Creative Connections & Client Communications
Counseling Insights 11/30/03Double-Feature Reprieve
”The Surprising Question” and “Managing Anxiety”
--The Following two essays for “Counseling Insights” appear in the Archives of that Department for July 30 and June29, 2002. As I go over these essays regularly to continue learning, to recall helpful ideas, I keep coming back to these two special presentations. They speak to me, and I hope the reprieve of them here re-alerts us strongly to the reservoir of important discussions contained in the Archives of each of the essay Departments on this website … over 160,000 words so far!Creative Connections & Client Communications –Asking the Surprising Question
A key modality in the consultation process, bringing the horoscope to the client’s life, is to stimulate disclosure. That’s the only way the astrologer can learn and appreciate the reality being lived by the client. It’s like turning a kaleidoscope: we have all the patterns before our eyes, but several turns are needed to create fine-edge focus and complete relevance of the design. THEN, the horoscope embraces the life development.
We do this through dialogue, through creative questioning and creative listening. –Please see Tyl-The Creative Astrologer. Also please see “Counseling Insights” [Menu] Archives, July 15, 1999.
One of the great detours/mistakes taken/made by astrologers is to concentrate on describing the client. The analyst does NOT describe the client; that’s a one-sided fortune-telling posture. Instead, we identify the client by asking questions creatively, questions that require more than a Yes-or-No answer. This is how discussion and disclosure begin. This is how we bring the individual horoscope TO life.
For example: observing an Eastern Hemisphere orientation [see “Analytical Techniques,” Archives: July 15, 1999; Synthesis & Counseling in Asctrology, pages 5-34] with Pluto square, conjunct, or opposed the Moon relates the defensive life posture of the client to a primal cause of an intrusive mother or confining female relationship during the formative years.
With the client,we don’t just say that! We offer, “The horoscope suggests a defensive posture here, emerging out of your development, especially in those early years. What was the role your mother played in the development of that posture?”
It is easy to see the reward potential of that approach. Your client is immediately involved in depth in the analytical process. And—if you are a creative listener—magic appears during your client’s response.
Sometimes the question can be “surprising, unusual.”
Recently, sitting at dinner with six people –certainly not an astrological consultation atmosphere—I found myself feeling a bit uncomfortable with the lady to my left, foreign born, wearing tight rings on each Saturn finger [See “Notebook,” for July 15, 1999].
The lady seemed emotionally tight, a bit aloof; afraid to open up; perhaps intimidated somehow by the setting and people present. I asked her the polite questions about her husband, about her work, and then I tried something: I asked the surprising question as if we were in a consultation. I asked it calmly, non-dramatically, and waited patiently for the answer without any sign at all that the question had been un-expectable.
“How many children do you have?” --Three.
…and here it comes: gently, matter-of-factly, “Why?”
There was a fleeting moment of surprise, I think, but the lady kept it in check and proceeded to answer this way: “Well, the third child … we hadn’t really planned it, but we felt the soul of that child waiting around us somehow, you know, to be born through us. My husband had some difficulty with that, but we talked about it a lot, and then the child was indeed conceived and born and …”
Out came this richly dimensioned story which opened the lady up beyond her customary privacy and discipline. All of this, just because I had asked “Why?,” when no one in the world would ask that! --It seemed to me that the woman enjoyed telling the story; it showed more of who she was.
Another example –and I have used this technique/question many times: a man –married, with a family—was troubled for many years with very difficult self-worth concepts. Opportunities for professional advancement –a new life chapter—were presenting themselves. Who would go forward? The “old” self-deprecating man or someone refreshed, unloaded of the excess weight that had hung around his neck routinely?
Our conversation slowed down, and there was a moment of stillness. My client was sad. Everything had registered: the depressed way of seeing himself, how that was communicated to others, and more.
I said calmly and quietly, “George, let me ask you a question that might surprise you.” --He nodded permission.
“All things considered, George [and it is wise to use the client’s name at such a poignant moment of identity focus], why does your wife love you?”
