The Astrological Mirror Game
By Anna Louise Vance
First published 1998
"Show me your company, and I'll tell you who you are" goes the proverbial saying. And other folk wisdom suggests that if you keep company with a wolf, you learn to howl. There is much truth to this. I have experienced myself changing colours like leaves in fall, depending on the quality of my company. With some people I'd howl, while with others I would purr and coo.
Without even noticing it, we daily satisfy projective expectations. Not our own, but those of others! In this article I will demonstrate how we comply with people's projections and show that such projections are laid out in the birth chart. Even before I became an astrologer, I noticed that slowly but surely I would start to behave in the very manner that the individual in my company perceived me. Some call it the chameleon syndrome. Now, I know that - being a Pisces - I am particularly susceptible to adapting to the prevailing winds.
In fact, just about everybody reacts to the mirror game that happens when two people have an encounter. In psychological lingo it's called "projective identification" which means in layman's language that we perceive in others those personality traits that we ourselves disown because of shame or mere unconscious-ness. Once we project our "stuff" onto the poor soul next to us, we treat and maltreat her as if she actually possessed this character flaw. And lo and behold: the object of our unclaimed shadow starts to play the part.
Moreover, we do not only project our shadow sides but also our unclaimed power. I have seen this at work many times in guru-devotee relationships, where disciples claim their Guru was flawless, infallible and oh so wonderful. Whether positive or negative, projections are powerful agents in relationship that make or break it. And - while on the receiving end - it can turn you into a meek sheep or a rabid wolf.
Let's see how we can astrologically define projective identification or the "psychological mirror game" as I like to call it. Let's start with Uranus. It's a pretty safe guess that most of you reading this article have Uranus prominently in your chart, tying in with personal planets and angles. Many of you are practising astrologers. Wouldn't you like to know how you are being perceived by your clients?
I suggest that before you start delving deeply into your client's chart, find out how well or badly Uranus - the symbol of our Aquarian profession - fares. An assessment of the state of Uranus in the client's chart will tell you right away how effectively you can work with her. Is Uranus hidden in her 12th House or brooding in her 8th? What about hard aspects to Saturn, or Neptune? If a couple of such debilitating conditions apply to her Uranus, you'd better put on silk gloves and get tongs before handling her chart, for she will look at you and know right away that you're no good or out to get her. On the other hand, if your client has Uranus in the 9th in a benign aspect to Jupiter or the Moon, she'll ask you for another appointment halfway into the session and she'll recommend your excellent services to her friends.
Since we're talking of a psychological mirror game, this projective process tends to operate in both ways: Sending, receiving, and sending back. This means - within the scenario of the client's afflicted Uranus in the 12th - that you, the perceived "dimwit" astrologer, will oblige her projection. You are prone to show up late for the session, and on top of that you've got her birthday wrong. Thus, you "successfully" played her Uranian script which was going to make you trip one way or another.
In another case, the psychological mirror game may make you come out smelling like a rose. For example, my dentist treats me like a movie star. He always asks for my opinion before he drills, gives me the mildest of payment terms, and took pictures of his splendid work in my mouth to be featured in a medical journal. He's got Uranus in his fifth House trine his Sun and Venus!
Another example out of my own life shows how easily we may fall into fulfilling projections that beam at us constantly just like radio waves do. In this case I was perceived in my Uranian mode as the astrological counsellor and I thrived under benign, even flattering projections mainly because anything Uranian in the transmitter's chart was in pretty good shape. For about a year I lived within a Sufi community where one of the core group members is a professional weaver. Natally she is an Aquarian and has Uranus in Taurus in the 7th trine to Neptune in Virgo in the Aquarian 11th House of friends. At the time that I lived in her proximity she received a third earth trine from transiting Uranus and Neptune in Capricorn, giving her natal Uranus an earthy and reliable grand trine to stand on. Many other factors in her chart showed that she was favourably inclined toward anybody who lived the Aquarian life.
Without any effort on my part, I confirmed the favourable Uranian expectations she projected onto me. To her satisfaction and unlike many other residents, I delivered the monthly rent check promptly on the first of every month. Again and again she would commend me on my professional initiative, as I was running in circles trying to get my counselling business established. "You're so down to earth and grounded," she would tell me. I was tickled because - other than my South Node in Virgo - I do not have any earth in my chart. "You drive by far the snazziest car of the Sufi bunch ," she said, not knowing that my Jaguar was a piece of disaster gobbling up my financial resources faster than gasoline. Finally, it was under her patient guidance that I hand-wove a colourful stole so long I could wrap myself two times over. Considering my legacy of failing grades and botched results in needlework and handicrafts, this was a truly stunning achievement. And on and on it goes. I've never been seen in such a warm earthy and sympathetic glow of projection. No wonder I purred like a happy kitten while basking under her beams.
