In mundane astrology when Mercury is retrograde (i.e. apparently back-peddling across the sky), deliveries go missing, phone calls and emails remain unanswered, misunderstandings of all sorts arise and, oh yes, do expect delays. In horary astrology (divination), retrograde Mercury suggests a change of direction. Business deals near completion are renegotiated. Friends and associates have a change of heart. Plans we thought to be absolutely brilliant before Mercury switched gears, have suddenly lost their appeal.
The key to working with with Mercury is to remember that he’s never his ‘own man’. As Liz Greene reminds us, astrological Mercury as no goals of his own because always, he must be ‘’in service’ to another. In order to ensure that he is in service to you, when your next train or bus or other form of conveyance is delayed or a meeting is cancelled or your friend backs out last minute on a date, do not despair. Instead, use the time and space so inconveniently provided to research, review, re-edit, and/or renegotiate the parameters your difficult problem along with those of any proposed solutions.
We go through life wearing ‘cognitive blinkers’ that prevent us from seeing, much less using, important information that would dramatically improve our planning and decision-making. According to Dan Gilbert of Harvard University’s psychology department, the problems is that most of us are only too willing to accept whatever information on offer rather than consciously seeking out better information – even if that better information is already right under our nose.
But before you get started, carefully consider the following, make a list of all that may apply, pin that list (along with personal notations) on your wall and refer to it daily, if not more often.
- Limited focus – the ability to focus on a single task is useful but it limits our awareness. Consider the ramifications of the study by Cornell psychologist Ulric Neisser where participants watched a video of two teams (wearing different colored shirts) passing basketballs. The task of the participants was to count the number of passes between players on one of the teams. So focused were the participants on what they’d been asked to do that only 21% of them reported seeing a woman walk through the players with an open umbrella. Ouch!
- Overlooking the unexpected – the sad truth is that we tend to overlook that which we’re not expecting. Consider the findings of this study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Replicating the airport screening process for weapons, participants functioned at an error rate of only 7% when they were told the objects for which they were to search appear 50% of the time. But when they were told that those objects would appear only 1% of the time, their error rate jumped to 30%. The researchers concluded that when the participants did not expect something, they would give up looking for it.
- Gradual change – the slower, more subtle, the changes around us, the less likely we are to notice them until they blow up in our face. In another study, (Harvard Business School), one group of participants were asked to estimate the value of a jar of pennies with the other group auditing their success rate. Interestingly, the first group were rewarded not when they were accurate but when their estimates were approved by the auditors. They soon learned that the higher their estimates, the more approval they received until they went too far overboard. Over time, the auditing group grew less likely to find the first group’s estimates as overestimated at least as long as they were not severely out of line with those that had come before. Researchers nicknamed this phenomena the ‘snowball’ effect and concluded it helped to explain why why small transgressions creep up over time into large, serious crimes.
- Tunnel vision – often we are motivated to support or favor a particular outcome, for example our boss’s new reorganization plan or a candidate in a political that is popular with our acquaintances and friends. As the result, we do not actively seek information that fails to support our ‘foregone’ conclusion. One way to combat this is to simply asking the perspective of someone who is unlikely to see things the same as do you.