Vesta-Pholus-Ixion: A codependency crux point

The Sun enters Scorpio tomorrow at 2:09 am EDT, emphasizing the tone initiated by Mercury’s station retrograde in that sign yesterday. Eric focused on the potential for this astrology to get us to look at the ways we are in denial, and to begin bringing those situations into better integrity. Today, the denial theme is joined astrologically by the idea of codependence — and the role alcohol plays in our ability to perpetuate those cycles.

The Karpman Triangle of psychological drama and codependency.
The Karpman Triangle of psychological drama and codependency.

Consider for a moment the psychological drama triangle first described by Stephen Karpman (often called “the Karpman triangle”) and used in transactional analysis. The triangle consists of a Persecutor, a Victim and a Rescuer. The model describes situations in which people tend to take on these roles (and can switch roles) to perpetuate unhealthy dynamics that in some way feed unspoken (or unconscious) wishes and needs.

The Karpman triangle does not describe actual emergencies where someone genuinely needs saving from harm (such as a firefighter saving someone from a burning building set on fire by an arsonist). In this case, “… the Victim is not really as helpless as he feels, the Rescuer is not really helping, and the Persecutor does not really have a valid complaint,” according to transactional analyst Claude Steiner.

The magical glue holding together the people playing these three roles is denial. At some level, Persecutors have convinced themselves they are right to do what they do to the Victim and refuse to see their actions as abusive or manipulative. Victims do not see themselves as to blame for how they ‘always end up in this situation’ and give away their power. Rescuers tell themselves they ‘are just trying to help’ and are ‘good people’, when really they get something out of keeping Victims helpless. The underlying objective is to justify the feelings they get to feel — rather than fostering healthy relationships or healing for oneself.

So where does the astrology come in? Today — with retrograde Mercury setting the stage in Scorpio — the asteroid Vesta in Virgo squares minor planets Pholus and Ixion in Sagittarius. In Virgo, Vesta’s themes of devotion and sacrifice can go one of two ways: either toward a clearer, more hands-on type of service to humanity and one’s own creative flame; or toward a type of self-sacrifice fueled by self-criticism and a crisis of self-esteem.

Ixion tends to represent the ability of anyone to be capable of anything, in a ‘no ethics’/’no integrity’ sense; Pholus is not only indicative of the runaway reaction, but also serves as a caution about alcohol consumption (or overconsumption). Much cruel behavior over the course of history has been perpetrated under the influence of booze, or excused or justified because of it.

Squares create a kind of inner tension that urges us to act. Vesta-Pholus-Ixion, fraught as it may seem with the potential for self-undermining behavior, is simply asking us to take a closer, clearer look at the behavior patterns we’re engaged in. Denial is thick and sticky, and we humans have become masterful at accepting its shiny colors rather than looking beneath the gloss.

If we look a little closer at the astrology, we see minor planet Hebe conjunct Pholus and Ixion. Hebe was the cupbearer to the gods, and Eric and Martha Lang Wescott have delineated Hebe as being about codependency. For the little umbrella in this cocktail, Bacchus (god of drunken revelry) is entering the Uranus-Pluto square by way of a conjunction to Pluto in Capricorn; this issue concerns all of us.

Alcohol in moderation can be a lovely accent to a meal or a moment; but what it does it tell us when we look at just how much alcohol is consumed the world over? There are bars and liquor stores in every corner of the globe, and it’s not so people can accent a meal or a moment.

So many people are trying to drown pain, trying to shore up their denial. Why is living so excruciating for so many?

How many people are perpetuating a sense of detachment though their drinking, and how many people have learned this ‘skill’ from their parents? This detachment is another potential shadow form of Vesta, as she appears in the Karpman triangle — and alcohol (plus similar substances, and their emotional equivalents) is a fog machine that obscures what we could be now and deters awakening to that truth.

In Elisa Novick’s column this weekend, she described the connection between spiritual/karmic healing on an individual level and how it can ripple out into our family, ancestral, tribal and national systems, and beyond. The question for you now, whether alcohol is involved on a personal level or simply culturally, is: What are you serving?

Are you choosing, in your decisions, actions and inner examination of your motives, to serve forward-looking integrity — integrity that honors the past by looking to acknowledge its truth? Are you serving backward-looking guilt that perpetrates familial or ancestral patterns and denial? If you’re willing to be brutally honest with yourself, how often do you find yourself acting out one of Karpman’s codependent roles?

The astrology is describing a crux point, a moment in which it may be possible to actually get somewhere: a moment of clarity.

