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Mars Retrograde: What Do You Want? 

click to enlarge One of many Mars rovers, sent up by curious Earthlings.
  • One of many Mars rovers, sent up by curious Earthlings.

"My definition of learning is discovering that something is possible." —Fritz Perls

Our planet began its passage between Mars and the Sun recently, which astrologers call Mars retrograde. That started April 17 and ends June 29. Mars is rarely retrograde, so this qualifies as a special event. It will be retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio, and my horoscope will describe some of the particulars as they manifest by sign and rising sign.

We inherit Mars from its Roman origins as the god of war. In contemporary astrology, Mars is the planet of desire, drive, and aspiration, and potentially of violence and domination. Without whatever Mars symbolically represents in the psyche, nothing would go anywhere.

With healthy Mars, one is motivated, and connected to one's motives, and acts on them, more or less appropriately (and concepts of appropriateness constitute a central problem with the expression of Mars). When Mars is working well, it's about expressing the power of decision more than anything else. Mars can also represent curiosity, which is the intellect asserting itself into the environment (that of self, or that of the world around us).

There are two other possibilities. One is that Mars is allowed to run wrangle, trampling over people and things. This might come as aggression, greed, or transgression, which we see plenty of in the world today. Toxic Mars can be found lots of places, especially here in the age of the suicide bomber, stop-and-frisk, and the preemptive strike.

Another possibility is that Mars is turned against itself. An example of this is when a person has been pruned or transgressed (what we call "abused" in current parlance) and, naturally, they resent having been treated this way. Then, unable to push back, they turn that resentment onto themselves. This is really a form of self-directed attack, which usually manifests as guilt or depression. It can last a lifetime if not recognized and healed, and many people are walking around in this situation. The way I see it, one's experience of Mars falls into one of three main camps: a conscious, mediated response to desire; attacking others; or attacking oneself. There can be some combination, but usually one of these states dominates. I would propose that most people fall into the third category, living lives of guilty pleasures, self-criticism, resentment, and restraint that block the ability to express creativity or desire.

I cannot even count the number of clients who have told me they stayed in a relationship or marriage 15 years too long, knowing they were miserable. That's one metric. You can also hear it in how people speak about the things they want to do or like to do.

How many times have you been asked what you want, only to ask yourself what you're allowed to want? Or to ponder what you will give yourself permission to want? For many, it seems like the moment desire is evoked, it provokes some form of self-regulation or guilt. Desires are often substituted. If sex is considered bad, then chocolate might seem to suffice. This whole game eclipses an honest expression of one's existence.

It's no mystery that desire is a point of conflict, however. There seem to be two major forces working in society. One is advertising, which is stoking the fire of desire like sugar stokes the growth of cancer. Advertising is intended to drive desire out of control, fueled by the greed of the advertiser. It can be manipulative—you don't sell Mountain Dew; you sell sex on the beach. You don't sell beer; you sell the most interesting man in the world.

The second, counteracting, force is typically some form of religion, which is supposedly all about restricting desire. Religion figured out that core desire is sexual on the level of biology, and so it has long sought to inflict a specific injury to erotic feelings, including erotic curiosity—to shut down all natural feelings and inquisitiveness. This is often coupled with a direct attack on the biological realm: brainwashing us that the body and all its feelings are bad.

This process of injury is also used by seemingly secular society, which in the Western world closely tracks religious values. On what other grounds would a state legislature pass a law against sex toys? (That is the position of one of the leading presidential candidates.) Plenty of religious teaching comes through parents, school, the legal system, and various forms of peer enforcement.

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