The Hidden Benefits of Magical Thinking

Professor Bruce Hood (Bristol University) is an experimental psychologist specialising in developmental cognitive neuroscience. His major research projects focus on discovering what’s behind adult magical thinking.

According to Hood, we humans are hard-wired to develop beliefs as a way to make sense of our world and these beliefs carry with them manifest consequences. We’re also hard-wired to impose structure and order in our lives by developing rituals or practices around those beliefs (touch on wood). 

One of the most intriguing rituals involves what Hood calls sympathetic magic – or the belief in naturally occurring correspondences (or sympathies) between such diverse things as food, colours, animals, gem stones, fabrics, plants, and days of the week.

Imagine two violins. Sympathetic vibration occurs when two strings are tuned to the same pitch. When one is plucked, the other sings out ‘in sympathy’.

The implications of Hood’s work for coaching are intriguing:

  1. When someone believes that she cannot do XYZ, then at least until she changes her belief, she probably can’t do. Likewise, if she believes that she can do ABC, then, it’s a pretty good bet that she will. 
  2. One of the primary goals of coaching is to eliminate (or strengthen) such beliefs as needed and this is why a good coach focuses less on asking ‘why’ but instead on ‘what’. For example, if I ask my client ‘why’ she feels so terrible, then in answering she is only reinforcing her negative beliefs about herself. But in responding to the question ‘what’ situations make her feel terrible and what do they share in common, she achieves a genuine opportunity to examine the causes and triggers of her beliefs.
  3. Let’s face it, change is hard work. If it weren’t then New Year resolutions would stand a better chance of success. But if my client creates a ritual or talisman that can be relied upon in times of stress to remind her of what she’s chosen to change, then she’s in a stronger position. 
  4. Even better, if her rituals and talismans are in line with long-established sympathies and correspondences, they draw on strong energies already in existence.
  5. For example, if she has an important meeting or interview set for a Thursday, she might choose to tap into the ‘luck’ traditionally associated with Jupiter, the planetary ruler of Thursday. 

Who knows but that boost of confidence gained by wearing a royal blue dress or suit or maybe a piece of amethyst jewellery, (all associated with Jupiter), might be enough to secure her success.

Professor Hood would not be surprised if it did.

Would you?

If you’d like to find out more how ‘magical thinking’ can help you, book now for a 30 minute chat!

Sex & Lies

Ever wonder why certain relationship patterns keep repeating over and over? 

When the queen asks her magic mirror, who is the ‘fairest’ of them all, the reflection of Snow White appears rather than her own. Instantly, the queen is overcome with jealousy and vows to destroy Snow White, her rival.

Such is the stuff of fairy tales and compulsive relationships.

Whilst it is true that each and every one of our relationships is a mirror in which we see ourselves, compulsive relationships are special. At the base of every compulsive relationships is a deeply buried archetypal pattern that is demanding attention and it will continue to do so until we ‘get the picture’.

This queen cannot deal with the insecurities, which the pretty face of Snow White stirs up and so, predictably, she projects her anger onto Snow White. This plunges them both into an archetypal dynamic of destruction and renewal. It is interesting to note that in the original (unsanitized) tale, the queen was not the step-mother of Snow White but her real mother, who intended to eat her daughter’s heart to boost her own power.

Her mother’s treachery serves as Snow White’s initiation to adulthood (her father being noticeably absent). When Snow White gives in to the temptation to eat the apple (fruit of the tree of knowledge and sacred symbol of Venus, Goddess of Love), her child ‘self’ dies and there is a period of dormancy and mourning before she can move forward in life again.

By the end of the story (in the original version), Snow White marries a prince and as the new queen, behaves as badly as her mother. We have come full circle as the new queen forces the old queen to dance herself to death wearing re-hot iron shoes.

Some years ago, I was trapped in a compulsive relationship with an older woman. She was my boss. Her Chiron was in close contact with my Mar/Venus conjunction and set off my Moon square Mars; we ‘enjoyed’ mutual Mars/Uranus synastry contacts. My passion was aroused; such desires I’ve never known before or after. Scared, I took the moral high ground and played Snow White to her Wicked Witch.

