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Dear Friend and Reader:

This is the lead article from Friday's subscriber edition of Planet Waves Weekly. Each Friday, we take on a new astrology topic of current interest and explore it from a perspective you won't find anywhere else. There are many more benefits to membership of Planet Waves, including the satisfaction of knowing you are a supporter of all the work we do at this website. I invite you to both take advantage of the excellent services we offer to subscribers, as well as an opportunity to make your contribution to this project. I hope you enjoy this article, and if you do, please sign up today.

-- Eric Francis Subscribe!

Mars Rex in Cancer: Get Over Thyself

A Decade of Mars Retrograde
Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.
Dear Friend and Reader:

MOST OF what astrologers do is help people get over their hang-ups and inhibitions. Astrologers work to peer into the psyche and better understand the inner workings of a person. We can allegedly glimpse the future or at least see how it's developing. Some astrologers help their clients solve problems, but for our average going rate of $100 to $300 per session, we are essentially motivational coaches.
We are high-tech cheerleaders with a fetish for astronomy, mythology and symbols. If we represent the gods, it's for the purpose of helping humanity do its thing.
Various shades of "you can do it" and "don't let your parents (or their dumb ideas about life) stop you" are stock-in-trade concepts for stargazers. Our working toolboxes are full-up with them, our desks and studios stacked with them: bits of wisdom earned, learned and collected over the years from experience, self-help books, EST trainings, summer camp counselors, our judo teachers and our therapists. These are then integrated with our understanding of charts and planetary movement, and with any luck the right message is delivered to the right client the right way at the right time. Fundamentally, astrologers are here to say "yes" to life and help their clients be themselves.
Simone de Beauvoir in her feminist masterpiece The Second Sex proposed that women in particular are so competently taught to be phonies (primarily by their mothers) that most have not the vaguest concept how to be themselves; nor what that real self might look or feel like. This creates a life based on one enormous insecurity -- that of being found out. Walking around with the constant sense that men, in particular, will see them as hollow can be extremely debilitating to live with.
Guys are given more freedom to be themselves, but little training or instruction in the introspective vision that would help them see themselves so they could be free of themselves. This creates a life based on one particular insecurity: that women have a better interior view of everyone than they do; that women have greater psychological mastery (which is generally true) and are therefore possess greater sexual advantage (not generally true). Most men are so mysterious to themselves that they are not even aware of the experience. At least most women know there are things about themselves that they cannot fathom.
It is impossible to say yes to yourself if you don't have an idea what you want, or if you know but are in constant conflict about it.
That which stops most people from saying yes to themselves can be summarized as hang-ups. We don't use this word much any more, but we need to. We need to because we are deeply enmeshed in the concept and experience of hang-ups, but we don't normally state this out loud. Snags and difficulties are supposedly good for the economy because they perpetuate struggle and keep us buying things we don't need. But they are bad for our personal contentment.
Most of them are emotional; they are lurking insecurities. Think of these as wordless inner barbs, gaps, self-misunderstandings, misgivings, judgments, lurking fears or inclinations toward conflict.
Many are mental -- such as dysfunctional ideas and beliefs, ungrounded expectations that keep messing us up, misinformation and self-defeating psychological tendencies. Some are rooted on both levels of the psyche and require both mental and emotional awareness, and process, to be liberated of. When you work as an astrologer, or a therapist, or a guitar teacher for that matter, you discover that most people are pretty insecure, and you also discover that they really don't need to be that way but often cannot seem to get over themselves.
Mars is Now Retrograde

