, they aspect some interesting minor planets that play on the predominant themes.

Waiting for Mercury in the first degree of Virgo is a hypothetical point called Transpluto. Tranpluto relates to criticism, narrowness and over-focus. Eric gave a great overview of Transpluto in this 2012 blog post, which includes a link to Lynn Koiner’s excellent delineation of Transpluto, and its association with Virgo.

Square Mercury and Transpluto are three asteroids in Sagittarius. Icarus is named for the mythological character who ignored his father’s cautions about the dangers of hubris, and flew too close to the Sun with his wax wings, thereby plummeting to the sea. Asclepius is named for the mythological father of medicine and was a student of Chiron. And Hybris is literally hubris.

Contemplating the slippery slope of creative play. Photo by Amanda Painter.

Opposite Mercury is centaur planet Nessus in Pisces (‘the buck stops here’).

One way to read this configuration is that if you try anything that is not ‘practical’ or ‘rational’ (Mercury in Virgo), you’ll get a taste of your own medicine, and will fall from grace. But that’s a very defeatist, narrow view, and my reading is that the presence of Transpluto serves as a caution against getting stuck in this mindset.

Alternatively: What if what you were taught was ‘hubris’ as a child, regarding what you’re capable of creatively, is untrue? What if that idea came from a long line of people who were not encouraged to try, to experiment, to play, to make (or who were actively discouraged or punished), and who therefore turned their pain in on themselves — and onto successive generations?

In that context, consider this: you’re not being an egotistical show-off if you decide to go for it. Rather, you’re reclaiming the right you were born with to live as a creative, engaged being.

See, Mercury opposite Nessus pretty much screams out that the idea that ‘any creative daring is an act of hubris’ is a false assumption, based on ideas that were handed down to you (or pushed on you). Nessus points to the thing you have an opportunity to stop, possibly an abusive pattern.

Nessus often has connotations of sexual misconduct, yet consider this: sexual energy and creative energy are, at their core, the same thing. Any past violation of your sense of yourself as a creative being is, in fact, a violation. Period. But that does not mean you are broken, or that you must pass along the sense of injured creativity.

The thing is, it takes a leap of faith on your part to test out those wings. It does not need to be a big leap; in fact, a modest skip could be the most effective. It may still feel incredibly daring. And it’s that sense of daring, of actually pushing past the inner voice telling you, “That’s too far! You’re not good enough!” that could prove to be medicinal.

Go ahead: step across the threshold. Photo by Amanda Painter.

By medicinal, I mean healing, not bitter — though it’s true that our first forays beyond where we were told we could go may come with some traces of bitter regret that we listened, and did not try sooner. That’s okay, and nothing to fear.

Notice those emotions, acknowledge them, maybe give yourself permission to grieve a little; then give yourself permission to let any bitterness go.

You have new things to try. Mars will be on the scene in Leo the next day (Saturday at 7:32 pm EDT) to give you heart and the extra energy you need to marshal yourself and try again.

Mars, too, is aspecting some noteworthy minor planets. It is square the centaur planet Pelion in Taurus, named for the mountain home of Chiron, the teacher and healer. Also in early Taurus is minor planet 1992 QB1, which represents thresholds into new states of being, and those who assist others in getting there. Often healing requires a push beyond our ‘home’ or comfort zone.

Mars will also be conjunct Tantalus in Leo. My take on this is: you might not quite grab the metaphorical fruit you so desire, and that seems so close; at least, not with your first attempts. But just in trying, you’ll be crossing a threshold of some kind — perhaps a threshold into a new sense of confidence.

Yours & truly,

The Folk Art of Therapy

Dear Friend and Reader:

For a few years I’ve been wanting to write an article about how to pick a therapist. I know that there are those for whom opening up a real discussion about their lives is burning in their soul. Others know they’ve been dealing with the same problems over and over for years. You may see the same patterns repeating in your relationships, your career, your family life or other aspects of existence, and you decide that it’s time for that to change.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Helping people get into therapy has been one of the themes of my astrological practice. I believe in therapy and I think that in American society, so obsessed with denial and immaturity, it’s the one thing that nearly everyone needs, if they want to grow up and be not just functional adults, but also people who live fully.

Yet till now I haven’t felt comfortable writing the article. So in the interest of good therapy, I’ll start with my hesitancy.

