AN ANGRY MAN OPENS HIS MOUTH AND SHUTS HIS EYES -Chinese Fortune Cookie Proverb
Mars‘s energy represents the basic drive to survive through assertion, action, and aggression. Assertion is consciousness in motion. Mars carries out through activity, the purpose and intention of the solar consciousness.
When we assert ourselves we find out who we are. Of course, this is harder than first knowing who we are and then acting on it. When we begin to act the way we want to feel and be, we initiate the process of change. We start to feel the way we act. Assertion involves a willingness to risk going out of oneself to take a stand. “I ask for what I want, and am aware of others and their needs and desires.” Aggression, on the other hand, says, “I get what I want and you don’t count!”
Assertion for survival on all levels, physical and psychological, establishes a sense of ego. It leads to a clear definition of who I am. Both assertion and anger lead to clarity, without which there can be no true intimacy.
Most people wander around half crazy because of some unwritten rule that we are supposed to know intuitively what others want. For intimacy to exist, I have to know where I stand and be willing to take the risk of telling you, of letting you know my desire and opinions, even if they may offend you. You need to tell me what you want, and accept that I may say no. We trust our gut feelings and risk making fools of ourselves.
When we assert, we have the courage to take the risk of coming out with whatever is going on inside us at any given moment; we feel better, our relationships with others are closer, more authentic, even if some of them break up. Anger openly expressed, not held in to fester, need not be hurtful or distancing. If it feels toxic, it means there is an element of control. We get in trouble by not trusting our inner survival instincts.
Aggression expressed makes us feel bad. It makes those around us feel bad, and it evokes an escalated aggressive response from them. An aggressive person is attached to the results. He or she cannot afford to risk being refused and will not accept not getting what he wants. Anger at the expense of someone else is aggressive behavior.
Mars is the archetype of the warrior who is awake and alert at all times, always ready to fight with passion to win and to die if necessary. It is the urge to go after what one wants “full bore,” and at the same time be willing to surrender, to let go in an instant if the situation demands that.
Two of the most destructive ways to deal with anger, our own or that being expressed towards us, are repression and placation. We risk damaging our relationships and ourselves when we do these. Repressed anger, “stuffed” Mars, leads us into depression, a serious, potentially terminal (via suicide), mental illness. It is deadly to the spirit in all cases, and in orthodox Christian doctrine, it is considered a sin. All spiritual traditions state that joyousness, contentment, as well as positive and dynamic energy are marks of spiritual development.
Placating behavior is an inept way to attempt to control the anger of another. It is learned in early childhood when dealing with a violent parent. We are nice, apologize, and grovel. Maybe we won’t get hit or spanked, or they’ll stop yelling at us. Placators are always victims of aggression. Girls and women are especially prone to this dynamic. Some women grow up, marry or have a relationship with a man. Then they unconsciously program him to be abusive to some degree even if he was not at the beginning of the relationship.
The scenario is this: he comes home frustrated and angry about something that happened at work. He yells at her for the first time. That pushes her “old tape” button from early childhood. It’s just like Mom or Dad used to be! She tries to soothe him, please him, cowers before him. Instead of this encouraging him to stop, it actually is a powerful reinforcement for his aggressiveness and abusive behavior. He’s in control again, dominant, and on top of the situation. That feels good to him; it makes up for the feelings of “one down” he had come home with. Each time now when he feels mad, frustrated, he yells at her, it escalates. He starts to hit her. She continues to increase the placation; the situation becomes dangerous. The placator is responsible for creating a monster. She may have had no alternative as a child with the parental abuse, but at the first incident of spousal aggression, she could stand up to it, be assertive and confrontive, and “nip it in the bud.” Or, she could pack up and get out.
Some basic rules of anger are:
- It is always appropriate. The outward expression of it may not always be appropriate.
- It is a primitive, primordial emotion; it does not need to be justified.
- Anger held in is the worst kind of toxin. It is exhausting and annihilating to creativity.
Situations that lead to anger are:
- disqualification – we feel ignored, denied, treated like an object
- manipulation – we feel jealous (or someone is jealous of us), hurt, pain, loss or betrayal.
Acknowledgement of our anger is vital to maintaining good health. Suppressed anger knocks down the immune system, leading to allergies and worse. Anger properly expressed is the key to building tolerance for intensity, passion, and capacity to handle crisis.
We can learn to assert ourselves in positive ways, a little at a time, building up to the big issues. Assertion may be practiced on unimportant issues where we can feel impartial about the outcome. Giving compliments to others is a good start. Tell a woman her dress is becoming; admire a man’s car. Say something that has been held back, “I’d like to be more direct than in the past, which leads me to say . . . .” Stay present, current, no dragging up of past issues. Set boundaries, and know your limits. Above all, do not sit on it, and do not hit. Let other people know your rules. Be prepared to leave.
