Spotting False Selves
During all that intensity last month Pluto quietly stationed in the 14th degree of Capricorn to begin its current retrograde passage. Most people know Pluto to be a planet of immense transformation alongside deep suffering, and in its on-going square to Pluto it reminds us that it is often the change we most resist which liberates us the most once done and dusted! The trouble is, oftentimes we don’t actually want to be liberated, preferring, instead, our familiar and cosy, narrow life which is both predictable and controllable, even if the prediction is misery and the control is over factors which, ultimately, we would be better off without.
When retrograde, a planet turns us inward towards our core self, to identify its components and discover what we’re actually made of. This retrograde passage of Pluto asks us to examine those aspects of self and experience with which we identify most readily but which are in fact merely convenient hooks for a tired-out and battle-worn identity. Put another way, Pluto exhorts us to spot our false selves, created through fearful adaptation and a need to be safe rather than authentic, for in doing so we can more readily know our true self when it emerges into the light.
The challenge of last month’s Cardinal Cross and the eclipses either side of it presented us with a stark choice: change or sink deeper into the morass of emotion, beliefs, thoughts and behaviours which have become our familiar burden. Many felt intimidated by the choice or the demands that making it placed upon them. It wasn’t an easy time, that’s for sure. But even the tiniest effort to let go an old and outworn perspective, behaviour or belief is now planted in the soil of our future and is taking root as we speak. Change doesn’t have to be huge and life-changing in a single moment. In the modern world where food is fast, the internet connects us all in real time and even the ‘spiritual marketplace’ is full of exhortations to get-rich-quick and fulfil your dreams in an instant, it’s easy to assume that if we can’t transform our life overnight we must be missing something. But this isn’t true, and in the coming months Pluto encourages us to recognise just how deep transformation needs to go for lasting change to occur, and how much time it can take for that to happen.
Habits of mind and emotion are powerful forces in our lives. When the present triggers the past we are all too easily caught up in a whirlwind of energy which sucks us into unconsciousness before we know it. And because we’ve been there so many times before it all feels so real and true: here we are in that same old situation feeling the same emotions which bring us down just when we really need to stay resilient and focused. As much as we may hate it, we also know it so well and in a funny way it’s almost reassuring that, just as we predicted, life has apparently served up another bowl of lemons. So off we trot to bemoan how we’re in the same old situation again and then we receive the same old sympathy again and so it goes on. Whilst all the time another part of us just wants to change and move on.
Or does it? Because if we really want to change and move on surely we’d just stop doing the same old thing over and over? We’d react differently, not get sucked in, not run for support like we have a million times before, or refuse to ask for help when we know we really need it, but instead find a new way to be within the situation… surely?! You would think so, yes, and yet so often we don’t. Human beings are creatures of habit and no more so than when it comes to emotional patterns. Managing our emotional landscape with insight and wisdom is one of the greatest challenges and achievements of the human condition.
Which is why we are lucky to have Pluto as an ally right now, because it strips away all the red-herrings to reveal the real issue behind all these problematic patterns: we identify with them so we have energy invested in them. Hence, to discard them is to discard a part of ourselves and who in their right mind would do that? In effect, we need our problems to tell us who we are. Without them we would be lost. They feed our ego and, despite the pain, they give us an identity which we can use to navigate our way through the world around us.
Have you ever received criticism from someone who matters to you? Hurts, doesn’t it? Because you have energy invested in that person having a particular opinion of you, when that opinion changes it shakes something inside. Compare that with criticism from someone who’s of no importance whatsoever – somehow it lacks the intensity of the previous scenario. It’s easier to shrug off or disregard, because their opinion is largely irrelevant to our sense of self. Our problems are a lot like this. We can be faced with what, to one person, may be a huge challenge but to us is just a minor blip because we don’t have our energy invested in that bit of our experience. Likewise a minor upset can occur which many would shrug off, but which to us is the end of the world because it touched a place in our own psyche where we have energy invested in things being a certain way.
In the coming months Pluto will reveal where we turn minor blips into major disasters by thrashing around, desperately trying to wrest back control. Thankfully it will also reveal a wiser way of handling things, in which we do not invest our energy and identity in our pain but instead make more empowered choices to rise above the petty concerns of the ego and embrace the greater motivation at the very heart of all that is: to be fully alive and fully awake no matter what. As we do so the pain itself can begin to fade and we can begin to live, more free, more authentic and more…well… alive, than ever before. Yes it takes time and it’s a process, but change can happen in every moment, and with Pluto beside us every moment is ripe for transformation if we can let it be so.