Posted by: Donna Cunningham | January 30, 2010

What your Astrology Chart Says about your Boundary Issues

(c)1-30-10 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Since we’ve had several posts this week related to boundary issues, let’s look at how those issues might show up in your astrology chart.  The house position and aspects of Neptune and Pisces planets show the areas of life where boundary issues are most likely to occur—and the people you are most susceptible to. This is true of both natal and transiting Neptune.

Where Neptune is, the following conditions are likely to be true:

  • It’s where you see people’s potential and ignore their failings.
  • It’s where you’re likely to feel survivor guilt
  • It’s where you worry more about people than they do about themselves
  • It’s where you’re most easily taken advantage of
  • It’s where you play out the victim/rescuer/enabler drama
  • It’s where you find out they’re forever lying to you but you forgive them
  • It’s where they swear they’ll do better from now on but don’t
  • It’s where you lie to yourself  and say they really do love you.
  • It’s where you get high on “helping”
  • It’s where you serve and serve until you suffer

Here are the boundary issues you’d see a few of the houses.  With Neptune in the 3rd, your siblings are worse off than you and all ySkywriter Donna Cunninghamour efforts to save them don’t work, so you have survivor guilt.

When it’s in the 7th, you married somebody with POTENTIAL because you were sure you could fix them. Now you’re attending Alanon—or should be.

When it’s in the 11th, you’re a friend to the friendless, befriending them and soaking up their suffering until you’re drained. (The word befriend carries the connotation of rescuing the strays.)

When it’s in the 12th, you’re probably volunteering at the soup kitchen and visiting prisoners and so you’re doing God’s work.  Just don’t bring them home with you.

For a complete tour of the houses to figure out who you might be codependent with, see: A Who’s Who of your Horoscope–the Players in all 12 Houses.

Neptune vs. the Moon in Codependency: Neptune is the primary indicator of co-dependency in a chart. Some astrologers see the Moon and Cancer in that way too, but there’s a distinct difference. The Moon represents a Mom and mommy-role type of dependency on a nurturing female figure. This sort of connection is natural in childhood, and most of us unconsciously continue to yearn for that sort of nurturing as adults to a certain extent, especially if Mom is reluctant to give up her parenting role in your life. Cancer planets do show up in these charts, but perhaps it is because, depending on the Moon sign, Cancerians can be natural nurturers. (Moon in Aries or Aquarius?  Not so much!)

Skywriter rescuerNeptune, on the other hand, represents a toxic type of co-dependency that is more likely to arise in a disturbed family system in which one or both parents is alcoholic, addicted, chronically ill or otherwise nonfunctional.

As a survival mechanism, even the youngest children in such families learn to be caretakers of their parents and siblings in order to prevent the family from breaking down.

If the dysfunction persists, the caretaking pattern continues to distort relationships in adulthood, as the person is drawn to addicted or severely dysfunctional partners, family members, or friends to rescue and save. A codependent style of relating can prevail—especially patterns of rescuing and enabling.

These folks tend to live for and through other people in a highly addictive manner. They compulsively seek out people with serious problems that they feel responsible to try to fix, just as they may have yearned to do with their parents

Codependency and Career Choice: When Netune or Pisces planets are connected with the Midheaven, 10th, or 6th house, codependency can also show up on the job, with compulsive patterns of rescuing and enabling bosses or coworkers, or—especially in a service-oriented field—with clients. For all of us on a less than conscious level, the boss often becomes a kind of surrogate parent. (The Midheaven and 10th house represent not only the parents but also other authority figures encountered throughout life.)

Many of them gravitate to service professions, where this urge to help others can be constructive. Since people in service careers are exposed daily to their client’s sorrow and despair, compassionate servers may give their energy away to the sufferer without conscious awareness that doing so can become a source of burnout. The lack of self-care can lead to exhaustion and even hopelessness. They need to give themselves permission to treat themselves kindly and to rest.

Why So Many Become Astrologers: As it turns out, the field of astrology is one where adult children of alcoholics abound. When I began talking about codependency in astrology conferences, a great many of my colleagues confided that they also came from alcoholic families.  A disproportionate number of our clients may also come from these backgrounds, even if they don’t talk about it.  They come to ­astrologers, psychics, and other consultants looking for an answer to ­their inexplicable confusion, turmoil, and pain.

A major reason ­they come to us is that when you grow up in a chaotic, unpredictable household, predictability has its appeal! Another ­reason they’re drawn to us is that astrology and other such­ disciplines help ACAs solve that puzzling question of who they ­really are, as opposed to roles their families conditioned them ­to play.

