Posted by: Donna Cunningham | July 19, 2009

The Moon Signs and their Emotional Habits

©2009 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 Some folks aren’t happy unless they’re sad. Others use anger to keep themselves pumped up. For some people, dwelling on self‑pity or feeling victimized become well‑worn grooves that occupy an emptiness they wouldn’t otherwise know how to fill. Here I’m talking about the feeling tone that typifies each of us. “Doris is always depressed. What a sad sack!” “Bob would rather bite your head off than say hello. He’s always in a foul mood.”

Although a broad range of emotions is possible, most of us experience and express a very narrow range. The content and breadth of that range vary with the individual and are shown by the Moon in your chart. The Moon rules emotions, habits, and the unconscious. I made many discoveries by looking for connections between Moon matters. One such discovery was that many negative emotions that torment us persistently are bad habits we learned very early. We are no longer conscious of why they arose, so these tapes switch on automatically in stressful situations. In a crisis, we play the same tapes, only louder.

An emotional habit is a learned pattern, an unconscious and automatic response to emotion‑ producing circumstances. When people or situations push your buttons, it makes you feel safe. It works well most of the time, so it is no longer conscious. In a sense, it is a defense mechanism.moonmanhowl-xprt

Emotional habits are familiar and comfortable, whereas unfamiliar feelings rock the boat too much. While the selected feelings tend to be unpleasant, they are still less difficult to handle than others that threaten the status quo. When uncomfortable reactions come up, many people unconsciously and rapidly call on the habitual ones. These become multi‑purpose tools used‑‑and overused‑‑in many situations to keep from confronting the real feelings.

Many strong but recurring emotions should be seen as suspect, as all too often they are a distortion of the true response. The conversion may be made so quickly that people don’t even allow themselves to recognize emotions they regard as unacceptable. For instance, those who don’t wish to acknowledge their need to control may instantly convert it into guilt and walk around feeling guilty much of the time. Guilt may not be pleasant, but they believe it makes them a nicer person than someone who wants to dominate others. Those who find guilt too ego‑wounding may convert it into blaming others.

Those who are uneasy with anger may immediately turn it into depression or anxiety.  They may even say‑‑and believe‑‑that they never get angry. Anger, again, isn’t nice. People around them, however, may sense the underlying anger in their words and deeds and react to it. Haven’t you noticed how irritating depressed people can be? Others are far too comfortable with anger, using resentment and brooding to keep from experiencing a variety of feelings, such as powerlessness or grief over their losses.

For someone else, anxiety may be a habit. In each new or challenging situation, anxiety gushes up from an endless pool underneath. The person spins into a state of fear that becomes all consuming. Just as the depressive person automatically settles into the funk, the anxiety-ridden pmoonsick-a2derson unthinkingly allows his nervousness to become his total reality. In both cases, these habits can be defenses against other feelings.

Our personal range of safe, old‑shoe emotions often correlates with the Moon’s sign and aspects in the birth chart. The patterns characteristic of the twelve Moon signs are often no more than habit. As we go along, we will learn about the reactions typical of the twelve Moon signs. For example, most Moon in Aries people aren’t comfortable with fear or neediness, so they may react aggressively instead. Moon in Virgo individuals, on the other hand, may avoid strong emotions by turning them into psychosomatic illnesses or by overworking.

 Because these states are unconscious, it requires a great effort to become aware of Moon habits and break them. Therapy and other insight producing situations may help if these habits are making your life miserable. However, conscious awareness is a good beginning, and it can come through studying the Moon in your horoscope. The Moon’s sign and aspects relate to the mother’s state during the child’s first year of life. For example, with Moon in Capricorn, the mother was probably depressed or very somber in the child’s earliest months . . . perhaps even suffering from postpartum depression. Living in this emotional bath, her offspring’s reactions to the world may be shaped by depression, even in adulthood.

Apart from the tone of your earliest contacts with mother, she shaped  your emotions in the same way she shaped a great variety of behaviors you take for granted. She trained you—just as she did in toothbrushing and table manners‑‑by giving her approval or withholding it. Like anyone else, Mom had a narrow comfort zone of emotions. If she gave attention or approval for showing particular emotions, they would tend to increase. If she withdrew‑‑or even punished you‑‑when you displayed others, you quickly learned to suppress them or mask them behind the ones she could accept.

