Zodiac Signs and Boundaries
As the song says, ‘You gotta have skin to keep the outside out and the inside in.’ Our bodies consist of systems like blood, nerves, digestion and excretion. Without boundaries to keep these systems separate, we die. On the other hand, being too bounded is death as well. Things have to move across boundaries for there to be life. Food and oxygen have to get in and waste products have to get out. If they don’t, bye bye. Likewise, the individual or the society that is too open or too blocked to outside influence cannot survive either.
It is the appropriateness of the boundaries that is the key to healthy life. If we have had our personal boundaries violated by physical or emotional abuse as children, we are unlikely to be able to set up healthy boundaries in our relationships as adults. If we are too open and we don’t know how to say ‘No’, we allow ourselves to be abused over and over again. Or we go to the other extreme by being too closed so that we are unable to allow others close to us.
We are all different in the way we set our boundaries to the world and to each other. This can be seen as we go around the zodiac from Aries to Pisces, and look at the way the signs change in the way they set limits. This journey is a process of slowly modifying the strong ego boundaries of Aries as we move through the different signs, each sign loosening, opening, extending or breaking the sense of boundary in its own way until we reach the utter unboundedness of Pisces. We move from the emergence of the ‘I’ in Aries, all the way round to the infinite self in Pisces.
The first sign of the zodiac, Aries, marks the establishment of the boundaries of the ego. The decision ‘This is me’ signifies the distinction of ‘I’ from the world, the forming of an island of individual identity out of the sea of the unconscious.
Aries is like the child, the innocent, the pioneer. There is never any doubt for them who they are. The problems that face them come from the limits placed on their actions by the family, the state and by relationships.
Unmodified Aries is so secure in their own boundaries that they just don’t allow the possibility for that certainty to be rattled by anything and they may go for ‘me first’ and ride roughshod over others. They need the balancing of the opposite sign of Libra for them to realise that there are other individuals out there with needs too.
Taurus, the second sign is similarly secure in its boundaries, defined by the phrase ‘I have’. ‘You can’t have that, it’s mine’ is so easy for the Taurean child to say. But unlike Aries that has to learn to make its boundaries negotiable in relationships, Taurus has to learn that to define oneself purely in terms of one’s possessions is asking for trouble.
Possessions can be lost, stolen or destroyed and if the owner is completely centred in those possessions, then the pain of that loss is immense. By trying to own people the same way it owns things Taureans run the risk of violating the integrity of the other. To say to someone ‘You’re my woman’ or ‘You’re my man’ turns a voluntary, loving relationship into one of possession. To be ‘owned’ by a Taurean means being subject to jealousy, for ‘You’re mine’ is usually followed by ‘and if I catch you with anyone else…
Taurus’ lesson is through its opposite sign, Scorpio, who knows that the true, ultimate values of life come through an appreciation of the reality of death and loss. ‘Shrouds have no pockets’, ‘You can’t take it with you’, these are expressions that Taurus in its safely bounded identity would do well to remember.
Gemini, the twins, share a womb together. This starts to make the sense of identity far more negotiable. Out of the womb, they play together, sharing toys, learning that games for two are more fun than games for one.
Another important learning that takes place in the sign of Gemini is learning to share the parents. The watchword for this sign is ‘I think’, and for Geminians, attachment to ideas is one way that the sense of identity boundaries are formed. Thought by its nature likes to communicate and this communication requires both speaking and listening.
Taking turns is the lesson of Gemini. However, having established a communication and an understanding, Gemini tends to set boundaries excluding those who disagree. This can be seen in the world of fashion where boundaries are established by style of clothing, music and speech. Fashion is based on the agreement of what is fashionable and if you don’t agree then you are out.
To be truly balanced they need to know the energy of Sagittarius which is constantly seeking to go beyond boundaries of agreement to learn from those of different cultures and opinions. Gemini’s learning is to broaden its horizons.
For Cancer, the fourth sign, boundaries are given by the family, the tribe or the clan. The sense of belonging to this most basic and primitive of human groupings creates a sense of boundaries that include those with whom we share our roots.
Unbalanced, this creates a reluctance to leave or to allow anyone else to leave the protection of home. Ask anyone from a traditional family culture what happens if you try to marry out. The boundaries of the group are so strong that every obstacle will be put in your way. This works across all racial and religious boundaries, any definition at all that circumscribes ‘a family’ any definition you like of ‘us and them’.
Cancer only feels safe and bounded as long as it stays on its own patch. To start to relate to others beyond the family is so fraught that it is hedged about with rites and ceremonies of passage. The demands by nature that the gene pool be ever renewed means that the isolated family position is ultimately untenable and so the societal structures presented by Capricorn come into play to balance the stay-at-homeness of Cancer.
Leo defines its boundaries through its own creativity. It’s royal sense of dignity seems to be a return to the unassailable boundaries of the earlier signs. But to be a king or a queen demands followers. The ruler without those who accept their rule is nothing. This places Leo in a relationship of patronage with others.
Leos tend to define their boundaries by controlling situations or by setting up situations where they are in control. The over-empowered Leo child who grows up having things all their own way can become an autocratic monster, demanding and spoiled, feeling they deserve everything.