A Decade of Mars Retrograde
Illustration of Mars explorer Spirit. Image: NASA.
Overnight Wednesday, Nov. 14 to Thursday, Nov. 15, Mars turned to retrograde motion in the sign Cancer, offering us the essence of an astrological event that speaks about working through our emotional snags, then going deeper and deeper underneath them, into Gemini until we arrive on the mental level. Beneath the deep and at times aggressive emotional world of Cancer, there is a plane of reality characterized by psychological dualism, dual motives, divided interests between people, and a divided perception of self where one part of the self can supposedly be against the "self interest" of another part of the self. These are aspects of the sign Gemini.
Cancer, where this Mars retrograde began, is a sensitive zone of our charts where we strive for belonging, safety and nourishment (or to provide these things for others). As part of that process, Cancer strives for something rarely mentioned in astrology texts -- individuality. It must do so within the context of striving to be secure in our family context. This is a razor's edge because so often it is the influences of our family that specifically make it feel dangerous to be authentically ourselves. In other words, Cancer may want us to strive for individuality, but if we fear that we will be rejected and cut off from sustenance, that presents a serious paradox. Unexamined paradoxes are excellent sources of hang-ups.
Cancer is closely associated with our early family environment, our parents and grandparents but principally mother (as the Moon's home sign). It's generally viewed by astrologers as a place where we can look for one aspect of the story of the past. Consequently, it's a great place to look for those emotional hang-ups rooted in the past that stop us from being authentically ourselves.
Mars is about desire, including and especially sexual desire. It is about getting what we want and what we need in any form that may come, as a conscious act of volition. Mars is that openly expressed "gotta have it" or "gotta do her" impulse that, whether we like it or not, and whether we claim to like it or not, helps make our world go round. Even passive people who gripe about how assertive others are, or complain about how often they are hit on, depend on the assertiveness of others so that things actually happen to them and around them.
When a planet turns to retrograde motion, and they all do, the experience of that planet changes several ways. In general, awareness of that planet's action is enhanced. To give an easy example, Mercury retrograde, by highlighting how much things can go wrong in the sphere of communication and technology, raises awareness of these very things, and hopefully we put that awareness to work in the future.
The action of a retrograde planet is either focused on one area of our lives, because the planet stays in one concentrated area for a while. Next, it is turned inward, and can be used as an introspective window. We typically have any shred of introspection bred out of our DNA by obsessive conditioning to worship the outer world. Too often, introspection comes as a result of pain and not often enough a conscious choice to see and feel oneself.
A retrograde planet can become a direct reference to the past. Retrograde planets can put us in contact with people, feelings, ideas, places and physical objects from the past, and help us recall what we have forgotten about in the past that would help us. I have noticed that a great many people want to run from the past without dealing with it, even a little. Excellent sources of hang-ups are unexamined feelings with origins in the past, events we are too scared or repulsed to remember, or influences we feel make us safe but really serve to make the world seem dangerous.
When you put Mars and Cancer together, you get the perfect image of looking within and seeing what is hanging up our progress in life. We get the chance to do deep work around our insecurities, and to consciously and by an act of free will work to resolve them.
A Few Comments About Sexual Hang-ups