First issue is that I’ve heard a lot of stories of unhelpful or even hurtful experiences. I’ve had a few myself. I’m aware that there’s a lack of trust looming around the whole issue of therapy. There is also a belief that it’s superficial.

Next issue is that when most people are choosing a therapist, they are in some kind of crisis, and that’s not necessarily the best time to be making such a critical decision. Yet it’s the time that it typically happens.

Another issue is that there exist a diversity of misunderstandings about what therapy is and how it works. For many people there is the perception that it’s supposed to be a magic or at least deeply mysterious solution. Images of the patient reclined on the couch in Dr. Freud’s office come to mind; he and he alone understands the workings of their unconscious — and the old man had a lot of problems (as do many contemporary therapists, who according to Alice Miller tend to come from abusive backgrounds).

Others treat therapy as if “going to talk to someone” is the ultimate admission of weakness — they are somehow not self-sufficient or intelligent enough to live their own lives. They want to go it alone. Lurking in the background here may be the idea that “I don’t want to go talk to someone because I’ll find out something I don’t want to know” or “they’re going to tell me I’m crazy.” (Often this translates to some form of, “I don’t want to deal with my problems.”)

Despite the existence of these reservations, I’m confident that good therapy is helpful and possible, though I am skeptical of how many people are actually qualified to do it. When I consider the diversity of innate and trained skills that it’s necessary to have, and the level of ethics required, and how bad the training can be, it doesn’t seem like there will be too many qualified candidates.

Photo by Eric Francis.

When I knew that I needed therapy in my late 20s, I set just one firm guideline for who I worked with — that the person would not have a Ph.D. Twenty years later, I don’t believe that a Ph.D. is an automatic disqualification; I’ve met some fantastic psychologists who have actually earned their doctorates, and who are truly helpful, wise and compassionate souls.

Yet I can see I was onto a significant distinction: I was looking for someone who practiced the folk art of therapy, rather than the institutional or academic kind. I’ll explain the difference in a moment, with a reminder that there are people who are part of both worlds.

My reference to someone named Joe Trusso came from a guy named John, who was having a torrid affair with my then-lover Sabine. One night I went to have dinner with the two of them, and after a while John suggested that I call up Joe and talk to him. John was an illustrious (even notorious) character. I think what I may have trusted the most was that John understood something about me, and his recommendation was an outgrowth of that. I had nothing to lose by going in for a session.

Now, you probably wouldn’t ask your partner’s lover for a reference to a therapist, or to anything for that matter. However, you might get the name of someone by some means that seems unusual. A synchronicity might be involved. In truth, references are a pretty good way to get started shopping around. Ask people you trust if they have heard of anyone, and ask what they heard.

The key fact is this: however you may be feeling, you’re going to need to make an informed decision, you’re going to need to trust that decision for a while (say, for three sessions, till you have a feeling for how things are going), and then you’ll need to evaluate how you did. Even an informed decision is a roll of the dice, however there are common-sense ways you can skew the odds in your favor, which could be applied to any selection process for a healer or practitioner.

Photo by Eric Francis.

If you don’t have a reference from a friend or another practitioner to work with, then open up the local community newspaper and see who is advertising. Pay attention to how you feel reading the ad and dialing the phone.

Is the person easy to reach? If you leave a message, do they call you back fairly soon? Do they answer your questions patiently? This is more than good business practice; therapists know that people often call them when in crisis, and they know that those first few minutes are a key time to cultivate trusting communication, and to offer a prospective client the chance to feel listened to and cared about.

When you pick someone you want to have a first meeting with, you might be inclined to tell them your whole story, which would be a good sign. But sometime during that first visit (or before), make sure you ask for a copy of their CV (curriculum vitae, a long-form resume that all professionals should have available). In my opinion, you’re looking for two things on their CV — the first of which are educational and professional experiences that qualify them for the service that they are currently offering.

Second, I suggest you look for diversity of interests. When I read Joe’s CV, it included therapy training in workshop format, educational experiences, teaching, educational consulting, plus some of his artistic and scientific endeavors. Among them was the fact that he’s a musical composer, with some of his notable performances listed. The topic of his master’s thesis was the magical powers associated with the shapes of musical instruments in indigenous cultures. This impressed me as intelligent and open-minded.

