Law of Aversion

By now it is no “secret” that just thinking about a thing doesn’t make it so. Not without commensurate work and hustle! I talked about this in my first post: Pack up the Moon. My tribute to “a whale of a teacher” Noel Tyl, whose tireless work ethic and a tremendous sense of responsibility transformed astrology. A most deserving recipient of the Regulus Award!

But you know I never was drawn to this idea that some hidden property mysteriously creates our prosperity. That we can grow rich by just thinking about it. That there is some mechanism in the mind that is freely available to all, if only you “think” properly doesn’t really seem like a real thing. I mean this sort of tripe has been parroted ever since Cotton Mather published his Boston Ephemeris and hundreds of pamphlets espousing a Puritanical moral high ground wrapped in the ethics of religiosity and sprinkled with astrology. But despite his influence he never attained the notoriety of his father, Increase Mather. Can you imagine? His father’s name was “Increase” and he was the President of Harvard for twenty-years plus many other significant accomplishments. Cotton wanted to live up to his father’s reputation. Talk about “daddy issues.” But these would go unresolved and the uber Aquarian that he was, the younger Cotton would just have to grin and bear it. Detach himself intellectually from others. But there is perhaps nothing else that will “Increase” a person’s “daddy issues” faster than the absenteeism of a father figure. Try as he might Cotton would never live up to his father’s stellar reputation. Despite his own prescriptions which he doled out freely in his pamphlets, he never quite seemed to be able to swallow his own medicine. And revisionist historians have had a field day with Cotton, dabbing his name in the scandals of a sorted past. Empirically, the historical needle of personal development seldom moves. The distribution of wealth and income has remained remarkably consistent through time and yet the self-help industry flourishes. But we don’t talk about the fall out. We only hear anecdotes of success. The newfangled preachers of the modern era sell sermons that haven’t changed very much since the “discovery of Cotton,” supported by today’s “science” the message is clear. You can change if you buy my pamphlet (newsletter, book, seminar). You can be rich. You can be famous. You just need to want to be these things: different from what you are. “Be like me!” is the message. Exploitation of the masses, like Sun sign astrology, obscuring the facts and truth with platitudinous generalities that have not much has changed in 360 years.

Sure things have changed, but the change you want versus what someone else wants for you are not necessarily equal. And the change that is external to you, as opposed to what you NEED or DESIRE within your core being may not be in the cards for you. So, I never quite understood how people could believe that a little Blue Fairy might make all their dreams come true. “Just sign here and you’ll be the proud owner of your own vitamin distribution business.” Or essential oils, or whatever. FACT! If you do not have the chutzpah we already know that 96% of participants in these schemes do not make money. Nothing’s changed! When astrologers take on the persona of the ‘little Blue Fairy’ I think it is a disservice to people seeking help. But this kind of magical thinking is pretty rampant today. Just one part of our small inheritance from Increase; that we ought to always strive for more. Be more than we are instead of being who we are. And I’m not really a cynic. Far from it in fact. But I’m not a card carrying “Pronoia” either. I just do my best to keep it real (#AstrologyIRL).

A far BIGGER SECRET was discovered by a couple of Israeli scientists in the 1970’s. They discovered that we hate to lose twice as much as we like winning. FACT! And so wouldn’t it be more effective to get a really good picture of what it is we are most afraid of, and avoid whatever that is at all cost? If it is true that we hate losing twice as much as winning, then this approach ought to be at minimum twice as effective in helping us reach our goals than chasing the shiny new object alone. Kahneman and Tversky, the two scientists who discovered and coded these behavioral traits, also known as heuristics, called this insight the Law of Aversion. I think this perception dwarfs the law of attraction. We will go out of our way, in some cases we will do absolutely anything, in order to avoid a thing we fear. or find loathsome or disgusting. Maybe the BIG SECRET behind the Law of Attraction, isn’t a secret at all: that we have a choice in what we attract to us, irrespective of the valence of the thing, and that whatever that thing is, it is in part driven by what we are most afraid of…

Fear is in the air! So to speak. The great mutation of Saturn and Jupiter is underway. And this “great mutation,” defined by the granddaddy of all conjunctions, is shifting from one element to another element: Earth to Air. It happens every 200 years. And there is a meta level shift within this epoch pattern which occurs when the grand conjunction returns to the same element. This larger cycle happens every 800 years. In other words, 800 years ago was the last time the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction occurred in Air Signs. And these fear plague us (pun intended: see first plague of 1220).