--Well, you could have heard a pin drop across town! George raised his eyes and met mine, his look supported by a faint, knowing smile. I just waited as his mind –his unconscious and conscious faculties—whirred to answer that surprising question, which he probably had never ever thought of before!
And then, George began to tell me --and himself just why his wife and children loved him and respected him, how different that was from his early homelife and upbringing, and more. ---NOTE: it wasn’t a question of did they or did they not; my question was an “assumptive” question, assuming they did, and George and I needed to know the details, to have them brought forward!
We began to discuss how that could be remembered daily and how those feelings and refreshed self-awareness could be brought front and center in his new image for the opportunities ahead.
And then, there is the “What if” technique. The client can be telling you quite a tale about relationship discord or problems at the office, all focused somehow on certain behaviors, attitudes, or ways of communicating that are habitual, unthinking, routined with her or him. Obviously, you realize that if the customary behavior can be changed –and the client might not even be aware of the off-putting nature of that behavior-- reactions to the client will change. [It can be something as elementary, as basic, as table manners or turns of phrase, which are habitually unbecoming.]
Say to you client, “OK. I think I understand what you are saying. So let me ask you this: “What if you ____________________? What would happen then?”
You outline with enthusiasm some changes in the observed behavior; you ask how his image would change and what that would mean.” --You are alerting his self-objectification dramatically.
For example, I counseled with an executive who had a deep problem that manifested in a pesky way of referring to his work: he simply didn’t believe he was in a respectable profession, as a senior salesman for an industrial corporation. I traced this attitude back to his father’s adamant warning long before … that salesmen were frowned upon in society and that he would doom his life and his family status to secondary levels if he pursued “sales.”
My client, every time he referred to business activities, strategies, and gambits would say, ”And all that garbage.” --Now, think how people around him felt about the work they were doing when they heard him referring to “all that garbage!!!” –It was surprising to me that my client had advanced so far. He had talents, be he had little grace; his inner loathing for himself because of his job, through his father’s admonition, was showing through.
I suggested firmly, paternally: “Now, listen up: I personally find that statement of yours –which I’ve heard often in our discussion, ‘all that garbage’, objectionable, and I’ll bet many others working with you do too. What if you changed that?” Instead of “all that garbage, what about saying, ‘and all those things that make our world go ‘round’ or ‘the business moves that create success’ or those difficult tasks that pay off more often than not’? What would that change do for you?”
Well, I made it stick, and my client became so confident of the ‘new way’ of expressing himself –which, symbolically, was getting rid of the albatross-father’s projection—that he left his excellent job and got an even higher-paying one with even greater sales-management outreach!
--Sharpen your questions. What you hear will bring your client’s astrology sharply to life. “Managing Anxiety”
The Time Magazine cover story, June 10, 2002 is on “Understanding Anxiety,” and so are the powerful pages in Synthesis & Counseling in Astrology, 351-365, and 378. Several times in the excellent Time article, the point is studied, “Are some of us just born more nervous than others? Is anxiety ‘hardwired in our brains?’”
The Time report and we astrologers do agree that, yes, the propensity for worry, for preoccupation with fears, for headlong drops into depression are part and parcel of being who we are as individuals. Our brains are “hardwired” to one degree or another, into one set of directions or another. Indeed, parental modeling plays a great role [See The Astrology of Intimacy, Sexuality & Relationship]. But each of us seems to have a differently responding rapport with the “sort of feeling that sneaks up on you from the day after tomorrow.” We can feel how we’re programmed to react, to behave, and it appears unavoidable and distressful.
I was pleased not to read in the report anything astrology doesn’t know. –We have done our homework over the years and we assimilate the concept of anxiety well in our modern era. We’ve been guided strongly and effectively by psychology theorists like Rollo May who states flat out that anxiety is essential to the human condition, that it keeps us alive. He says, “The positive aspects of selfhood develop as the individual confronts, moves through, and overcomes anxiety-creating experiences.”
Psychology theorists like Harry Stack Sullivan who emphasized that “the self is formed to protect us from [debilitating] anxiety.”