I think it’s far preferable to work with someone who is excited about life, and who challenges themselves to grow and explore existence. That’s the kind of example you want — and a therapist is very much an exemplar, not of a perfect person, but of an alive one. Such a person is more likely to relate to what you say and the unusual things you might want to do, and less likely to try to fit you into a box. The essence of therapy is to bring out the person you are inside, rather than have you be someone else.

Photo by Eric Francis.

Most people will want to know the person’s credentials — you know, they went to Cornell or Harvard and have the following licenses, and that would be enough. However, whatever their credentials, I suggest you go with your feelings. Do they take an active interest in you and your life? Can you feel their empathy? What does your intuition tell you? These things are FAR more important than how many merit badges they have.

Let’s make a distinction between the academic/institutional approach and the folk approach to therapy. To the extent that therapy exists these days, much of it takes the academic/institutional approach — coming with the need to make a diagnosis, for example. Psychologists and social workers have this cryptic thing called DSM-IV, which supposedly lists everything that can possibly go wrong with a person’s mind. As the patient, you would need to fit one of those categories; your diagnosis gets a little code, and that code is used to collect insurance (for example, social anxiety disorder is DSM-IV 300.23). Some people also find it comforting to know what’s ‘wrong’ with them, at least in the theory of a psychologist.

Many practitioners who use the diagnosis model will either prescribe mood-altering drugs, or refer you to someone who will. I find it stunning, shocking and unbelievable that so many millions of people you see on the street are taking ‘anti-depressants’. In my opinion, mood-altering prescription medications are only necessary in rare cases, not for everyday depression or anxiety. There is considerable evidence that they make matters worse. And they are prescribed without actual scientific data (for example, indicating exactly what ‘chemical imbalance’ is being treated). The purported goal of this kind of therapy is to cure the patient.

Alternately, the folk art of therapy has a more down-to-earth approach. The therapy room is a place of refuge or sanctuary. That’s how it should feel when you sit down there — like a place off to the side of existence, protected from the demands of the world, and a place where you want to come back. If after the first session you feel better about your life and you want to come back, that’s a good sign. Then see how you feel after the second session. If things go well for a month or so, give the person a chance and reassess in six months. Remember that there may be ups and downs in your attitude toward the work — but that’s not a given.

In this approach, the therapist is a witness and mentor. They maintain a loving presence, though one that’s not attached to your outcome. This is the crucial difference between a friend (or lover) and a therapist: someone you’re involved with personally may have a diversity of biases and attachments to you; your therapist will see you more objectively, and when you walk out the door you’re free to live your life — and come back — without worrying about their opinion of you.

Photo by Eric Francis.

One goal of this kind of therapy is accelerated maturation. It’s also about learning about yourself through an unusual kind of relationship that can become a model for other experiences. Your therapist should be the most supportive person in your life. This will teach you what a supportive person is.

There’s a deeper layer, though. I believe that ultimately, therapy is about the cultivation of trust. That is the thing learned; the missing experience had. This is saying a lot on a planet where trust is the rarest human element, and the thing most often abused when it’s found.

There is an idea going around that ‘talk therapy’ is superficial, and can only go so far, particularly compared to ‘energy work’. Without commenting on ‘energy work’, I will say this: trust is a core issue in life. Our cynical and self-judgmental attitudes are usually based on lack of trust, and this is almost always crippling.

The therapy relationship becomes the vehicle for that experience of learning trust, not in theory but in actual practice. That takes time, though it will proceed from a point of contact. That point of contact leads to the conscious observation that your trust in someone is growing, that it exists at all, or that some benefit will come from it. The relationship becomes an active demonstration that trust really is possible. One of the deepest learning experiences of therapy is looking for that trust in other relationships — and if you discover it’s not there, taking that fact to heart.

Trust leads to the ability to be vulnerable in a conscious and sincere way. Vulnerability without trust can have some catastrophic results. Most people struggle with trust and vulnerability. The therapy relationship becomes a place to experience those things that were largely missing, and to open up to the missing experiences, carrying what you learn over into other relationships. It’s a pretty powerful contrast if you sit in your therapist’s office and have an intelligent conversation about your life, then you go home and feel like you cannot say a word to your partner about anything you talked about.