For instance, the motheariesramssm-a2dr of a child born with Moon in Aries typically has little patience when the child is whining, clinging, or afraid. She may respond with impatience and even rage. On the other hand, some such mothers have a sneaking admiration for spunky little displays of independence, of assertiveness, or even of temper. You can guess which of these qualities she suppressed and which she rewarded. In addition, rage is contagious, so if she was irritable and impatient in handling the child, the result could be an irritable child.

Incidentally, this approach reveals clear distinctions between the Sun sign and the Moon sign. The differences are not so much in the behavior, but in the underlying motivation. For instance, Sun sign Virgos and Moon sign Virgos may both overwork to the point of exhaustion. Sun sign Virgos do it, however, because their self‑worth is bound up in their work. Many of them identify strongly with their productivity. They don’t feel good about themselves unless they put in more hours and get more work done than anyone else on the job. It’s almost a form of one-upmanship.

 Moon sign Virgos, on the other hand, overwork as a way of avoiding feelings, especially about some ongoing issue or condition. When there is too much conflict in their primary relationship, they may absent themselves by working long hours. Or, when there is no relationship, they may overwork to avoid going home to an empty house and confronting the loneliness. Sun sign Virgos, on some level, are still trying to please Dad or his equivalents, while Moon sign Virgos are modeling themselves after Mom.

See a related post on Vibration, the flower essence blog: Bad Emotional Habits and How to Break Them

Posts about the Moon and Cancer:

free astrology booklet by Donna CunninghamFREE EBOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY:  a 50-page excerpt from my out-of-print book, The Moon in your Life, also known as Being a Lunar Type in a Solar World.  Read more about it here: NEW: FREE BOOKLET FOR SKYWRITER SUBSCRIBERS!   If you’re already a subscriber and want a copy, forward the most recent email post to me at To sign up for a subscription, go to the top right hand corner of the blog and click on “Subscribe.”  Then send me an email with your subscription confirmation or an email post.

Note:  This post was adapted from my hardcopy book The Moon in Your Life, published by RedWheel/Weiser and now out of print.  You may also find it under the original name (first edition) of the book, which was Being a Lunar Type in a Solar World. Used copies can still be obtained through  You might also check out a place where people swap books for free.   All it costs is postage.This place is a gem. It has several hundred astrological and metaphysical paperbacks among the several million books on a variety of subjects that people can swap.


  1. Although my Sun is in jVirgo and moon in Pices, I find I do this also. I work when I’m upset. It all started when my mother would take me for a walk when I was upset. She always felt walking helped to work things jout. It did. If I can’t walk …I work. Pulling weeds is a great reliever…although it takes a gentle pull to get them out. the force of slowing down the energy flow slows down the anger or frustration. It works for me any way. Just thought I’d pass it on.

  2. Thank you for the lovely article! i’m just awed about the moon in youngest daughter now 24, has a moon in Virgo, so does her Dad, exact same degree, so does my brother in law,(not related to her Dad) all three of these people are NOT all,more like borderline lazy and dreamers. My daughter is a drama queen, and VERY emotional ,and not the overworking type , far from it..creative yes ! but very impractical, she has no clue as how to take care of herself…same goes for her Dad who is manic depressive..and hates brother in law is starting to be hard working..but i believe is taurus ascendant is kicking in..and he now has a girlfriend !all three are co dependents, they cannot function without a mate.(the part where you say they do not like being alone) Whenever i speak with my daughter, i hold the criticism 🙂 because i always feel like i need to tell her what to do..(her moon in Virgo…how i the Mom relate to her) i see…but i don’t get what you say about the overworking part !?
    Merci ! and be well

    • HI, Louise, Of course not everyone with Moon in Virgo is a workaholic–or a compulsive cleaner, for that matter–though many of them are. For a complete picture, you have to look at all the planets that form aspects (angles) to the Moon, because some of them can override the Moon sign. If your daughter is 24, she would either have been born in 1984 or 1985, and during several years around then, Uranus was in Sagittarius, forming a square (90 degree angle) to Virgo planets. If so, then she’d be somewhat like an Aquarian Moon, in rebellion against all those Virgo traits, and against her family’s values, particularly Good Old Mom. Then, you’d have to take the house position of the Moon into account, because, for instance, if it were in the 7th (the house of marriage), she might marry someone who typified the the qualities of that Moon sign. As you can see, astrology charts are really complex and no single description can suffice.
      What interests me, however, is what you say about all the family members that have Moon in Virgo. Moon signs do run in families, or you might see that one person’s Moon is another member’s Rising sign. Hope that helps! Donna