Leo’s boundaries have to become more conditional and subject to the establishment of both rights and duties. If their arrogance is untempered by appreciation of their ‘subjects’ then they can be really monstrous. When the monarch learnst.o soften their demands and realise their dependency on others, then Leo’s contribution to situations is valuable. The democratic ideology of Aquarius is needed to balance the royal ‘we’ and to allow others a say in Leo’s kingdom.
Discrimination is the watchword for Virgos. Their boundaries are like a filter, allowing this in, keeping that out. This is reflected in the Virgoan concern and particularity with food. What they allow into their bodies is a primary definition of boundaries for them.
The Virgoan need for purity and perfection gives them a strong need to separate the pure from the impure. The vegetarian, the vegan, the macrobiotic and the teetotaller are all trying to keep back the forces of chaos and impurity by controlling what they eat. Suggest a good night out on the booze or something else that challenges their regime and you touch on their fear of being defiled or deflowered.
Virgoan natives may be said to have the most intelligent, conscious approach to boundaries but it is almost too well organised. For unless there is space for the chaos of life which is represented by Virgo’s polar opposite, Pisces, then there is only a sterile, efficient boundary system which does not allow the possibility for growth or change.
Libra, being the sign of balance and harmony may seem to be the archetype of good boundary maintenance. But in many cases, Librans tendency to live their life through others means that the needs of others needs take precedence over their own. This can mean that Librans become prime candidate for co-dependency, believing that they cannot function outside a relationship.
If the sense of identity is so tied up in being something for somebody else, then Librans are unwilling to rock the boat and say no, looking always for compromise to maintain the harmony or the illusion of harmony. Only when they start to learn the lessons of Aries and get a bit of that ‘me first’ attitude, will a true balance be established of two independent beings in a mutually negotiated relationship.
Scorpio knows how to break boundaries. One of the key words for this sign is penetration. The sexual passion that Scorpios are renowned for is the urge to destroy the boundaries between two individuals to achieve total union.
At worst, they want to know your secrets but are loath to tell you their own. At best Scorpio’s courage and ability to penetrate into the realms of darkness and danger is incredible. But when it is not an emergency and when they have not been invited in, then their actions are experienced by others as an intrusion. They are so adept at cracking secret codes that they do it when there is no need for it.
They do have a role in teaching the rest of us that we are not inviolable, that our boundaries are really a useful illusion. Something to maintain integrity in certain situations but not the be all and end all of life.
As the sign of foreign travel and wide open spaces, Sagittarius is constantly trying to go beyond boundaries. They are the athlete attempting to break the pain barrier in order to set a new record. They are the philanthropic souls, generous with their time, money and possessions.
But as the extenders of boundaries for others, they may neglect their own boundary maintenance and end up over extended, with their energies scattered and depleted. Sagittarius needs to balance its work of constantly growing and widening its boundaries by remembering the lessons of Gemini and dealing with what is immediate and to hand.
In its willingness to teach, Sagittarius has to know that not everyone is in the market for what they have to offer in their missionary zeal. In their willingness to give they should remember that by giving too much and inappropriately, the boundaries of others may be transgressed.
Capricorn considers everything to be secondary to duty and responsibility. The system that has been set up to manage the transactions of society, everything from bank accounts to marriage vows comes first in their eyes.
Without these structures of course, everything would collapse. But the danger is that this system may not respect the rights and boundaries of the individual. When the system becomes more important than the individuals whose lives it was set up to facilitate then it is a system which violates other peoples’ lives. This is true at the level of the state and also at the level of the individual Capricornian who may deny the rights of others who do not fit in.
On the other side, Capricornians may allow their own boundaries to be transgressed merely for the purpose of maintaining the sanctity of some abstract system.
Aquarius is a paradoxical sign. At the same moment it is the sign of groups and associations, and it is also the sign of the individual ‘doing their own thing.’ Aquarius at their most unconscious, surrender everything to peer group pressure. ‘Everyone else is doing it so it must be right.’ This can be the greatest violation of the individual, denying the expression of feeling because it is not socially acceptable. The Japanese saying ‘The nail that sticks out is knocked in’ is an example of this.
On the other hand, Aquarians can be the most permissive and open of signs. They are not tied to family or traditions, possessions or rules. But the moment you need to establish any of your boundaries in violation of their ‘open’ ideals, watch out!
Pisces is boundless and chameleon. There are no limits to the sensitive perception of this sign. It is the sign of the actor who can tune in to another character and change shape as it chooses. It is the sign of the musician who can communicate wordlessly across the boundaries of language or mind.
Everything connects with everything for Pisces, there cannot be distinctions for them. They are so sensitive that they will not presume to challenge your limits, but they allow their own to be violated constantly. They allow others to take, take, take and wonder why they feel bruised. Often underneath the caring is guilt at some inadequacy which is their justification for allowing themselves to be used and abused.
Pisces tries to live the life of the saint with everyone. But not everyone will appreciate it. So often they end up playing the role of victim. They need to learn the lessons of discrimination of Virgo: that it is possible to choose with whom to be completely open, boundless and connected.
In human relationships getting the right balance between the boundaries that we set and the boundaries that we allow others to set is a key to living healthily and peacefully. By sorting out our boundary definitions with others personally we can reduce the need for legal and political control of our lives. We can replace the archaic lines on the map of the world by truly negotiated personal boundaries that will allow greater flexibility and consciousness of how we live together as individuals.