Processes in Gestalt Therapy and Their Application to Astrology

Astrological Chart

By Gwynne Mayer
Authors Note: This was written in the 1980’s to augment my classes in Gestalt and Astrology. Thought you might see some applications you might use.

PROJECTION —  a trait, attitude, feeling, or bit of behavior which actually belongs to your own personality but is not experienced as such; instead it is attributed to objects or persons in the environment and then experienced as directed toward you by them instead of the other way around.  We all project in many areas of our life.  Hopefully, we can be more aware when accuse, blame or criticize others and start to see what part of ourselves we are accusing, blaming, or criticizing.  To “own” a projection is a goal we should strive for.  This means that we must look at both sides of the projection and carefully examine the polarities.  Astrologically, the areas of projection…are all 180 degree oppositions to your signs and houses and planetary positions, 7th house planets emphasized, oppositions are all very important, also opposite points from stellium.

CONFLUENCE –The area of sympathy in our lives where we are like the other person; when we have no discrimination between boundaries.  This state of being is manifested by crying, illness, exaggerated sympathetic reaction, total involvement with the person.  Areas in Astrology in which this occurs are conjunctions with your planets of Neptune, Venus, and Piscean influence.

INTROJECTION — some judgment or saying that you have swallowed whole without comprehension, analyzation, or discrimination.  This usually comes in the form of beliefs or judgments that you accepted, without questioning, from your primary caretakers.  These are manifested now by you when you hear yourself repeating the same judgments or beliefs either about yourself or to your children, as if it were TRUE, which usually it is not.  We need to examine these areas carefully to see if they are truly acceptable to you or if you are ruled by old BELIEF SYSTEMS OF WHICH YOU ARE UNCONSCIOUS…

The introjections can cause many problems unless we become conscious of them.  Some problems are manifested outwardly because of this; obesity, castration complexes, impotence, diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, colitis, stomach cramps, arthritis, etc.

Astrological counterparts would be 4th and 10th house emphasis, afflictions to Saturn or the Moon, afflictions in the signs of Cancer or Capricorn.

RETROFLECTION — when a person does to himself what originally he did or tried to do to other persons or objects.  He stops directing energy outward; instead he redirects activity inward and substitutes himself in place of the environment as the target of behavior.  This response or lack of response is usually due to something we have been punished for earlier in life.  The martian energy in a chart may be turned inward. such a Mars/Mercury conjunct, squared, or opposed Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto…and also the Moon can play a big part in this as can the Sun…


Imagine an HOUR GLASS and at the top of the hour glass we have THE ROLES

WE PLAY (as if/sympathetic/clichés/manipulation)…The games we play

within those roles are: helpless, keeper, good boy, stroker, ego ideal,

persona, self systems.  The way to get out of those roles is to:  1. Give

up selling yourself, 2. Give up your self ego, 3.  What would happen if I

stop pretending?

As we move down the hour glass, before we land in the middle, we come to

the PHOBIC STAGE… (Fear of pain, interruption, confusion compulsive

repetition)…In this space we are AFRAID TO BE WHAT WE ARE…It is where

our addictions, attitudes, dread, unwilling to go through pain,

maintaining the status quo… The way out is:  1. Develop discipline, 2.

Be willing to suffer pain, 3.  Encounter unpleasantness, 4.  Discover

what you don’t to do…WHAT DO YOU WANT?  Astrologically look for Pluto

Squares. and Shadow figures in the chart… (mostly in 12th house or

rulerships therein…but can be found in almost any polarity…)

In the center, you are in the IMPASSE, (stuck, emptiness– loss) You are

at CENTER OF THE NEUROSIS (Blue baby, not willing to see fantasy based

distortion)  The way out of this is: 1. Make existential leap, 2.

Rebirth, 3.  Here and Now with experiences, 4. Jump into the void (not

the void dance), 4.  Give up the fantasy of being stuck.

Astrologically these areas are found in Saturnian’s and Neptunian

involvements primarily of aspects to the Sun and Moon.

The next step is IMPLOSION (frozen, contraction, compressed) This is a

place experienced as autistic (catatonic–nothingness, convoluted

impatience, potential violence, double bind.  The way out is 1.  Reinvest

vital energy, 2.  Come to your senses, 3.  Become response able, 4. Use

your own resources, 5.  Rekindle primary vibrancy. This most often

happens with several of the outer planets making aspects to the angles…

or luminaries…will cause people to seek out help because it hurts too

much to not seek help…Neptune..Mars, Saturn, Mercury….

The Final Step is EXPLOSION (Authenticity) …the way we see this acted

out is a Real Person, being mobilized, spontaneous, truthful, adapting to

life. and alive with energy.  The way we maintain that state of being is

1.  I am what I am, 2.  Give yourself grace, 3.  Call on creative

transformation, 4.  Will yourself out of existence, 5.  Thy will be done.

