Personality Theory and the Astrology of Relationships – Part 1: The Cancer/Capricorn Axis by Clare Martin

The Cancer/Capricorn axis is ruled by the Moon and Saturn. As the axis of structure, the tension across this axis concerns the relationship between the parent and the child, the container and the contained, dependency and self sufficiency. 

According to personality theory[1], this axis relates to the very early developmental period of attachment and bonding. If the caretakers are sufficiently attuned to the child’s needs and if the environment is experienced as basically safe and predictable, then the child can move through this developmental phase without difficulty. A well balanced Cancer/Capricorn axis is caring and responsible, nurturing and providing, building strong structures and nourishing all living things that live within those structures. In an individual chart, the signs and houses in which the Moon and Saturn are placed, and any aspect between them will provide further information about the quality of this relationship.

If the child experiences its environment as hostile or cold, its caretakers a source of pain and rejection, rather than comfort, the very early message is that the world and other people cannot be trusted. The emotional reaction is terror, and the developmental issue will be one of safety. In response to early experiences of emotional neglect or deprivation, the child learns not to reach out, withdraws from and avoids contact with others, and develops their own imaginative, intellectual of spiritual inner worlds.  The ‘wounded child’ experiences itself as hated, unwanted or insignificant, that it has no right to exist, which can lead to what is known as a schizoid adaptation. 

There is an inherent conflict on the Cancer/Capricorn axis.  The Moon, or child within, is necessarily physically and emotionally dependent, and its survival depends upon getting its primal needs met. Fearing abandonment above all, the motivation for Cancer is to create and maintain emotional bonds which represent survival, security and belonging, the continuity of the family matrix, community or tribe. If the parental Capricorn qualities of responsibility and personal authority remain unconscious and undeveloped, the individual refuses to grow up, becomes increasingly needy, dependent and emotionally demanding and thereby attracts others into their lives who display the equally polarised qualities of negative Capricorn. Others will be experienced as critical, withholding and cold. And so the game goes on, with Cancer feeling chronically undernourished, hungry and resentful, thereby replicating their earliest experiences. 

The parental sign of Capricorn, and its ruler Saturn, describes the structures and boundaries which separate us from others. It concerns the development of emotional self sufficiency, self reliance and self control, ambition and achievement in the world. Often great providers, Capricorn is known to be responsible and hard working.

 Early experiences of neglect or hostility lead to the development of a defensive adaptation which bears the hallmarks of the negative, dissociated expression of this sign.  Capricorn polarises by cutting off its own neediness from consciousness, withdraws from the presumed threat or danger of emotional contact, and judges, criticises or punishes any dependency needs in themselves and in others. People living on this axis tend to be extremely harsh with themselves, denying themselves the basic comforts of food, contact with nature and the body, living instead in a ‘frozen’ state of terror. Introjecting their own early experiences, there can be a lack of empathy and their behaviour can be cynical, callous or even cruel, replicating the treatment they first received as children.  It is a psychological truism that we tend to treat ourselves and others the same way that we have ourselves been treated.  Out of touch with themselves, isolating their feelings from their thoughts, they tend to gravitate towards relationships and environments which are themselves harsh, and which reinforce the original experiences of rejection and isolation. 

With this Cancer/Capricorn character adaptation individuals are perfectly capable of presenting themselves as socially available, interested, engaged and involved with others, but a well defended adaptation on this axis is recognisable by its rather impersonal and formal quality. They tend to remain emotionally withdrawn and apart, due to a fear of reliance or, even worse, dependence on others.  

Generally speaking, the only safe relationships are contextual – based on familial, social and professional roles – as long as these do not require or force the need for emotional intimacy.  Contextual relationships protect the individual from their sense of not being good enough without a role, and provide the necessary structures with which to go through the motions of appearing to belong and to be acceptable to others.  People on this axis consider themselves to be observers rather than participants in the world around them.  Indeed, they easily feel suffocated if their personal space is violated.  Generally speaking, social situations and family gatherings tend to cause anxiety and are normally avoided.