At last, it dawned on me that we were acting just like me and my mother. But this time, no longer a child, I made my escape straight from the pan into the fire. 

Although this relationship with my boss had put me in touch with my long suppressed anger and thwarted ambition ( a holdover from my relationship with my mother), another woman, (my new boss) came along and made it clear to me that I had, as yet, no idea how to use it. 

If you could use some help getting to grips with your compulsive relationship patterns, book a complimentary ½ hour slot in my calendar to explore how we might work together.

Star Rising in the East

The myths and stories associated with my rising sign (the zodiac sign on the eastern of my chart) define the types of experiences that I’ll encounter during my life.

I love a good story? Don’t you?

Especially when the story gives valuable insight about my archetypal mode of living in the world.

I have Cancer rising and so I’ll be looking to the stories and myths associated not only with the Moon, the traditional ruler of Cancer, but also Neptune, the esoteric ruler of Cancer. This means that stories carrying themes of dreams, illusions, seduction, and transformation are important to me. In this regard, The Little Mermaid is perfect although I will want to look both at the original fairy tale and the Disney sugar-coated version, as they have different endings and morals. 

Ariel is a mermaid in crisis. She sets out to win the love of Eric, a human prince, and approaching her task with the innocence of a child, she enlists the aid of a wicked sea witch who does a great Ti’amat impersonation. To achieve her goal, Ariel sacrifices her treasure (her lovely voice ) in exchange for feet only to find that she experiences exquisite agony every step she takes. 

In the original fairy tale, the object of Ariel’s’ desire is immortality and upon her grandmother’s advice, she sets out to achieve this by getting a human to fall in love with her so deeply that his immortality fuses with her being. To this end, Ariel fails miserably and ends up far away from home, unable to return. In the Disney version, Ariel skips the spiritual stuff and, keeping her focus on physical attraction, lives happily ever after. 

Although the Disney message is to follow your dream with all your heart, the original tale warns that not all dreams are created equal and sometimes, the price paid will be too high. I find it remarkable that the Disney version arises from the United States, a Cancerian nation with a strong Neptunian (Hollywood) perspective . Once upon a time, I called that nation home.

But like Ariel, I decided to risk everything and followed my dream, which has led me to living on two different continents. My journey to date has been both rich and informative, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s ‘happily ever after’. 

If you’re interested in learning more about your story and how it relates to your journey, book a complimentary ½ hour slot in my calendar to the right to discover how we might work together.

The Life of Madonna: an astrological thumbnail sketch

Imagine having a snapshot of the quality of time in your life right now?

There are many astrological techniques offering this opportunity but my favourite one, of classical origin, is called Directing by Triplicity. It provides a quick and easy thumbnail sketch of your entire life which, in my experience with numerous charts, is very accurate. 

Let’s see how this works with Madonna:


Madonna’s early life is characterised by wanting to shine but being held back. This time is best spent dreaming about what she wishes to achieve and gaining the skills to accomplish that.  Later, she can expect success in being of benefit to women and women’s issues. The suggestion here is achievement of a high-profile position that comes with a ‘bit of glamour’. In later life, she will turn to more philosophical than practical concerns although this is unlikely to give her the sense of contentment or achievement she seeks. 