Sun, Moon, Mercury…Uranus..transits…Moon progressed…Pluto


Projection – Reverse of introjection. As introjection is the tendency to make the self responsible for what actually is part of the environment, so projection is the tendency to make the environment responsible for what originates in the self.   Clinically, we recognize that the disease of paranoia, which is characterized by the development of highly organized system of delusions, is the extreme case of projection…..that is not what we are talking about. here…this is the projections of which we are all guilty, like the highly aggressive personality who, unable to bear the responsibility for his own wishes, feelings, and desires, attaches them to objects or people in the environment who will hold the projection and fit the pattern beautifully.  A person who feels he is being persecuted unfairly, in fact may be making the statement that he would like to persecute others.  That which you have tremendous energy to unload on others, is often very true of SELF….In projection, then, we shift the BOUNDARY between ourselves and the rest of the world a little too much in our own favor—in a manner that makes it possible for us to disavow and disown those aspects of our personalities which we find difficult or offensive or unattractive.  And this is very important….IT IS OUR INTROJECTS THAT LEAD US TO THE FEELINGS OF SELF-CONTEMPT AND SELF-ALIENATION THAT PRODUCE PROJECION.   The over-wary, over-cautious person, who tells you he wants friends and wants to be loved, but who tells you at the same time that “you can’t trust anyone, they’re all out for what they can get,” is a projector par excellence.

Projection is an expressive function and has the flavor of first/seventh house axis.  People who are projective most always have a predominant Mars, Aries, Libra, ….much of the energy is squared to Saturn, Uranus, Pluto…..again, this is not set in stone…When working with people listen to how many times they talk ABOUT someone else, either positive or negative, (positive projections are as important to OWN, as are negative ones), they will use You…much of the time, second person in their verbalizations.  GOSSIP is something that Fritz Perls never allowed in the Gestalt Community…as it was about someone to someone else..instead of face to face,  projections run rampant in gossip.  There are several signs that are noted for participating in gossip and will often disown their projections,  Gemini, Sagittarius and Virgo have a tendency to talk ABOUT..rather than first person and directly to the person on whom the projection falls.

Gestalt work is a very hard-nosed therapy, but, it really stresses HONESTY WITH SELF. If we clean up our own psychology, then, it makes the world a better and more ethical place to be, because we are essentially not going around messing on other people with our projections.  Ask yourself before you are making a judgment of another, are you sure that it is not YOU, THAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT?

Peeling the Onion or Delineating a Chart….ALL THE SAME…

In Gestalt therapy…we call the awareness continuum..”peeling the onion”….when doing a chart, reading tarot, working with any divination…one is always concerned about the awareness of the here and now…or at least should be…Much of our awareness, is at first, surlimited to external sensory impressions…later it boadens to include many other factors, internal as well as external.  Simply becoming aware that you are aware increases your potential for greater consciousness.  You are bringing to consciousness the different layers(dimension) of your process as you are delineating.  Staying in the present is very important for the client and the facilitator/astrologer, it gives a wider orientation and greater freedom of choice and action.  You are teaching and learning how to work with your environment through more awareness to it…Many are boxed in by the lack of awareness both of self and external situations and have little room by which to maneuver.  As soon as the awareness increases, orientation and maneuverability also increase.  At this point we make better contact with our charts, its cycles..and the messages that come with the aspects, planets, and placements.

As a gestalt counselor…we ask always  the following:..(Fritz says that they are essentially three questions reformulated into a statement….it is an absolute “no no” ask questions in training…because the belief is that in order to formulate the question, the answer has to be in the unconscious or just below the awareness level)..”Now I am aware” are: “What are you doing?”  “What do you feel?”  “What do you want?”  We could increase the number by two, and include these questions:  “What do you avoid?”  “What do you expect?”  All five of these supportive questions can be answered only to the degree that the client/our own awareness makes possible.  But at the same time, they help us become more aware, more responsible for mustering our own forces and increase our means of self-support..which is the whole point of  counseling using gestalt techniques…

RETROFLECTION- the last of the Gestalt defense mechanisms we use to set boundaries. Retroflection, literally means “turning back sharply against.”  The retroflector knows how to draw a boundary line between himself and the environment,  and he draws a neat and clean one right down the middle–but he draws it down the middle of himself.  THE INTROJECTOR DOES AS OTHERS WOULD LIKE HIM TO DO, THE PROJECTOR DOES UNTO OTHERS WHAT HE ACCUSES THEM OF DOING TO HIM, THE CONFLUENT PERSON DOESN’T KNOW WHO IS DOING WHAT TO WHOM, AND THE RETROFLECTOR DOES TO HIMSELF WHAT HE WOULD LIKE TO DO TO OTHERS.  When a person retroflects behavior, he treats himself as he originally wanted to treat other persons or objects.  He stops directing his energies outward in attempts to manipulate and bring about changes in the environment that will satisfy his needs; instead, he redirects his activity inwards and substitutes himself in place of the environment as the target for behavior.  To the extent that he does this, he splits his personality into doer and done to.  He literally becomes his own worse energy.

Again the grammatical usage of the client can reveal which of the processes is working at any given moment…As introjection displays itself in the use of the pronoun “I” when the real meaning is “they;” as projection displays itself in the use of the pronouns,  “you”, “it”, or “they,”  when the real meaning is “I”  as confluence displays itself in the use of the pronoun “we” when the real meaning is in question;  so retroflection displays itself in the use of the reflective, “myself”…The retroflector says, “I am ashamed of myself,” or “I have to force myself to do this job.”   He makes an almost endless series of statements of this sort, all of them based on the surprising conception that he and himself are two different people.

Astrological formations which indicate retroflection, but not always, are Mars/Saturn, Mars/Uranus, Mars/Pluto, Mars/Neptune…and Mars/Mercury  conflicts…Another area is to look closely at bodily retroflections which occur…this can be seen in the above, or 6th, 12th, and ascendant influences.  I will go into greater depth on how to read the body and look at the significators, as I go on with this strand.. more about medical astrology.

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