As a method of self-preservation, these individuals are typically introspective, preoccupied with their own imaginative, intellectual or spiritual inner worlds, prone to nostalgia and the fantasy of regression to the safety of the metaphorical womb, a place of ultimate safety. Fantasy is a substitute relationship, free from the dangers and anxieties associated with emotional connection to real persons and situations. In fantasy relationships one can be attached to internal objects and still be free. Workaholism and other addictions can serve as substitutes for human relationships. 

The reclusive French author Marcel Proust, with the Sun in Cancer, is a good example of this type. Or the actress Marlene Dietrich, with Sun, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Chiron in Capricorn, whose professed well-known desire was to be alone.

 

Cancer/Capricorn Stories

There are many stories and films relevant to the main themes on this axis. They concern experiences of abandonment, rejection, alienation from the parents and/or the family, and a retreat into a private and safe spiritual or fantasy world. They also contain themes of mourning and grieving for the loss of the illusion of the adequate support and love which they never received.

Stories belonging to the Cancer/Capricorn axis reveal that the ‘unparented child’ has an overwhelming need and yearning for a parental substitute – someone who will love, protect, care for and even die for them, as a parent will for a child. There is often a desire to create a family to offset the loneliness they felt as a child, or to prove that they do, in fact, have a right to exist, by achieving professional recognition and respect in the world. This is balanced by a real fear of rejection and abandonment, which leads to emotional distancing, to mask the level of neediness.  A general pattern of isolated withdrawal reinforces the fundamental sense of being isolated and alone.  In spite of a longing for friendship, companionship and love, there is a strong feeling of loneliness, especially in the midst of a crowd. 

These stories are tinged with regret, nostalgia and the eventual necessity of separation. 

Relationships on this axis tend to be transitional. Eventually the parent substitute will have served their purpose and provided us with a sufficiently safe and protective environment, helping us grow in confidence and independence until we are ready to move on, which is the core function of parent/child relationships. Alternatively, the parent substitute may leave us, or even die, which finally breaks the parent/child bond and leads to a period of profound grief and mourning for what we never had, but finally enables us to grow beyond this developmental stage. A further possibility is the eventual realisation that the partner is incapable of healing what is, of course, their own primal wound, and they may seek another parental substitute, and continue to repeat the pattern. 

 

Peter Pan

The universal and enduring appeal of J.M. Barrie’s story of Peter Pan reveals its archetypal significance. It has been the subject of numerous adaptations, prequels and sequels, not to mention the 1953 Disney animated feature film, live-action feature films, various stage musicals, TV series and video games.

Peter Pan was a boy who refused to grow up. He ran away to the magical realm of Neverland when his parents had another child and forgot about him. In Neverland, he was the leader of the Lost Boys – a band of infants who fell out of their prams and were never claimed by their parents – so they were all orphans, a central theme which continues throughout the story, along with the fear of growing up. 

Wendy was the oldest child in the Darling family, with two younger brothers. One night, she woke up to find Peter sitting on the floor, in tears. He was crying because his shadow wouldn’t stick to him.  In other words, he had no substance, since we only acquire a shadow when we are embodied, incarnated and solid – manifested. Spirits and sprites do not have shadows because they do not exist in the real world, with all its demands, limitations and existential problems, such as the inevitability of death. Wendy sewed his shadow to the tips of his shoes and Peter was delighted.

Peter persuaded Wendy to fly with him to Neverland and to be his mother there. She agreed, but only if she could take her brothers, John and Michael with her, whom she is already looking after. They fly to Neverland, where Wendy meets the Lost Boys, who also want Wendy to be their mother. Wendy took care of the boys by day, and told them stories at night, in their cosy house under the woods.

Neverland is populated by Indians, Mermaids and Pirates – all figures of Peter Pan’s imagination. The most interesting figure is Captain Hook – a shadow figure who, tellingly, is pursued by time – mortality, and with it the fear of growing up, old age and death – in the shape of a crocodile who has swallowed a clock. The crocodile symbolism is significant, since Peter is terrified of being dragged down into the shadow waters of the unconscious, preferring the detachment of air and flying as his element. Eventually, after a series of adventures, Hook is eaten by his nemesis, the crocodile, and Peter returns Wendy, and her brothers to their home. Wendy’s parents agree to adopt Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, but Peter chooses to stay in Neverland, where he will never have to grow up.