The best therapists have the flavor of part sage mentor and part peer. They become the authority in our lives which we aspire to be, and then get busy being. They can help supplant the negative or unsupportive influences of parents, whose authority we also aspired to, but who sometimes or often betrayed our trust. Your therapist must be someone who teaches you to respect and take care of yourself — by example, and through the relationship.

Your insurance, if you have any, may not pay for the person you find who takes this approach. That means you will have to pay for it yourself, something I’ve always thought was worth the expense even when I could barely afford food and rent. Therapy is the place you will begin to heal your pain, let go of the past and access your deepest potential. Once you find someone you’re willing to do that with, I suggest you not put a price on it. Do what you have to do to earn the money and write the check every week. You may discover that makes the experience all the more meaningful to you.


Weekly Horoscope for Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 #1061 | By Len Wallick

Aries (March 20-April 19) — It appears as though a new chapter and another (quite separate) new verse are opening up for you. For the near future at least, it may seem as if you are living through both a song and a story at once. The story probably has to do with some newfound freedom you’ve labored for weeks to write into your private life. Your new song, on the other hand, is almost certainly represented by a new level of community involvement that seems, more than anything else, to have chosen you. Your mission is therefore straightforward, if not simple: to remain whole. In order for that to happen, it will be important for you to arrange things so that your personal and public life support each other rather than being at odds. Eschew compartmentalization at every turn. Instead, use your personal moments to support testing and defining yourself in the world, rather than letting them sap those efforts. — by Len Wallick

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You would help your own cause by paying special attention to the people, places and situations you take for granted the most. Consider developing your enhanced awareness in three steps. The first step will require you to both catch yourself and acknowledge being caught in moments of inattention, without feeling either diminished or defensive about the experience. The next step will require a concerted ongoing attempt to remember when you are most vulnerable to ‘spacing out’, then applying yourself to see those situations coming. Finally, once you know when to focus on focusing, make a special effort to see what’s unexpected or new in what you have otherwise become accustomed to. This is not a good time for you to drive on cruise control or fly on autopilot in any sense. Rather, it’s your time to update and ground your sense of all you know and love best. — by Len Wallick

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — For you, and for the next several months, the spotlight of attention will likely be a fickle thing. If you are now the subject of acclaim, you may do yourself a service to remember that a season of exaltation is often fleeting. On the other hand, if others have placed you and what you have to offer on their back burner, count your blessings, but don’t count yourself out. Interestingly, regardless of your relationship to the spotlight now, your strategy for getting to a playable, even promising endgame will be much the same. To begin with, strive to be more discriminating regarding what others see of you. Pay attention to your appearance, and be conscious of whether any of your habits will detract from your better qualities. Most importantly, choose where you want to shine. It’s not necessary — or even advisable — to take center stage at all times; exhibiting occasional grace will get you quite far enough. — by Len Wallick

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You are not a machine. Do not be unrealistic in expectations of yourself. You are a unique and exceptional human being, not a human doing. You have intrinsically human qualities that make you special and worthy of receiving all the love you have to offer and then some. Yes, you should allow yourself to be inspired by others in setting (or resetting) your aspirations. Even so, it will do you no good in the long run to cultivate ambitions through which you pretend to be something or somebody other than your best and most authentic self. Since this appears to be a time to redefine (or at least refine) your mission while also remembering who and what you are, be realistic. Look back no further than four or five weeks. If you can manage to recall and apply only your most recent experiences and the lessons learned, you will have (and be) enough to get further ahead without getting lost. — by Len Wallick

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Here’s looking at you, kid. Actually, let’s change that line. Instead of allowing us to lift a glass in salutation to your shining countenance, encourage us to look for (rather than at) you. After all the effort you have put in to find yourself since your birthday last year, you don’t want to keep what you have discovered under a bushel basket. Instead you will want to show the world what has become of you. To do so, step away from the grindstone for the next few weeks at least. Cut back on the chores so you can get out more. Hang out with old friends you might have neglected, and give new acquaintances more than a passing glance. Take time to converse for its own sake. If you do so, you will not need to fear boredom or small talk. What you have developed and discovered in yourself over the past 12 months is subject matter you are bound to see reflected in, and by, others. — by Len Wallick