Madonna’s natal chart


  1. Madonna was born during the day and so the focus is on her Sun.
  2. Her Sun is in Leo, which is in the element of Fire: the classical triplicity rulers for Fire are Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn (in that order).
  3. The first 1/3 of Madonna’s life is thus ruled by her Leo Sun:
    • Because this Sun is in its sign of rulership, is very strong. Here is a child that wants to shine but she struggles to do so.
    • This is because her Sun at 23 Leo does not make an aspect to the angles of the chart and so she’ll have little impact on her environment.
    • Her Sun is also in her 12th house, which suggests that however much she may want to be in the limelight, she remains hidden away.
    • This is a good time to sit tight and plan for the future whilst honing the skills that will take her there.
  4. The second 1/3 of Madonna’s life is ruled by her Jupiter, which is at 26 Libra in her 2nd house: 
    • Although this Jupiter is not as strong is it might be, it is still very strong (by Face and Term).
    • According to the ancient texts (updated for 21st century ideals), this suggests a ‘benefit to women or women’s issues or those who are connected to high profile positions that have a bit of glamour’.
    • The 2nd house placement suggests this manifests in lots of money.
  5. The last 1/3 of Madonna’s life is ruled by her Saturn which is retrograde (moving backwards) in Sagittarius in the 4th house (home and family):
    • This Saturn is neither particularly happy nor unhappy. Saturn is keen to achieve in a concrete sense and in Sagittarius, the focus must be more philosophical than practical. 
    • This Saturn also just misses out on being exalted (by Face and Term) suggesting that Madonna narrowly fails to achieve all that she would like during this period.
    • Saturn is also retrograde (moving backwards through the sky). Although Madonna may want to return to her former glories, she’s is unable to do so.
    • Just like her Leo Sun in the 1stpart of her life, her Saturn fails to aspect the angles of her chart and so her days of making a big impact are over. 

Healing Fictions

Each and every ‘story’ that you relate to self or others is a ‘fiction’ in the sense that it is your interpretation of your experience of an external event or series of events.

According to the American psychologist, James Hillman (author of Healing Fiction), coming to grips with this process of fiction-making is healing. Not only does it promote self-acceptance but also self-understanding. This in turn gives you the opportunity to assert conscious control over your actions and decisions.

Astrologically, your Moon is the key to this process.

The Moon stands at the gateway of your psyche and the material world.

In the Neoplatonist cosmos, the Moon stands at the gateway of your psyche and the material world. As the result, your astrological Moon not only mediates between experiences and the meaning that you give them, but it also provides a wealth of information about the symbols and metaphors that inform your inner world.

For example, my Moon is in Gemini.

My stories – or ‘fictions’ – must be light and lively. It’s only to be expected that I will embellish and embroider the facts. If there are dark and/or scary bits,  I’ll ignore them. It’s pretty much a given that to the extent difficult emotions are involved, instinctively I’ll run the other way.

  • However, if my Moon were in Scorpio, the scary bits and difficult emotions would be just my cup of tea; they could probably dominate my every story.
  • If my Moon were in Capricorn, my story could take on a paternalistic, moralising tone.
  • With Moon in Pisces, my story would centre on my (confused) emotional response.
  • But with Moon in Leo my story would centre on whatever flatters me most. 

It’s not just your Moon’s zodiac sign that effects your fiction-making but also its house placement. My Moon is in the 12th house, where is symbolised (amongst other things), my instinct for self-sabotage. Little wonder when I sense rejection or criticism, I instinctively clam up and slip away even when, rationally, such action is not in my best interest. By contrast, if my Moon were in the 1st house, I would be so self-focused  that I probably wouldn’t care if you were listening or not; my overwhelming need would be to dominate every situation.

Finally, the aspects your Moon makes to other planets in your chart necessarily also colours your perception:

  • For example, I have Moon square ( in hard aspect) to Mars. My fiction-making is often peppered with phrases belying anger and frustration.
  • But if my Moon were in an easy aspect (trine or sextile) with Jupiter, my story would be warmly optimistic; my default perception might be that all is ‘right with the world’.
  • By contrast, if my Moon were in a difficult aspect (square or opposition) to Jupiter, my story would likely be wildly unrealistic; my default perception would be  something along the lines of ‘when it comes to luck, why do I always draw the short straw?’

By paying close attention to my own stories, I become more aware of how instinctively I’m most likely to experience any event.

Say, for example, that I have an argument with my husband. With my Gemini Moon, my tendency is to avoid difficult emotions. With his Scorpio Moon, my husband interprets this as ignoring his feelings (Moon), which (Scorpio) are very important to him. He likely expresses criticism because his Moon is square – hard aspect – to his Mercury, or mode of communication. I clam up and slip away. With his Moon in his 5th house (house of recreation and sport), my husband might even take pleasure in this result. This leaves me to fuss and fume (anger/frustration) in private (seclusion is a 12th house thing) building up layers of resentment, which won’t make our next argument go any easier.

