The Answer Box

Maritha Pottenger

RAY: You have described the mutable dilemma. Will you do the same feature article with analyses for the cardinal and fixed dilemmas?

MARITHA: I’ll take up the cardinal dilemma this issue and leave the fixed dilemma for next time.

The cardinal dilemma is indicated by Letters One, Four, Seven, and Ten of our astrological alphabet. This includes the signs Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn; the First, Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Houses; and the “planets” Mars, Moon, Venus, Juno, Pallas and Saturn. (We assign the two asteroids, Pallas and Juno, to rulership of Libra.)

Just placing different forms of these letters in combination is a conflict, e.g. Mars in Cancer in the Seventh House. (That is a l-4-7 combination: three corners of the cardinal dilemma.) However, many people have full fledged cardinal crosses or T-squares. And, remember, a cardinal dilemma is indicated by squares between cardinal signs OR houses OR planets. A few purists manage to get all three together. Most of us have a mixture of sign-house-planet qualities.

So what are the four corners of the cardinal dilemma? Letter one (Mars, Aries, First House) is simply the urge to be. This is our identity, but spontaneous, expressed in action—not the identity of philosophical and mystical quests. Letter One is totally present- oriented. Here, we wish to simply act on our own wants and needs, without the encumbrance of others. Indeed, pure Letter One has no true consciousness of others—only awareness of self.

Letter Four (Moon, Cancer, Fourth House) is our capacity for emotional closeness. It is our urge to nurture, protect and care for others. It is also our urge to be protected, cared for and nourished. Letter Four encompasses our ability to nurture and our capacity for dependence—emotional openness and vulnerability to another person. As Zip puts it, this is “the baby and the mother.”

Letter Seven (Venus, Pallas, Juno, Libra, Seventh House) is the urge for equality, for peer relationships. This often manifests as a desire for harmony and balance within relationships. However, if Letter Seven cannot be cooperative, it is also quite willing to be competitive. True competition is still a peer relationship: a contest between two equals or near-equals. (Without something near equality, there is no contest. The outcome is already known.)

Letter Ten (Saturn, Capricorn, Tenth House) completes the circuit, and brings in the issue of control. With Letter Ten, we strive to manage the situation, to keep it predictable and orderly because of our need for security. The unknown threatens us. We may over-control ourselves (the self-blocking side of Letter Ten) going into severe self-criticism, feelings of inadequacy. (“I won’t even try, because I know I’d fail anyway.”) Or, we may try to control the world (the over-drive side of Letter Ten). Our push for power in relationships is based on insecurity: (1) If I don’t do it, it won’t get done, or it won’t get done right. (2) If I don’t run it, I’ll feel guilty; I’m responsible. (3) If someone else is in charge, I might get hurt, put down, rejected. (4) If I’m in charge, I’ll known what’s happening and feel more secure. By taking over with Letter Ten, we try to gain security in predictability. We try to avoid the lash of our own conscience and the opinions of others.

The most common conflict with the cardinal dilemma is for an individual to be over developed in one area and underdeveloped in others. The over-developed Letter One type is often very physically active. They may be impulsive. There is a self-centered lack of awareness of others which may develop into selfishness. Such people automatically take care of themselves first and all too often it is: “Me first—always!”

Underdevelopment of Letter One shows in the people who lack the necessary self confidence and assertion to get by in the world. They do not seem to have a clear sense of self and their wants and needs. Other people always come first.

The over-developed Letter Four type may be too much “mother” (smothering, enveloping, over-protective) or too much “baby” (clinging, dependent, helpless). The underdeveloped individual may be lacking in compassion, caring and the capacity to touch and be touched on a deep emotional level.

Over developed Sevens may be too concerned with harmony and cooperation. They may give in for the sake of peace. Or they may make equality a competition, so that taking turns becomes an obsession. (“You’ve opened doors twice for me. Now it’s my turn!”) Lack of Letter Seven may indicate individuals who have difficulty seeing others’ points of view. Such people may lack a basic sense of equality, fair play and balance.

If Letter Ten is too strong, we can have either extreme of over- drive or self-blocking as mentioned. Underdevelopment can symbolize an individual unwilling or unable to see order and patterns, to use predictability, cause and effect. These people may avoid controlling themselves or others (even when advisable and helpful).

Depending on the strengths involved in various combinations, we can make some guesses, logically, about what might arise. E.g., strong Letter Ten mixed with weak Letter One is a bit more likely to go into self-blocking. If Letter One is stronger, the over-drive side of Letter Ten becomes a bit more likely. If strong Letter Ten is mixed with weak Letter Four, we might be wary of a cold, controlling style, a tendency to be practical rather than warm. We suspect again an over-drive possibility. If Letter Four is stronger, we expect a very parental type: managing everything, but always “for your own good. I’m only trying to help you!” Of course the baby side of Letter Four and the self-blocking side of Letter Ten could combine to symbolize an insecure, helpless, hopeless type of person as well. Other combinations follow the same logical process.