With Eric Francis

11 thoughts on “Vesta-Pholus-Ixion: A codependency crux point”

  1. Thank you Eric, Elisa Novick, and Amanda for being the non-anxious voice to an anxious (and profitable) mainstream message in the world.
    As Amnesiac.M refers to in the video mentioned (heinous as it is), and the astrology shows us, a minority of angry humans often can try to dominate a culture when they perceive a threat. But often this perception is just that -not a reality.
    Bob Cedric, a family therapist, looks at the psychology of this in his piece, “Persons, People, and Public Policy” :
    “Anxiety below consciousness is the emotion that is transmitted through human systems to alert the system to a common danger. It is infectious. Alcoholism is often symptomatic of family dysfunction due to anxiety in the system. The alcohol becomes the objectified focus for this underlying incapacity to deal with the boundaries affecting growth and the ensuing risks that transcending boundaries engenders. The same is true for differing cultures within our nation. The objectification of communal angst onto people who are different, be they of color, sexual orientation, religion, values, or willingness to challenge cultural boundaries for their own growth, results in public policy directed at diminishing the effect such people have.

    The tragic truth is that an angst-driven minority can dominate a well-meaning progressive majority through threats of disrupting the structures designed to maintain a stable social system.

    He also explains in his article how having a fear based economic system, rather than one based on the the richness of human diversity, actually perpetuates the anxiety.

    So thanks again for the insights and encouragement to tread the non-anxious path…

  2. I feel that area is one that should always be handled with the utmost care and compassion. There is a world of difference between co-dependent relating and abuse. Sometimes abuse is just abuse: the misuse, often cruel misuse, of power against those perceived as weaker or powerless. Victims of all manner of abuses have more than enough shame, guilt and other negative emotional states to deal with and dispose of without even the idea of the consideration that they were somehow complicit in things that have been done to them.

    Call to pause in a cycle of abuse
    Call to pause in a cycle of abuse

    I know your face. I know the bubbling joy in the sound of your laughter.
    Laughter that would make a jealous woman weep.
    …And now, you cannot stand up for yourself,
    neither hold up your face, nor see me watch you,
    watch over you.
    What evil has been done to you
    that though I see you, you cannot see me?
    that though I feel you, you cannot feel?
    Weak walking, lame leg, limp spirit,
    Tears behind the dam.
    Damned, Bruised, Shocked, Frozen
    Afraid? Deadened?
    What evil has been done to you?
    Whose shame do you carry?
    I know it is not yours
    For I have heard the sound of your laughter.
    Laughter that once could make a jealous woman weep.

  3. Funny you bring up ” backward-looking guilt” given my rant of the day:

    ‘Susy’s Tuesday morning rant: Shame-based, shame spirals, shame, shame, shame, I hate thee!! Shame is like grief, married to all past unhealed shames, so each new one brings up all the old ones which is where the shame spiral rabbit hole pops up to fall into and fall down, down, down, sometimes never to be clawed our way out of ever again, telling me I have no right to live, fuck that shit. I was shamed for everything as a child, but I have clawed my way back through that minefield defusing each bomb as I went along, realizing how much was not even my shame but truly belonged to the adults around me, and now instead of being shame’s slave, shame’s helpless victim, shame is only one of the tools in my toolbox. Sometimes it pokes its head out but it’s very meek now, really just a touch of guilt in proportion, only offering information and questions, asking how will you feel if, or do I owe an apology, or is this the best I can do, or is good enough, good enough in this situation? Because oftentimes, good enough is good enough, and striving for perfection can be saved for those things I really, really care about.’

    I learned about Karpman’s triangle years ago in the context of a truly advanced and enlightened therapy group I worked with on my abuse history. And it really is true that as I defused each of those mines, I found myself able to back out of the illusion of the power that Karpman’s dynamic offers into the real power of being able to act instead of react. And as the real power was revealed little by little my ability to choose real power only grew stronger.

  4. Thank you, nilou. Had to go dark today; was feeling a bit overexposed after yesterday. But yes, this is indeed a “big piece.” Accepting that, mother’s knee or otherwise, this is a pattern that goes back, forth, and sideways in all directions from where I stand. But I can release myself from my part in it, and perhaps lessen the energy of the system. Best to you.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-filled article, Amanda.
    In my family of origin there was no “booze”, but there was a terrible-god, one who’s various interpretations have family members still trading off the guises of victim, persecutor and rescuer. (Is guilt not a form of denial?) I would add, that it does not take 3 separate people to fill these 3 sets of shoes. Personal experience is that it can take as little as one (in this case one parent) who can throw on the cloak of any of these behaviours at any time and use it to try and engage another person (perhaps their child) in the game.
    It’s good to be watchful for these patterns – perhaps that’s Vesta for me.
    Thanks again.

