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Cosmic trailheads converge

I’ve had an interest in astrology for most of my life, but it was Internal Family Systems that finally inspired me to formally study astrology. A few years ago I attended a workshop with IFS practitioner and professional astrologer, Tara Vogel. She explained how both models embrace multiplicity—that our parts are also in our astrological charts. I came to understand that astrology offers a unique model for looking at ourselves: It offers a map of our soul’s most important spiritual lessons. With this new insight, something in me clicked.

My voracious learning parts became fully activated, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I enrolled in astrology courses and fell in love with “evolutionary astrology,” a branch of study that focuses on our soul’s mission to grow and evolve in order to resolve past-life karma. Given my IFS training, I devoted myself to conceptualizing astrological wisdom through the lens of my internal family systems, developing and broadening the language for what I call IFS-inspired astrology. For clients who feel called to explore the spiritual dimensions of their unique human experiences, IFS-inspired astrology can inform and deepen therapeutic work. It’s become the basis of the spiritual consultation work that I do.

The natal chart refers to the astrological map of the sky at the moment you were born. It contains symbols and archetypes in the form of planets, zodiac signs, and 12 “houses” that represent specific areas of our lives. Through these symbols and themes, the natal chart offers insight into your psyche (and soul). It’s a multifaceted study that offers tools for self-reflection. Partnered with IFS, astrology becomes a turbo-powered tool for self-exploration and healing.

Astrology and IFS embrace multiplicity as a fundamental truth about the human mind, as do many other ego-state models, but their compatibility reaches beyond this core tenant. Both astrology and IFS agree that these parts of ourselves may be responding in healthy, integrated ways, or may be stuck in painful patterns. While many of these life experiences may be outside of our control, such as legacy burdens and the environments of our childhood, astrology and IFS share the view that we can move towards healing and integration when we are willing to do the work and have the resources to do so.

For instance, IFS famously proclaims there are “no bad parts”. In evolutionary astrology there are “no bad charts.” Moving away from outdated fatalistic views of astrology, everything within the natal chart is looked at as necessary and holds a positive intention for your soul’s learning. And just as parts in IFS do not “disappear” during the healing process, neither do any of our planetary placements. Instead, they become unburdened and repair their secure relationship to the Self in IFS, or the Soul in evolutionary astrology.

Astrology looks at the dynamics between different parts of ourselves through the geometric angles they form to each other (called aspects). These aspects may be viewed as challenging or harmonious, and their purpose is neither good nor bad. Instead, these dynamics can be viewed as important internal relationships that influence us and provide trailheads, points of departure for self-exploration. IFS does this as well, acknowledging that our parts have feelings, relationships, and roles that play within the system and also with each other. Parts do not act in isolation, and neither do planets.

In the last several years, I have spent significant time exploring how protectors, exiles, and Self-energy present in the natal chart. Each zodiac sign, planet, and house can be burdened (parts-driven) or unburdened (Self-led), and, more often than not, both. I have found it helpful to conceptualize planets in the natal chart as clusters of parts, rather than as a single part, as we typically have several that represent each placement. For example, the Moon in the natal chart may represent the many parts in the inner world that developed around attachment experiences—self-soothing, emotional responses—and how we handle change. And in all of these parts, some are Self-led, some are protectors, and some are exiles.

Synthesized with IFS, astrology can also help us unblend from our parts by identifying them in astrological terms. “My Virgo part,” feels less like an inherent, overly critical flaw and more like a unique part of who I am. In return, IFS is grounding and holds us accountable to building a relationship with that part. Rather than downplay my own dysfunction or spiritually bypass, I have learned to invite curiosity: “What would a Self-led Virgo look like?”

Evolutionary astrology also adds a spiritual layer to the IFS concept of legacy burdens, bringing past-life burdens into consideration. It invites us to examine the idea that karmic burdens can be carried over from prior lifetimes and expand what is possible in IFS healing. How many of our parts are responding to wounds from lifetimes we may not remember? Can our parts still carry these imprints? If the body does, in fact, “keep the score,” it is possible that past lifetimes still affect us?

Whatever the mission of our human spirit, astrology postulates that our karmic habits are laid out in the natal chart, as well as their antidotes. The step-by-step manual for healing, however, is missing from the natal chart. Astrology is one tool for identifying patterns. It can point the compass of our mind in a helpful direction, but it does not offer therapeutic interventions. IFS can articulate a pathway to holistic self-integration, which deepens and strengthens astrology’s utility. IFS offers a process that helps us recover and fully express the system laid out for us in the natal chart.

Astrology is a vast and intricate lens for looking at ourselves and our experiences, and by bringing these transpersonal and esoteric perspectives to IFS, the healing process can become a spiritual awakening. IFS principles help us address the potential pitfalls and growth areas identified by astrology. As such, IFS-inspired astrology reimagines what is possible on the therapeutic journey by integrating spirituality, humanism, and trauma recovery.

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  • Sarah Temel

    Sarah is an IFS Therapist and EMDRIA Certified Therapist practicing outside of Philadelphia, PA. She has been working in the field of mental health and wellness for over ten years and currently runs a private practice in Moorestown, NJ.

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