Sight and Blindness in Giving Astrology Readings
by Hank Friedman
As I have matured as an individual, I have become more able to face myself and to be aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Though it might sound paradoxical, I have even come to be able to see some of my own blindspots!
As a practitioner of astrology, I have also had patterns that interfered with my ability, at times, to give the most effective reading to a client, and after years of feedback from clients and fellow astrologers, as well as my self-work, I have learned what many of these patterns are. I would like to share my pitfalls with my readers so that others can avoid my mistakes.
1. Ignoring the needs of the client.
A. People come to sessions with different needs. When I started doing readings, back in 1974, I was under the mistaken impression that astrology clients came to me to hear me tell them what I saw in their chart.
Then, a woman came to me -- for a chart reading -- in a hysterical state, and proceeded to talk nonstop for most of the session. Finally, towards the end, I was able to give her constructive feedback, but mostly without reference to her chart at all. It came to me that she didn't come for a reading of her chart, but instead to talk and be listened to. This was an important revelation to me, that my agenda might not be my client's!
Over time, I also came to realize that I needed to give a completely different reading to a person who has retired versus a person about to enter college, because their needs and places in life are very different from each other.
B. People come to sessions with different sensitivities. One of my early astrology readings was with a person who had had a bad education in astrology. Her teacher taught her that certain configurations were terrible, and that astrological events were frightening. On top of that, the client was extremely suggestible, and prone to over-reaction.
Fortunately, it didn't take me too long to become aware of these problems, and subsequently, I was very careful about how I delivered my information to her. This helped me to begin the process of paying more attention to who I was speaking to. Some people need a very positive and gentle approach, while others thrive on the direct approach.
C. Astrological jargon and concepts. I love astrology. Passionately. And could talk about it for hours. But after the first several years of doing readings, I came to realize that some of my clients didn't want to be taught astrology, nor hear the terminology at all. They wanted the life meanings that I saw in their charts, without any astrological verbiage. The first time I gave a reading without mentioning a single planet's name or sign -- because a client asked me to -- it was a breakthrough to me. I discovered that I could give a jargon-free reading perfectly well, and that while I missed teaching and the lovely terms and concepts, my client was truly served.
Now, when I give a reading, I try to remember to ask whether the client wants astrological cross-references or not. Surprisingly, most do want the astrological terminology, but now I can see the wisdom in both kinds of readings.
D. Too much information. When I started doing readings, my own personal insecurity and desire to please unconsciously drove me to try to give my clients as much information as humanly possible in each reading. I measured my performance by how many "bits of information" I had delivered. To do this, I had to talk very quickly for the entire reading, to fulfill my inner criterion. (This also meant that my clients couldn't get a word in edgewise.)
Then one day, I happened to do a reading after I had received a body-work session. For the first time, I was completely relaxed and in myself, and as a result, talked more slowly, and ... wonder of wonders, my client had time and space to ask questions, receive answers, and dialogue with me.
At the end of the session, I was struck by the fact that I had "delivered" only about 1/3 of the information I previously would have given, but that the reading was much, much better than previous readings.
E. Speak to everyone at their level of understanding. This Sufi expression illustrates a very important point. When I have had parents bring their young children for readings, I have had to completely change the way I talked about the chart. A child understands things very differently from an adult, and I learned to gear the reading to their level of comprehension.
2. My Personal Limitations.
A. One can't tell what one can't see. Just as someone who has not come to grips with their own addictions often cannot see them in others, I had fears and avoidance patterns that interfered with my perceptions.
For one, having grown up in a household traumatized by my father's sudden death (when I was five months old), I learned that the world was scary, and became afraid to see anything negative in life.
As a result, as an astrologer I was initially compelled to put a "positive spin" on everything that I saw in a chart.
While this actually did serve me and my clients on one level, in that I could glean constructive and mostly accurate meanings from any configuration or upcoming event, it also made me unable to truly take the measure of a person's chart and life. My skew had me expecting great things from everyone and from every event, and oftimes these never manifested.
