My Therapist Says

My Therapist Says Screw the Astrologers

After receiving a reading that sent me spiraling, my therapist reminded me that I need to learn to trust myself

The astrologer appeared stricken as she looked at the zodiac-based tarot card before her. After pausing to digest it, she told me, “There are many people who enjoy it when you fail.”

At the time of that astrology session, which was several years ago, I had just broken up with a girlfriend. I was in court with business partners, navigating a stalled career and watching my savings dwindle. The reading was an impulsive visit I made while walking up Amsterdam Avenue in New York City one night after a first date that wasn’t going to lead to another.

An elderly woman in a housecoat greeted me with lukewarm black tea and an open question: “What’s on your mind?”

I told her my story, and what I hoped to learn: “When will I feel better?”

She explained how she combined tarot with astrology and started organizing, rearranging, and pulling cards in a blur. After she pulled the card with the bad news, I was rattled. I left to ruminate over the discovery that people enjoy my failure all weekend (because that’s my thing).

During a visit to my therapist soon after, I told him how the reading consumed me. Did I have personality traits that elicited resentment? Did I do something to deserve this? Was something wrong with me?

He leaned forward, took off his glasses, and said, “Screw the astrologers.” He told me I had other things to work on without adding this to the pile and that he needed to disabuse me of this new worry.

He brought up what we focused on often during our sessions: I listen to everyone! And I take what everyone says as truth. Friends, girlfriends, mentors, bosses, authority figures. And now, a storefront sage. Absorbing what people tell me as marching orders versus an opinion was constantly getting in the way of making my own choices.

Why did I do this? I had made a few clumsy decisions through the years, and I lost trust in my instincts. I had dated the wrong women, left jobs at the wrong times, and pursued the wrong paths. Ultimately, I lost faith in my own decision-making and started to heed the opinions of others, which led me down more wrong paths and left me romantically, professionally, and financially stuck. But irrationally worrying about a new fear — that people were celebrating my losses — was an unnecessary layer.

I needed to stop being so impressionable and get back to trusting my own instincts.

My therapist was a nonjudgmental and open-minded man, but he said he needed to vent at this pseudoscience I was embracing. I wasn’t his first patient to spiral after a session with an astrologer. Who were these self-proclaimed “spiritual guides” anyway, he asked? What were their backgrounds? How were they regulated? Were they charlatans? He thought the one I saw was. There can be a danger, he shared, of buying into unsound advice when you are malleable and vulnerable and seeking answers. Sometimes this state can be preyed upon. My therapist shared that while he understands why people embrace practices like zodiac readings and tarot, his problem is on the “provider” side. His primary concern is that the people who provide these readings can, even unintentionally, lead people to abandon self-determination and personal responsibility.

“This [person] was wrong, fraudulent, and just blurted something out to you,” he told me, firmly. “We can’t take on the idea that people are enjoying your hardships. Aside from the momentary gossip, they don’t care. You have enough to deal with. Why add to it?” He framed this as a harsh but important example of what I had been doing with other people. I needed to stop being so impressionable and get back to trusting my own instincts.

Now when I start to prioritize anyone’s outside opinions of myself over my own, he calls my attention to it and makes me laugh by saying, “Screw the astrologers.” It’s shorthand for putting too much faith in anyone, using astrologers as our memorable proxy. This was an admittedly unconventional step toward following my own muse.

If I want to engage with astrologers on anything, maybe it’s smarter to invest in their apps? Not in their words. My head needs to be in my own reality, not in the stars.

Putting a voice to personal & professional adversity, as nobody’s alone. “At the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe.”-Springsteen

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