Capricorn is known for its dour nature and embrace of the difficult, the challenging, and the just plain sad. After all, it is ruled by Saturn whose domain encompasses all of this and worse. So with Pluto having just entered Capricorn perhaps it’s no coincidence that this article appeared in the latest Newsweek, declaring:

The plural of anecdote is not data, as scientists will tell you, but consider these snapshots of the emerging happiness debate anyway: Lately, Jerome Wakefield’s students have been coming up to him after they break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and not because they want him to recommend a therapist. Wakefield, a professor at New York University, coauthored the 2007 book “The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder,” which argues that feeling down after your heart is broken—even so down that you meet the criteria for clinical depression— is normal and even salutary. But students tell him that their parents are pressuring them to seek counseling and other medical intervention—”some Zoloft, dear?”—for their sadness, and the kids want no part of it. “Can you talk to them for me?” they ask Wakefield. Rather than “listening to Prozac,” they want to listen to their hearts, not have them chemically silenced.

Mr. Wakefield would find it useful to know that his students are of the Pluto in Scorpio generation, trafficking in the realm of the dark and the intense, but that’s another story. For the past thirteen years there has been an ever more relentless pressure to take little purple pills and pills of many other colors in order to “fix” problem emotions. For many people, one antidepressant is not enough and thus we find the tragedy of Heath Ledger who in his panic to alleviate his pain, had no fewer than six separate physician-described psychotropic medications in his system when he died. Perhaps Heath’s death was the wakeup call that will help to end this madness.

Not only are we trying to lift our moods, we’re also hoping to erase our memories. After the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” proposed surgery to erase bad memories, a new pill (propranol) is being tested for people who suffer with PTSD and hope to eliminate those memories.

Now I’m all for positive thinking, and in fact I teach workshops on it as many as you know. But this is far from the compulsion to avoid mental and emotional discomfort that took hold under Pluto’s journey through Sagittarian optimism. Pluto in Capricorn lacks any optimism, preferring reality no matter how depressing or dour, and corresponding with Pluto’s entry into Capricorn is a new study (cited in the Newsweek article) that concludes that people who, on a happiness scale of 1 to 10, scored 8s were happier than those who scored 9 or 10.

That probably reflects the fact that people who are somewhat discontent, but not so depressed as to be paralyzed, are more motivated to improve both their own lot (thus driving themselves to acquire more education and seek ever-more-challenging jobs) and the lot of their community (causing them to participate more in civic and political life). In contrast, people at the top of the jolliness charts feel no such urgency. “If you’re totally satisfied with your life and with how things are going in the world,” says Diener, “you don’t feel very motivated to work for change. Be wary when people tell you you should be happier.”

Motivation, hard work, success – all good Capricorn traits. “Studies show that when you are in a negative mood, says Diener, “you become more analytical, more critical and more innovative. You need negative emotions, including sadness, to direct your thinking.” Abraham Lincoln was not hobbled by his dark moods bordering on depression, and Beethoven composed his later works in a melancholic funk. Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and other artistic geniuses saw the world through a glass darkly.”

So here we see another example of the change of perception brought about by Pluto’s shift into a new sign. But let’s not go overboard and start celebrating sadness; everything in life needs to occur in balance. But I for one will be glad to see the frenzied need to evaporate difficult feelings become a thing of the past. It’s only by going through the normal cycles of emotions that we can heal and evolve.

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