I remember one time, for example, when I saw a powerful positive configuration about to occur in a client's house of career. I predicted that she would get a much better job. What I failed to see was that my client was perfectly content with life as it was, and had no desire nor interest in changing her job. Needless to say, nothing significant happened during that transit.
While I can say that my clients didn't have disasters in their lives that I didn't predict (probably because real disasters are quite infrequent), I often communicated inflated and unrealistic expectations about what was possible for them.
B. Life as a mixed bag. Similarly, since I didn't want to displease people, I would avoid focussing on the challenging areas in a chart as deeply as I would have been able to, had I not been afraid.
As I've grown, both as a person and as an astrologer, I now can see more clearly the interplay of light and dark in a chart without self-censorship, and can talk about both the strengths and difficulties in the chart constructively and honestly.
3. The Blindness of Astrologers.
Astrologers have their own set of specific blindnesses and potential traps, that come with the territory of giving delineations, acting with authority, and believing in specific systems of prediction.
A. Follow the teacher. All too often, astrologers passively and unquestioning follow the methods of their primary teacher. Since most astrology teachers have learned what works for them, their experience is very helpful to the beginning student, but inevitably, every astrologer has to make astrology their own.
Otherwise, they will repeat their teacher's mistakes, adopt their teacher's biases, and most importantly, ignore their own creativity, intuition, and insight.
B. Never test. In the same vein, most astrologers adopt one major approach (e.g. one house system, one set of aspects and orbs, one set of planets and points to use, etc.) and never question its efficacy.
When I first started doing Western astrology, I was guided by my Angels to purchase a specific astrology book (The Astrology of Inner Space by Carl Payne Tobey). In it, he explained that using a house system that places the MC at the top of the chart and the Ascendant at the left, is like mixing apples and oranges, i.e. using two coordinate systems instead of one.
As a result, I began two years of rigorous testing, comparing the Placidus system I was using with the Equal House system, which he endorsed.
At the end of my research, a full 100% of the feedback I received from clients about their lives supported Equal houses, so I left Placidus behind.
In subsequent years, I discovered that while most other astrologers never tested the house system they started with, to see if it was the most accurate, virtually all of the astrologers I met who did test different house systems had the same results that I did, i.e. they switched to the Equal House System.
Because astrological work can become so subjective, it is vital to test the accuracy of ones methods.
(Note: because I got into astrology to disprove it, I literally tested -- during chart readings -- every statement about the chart mentioned in several books, and therefore was able to discern which principles worked and which didn't.)
C. I'll try anything. I have met many astrology students and practitioners who "follow every fad" in astrology that comes along. They flock to the next housing system, the newest points (asteroids, comets, Arabic Parts, Fixed Stars, transplutonians, etc.), latest great aspect, etc. without mastering the fundamentals of astrology, nor developing their own solid approach.
If a person adds enough points to a chart, they can "explain" anything. But many astrologers don't understand that one can dilute their understanding by spreading themselves way too thin and acting as fickle as a butterfly, flitting from flower to flower with no resting place.
Exploration is all well and good, but a lifestyle of always pursuing the new is being at the service of the never-satisfied ego.
D. What I say is right, you must be mistaken. Another failing of many astrologers is getting so attached to their methods that if a client doesn't agree with what they've said, the client must be wrong.
In point of fact, if I bring up a theme to a client, and if they don't resonate with it, I explore it with them and we usually end up in agreement.
But I try not to "lay a trip on them" by sticking to a point when it clearly doesn't work for them. I instead take it as an invitation to learn astrology more deeply by listening to my client and learning astrology from reality, instead of imposing astrology onto reality (making reality fit my model.)
I hope that this essay helps its readers to become even clearer and more effective in their astrology readings, so that our beautiful art can flourish and serve.
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