We don’t take these shifts lightly because the changes which ensue can be with us for centuries to come. For example, the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction is theorized by some astrologers to represent the “Star of Bethlehem” which guided the Three Kings in their journey to the holy crèche holding the baby Jesus. If true, then this is an example of how BIG things happen around these epoch shifts within the planetary cycles. The focused structure of hope that the ‘Prince of Peace’ is born was certainly a big shift.

Another cycle that occurs with regular and more frequent periodicity is the Sun-Moon cycle with which we are all familiar. Literally, we set our watches to the movement of the Sun. A friend of mine uses “lunations” brilliantly in her work: New Moon to Full Moon and back again, with concomitant phases in between, but of most significance she hones in on eclipses. At various points in time, “lunations” align such that the Sun and Moon occupy a point on the same latitude as the Earth. Geometrically speaking all three bodies can be connected by a single line: they are in alignment. This is a simplified definition of an eclipse. We experience 5 eclipses per year on average, ranging between 3 to 7 per year. They come and go like Mercury retrograde periods and then life moves on. You would think with all we know that people might not behave as though the sky was falling every time one of these events occurs. But I think people like to panic and over react to things irrationally because that is how our brains work. We are hard wired to avoid loss, what we fear and what disgusts us, is twice as motivating as what attracts us. Our ancestors owe their survival to this mechanism that social scientists call “cognitive bias.” And I believe this phenomena is related to how our Moons describe our “reigning need” [Tyl] and are affected by the intersection of life and the stars. We are lunatics.

I remember the last snow storm we had. Not quite a blizzard in the forecast but the weather channel predicted a significant storm. We decided to head over to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I lived in the north country for a spell, near Canada. I love driving in the snow and going out in the storms. Canadians are weird like that. And I brought some of their fondness for foul weather home with me. So, heading out to grab a few snacks ahead of the storm was no big thing. After all, we needed to stock up for some binge watching on Netflix. You would of thought that there was a national emergency declared. When we walked into store it was mayhem. People were literally running from aisle to aisle scrambling to grab whatever they could and stuffing their grocery carts. The air was thick and palpably charged with anxiety. You could feel it. It was so uncomfortable, being all bundled up for -40, and now overheated inside the store, the crowd growing anxious and FOR NO APPARENT REASON. My yoga and meditation earlier that morning hadn’t prepared me for this. We were witnessing a literal “run on the store” and were nearly trampled reaching for the gluten free coconut peanut butter cookies. Who the hell would trample someone for gluten free anything never mind coconut peanut butter cookies? But there we were. Amygdala heavy pumping cave people. I’m afraid to say, we joined the fray. We had no choice. So, we grabbed our favorite superfood snack and headed for the self checkout lane as if we were about to be eaten by a lion. We needed to get the heck out of that jungle!

Mercury orbits the Sun in 88 days and appears retrograde for roughly 3 to 4 weeks at a time. The retrograde period occurs on 3 to 4 separate occasions throughout the year. I have some detailed notes somewhere on this phenomena and the long term pattern of the cycle. I will come back and share a more thoughtful discussion in a separate post. For our purpose here I just want to reiterate that the retrograde period of Mercury comes and goes, like all the cycles with great fanfare and then we are on to the next one. But here’s the thing, not all of these happenings are significant in retrospect. Still, people tend to get their panties in a bunch in anticipation of what the retrograde, eclipse, or great mutation might mean. FACT! The anticipation of these events before the fact, tends to be more worrying than the experience of the events after the fact.

When we got home with our superfood, we watched every episode of Stranger Things, and ate all the cookies. We got about two inches of snow. Enough to cause havoc in Los Angeles, but here in the Hudson Valley, 2 inches of snow is barely enough to get the shovel out. We sweep that stuff away with a broom.

Unless the Sun and Moon together are touching planets or points in your chart then the eclipse probably doesn’t “mean” anything for you personally. Although the eclipse could very well be significant for the public at large under certain circumstances, it probably won’t register much on your personal meter. Same goes for Mercury retrograde. It seems that our apprehension and excitement most of the time ends up being lot of wasted emotion and a poor use of energy, like when we rush off to the grocery store before a snow storm that never materializes. We fall headlong into panic mode as if it were the Great Blizzard of ’88 all over again. That’s 1888; as if we had no clue, no snow tires, no four wheel drive, and no up to the minute update on the weather channel telling us the revised forecast: less that two inches.