Yet when I can accept that regardless of how I’d like to perceive the event, difficult emotions are integral and inevitable in any argument,  I can acknowledge my husband’s response, allowing him to feel that he’s been heard. With practice, this will new approach should short-circuit the rest of what was once an inevitable outcome and instead of fussing and fuming, I can take pride in my accomplishments.

Astrological Coaching – How does it work?

Underpinning my own brand of astrological coaching, is the Narrative Coaching Model, which is itself based on a clever mix of existential philosophy, literary theory, and object-relations psychology.

I’ve studied with Dr David Drake

The model formats the flow of coaching conversations during our sessions together, addressing and readdressing four distinct specific phases as needed:

  1. Situation– this phase is all about identifying what’s happening for you right now. Astrology is invaluable here because it quickly hones in on what aspect of your current situation most urgently needs your attention. In this regard, there are a variety of fantastic astrological techniques to choose from but the quickest and most reliable is to focus not on your sun, but on your moon.
  2. Search– this phase is all about exploring what you would like to be different in the future. Having figured out what is not working now, you consider what might work instead. During this phase, you’ll identify serious possibilities for change as well as honestly assessing both your ability and commitment to making it happen. Astrology keeps you on track, ensuring that you’re true to yourself and your personal values and not wasting time on things that, at the end of the day, don’t really matter.
  3. Shift– this phase is all about making change happen. For example, if in the past you were XYZ and have decided that you want to be ABC, then you’ll need to understand exactly what needs to be done to reach your goal. Try out different strategies in real time. Discard those that don’t work and polish up those that do. Whilst it is true for everyone that practice makes perfect, what size and shape that practice takes is different for everyone and here, again, astrology weighs in by helping you to quickly identify your personal strengths and use them to maximum advantage. 
  4. Sustain– this phase is taking your new positive change patterns back in your every-day world, actually trying out your strategies and assessing how they fare. Change of any kind is never easy and you’ll still need support . Astrology is invaluable in helping to launch the ‘new you’ at the just right time and in just the right way.

Changing Direction

Today, the Sun and Mercury have moved into Gemini and the atmosphere could not be more communicative, but communicative in a special way because the planetary ruler of Gemini is Mercury.  According to ancient wisdom, when communications got stuck, the god Mercury was invoked to shift them in a completely new direction.

For the next few days, you can do the same and here’s how to make this energy work to your advantage.

Let’s assume that you’ve been discussing something with someone and they are fixated on a point from which you’d like to move away. Use the following word pattern to adroitly change the ‘subject’ to that of your choosing:

The issue isn’t x (their point), it’s y (your point) and that means ABC.’ Finish the sequence by directing a specific question to the other person about ABC, eliciting their experience on the subject, and you’re on your way.

Rintu Basu, Persuasion Skills (Black Book)

For example, you want a new car but your partner keeps on about the cost. Gently (matching his conversational tone and style), say something along the lines of ‘the issue isn’t how expensive is the car, darling, but about the pleasure it will give you – imagine all the additional space you’ll have to store your kit for our camping trips. Where would we go first, sweetheart, how about that place you love in Cornwall?’

Conversation changer: ‘this isn’t about x (his point), but y (your point) and that means ….’

This works equally well in the office:

For example, assume your boss has just given you a new project that will, in your view, take up too much of your time:

‘I agree with you that the new project is very important, sir/madam, and the issue isn’t that I should take charge of it but instead that, as you say, it is done as quickly as possible. This means that because I have so much on my plate at the moment, it would be better if someone else takes the project. Now, sir/madam, who on our team , in your opinion, would be the best choice – I know, how about A or B? What do you think?’

… try it today and see how it works and, remember, practice makes perfect!

What’s really going on in your relationship?

Relationships are hard work.

What you expected to see is not what you get.

Part of the reason for this is the psychological phenomena known as projection, an automatic process where the contents of your own unconscious is perceived to be in others.

For example, if you’re angry at someone but for a variety of reasons, can’t express it, you might ‘project’ your anger onto that other person and then be surprised when you end up the victim of his or her aggression. 