With a full cardinal dilemma, thus, we have simultaneously, the urge to be totally free, dependent or nurturant, equal and in control. This has been abbreviated as the Freedom-Closeness dilemma and seems to be endemic to current American society. (There are other forms of the freedom-closeness dilemma, e.g. Cancer quincunx Sagittarius; Cancer quincunx Aquarius; Leo opposite Aquarius; Scorpio square Aquarius.) Today there is more emphasis than ever before on individual development, full utilization of one’s potential for self-actualization. “Do your own thing!” is a watchword. Simultaneously, as divorce becomes easier, more and more expectations are put on marriage and living together situations. Partners are expected to meet all kinds of idealistic wishes in terms of support, emotional closeness and depth, openness, ability to communicate, and capacity to grow and help the partner grow. People talk abut not “settling” for what previous generations supposedly did. No longer is “staying together”—for children or whatever reasons—valued. Marriage and other forms of closeness have a heavy burden of dreams and expectations to meet.

This basic struggle of trying to grow into a unique, important human being while maintaining a close, intimate, caring partnership with another unique, important human being is a keynote of our society. Practically everyone has, astrologically and psychologically, some variation of the freedom-closeness dilemma. However, each of us handles the dilemma in our own unique way.

Some people choose to emphasize the freedom side and end up feeling lonely often. Others emphasize the closeness side and end up feeling trapped a lot. (Formerly these were more masculine and feminine roles; with changes and growth in society, such role divisions are lessening.) A major problem was that whatever side people were doing, they spent their time wishing they were doing the other. Then, when they shifted and did another corner, they wished vainly for what they had before.

More often, however, the awareness was not even this conscious. Many people deal with the cardinal dilemma (in a less than constructive fashion) through repression. That is, they totally deny a side of themselves and spend a lot of energy and time in pushing that side into the unconscious. The energy either expresses indirectly in action, or—if kept turned inward long enough—may turn into physical illness.

People who repress Letter One may be passive-aggressive (expressing anger and hostility in very indirect ways) or prone to headaches, colds, depression or surgery. (Repression of Letter One is encouraged in women by our societal sex roles.) Those who repress Letter Four often suffer from a variety of stomach problems, or may get sick periodically as the only way they can allow themselves to be dependent and taken care of. (Men, in our society, are encouraged to repress Letter Four.)

Repression of Letter Seven is often associated with kidney problems, and a good, hard look at relationships is indicated. Repressed Letter Ten may go with back problems or bone or teeth difficulties. Often such people are taking their responsibilities TOO hard (“carrying the world on my back”) or avoiding control, even when appropriate, afraid to “bite into life!”

Another common method of “handling” a cardinal dilemma is through projection. Here again, we deny a quality in ourselves, but find another person who will express that quality for us. One problem is that, to make up for our own lack, we are attracted to people who will often OVER-do that quality we project. The more we give away that side of ourselves, the more those people around us feed it back in exaggerated, overblown fashion.

People who project Letter One may attract “free souls” who are always leaving them. Or they may find overly-confident, aggressive, selfish people to be involved with.

Projecting Letter Four draws us to either clinging, dependent possessive types or smothering, protective, mothering types. Giving away Letter Seven leads us to people who over-do the “sweetness and light” cooperative side of Libra OR the cutthroat competition aspect—or both if we like vacillation and confusion! Projecting our Letter Ten attracts parental, fatherly types: dependable, responsible, but also often judgmental, critical and demanding.

The important thing to remember with projection is that the more we do it, the more we attract extremes in others. So if we notice a commonality in the people we associate with—especially of it is increasing—we need to find ourselves within the other and own back those qualities we were giving away.

Projection is just as likely to be of “positive” as “negative” qualities. We can give away our assertive self-confidence as easily as our aggressive self-aggrandizement. It is the extremes (over-doing ourselves or attracted to others who over-do with projection) of development or lack which generally get us into trouble.

A third ploy is the defense mechanism of displacement. This is the expression of a very necessary, good and human part of life in an inappropriate time and place. E.g., I may attempt to control my close friends and partners. This is not generally helpful or growthful—but not because control itself is intrinsically “bad.” I do need some area in my life in which I control, use my power, have an impact. That is an important side of life. So are equalitarian relationships. One of the more common possibilities for displacement is a mixture of parental letters (4 and 10) with partnership letters (7 and 8). We may project this, and look for someone to play mother or father to us in our partnership. Or we may look for someone to be the child that we can mother or father. Or we may do both. Eventually, hopefully, we learn to take turns being parental, sharing the responsibilities, each giving to the other in his/her own areas of strength, reaching mutual inter-dependency.