We are creatures of habit. And our reactions are often operating at unconscious levels to stimuli outside of our awareness. How we make “decisions” are on autopilot. In this example, the run on the store, there is a false perception of scarcity, the possibility of being without something unusually drives frantic and near absurd behavior. We over react. We instinctively try to compensate in advance against the threat of loss. As I just mentioned, Kahnneman and Tversky identified this reflex of the mind as a heuristic. Originally, they discussed three heuristics: availability, representation and then anchoring and adjustment. Their paper was called “Prospect Theory” and in it they analyzed how people make decisions in the face of risk and uncertainty. There have since been other heuristics, or “mental short cuts” described in the cognitive psychological literature but here I think we are mostly talking about loss aversion: scarcity in the face of risk and uncertainty. Astrologers exploit this habit of thought like nobody’s business. It’s good for business! Cotton would be so proud of or Patagonia perspective to perpetually recycle everything in sight.

Kahnneman and Teversky were social scientists. Their big breakthrough was connected to the discovery that our decisions are not as rational as we like to think. We’re emotional. Driven by our Moons. Our biology may have more control over our decision making and how our minds decide than we want to admit. AND in emergencies this can be an extremely good thing. Why? Because the brain “thinks too slowly” when fractions of a second count. The odds of our survival as a species has been vastly improved thanks to our capacity to make decisions “without thinking.”

It’s probably a good idea to panic if you are being chased by a grizzly bear, or if you haven’t caught a fish in a week and live alone on an island. But the problem today is that our biology software hasn’t gotten an upgrade in quite a while. The body still operates in the same fundamental way that it has operated for over 5 million years… and no doubt this is a good thing, just in case that grizzly bear shows up. But grizzlies rarely show up at the grocery store. And I suppose this is one reason we “enjoy” horror movies; just to be sure that our primitive Labrador brains are still in good working order. The problem we run into in the real world is that these primitive systems can get in the way of making better decisions; even though there is no grizzly bear there. No bear there! Our Labrador brains tend not to be good stock pickers and tend not to be very good at arguing with our spouse or partner. They get us into more trouble than out of trouble. To be sure our biology creates mixed signals and noise that affect our decisions; the signals get distorted by our emotion. Developing a rules based dispassionate approach to make decisions proves to be a more effective approach. Whenever possible, like Mr. Spock, keep your emotions in check.

Astrology is the perfect science, albeit a sacred science, to help achieve this aim. Set up a filtered sort of only the most reliable progressions and transits. Limit the noise! Eliminate clutter from the chart. Minimize the data points and narrow the focus. You will get #AstrologyIRL a real life practical perspective that you can work with. Lose the fear! You have everything to gain by it. I suppose the alternative still exists for those who wish to abide by it, to be exploited by the self-help charlatans willing to part you from your money. But let’s be fair. Promising you a future like the little Blue Fairy isn’t fair. You’ll be waiting. Like, well, like you are waiting for…

11 responses to “Law of Aversion”

  1. Loved it! Very refreshing views and your writing is impeccable! I agree with you about the self help aspect 100% ! Everyone is selling something to make people “better”, instead of allowing people to accept themselves as they are. It’s very tiring to witness 😂 Thanks for another great piece!

    1. Wow! Helen thanks so much. As I shared elsewhere the reddit communities have been overwhelmingly supportive. One kind writer suggested I add missing citations. He’s right of course. Especially regarding the fallout of MLM companies. Another felt I might be able to distill my writing flow more. It is such a painful process but so rewarding. I’ll just have to keep at it and with feedback like your to think about the heavy lifting just got a little lighter. So again, thank you so VERY much!

    2. Very insightful!

  2. Christopher Bamburg Avatar
    Christopher Bamburg

    Awesome insight and I very much agree. Very interested in what else you might have to say. Thank you!

  3. Very nice! Write more.

    1. Thanks KC… I’ve written and thrown away 100,000 words. I am not giving up however and your kind message mean a lot. I am turning to John McPhee and Julia Cameron for guidance. And suddenly the light 💡 has brightened. Thanks again…

  4. […] last post to borrow a phrase from a reader who shared some feedback with me on my Law of Aversion post, was a “wall of text.” It is not my intention to build walls. I want to build […]

  5. […] than I do. I sincerely hope you are not one of them. I hope you do not know any of them. In my post Loss Aversion I did not want to minimize the possibility of crisis. But only communicate that the “odds” of […]

  6. Very interesting article!

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