  6. Just a note on alcohol. I still am amazed people drink it. Yes, many do. The emotional ideology of alcoholism (I have managed multiple clinically) is “the way things should be”. A highly educated, teacher I had once, an ethics teacher shared this knowledge with me. She
    taught Medical Ethics. So either a little bit with dinner, or a lot whilst sharing someone’s porch. — Any repetitious need to shift to a so-called more “unwinding’ mood of being — is oddly linked to ‘the way things should be’.

  7. Hey, Strawberrylaughter! Hugs first today ((()))). “Vesta’s devotion-at-all-costs theme was masquerading as love in my world.” This one is what i call ‘a big piece’, partly because it can imprint itself over seemingly any and all relationships and partly because it’s one of those pieces often learned from the mother’s knee, or handed down through generations. So be gentle with yourself. The last time i caught this one in action resulted in a clear statement from me to the other party. “You may be …..and you know i will do whatever i can to support you; however, please remember that what i do is through choice, it is not an obligation. I may be …, i am also a human being.” What i noticed after that, is that now whenever i do make the choice to support, or gift or whatever it is, i always get a ‘thank you’ or some other note of appreciation.

    I like to think of Vesta as signifying a space as much as what happens in the space, what happens with the energy within that space, which reminds me how important the boundary issues are; and i think devotion has its place..another story, perhaps another boundary story! And please remember take care of your body, ‘cos that’s where you live. More hugs ((()))

  8. Wow. I woke this morning with a clearer perspective than ever on how Vesta’s devotion-at-all-costs theme was masquerading as love in my world. Your representation of Vesta as going “either toward a clearer, more hands-on type of service to humanity and one’s own creative flame; or toward a type of self-sacrifice fueled by self-criticism and a crisis of self-esteem” could not be more timely, saddening, or profoundly necessary.

    The thing I’ve begun to love/dread about these Mercury retrogrades is that they get me out of my head (Mercury bang-on my Ac) where I’m capable of allowing that kind of self-criticism to fuel any number of soul-denying addictions (which codependency becomes), and into my body which will not tolerate it any longer.

  9. Arrowforwhere, thank you for sharing this. It has more pertinence to what is on my mind and in my heart for the past half year than you could imagine. I was shown a video today that was suppressed by American mainstream media and has deeply and irrevocably shocked me from my safe nest of denial. The video I’m referring to, a free journalism report, shows the rage and protest of what Jews in Israel call “infiltrators”, but are in reality Sudanese refugees who have fled the bloodbath in their homeland. Two minutes into watching I burst into tears and had to consciously decide to keep watching, this is the kind of behavior I cannot just deny and justify. I am shocked and horrified at the hatred and fear that the people of Israel displayed to their supporters, and their opponents. I do not call myself worldly or even well-educated, I do not call myself humble or innocent, I do not call myself righteous or strong, but I am drawn here to tell someone, anyone, that I am deeply and violently scarred by this disgrace the worlds “leaders” call activism.

  10. Hi Amanda, and Eric. Thanks for bringing this topic in. I heard about it some time ago and sensed it was very important, and to get a concise definition and to be challenged by it in the context of the astrology is helpful. One thing I noticed about the victim role in my life, along with and connected to the blameless part is ” Things only happen to me, I don’t happen to things”.
    Small personal story that I relate to this triangle(though I know your article is about more than this). Recently a young woman was sleeping on our porch at night in the city. When I saw her I slipped a pillow and blanket out the door. She continued to sleep there nights and one morning I walked out to a some sticky food garbage and the blanket strewn about. I decided that I wasn’t going to let her sleep there any more because having to deal with her refuse hurt my feelings. A few nights later I was watering my window box at midnight and she appeared below.” Hey, can I borrow that pillow. I was silent for a moment, and then told her that she had left garbage on our porch and no she couldn’t use the pillow. Had I let her use it, I would have been going against myself and entering the rescuer role. But of course the inner backlash. “Oh, you call yourself a liberal? What if something horrible happens to her?” “That was mean and cold as fuck” “It was just a little garbage… and on and on” But somewhere in there I knew that I had treated her as an equal. Somewhere….

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