Many of our hang-ups are either sexual in nature or have sexual origins. We don't like to admit this -- most people want to feel normal at all costs. But we are in general extremely insecure about admitting what we want sexually, and this relates to being seen as different (one of the lesser or a form of queer), and getting kicked out of the brood. many women are particularly vicious toward other women who are positive about sex and choose to exercise their freedom. Men, at least, support one another in getting their sexual needs met.
The more I learn about sexuality, the more I discover that there is no such thing as normal. Everyone has desires or needs they consider unusual or inappropriate, and these often become the subject of lies, secrets and silence; and as a result, develop into hang-ups.
Many sexual hang-ups are projected onto the body and take other forms. We may blame discomfort with our appearance for the refusal to seek the sex we need.
Photo by Eric Francis.
Photo by Eric Francis.
Many sexual hang-ups are directly associated with the theme of Cancer. In particular, we feel that it's noble to use sex as a bargaining chip to get our emotional and nourishment needs met -- i.e., it becomes the main glue of a relationship and of a household, and sex is only "appropriate" when it's applied as such an adherent. That is good as far as it goes. Unfortunately, most people are so disconnected from their true sexual needs, they have no dependable way to transact them with others.
Mars retrograde in Cancer can take us right to the core of that one colossal hang-up where we attempt to use sexual desire, of ourselves or of others, as a kind of currency that can be traded for food, shelter or emotional security.
Here are a few of the most common hang-ups, listed in general categories. If you recognize any of them in yourself, you are not alone. You don't need your hang-ups, but if you insist that you do, then you'd better keep them. If you decide you don't want them, they don't have to be yours. But I do recommend finding a good therapist to help you through the process. Friends are not therapists any more than they are podiatrists; they are friends. If you think you're hung up, I suggest a book called Games People Play by Dr. Eric Berne. I offer the following in the spirit of presenting options for what you have the option to get over.
Hang-ups over the past, parents, family, childhood. Many if not all of them come back to our family of origin. Here we have a distinctly Cancerian theme. Our parents may possess some wisdom, but for the most part, they are full of unresolved anxieties just like the rest of humanity. They pass these onto us; we tend to fear what our parents fear, but with some new twists. Shifting family structures, adoption, household instability and other factors lead to the fear of abandonment. Parental hang-ups take on other forms. An advanced writer in her late 40s said to me recently that she could not write the truth about her life due to fear of her parents seeing it. Forget that her parents would never see it unless she showed it to them; this is a thought that takes a vast multitude of forms. There are women who cannot orgasm because they are afraid what their mother would think. Freud called the restrictive device superego: that nagging, controlling voice of guilt, originally instilled by childhood authorities, that prevents one from living authentically.
Hang-ups over security. This is basically the fear that we cannot survive on the planet. Our parents were typically not so good at the whole money game, and scarcity consciousness is about the only thing that's abundant in most people's ideas about wealth. Our childhood environments tend to pass those negative expectations onto us. Parents, uncles, teachers and their cohorts are also famous for telling young people they will starve if they become an [artist / writer / dancer / photographer / name it]. Then there is the other kind of security: "You're lucky if you find a man that doesn't hit you." They all amount to programming that you're not safe on the planet, in your skin, in your life. This can stop you from doing just about anything you can think of, including getting yourself to a place, a relationship or a phase of life where you are actually more or less safe and secure.
A Decade of Mars Retrograde
Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.
Hang-ups over death. The fear of letting go in any form is really the fear of death, wearing a little puppet on its hand and taking many alternate forms, some of them highly creative. Jealousy is a common one, rarely recognized as such. The fear of change or loss of control in any form is really the fear of death. We cannot typically have the conversation to decode these things because the real topic, death, is taboo. If we don't consider death consciously, the idea of change is often experienced frighteningly as if it were actually physical death we were confronting. Change implies something happening that's out of our control; yet people also treat the kind of changes they might make voluntarily the same way; that change is the end of the world, instead of the end of the familiar life you're living. Thus many people avoid change at all costs. What many people forget is that without change, progress is impossible. But the unacknowledged fear of death at the core of this issue can make the prospect of any change terrifying. Many death fears are related to freedom. You may fear that you will die the moment you are content, or the moment you set yourself free.
Hang-ups over sex. These are closely related to the fear of letting go. There is a saying that "sex changes everything." Few areas of life are so specially demarcated as appropriate for anxiety as sex and its first cousin, love. Many of these hang-ups involve guilt associated with pleasure. If we did not feel guilty every time we feel good, we might want to feel good more often. Unfortunately, the guilt and the pleasure become associated such that we start to take pleasure from guilt -- and that is definitely a hang-up. Then there is anxiety we project onto our genitals, particularly about them being dirty or diseased. Fear of sexually transmitted diseases is a tangible form of genital anxiety. Then there is the fear of one's erotic feelings or sexual affairs being found out. As well, many experience sexual embarrassment with regards to their parents -- "what if my father/husband/priest/knew I was doing this?" Many people will cling to any excuse to cling to their sexual hang-ups. While you can indeed face judgment or punishment for expressing your sexual identity honestly, that is usually based on your choice of friends and community. Start by being honest.
Hang-ups about children. My favorite in this category is hiding breasts from children to protect them from what, I do not know. But ask nearly anyone why breasts should be covered up and they will say "to make sure kids don't see them," which is ridiculous because tits are for kids. Adults say and do thousands of things that are designed to protect the supposed innocence of children. This is then projected onto society in the form of restrictive laws that do nothing to actually help young people, which often mess them up, and which make life difficult for everyone else in the process. It also happens privately. One good example would be the hundreds of times I've heard people say, "I will end this unhappy marriage when my daughter goes to high school (or graduates from high school or college or whatever)." Supposedly designed to "help" the child, this places the burden of the miserable relationship onto the child, having a grossly negative effect and in all likelihood weighing him or her down for life.
Hang-ups associated with the fear of being loved. This is a big one; so big, it may be the atmosphere we breathe most days. Many people are perfectly aware they have it, but it serves a purpose -- to protect them from love. So many people run away the minute they discover someone loves them that it's almost a predictable response: when a relationship is going well, we expect it to end within 10 seconds. Thus, many will either leave the person first, sabotage the relationship, or not fully participate in the relationship. Mixed in with the fear of participating can be the fear of having to live up to someone's expectations, fear of losing one's freedom, and on the deepest level, the fear of surrender. There is a connection to abandonment here; if you're actually loved, you will also fear that love being taken away, or being made conditional. Often a difficult relationship will be used as a hedge against a friendly one, i.e., I like you but I have a boyfriend (who I am not really happy with, but I plan to stay there anyway, sorry).
Hang-ups associated with getting caught. The fear of being transparent, that is, being seen through, is one of the most poignant anxieties that exists. This is the same as the fear of people knowing how we feel; thus, we must hide how we feel from ourselves, so that nobody else finds out. Most people walk through life with an endless list of things they don't want others to know, even though they have very little to hide. The most common fear along these lines is the fear of being discovered being somebody else. Inside this endless loop, there is no escape. In order to be free, therefore, we need to get caught, reveal ourselves, and be authentic even when we think we're not actually doing it or doing it well. We need to live without a script, and that means facing our insecurities directly in the moment they arise, without attempting to cover them up with an act. You know you're in the right place when you get a positive reaction from people when you say something like, "I don't have a clue."

Eric Francis

CREDITS: Associate Editor: Priya Kale. Webmaster: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Proofreader and Fact Checker: Sara Churchville. Horoscope Editor: Jessica Keet. Associate Photo Editor: Sharon Bellenger. Business Manager: Chelsea Bottinelli. Published by Planet Waves, Inc., a Washington State corporation, all rights reserved.
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