All of us project (i.e. learn through the mirror of the other person) throughout life. The danger is doing it to excess and without any awareness. We are continually involved with people who show us different parts of ourselves. And we perform the same service for them. Thus, it is very common for people with the same dilemma to become involved with one another. And that leads us to the next major difficulty in integration of the cardinal dilemma.

People who relate with someone who shares their dilemma often have trouble with timing. That is, they often seem to be “out of sync(hronization)” When one wants freedom, the other wants closeness; when the first wants closeness, the other wants freedom. This usually means there is still some fairly intense projection going on. Each is playing out opposite ends for the other, although they are able to trade ends on the see-saw.

Of course, some incompatibility of wants and needs is inevitable in any relationship between two individuals. But a relationship which is chronically “out of sync” indicates a strong conflict still remains. Such a problem automatically precludes closeness, so the people involved need to examine carefully their needs and desires—especially their needs for freedom. Are they getting the kind of freedom they really need, or is there a trapped, stifled feeling? Are they looking for the kind of closeness they want, or “settling” for what they think they “should” or doing what is “right” or trying to please others most of the time? Communication with yourself and the other individual(s) becomes vital.

Basically, integration of the cardinal dilemma requires awareness, acceptance and some capacity for living in the present. (Be Here Now, in Ram Dass’ terms.) We must be aware of our complexity, realize that we are very complicated people with a variety of needs (closeness, freedom, equality and control) which may—at times—seem incompatible.

We must accept and allow all parts of ourselves. When we reject and try to repress a part of ourselves, the energy goes inward and is self-destructive. When we deny a side of our nature and find it in others through projection, we set up a see-saw situation of over-doing on one side and under-doing on the other which can only lead to eventual discomfort. If we displace, doing a good and natural side of life in an inappropriate setting, we set up uncomfortable consequences, e.g. power struggles, people not liking us, getting walked on, etc.

If an individual is fully conscious of the corners of his/her cardinal dilemma, s/he has several choices for integration. One possibility is to simply do each corner in moderation, none to their fullest extent. The more totally we live any one of these Letters, the less we can express any of the other three. So, we can settle for limited self expression, closeness, equality and control.

The balance we make of these four sides of life is totally our individual choice and creation. Each of us will probably have, at a given time, one side most prominent. The important thing is that all are present (to at least a small degree—none repressed or projected) and that all are accepted and appreciated. It is good to be moderate in working for balance. Often, people have a tendency to simply go from one extreme to another—which is simply trading corners of the cardinal dilemma, not integration. Remember, we can express the basic needs of our nature in very small ways. If we want to be sure to have a place in our lives for dependency and nurturance, we can be dependent in small ways. We can allow people to do us “little” favors, so we don’t have to get sick to be dependent. If we are not interested in nurturing people or babies, we can nurture pets—animals or even plants if that’s your preference.

An alternative is to do each side of life in a different time or place. Each Letter has its own sphere of appropriateness. We can choose to just do our own thing in hobbies; be dependent and nurturing in our close emotional relationships; be equalitarian in our partnerships; and maintain control in our work or other appropriate areas. This division, of course, would vary from individual situation to individual situation.

It is just as much a problem if I express all four sides, but am never happy where I am. E.g., If I’m close, I feel stifled and want freedom. If I’m free, I feel lonely and want closeness. So I must be able to accept my complexity, live fully and BE HERE NOW. Allow what I am, where I am, and enjoy it, realizing the balance will shift continually within me as I grow, change, develop and meet new people and new situations.

There is no “optimum” balance. One person will have a large space for freedom. Another will devote much of his/her life to closeness and equality. And so on. The important thing is that we make sure that all four are represented within us, allow and accept our own balance and distribution and realize we are involved in a process. We will shift our emphasis in time and over situations, but can accept that flux as a part of life and growth.

Being locked into a pattern, unable to shift, is another warning signal. As an example, some people handle the freedom-closeness dilemma by becoming involved in relationships with “unavailable” people, e.g. married, or living a long distance away. If this is a consistent, repetitive cycle, the individual needs to examine his/her needs. S/he is continually setting up a situation where closeness on a regular basis is impossible. However, some people make an aware, conscious decision to relate intimately with someone who is some distance away. In fact, a larger percentage of husbands and wives who both have careers are spending some time living in separate cities, each pursuing their own vocation. If this is done with conscious awareness, and the person is generally contented with where they are (i.e. enjoys the closeness when it is possible; enjoys the freedom when that is what is available) then I think they are at peace with their cardinal dilemma. It is all a matter of emphasis. If they are discontented, always wanting one when they have the other, then more work is required. Integration means we can—without expecting to always be ecstatically happy—learn to be accepting of all parts of ourselves and generally enjoy where we are, while we are there, knowing more will always follow. So, ENJOY!

Copyright © 1978 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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