There are typical places in your natal, or birth chart, that are ripe for projection, most notably planets in your 7th house (house of partnerships, intimate and business). For example, consider a woman with Venus (symbolizing that which she values) in her 7th house. It would not be unexpected to hear her say that she leaves important decisions to her husband because she’s unsure what she really wants.

The tell-tale signs of projection include strong and uncomfortable (or fearful) reactions to someone or something – an extra emotional charge that seems out of proportion in the situation. Such reactions may have a luminous or amorphous quality i.e. they just don’t make sense – rather like falling in love, which apparently itself is a projection.

Another problem with relationships is that people get to know the other’s ‘buttons’ and ‘press’ them at will. Equally, they can press these buttons unwittingly and be angry and confused with the reaction of their partner was not at all what they intended. Astrologically, we can zoom in on these buttons using what we call synastry that compares close aspects formed between your natal chart and that of another.

For example, if your Venus were to form a tight aspect to your partner’s Saturn, then every time you express your innate charm and grace, it would annoy him. You’d compensate by being even more charming and he’d up the ante with being cold and rejecting. Over time, this develops into a recognisable pattern that seems to take on a life of its own.

We can even create a brand new third chart, or composite chart, that reflects your relationship as if it were a separate entity unto itself.  This is different than synastry (as discussed above) which looks at how each of you impact the other. Instead, the composite chart represents the relationship as a whole, giving insight into the dynamics upon which that relationship will function. 

For example, with Moon/Uranus contacts in your composite chart, your relationship is likely to create more excitement than stability. With Moon/Saturn contacts, you’ll probably have trouble communicating with each other at a feeling level. But with Moon/Mars, strong feelings will come easier albeit with a double-edged effect. Moon/Mercury will make communications about your feelings easy, albeit in a detached and rational way. But if you have Moon/Pluto contacts, the sheer intensity of the bond between the two of you make often make it too ‘hot’ to handle.

If you’re interested in learning more about dynamics underlying your most important relationship, why not take advantage of this special February offer?

Special Relationship Offer through 28 February

Explore the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship. If you have the birth date, time and place of your partner/lover, all the better but even if you don’t, there’s still plenty to learn in this special 1 ½ hour session.


With this new moon, it is not the time to loose your cool

Today, 4 th February, at 21:05 GMT we will enjoy the new moon in Aquarius. For the next couple of weeks, it’s time to talk about organisation, power, and leadership again.

Cool rationality isn’t just one of the blessings you can expect from this time, it’s an absolute necessity. 

Emotional intelligence (i.e. being aware of emotions – other’s and your own and how they drive behaviour) is more than de rigueur. It can make all the difference between success and failure.

Emotional Intelligence can make all the difference between success and failure

In all matters (and especially in business dealings) you must strike the balance between head and heart. Shouting will not get people to do their jobs well. Likewise, burnout and depression won’t help you to do yours well either.

You may be ‘master of the universe’ but you still need a break now and then.

When you feel life spinning out of control, Spend a a few minutes listening to some soft, soothing music. As you relax, imagine the music vibrating with a message of universal empowerment and peace.

Equally, you might get yourself an Emotional Capital Report, which is designed to to provide you with essential information about your leadership potential based on your emotional intelligence. For more information, click here.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right?

Venus in Capricorn – Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Whilst Venus was in Sagittarius, it was all smiles and giggles. Now things will start to get serious when on 3 February, Venus moves into Capricorn.

For the next few weeks, partnerships and important relationships of every kind will be characterised by self-control, presence of mind, and a sense of duty and responsibility. Loyalty is back in style.

This has great potential for reward, however, especially on the 18-19th of February.

Think diamonds?

A bit later in the month, around 23-24th February, things may get a bit intense (Venus conjoins Pluto). Resist the temptation to push emotional buttons and instigate power plays. If you do, the situation could get uglier than ever you could have imagined. Likewise, do not respond in like kind if you’re on the receiving end of this.

Instead, do yourself a favour and take a deep breath, keep your head down and mouth shut.

On 2nd of March, when Venus shifts into Aquarius, you can expect some breathing space.