There is nothing like a natal chart to describe one's personality. One calculated for the time, date and place of birth is a deeply rich and textured picture of psyche, soul, potential and problem areas. The great gift of having a personal birth chart done is the way in which the various drives, needs and desires are expressed so beautifully by the Sun, Moon, planets, zodiac signs, houses and aspects. It's liberating to recognize individual characteristics as appropriate when they differ from family or cultural models. At its best, a natal chart is a passport to oneself and a source of individual freedom.
Yet a birth chart analysis is, like any other system, a double-edged sword. While it provides self-understanding that can be liberating, it also may have the opposite effect of boxing us in a limiting set of beliefs about ourselves. The key to making the most of Astrology is in how you apply this uniquely perceptive tool.
For example, I was born with the Moon in Scorpio, which represents emotional intensity and going to extremes. Learning this helped me put the powerful feelings I've always experienced into a meaningful context. It's the need of a Scorpio Moon person to dive into the depths of him or herself to discover underlying desires and motivations. What previously simply seemed like a character weakness or neurosis finally had a name and a purpose. I'm supposed to be intense and complex, sometimes pushing emotional buttons, my own and others'.
Names give things power. "Scorpio Moon" gave a name to my feelings, which made sense out of them. Yet it also became a limiting factor, because I wasn't supposed to have access to the lightness of a Moon in Gemini or the spontaneity of a Moon in Aries. The gift of self-identification, especially an accurate one, must be handled carefully. It is a tool that can be applied constructively and destructively. This is the risk of astrological analysis: that it describes us so well that we may be stuck with that description. There are, fortunately, some remedies for this.
One is to recognize that we all have a Moon and that we all have feelings. This is the primary truth of our human experience. The shades of difference accorded to each Moon sign are meaningful, but they are not the whole story. Rather than stopping with the symbol, whether it's the Moon in Scorpio, Mars in Libra or any planetary placement, think of these as starting points. The birth chart represents default behavior; the unconscious responses to life that operate when we don't pay attention or take responsibility for ourselves. Learning that my Moon is in Scorpio is not an excuse for resentment, jealousy or emotional extremism, but a warning signal. I need intensity, yet part of growing as a person is to express it in healthy ways. The zodiac sign that any planet is in is a gateway to its essence, yet beyond that opening lies a much wider range of expression.
Another remedy is to step away from the restrictive self-identification of the birth chart when it's not serving a useful purpose. Instead of justifying my stubborn thinking because I was born with cerebral Mercury in fixed sign Taurus, I can recognize when I'm caught in a mental rut and make appropriate adjustments. Instead of reinforcing the behavior astrologically, the awareness a birth chart provides can show us how we're limited by old patterns and habits and need to change them.
Astrology is a brilliant technology that can be used to reinforce negative traits, which makes it less than helpful. However, when we recognize the chart as a model rather than an absolute rule, we have the freedom to choose how we work with it. This is no different than the ways we use traumas to assess our lives. The child of an alcoholic parent can explain certain behavior because of that experience, but the goal is to use this understanding to move beyond, rather than to reinforce the pattern. When self-identification with Astrology or with any other system empowers us, it's worth using, but when it becomes a barrier to growth, it's better to let it go until we can apply it in a more constructive way.