  3. […] Astrology Lovers: See a related article on Donna’s blog, Skywriter:  The Moon Signs and their Emotional Habits […]

  4. My 7 year old daughter is a Gemini with an Aries moon. I have been wondering what I will do to earn that reputation. I knew what sign the moon was in during my labor and I tried to hold out for that gentle moon in Taurus. It just wasn’t meant to be. She has a 29 degree Aries moon. There must be other words to describe the Aries moon dynamic. She is an only child. My mother was an Aries. I am not a demonstrative, angry or impatient person. My sun is in Libra and my moon is in Sagittarius. I feel like I see my daughter all the way down to her spirit and it’s hard for me to be angry when I can see her in that light.

    • Speaking as an Aries Moon, there are positive Mars-like qualities as well. A mother who fosters independence, spunk, and initiative, not being all that fond of the traditional roles assigned to women. Donna

      • OOOh! STRONG dislike of traditional roles assigned to women or narrow-minded stereotypes that define us. But listen to this, I work full time, plus I enjoy cleaning my home and I love cooking dinner for my family. I think these tasks can be done with great style and shouldn’t be looked at as ordinary or unimportant. There is no substitute for a home made with love and care.

  5. I have an Aquarius Moon. Both of my daughters have Sagittarius Moon conjunct Pluto. They are really philosophical and love trying new things and going places. They actually like when I make Tofu and go to the used book stores!

    My Son has Taurus Moon square mine. He is not up to trying new stuff. He wants me to take him to the mall and buy him nice things, cook him grand meals, and snuggle on the couch—I’m an Aquarius moon though!

  6. I have a cancer moon. I dislike the fact that I carry grudges and brood about slights forever! I am working to change that about myself, but it is so hard.

    It doesn’t help that my moon from the ninth house squares mercury and widely venus, both in Libra in the twelfth. (Libra rising)
    Self-undoing, indeed!

    • Me, too, Delphinium, I can cry at the drop of a hat, but I can cry about beautiful and spiritual things as much as anything bad. Of course it alarms people, and then I have to make THEM feel better. Now I just explain that I leak easy and it doesn’t mean much of anything. Donna

  7. I have a libra moon, and anytime there is the slightest hint of conflict or tension, I flee, often literally(3rd house moon). At least, thats what I used to do. Although I’m a sun sign aquarius, my moon really does no tlike to shake things up in any way. I cringe at the thought of upsetting people. It makes me really sort of quiet and softspoken, the moon in libra. Because I am rather concerned with being nice and making OTHER people feel comfortable, I think I’m afraid of being “not nice” by expressing myself. If I appear too happy/confident then I’ll be taking that away from everyone else.

    Like delphinium I have a square from mercury, and from saturn and the north node all conjunct in capricorn. (6th house) and chiron in cancer in the 12th house.

    You know what my worst habit is? Since as far back I can remember I have always felt.. no, WALLOWED in self-pity thinking, “I am so plain and boring”. This is what I’ve been telling myself for years, I complain about it to myself all the time, I tell my self, “why can’t I have cool style? I’m just not special” And it goes like that everyday, I’m so COMFORTABLE pitying myself that I’ve kept myself feeling this way for years.

    I have slowly been awakening to this habit of mine but I haven’t put it all together until now. But in the last few months I have been trying to replace everybad thought I have with a positive thought, and a positive action. I reallyyy don’t want to hate my moon(libra lol) but I must say it is probably my least favorite out of my chirt, just because all of its issues. Oh well, I suppose life would be really boring if I didn’t have something to fix.

    • It’s great that you’re working on it. When we get to the point where we get on our own nerves with a bad habit, that’s when we start working to get rid of it. One of the articles on the list for this post is about emotional habits–might be helpful. Donna

  8. hello, what is a moon in scorpio like> i keep brosing, but not always find all articles in order, so not sure how to browse thanks..

    • Hi, Corrine. Use the search engine here. Or download the index of articles by topic on the free page. Donna

  9. It would be interesting to explore the more positive emotional habits of moon signs as well.

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