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — When people (most likely from your distant past) have admonished you not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today, they were almost certainly speaking to responsibilities, work, chores and drudgery. Knowing you, you took that advice to heart and integrated the work ethic you received into a fine appreciation for diligence and your imperative for industriousness. The downside of strictly conscientious behavior, however, is that as it stifles your own playfulness, it can make you inclined to be extra strict with others, and pass on to them more than just a stolid warning to favor the proverbial ant over the legendary grasshopper. It’s time for you to add a bit of your own experience with curiosity’s ability to cure rather than kill. There’s reason as well to share with others how simple, undirected play can foment joy without precluding wealth. — by Len Wallick

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — It’s likely that you have paid your dues in full over the past two or three years. Therefore, do not think of yourself as owing any more to others than is absolutely necessary to keep your relationships in reciprocal balance. Let go of obligations you have already met, no matter how fulfilling it was for you to meet them. Instead, take some time to go back and pick up where you left off with yourself. Take stock of all you have passed up in order to be of selfless service, and consider how and when it might be appropriate to be a little more selfish to serve your own (possibly arrested) development. Think of what you can be rather than what you can do. Release the past and reach into the future. Who knows, if you reach far enough, you might actually be able to touch and grasp another hand previously unseen, which has long been reaching for you. — by Len Wallick

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You are almost done. Whether you know it or not, the toil and even tears that have possibly accompanied you for years have almost run their course. In place of what you have endured, something enduring will remain. As you might already have noticed, your life’s trials and your responses to them have slowly but steadily been forming a structure that will contain much of what is yet to come for you. To be more content with what that container finally turns out to be, attend to it now. Look around you and note how the order and form of your life has changed, and think about how you want things to finally shape up. While this is probably not a good time to tear your life down and start over, it’s not too late to make more room where you need it and even trim a little excess so as to lighten your load. — by Len Wallick

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Regardless of what your devotions are or where your enthusiasms lie, you know that attending to them long enough and consistently will show results. You also know from experience that those results are not likely to accrue with perceptible momentum. Instead, a prolonged investment in effort will most often test your faith before you wake up one fine morning to a gratifying realization that you have ‘made it’. The astrology indicates you are about to embark on another prolonged voyage of endeavor, which will once again challenge you to keep faith that a substantial payoff is somewhere over the horizon. To keep yourself going, even when immediate gratification is nowhere to be found, set an intent now. Let that intent be your determination to focus on the quality of your upcoming journey. Allow the destination to take care of itself. — by Len Wallick

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — If you are not ‘feeling it’, there is no reason to extend yourself to the limit now. Don’t feel bad if something tells you to hold back. While it’s inevitable that you will someday want to push for the top of the symbolic mountain you have long been ascending, the timing has to be right. Just as with actual climbing, you will need all external conditions to be optimal within reason. It will also be necessary for you to commit to a specific path of ascent. In order for that to happen, however, your internal conditions will need to develop to a point where you feel assured of your success, and you’re impatient to git ‘er done once and for all. In the meantime, it is vital that you at least take no steps back unless absolutely necessary for your survival or wellbeing. So take care of yourself even as you bide your time. When the time comes, you will not only be ready but fully able to conquer that summit. — by Len Wallick

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — The very heavens know that you are well aware what you are about. The question is whether you are still clearly seeing the vision you set out to pursue, and are fully present to it. While things may not have gone according to your original plan, you also know that much of life is what happens while those plans are being made. You also know that going through changes is not the same as going through defeat. Only your choice to give up can result in failure for you at this point, and you don’t want that. What you have already accomplished stands on its own as a legitimate success, even though you are entirely right to have even higher aspirations. Additionally, the opportunities you have rightfully earned are too good to simply squander. Therefore, even if you continue to err here and drop a stitch there, do everything you can to persevere, for doing so will indeed serve to further you. — by Len Wallick

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Things are about to get very interesting for you in a promising way. The results will not be immediately apparent until about this time next year. Even so, you will be able to go a long way toward determining the outcome for yourself if you can simply define and whole-heartedly accept what satisfaction means for you. Doing so could very well force you to make some choices between material and spiritual satisfaction, which will not necessarily entail compromise. Indeed, it’s very probable you will be quite pleasantly surprised by just how often you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too. In other words, the next 12 months or so will not be about choosing one thing to the exclusion of another. Rather, the focus of your life will probably come down to what card needs to be played first so every card that follows will be set up to be a sure winner in turn. — by Len Wallick

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