It has been suggested that Michael Jackson had what has become known as the Peter Pan Syndrome. Speaking openly about his childhood in a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, he acknowledged that his youth had been lonely and isolating. In a 2003 interview with Martin Bashir, he said, “I am Peter Pan”. When Bashir said, “No, you’re Michael Jackson”, Jackson replied, “I’m Peter Pan in my heart”.  The fantasy home Jackson created was called “Neverland Ranch”.  

 

J.M. Barrie

J.M. Barrie was born at 6.42 am on 9th May 1860 in Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland, the ninth child of ten. A journalist, playwright and children’s book writer, his life and relationships bear many of the hallmarks of the Cancer/Capricorn axis, which he had across his ASC/DES, with Venus in Cancer and the Moon in Capricorn. Barrie’s story has been told in the film Finding Neverland (2004), starring Johnny Depp (Moon in Capricorn, North Node in Cancer) and Kate Winslett (MC/IC Cancer/Capricorn). 

When Barrie was six years old, his older brother David, and his mother’s favourite, died in a skating accident, a loss from which his mother never recovered. His father did not interact at all with his children. Barrie tried in vain to replace his lost brother in his mother’s affections, but was rejected, an event which was to mark the rest of his life. After her death Barrie published an adoring biography about her. 

Growing up shy and sensitive, Barrie became a writer, a socially sanctioned way of retreating into his imagination and creating his own, safe, fantasy land. He married the actress Mary Ansell in 1894 and they began taking walks with their dog in Kensington Gardens, a park near their London home, where Barrie became a favourite of the children brought there by their nannies, entertaining them with his antics and stories about pirates and fairies. In a hostile world, it is only safe to form relationships with animals and children, who will never leave or abandon you, unless and until, of course, the children grow up. 

The children Barrie was fondest of were the young sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nico. He told the boys pirate stories which became the basis for his 1904 play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up, which became a huge hit in Britain and the US. 

Barrie’s marriage was an unhappy one, cold and formal and by many accounts sexless.  It was certainly childless, though Mary was anxious for a child.  She began an affair in 1909 with the writer Gilbert Cannan, and the marriage ended in divorce.

Barrie remained close to the Llewelyn Davies family. When Arthur and Sylvia died of cancer within a few years of each other, he became the guardian and surrogate father to the boys.  Both George and Michael predeceased him.  George was killed in action in 1915 during World War I, and Michael drowned at Oxford in 1921.  Twenty three years after Barrie’s death in June 1937, Peter, who had become a successful publisher, committed suicide by throwing himself under a London underground train.

It is remarkable how many famous writers of fantasy have experienced similar experiences of rejection and abandonment in their childhoods.  Actors also seem to be drawn to play characters which reflect their own personality adaptations. 

 

Dustin Hoffman

With Jupiter on the ASC in Capricorn and DES, Venus and Pluto in Cancer, Dustin Hoffman, for example, is clearly attracted to themes of loneliness, abandonment and alienation from the family. One of his most famous films is, of course, The Graduate – a significant rite of passage film in which we see him on the painful pivot of regression back into the family – the mother, in this case played by Mrs Robinson – or having the courage to reach out into adulthood. In other films, such as Rainman, Midnight Cowboy, Kramer vs Kramer and Tootsie, he portrays figures who are alienated, rejected, or outsiders.  Significantly, he also starred as Captain Hook in the 1991 film Hook, and played the theatrical producer Charles Frohman in Finding Neverland.

 

James Barrie Chart:                9 May 1860, Kirriemuir, Scotland, 6.30 am

Dustin Hoffman chart:           8 August 1937, 5.07 pm, Los Angeles

[1] Stephen Johnson, Character Styles

© Clare Martin April 2017

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