Not everybody is publicly identified as a Uranian type, but we all do fall into definable roles that we can associate with astrological symbols. The Sun shows our ability to achieve prominence. It's where we shine the most. The Moon describes our role as mother and nurturer (with ourselves and others). Mercury defines our role as employee, sister and brother, neighbour and patient. It tells the story of how well we receive and give service. Venus reveals how gracefully we handle matters of value and heart. She defines our preferences as consumers and lovers. Mars defines us as warriors - how well we can assert ourselves. Jupiter describes us as travellers, teachers, and students of higher learning. Saturn shows how well we respect authority and where we need to become an authority ourselves. Uranus shows where we are outsiders. Neptune shows our artistic and escapist tendencies. And Pluto shows where we will go through hell and rise again.
As I understand the astrological under-pinnings of the psychological mirror game, I am able to foresee in the individual's chart projections long before the particular person comes into my presence. And I can brace myself for the projections that I'm bound to encounter. To un--der--stand the astrological dynamics of the mirror game, we need to find out where we stand symbolically in the other person's birth chart. And since nothing stands still in the universe, the mirror game can change from one day to another. Along comes a conjunction of Mars to Mercury and your friendly neighbour treats you like a criminal. All flustered, fists clenched and red in the face, he'll accuse you of having littered his driveway by not disposing of your fallen leaves. Obviously we cannot bask in the sunshine of benevolent projections forever; transits and progressions can upset the status quo in a moment. The same holds true for unfavourable projections: along comes Jupiter, conjoining the unfavourable 12th House Uranus of your astrological client and she'll write you a cheque for past services, while you had written off the whole thing as another business loss.
However, the state of the native chart is the bedrock of any relationship dynamics and this is where we start to look for the dynamics of the mirror game. Transits are but fleeting influences; don't count for them to last. Always refer back to the basics in the chart.
What follow are some astrological rules to help you navigate relationships that are not intimate. If you wish to understand the modus operandi of your employer or supervisor, check out the natal ruler of her sixth House as well as Mercury (natural ruler of the sixth). Also consider the cusp of the sixth, plus any planets in the House of service. This will give you an idea what she expects from her staff and in what light she will perceive your service. More significantly, such inquiry may well predict the calibre of your own work performance, since we always live up or down to the expectations that we encounter in the mirror game.
If you are about to share your home with a house-mate, check the status of her Moon before you open your doors! Let's assume she has an 8th House Capricorn Moon square Venus in Aries. Don't be surprised if pretty soon - under the beams of her negative projections - you start acting like a Capricorn scrooge, laced with Scorpio's paranoia and Arian bossiness. Given the unfavourable lens through which she perceives you, there is a good possibility that you will fulfill her negative expectations and get hooked into power struggles over dirty dishes, unpaid phone bills, and nightly visits by her lover. On the other hand, if your prospective roommate has a Piscean Venus conjunct Moon in the fifth, you can bet that she'll roll out the red carpet for you; she'll adore your creative genius, and share everything she has - including her lover.
Those among us who have receptive water planets in our charts are the most sensitive and pliable receivers of projections. The same goes for versatile and overly adaptable mutable signs, particularly Gemini and Pisces. Individuals who have a fair amount of fire and air in their charts are more inclined to broadcast strong projections themselves and thus turn everybody else into mere supporting cast in their mirror game. Earth people are receptive and comply with projective games - to a point. It takes them longer to change gears, and their down-to-earth common sense keeps them more rooted in their own identity than say a psychic Piscean who absorbs every bit of projection. Capricorns and Scorpios - although feminine and receptive signs - are more prone to mould others (or should I say "use" them?) - to fit their projective calculations.
We're not talking synastry here. I did not transpose my planets into the weaver's chart to see into which houses they would fall and how favourable they would aspect her natal planets. Neither did I compare my Sun to her Sun, my Moon to her Moon, etc. None of that. While I'm not suggesting that you dispense with synastric techniques, I simply propose an alternate route, possibly a short cut to understanding relationship dynamics that is independent of compatibility.
We all have our own unique mirror game built into our chart and positive compatibility between two people may sway our projections into a more favourable light. In the end, however, all the roads lead back to the native chart - that stands as an entity in and by itself and where our basic projections are laid out like a road map.
So take a good look at the birth charts of those who are in your company! And remember the tale of the ugly duckling. Once it changed company, it blossomed into a swan. Or as the folk wisdom goes: "A good companion makes heaven out of hell".
Anna Louise Vance is a professional counsellor and astrologer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This article was first printed in The Mountain Astrologer in 1998