Make “I” statements, such as “I feel hurt when you say that,” rather than, “You make me feel. . .” Stick to your own experience. Avoid put downs, judgments, analyzing and harking back to the past by using words such as “always” and “never.”
Stay centered and listen to the other person; acknowledge your mistakes without groveling. A simple “I’m sorry” will do. Do not justify or offer excuses or explain yourself (unless ordered to do so by your commanding officer!). Refuse to be a “dumping ground.” Be willing to let go; be willing to risk losing the job, the relationship, etc. When one is truly willing to let go, the chances are he or she will not have to loose anything (or anyone). Others naturally respect and admire integrity. Most often the worst case scenario is that the other will just say no! Even though it is “no” to something we desire very much, it leads to clarity and frees us to go on to make other arrangements.
Things to let go of are: having to have the situation resolved, of being heard, of finishing the fight, or having the last word, or “being right. It’s such a relief to say, “Ok, you’re right!” It takes the wind out of his sails, and you are out of the quarrel. The truth is, he is right from his point of view.
Some distorted uses of Mars’s energy are:
- Violence: Anger plus feeling powerless leads to abuse of physically weaker beings, wife, child, and pets.
- Blaming: The blamer feels “one down,” is immature, and expects others to make things right for him.
- Vindictiveness: “Getting even” implies a prior intimacy with a desire to destroy the other and/or relationship. A person who is insecure, lacking in self-confidence cannot tolerate being open and vulnerable to a partner. Verbal, mental and physical cruelty can occur after sexual intimacy to create distance because of fear of being taken advantage of by the person he or she has opened up to.
- Passive-aggressive behavior: Those who constantly feel “one-down” may exhibit this. It includes having accidents, getting sick, sulking, being late, sneakiness, intrusion into another’s space, teasing.
- Outrage: Or, “making anger cosmic” – a frequent expression when the Mars is in a universal sign (Sagittarius through Pisces) or house (9 through 12). It is safe to dump personal anger into “just causes” such as political groups or social concerns.
- Temper tantrums: Behavior of the emotionally retarded; control through intimidation.
- Criticism: Frequently motivated by the urge to control. Feeling “one-down,” one tries to put the other down; often a form of vindictiveness.
Mars in the signs tends to express anger, assertion, sexuality in the following ways: Fire is quick to become aroused and quick to get over it; Earth tends to displacement of desire, Taurus eats, Virgo gets busy, Capricorn works a 14 hour day. Water expresses passion and anger dramatically through feelings by crying or inflicting emotional pain. Air tends to rationalize and justify and explain his rage and desire. Sexual desire may be sublimated through communication such as, “It’s the thought that counts.” Mental, verbal cruelty is common.
Cardinal signs project their feelings outward and act out. Fixed signs sit on their anger, hold it in, brood and smolder. Mutable signs are prone to displacement expression of desire and rage; they become verbal and nervous.
The Mars energy seems to be more easily expressed in Fire signs, Cardinal signs and angular houses where it contributes to a person’s creativity and ambition. Those who have Mars in Earth and Water signs and suceedent and cadent houses may have to work to become more assertive, more conscious where desire and anger are concerned. Aspects from the Sun and Jupiter tend to fortify Mars no matter where it is, while Moon and Venus may tone it down too much. Aspects from Saturn to Mars tend to increase ambition and ability for hard work and concentrated effort. Mercury and Mars can give a sharp tongue, a quick mind and manual and mechanical skill. Mars adds activating energy to the outer, transpersonal planets. It brings their energy into focus in the person’s life and consciousness.
Mars is the “old” ruler of Scorpio, though a very different Mars from the out-rushing, impetuous Mars of Aries. In Scorpio, Venus has tempered him, through Libra for social survival, not simply personal survival. Mars here is the fine, hard steel of the warrior’s sword and the surgeon’s scalpel. Conscious will, intent and purpose motivate action. Desire bums deep from within and will wait for satisfaction, sometimes as revenge. Anger is expressed in subtle, cold and calculated fashion. Whoever said, “The most perfect murder is the one listed a ‘death by natural causes;’ it is never even suspected,” must have had Mars in Scorpio. And the artful seduction in which the “victim” thought it was her idea is the perfect rape. When used positively, no Mars is better. The finest physician I ever knew was a Sun Capricorn with a Mars-Saturn conjunction in Scorpio.
*Picture by Christina Balit
About the author:
Eleanor Buckwalter has studied, practiced and taught astrology in Los Altos, CA for more than twenty-five years, including three years with the late Richard Idemon, a psychological astrologer. Her primary astrological focus of interest is parent-child relationships and family dynamics.