Theology theorists like Paul Tillich showing how important and interrelated are the critical anxieties about death, meaninglessness, and guilt; and Soren Kierkegaard, “the more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety,” i.e., that person has more resources, options, decisions to make, paths to travel … [and] anxiety is always oriented toward freedom.
Anxiety is the fuel to get us to freedom.
We’ve been guided as well by the grand psychological school of thought we call Behaviorism, all about respondent conditioning: we do “this” because of “that” and a chain of cause and effect is created.
I long ago submitted that astrology does not record coercive pushes by fate but reflects guidelines to understanding an essential developmental process over time, fraught with growing pains. The horoscope shows the developmental tensions within the conditioning process in relation to the key areas of our individual personality growth. The judgements of these tensions that give them value evolve within the person during her or his emergence into adulthood, as experiences are assimilated, points of view are established, and behavior patterns are routinized. --People do things; planets don’t.
I was glad to see in the >I>Time article the inclusion of a “What you can do” section that covered Behavioral Therapy, Antidepressants, Tranquilizers, Exercise, Alternative Treatments, and Life Style Changes. And, as well, that which I think astrology can accomplish so well with clients who are dealing with nagging tensions or out-and-out anxiety patterns: Cognitive Therapy.
Time reports: “Rather than expect patients to embrace anxiety, cognitive therapists encourage them to use the power of the mind to reason through it … to reconfigure their view of the world and develop a more realistic perspective on the risks or obstacles they face.” [[Read that again, please!]]
Now, all of these clinical references need not frighten us away. The references are precisely what we astrologers do in a rich consultation: we help the client understand creatively the connections between feelings/behavior and the sources of those emotive patterns, which very often occur in early life development.
Cognitive Therapy In the 1970s, two psychoanalysts, Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, focused on the importance of their clients’ thoughts and beliefs about themselves. “Cognitive Therapy embraces a number of psychotherapeutic approaches that have in common the assumption that our thoughts or cognitions (what we know) have a great influence on our emotions and the actions we take in life. We all, to one degree or another, take on emotional disturbance because of the unhelpful way we [can] think about ourselves. [[--Ponder that statement!!!]]
“This theorization is very powerful and was the beginning of our seeing depression as unexpressed anger being turned inwards. Phrases like ‘maladaptive thinking’ and ‘overcompensatory or displaced reactions’ became important to describe cognitive therapy at work.”
**Frequently, into the place where I have lunch practically every weekday, a lady arrives with most subtle inner-self fanfare hinted at in her walk and demeanor. She comes in alone; usually there are friends in the café whom she joins after placing her order.
When she enters the café, her face lights up noticeably (purposely), a leonine entrance –for herself or for whoever may be watching; she checks right and left, without really seeing; her arms lift reflexively about 4”, as if to begin to say “Hi!” to everyone, anyone. All these movements are spontaneous in start-up and then muted; held in check in expression, but they are there. Then she goes directly to put in her order, eyes straight ahead. –This lady makes these moves every day, even when there is no one there whom she knows!
It is as if she fears people whom she may join are talking about her arrival or will not receive her with a secure-making welcome. There is a behavioral knee-jerk, highly conditioned and patterned behavior going on here, which is just fine, but it is certainly a clear symptom of her mind working anxiously against her. --Where was she rejected routinely before? Why do those conditions still exist, perhaps 40-some years later? How real are they? If she understood this, maybe she could lose weight, feel less socially ill at ease, and avoid the routined anxiety about entering a public place. Etc.
I have subsequently found out this super-nice lady’s birth data: she has Pluto square her Taurus Sun, a Leo Ascendant, and Saturn retrograde. –We are seeing the stifled pride still trying to emerge through routinized confinements.
Explaining anxiety concerns/conditions like this to clients, with clients, is not difficult if we astrologers understand first, if we do our homework, read and study, and observe. Our job is not to read a planetary riot-act and pronounce gloom and doom; rather, our mission is to support and free up our clients; to help with efficiency, helping to cast off extra, useless baggage, and illuminate the individual’s light as never before within the human condition.
Astrology is at one voice with the Time report.
---Next update: December 31, 2003