Finally, ACAs and people from dysfunctional backgrounds may ­have a special yearning for spirituality, unless they’ve been so wounded that they wind up hating God. Those who had disturbed or­ addicted parents may have a strong need to find closeness with a­ Father/Mother/God who is loving, understanding, wise, and all-powerful and who cares deeply about them personally.

FREE DOWNLOAD: One of the chapters of my ebook, Counseling Principles for Astrologers goes into codependency and its implications for practicing astrologers in depth.  Download it here: ch7 – codependency. (To order the book, go to

More Articles about Boundaries and the Lack thereof:

If this post was helpful, DON’T MISS THE NEXT INSTALLMENT IN THIS SERIES.  Sign up for a subscription, and get a FREE EBOOKLET for Skywriter Subscribers Only: Mothers, Daughters, and the Moon, a 50-page excerpt from The Moon in your Life. 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 with a request for the booklet in the subject line.

Art Credits: Like most posts on this site, the art here came from      WikiMedia Commons–free photos and art.  Superstickies – Make your own sticky note picture


  1. Wow.

    Amazing information, so clear and helpful. This series has really helped make sense of the patterns I’m dealing with right now. Thanks again!

    • When the student is ready the teacher will appear, or so they say. I’m glad the series is hitting the bull’s eye for you time after time. Donna

  2. Oh my,

    With a Libra rising and cardinal on the angles of my chart and Neptune in the first, I could be a poster child for this article. Yep, grew up with all of those issues including a single mother with an unaspected Sun in Scorpio. Redefining boundaries? Oh, yes, finally. Thank you for adding another piece to the puzzle.

    • Yes, I’d say you fit it. What a strange but telling choice of names from a single mom with an unaspected Sun in Scorpio, quite something to live up to! Donna

      • It is not my birth name – any of it. Perhaps that’s why it seems so strange. I have followed a spiritual life, and a spirit name was given to me in a ceremony I requested from a shaman. I decided to use part of that name as my legal name. Luckily, it wasn’t something like Rainbow Sage. My mother named me for her mother – who frequently told me she was too young to be a grandmother. Considering granny was 55 at the time of my birth, I’d say that was a lot of denial going on in her Scorpio Sun head.
        Cheers, Donna – love your site.

      • Interesting story, Temperance. Bones is about my favorite show, and it always bemuses me that Temperance is her name, especially given her scoundrel of a father. Donna

  3. great article, as always,donna! i have neptun on my asc, from 12h house, sextile my sun mercury and my pluto mc, quincux my moon in cancer, who is squaring pluto, and i had big manipulative and controlling issues with my mom, a virgo with a scorpio mars in 5th squaring leo pluto

  4. Hello, That great discovery this blog, for my conjunction Neptune-Mc I have had to differentiate very much my personal aspirations as the astrology, of my work , I am very valued but does not represent my true vocation.

  5. Sun conjunct Neptune in Libra in the second, sextile Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo in the 12th.

    Worked hard all my life with nothing to show for it because my relationship with money sucks.

    Right now Saturn is coming up on my SU/NE, then PL will square from the fifth. Lastly, UR will oppose from the eighth.

    Restriction and responsibility for money hit by a transformation of some sort as a result of either my son or some creative enterprise, ended by a sudden change in how I earn my earning ability.

    I would like to think I will win the lottery, but that’s Neptune talking!

    Reminds me of Carrie’s line from Sex in the City, “I’m going to be a bag lady! A Fendi bag lady; but a bag lady nonetheless!

  6. Hi Donna: This article certainly described my childhood home/family life to a perfect ‘t’! ACA really healed me in many ways. Though I don’t attend it anymore, it seems to be most useful at the point of need; after all, isn’t the goal to simply live life?

    This transit also encourages (hahah, to use a more gentle word) me to apply the Serenity Prayer and the “let go and let God/universe/higher power”. It’s not a matter of me forcing solutions or outcomes, but doing what I can and letting life resolve the rest, all while practicing healthy boundaries. When I think about the tougher times in the past, doing this really got me through them and opened doors that I might not had seen or noticed.

    Many thanks for sharing!!

  7. Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury conjunct in Scorpio in the 2nd, square Moon in Aquarius in the 5th.
    I’m also an ACA, who all my life longed for the deeper spiritual connection you speak of and who used Astrology early on as a way to try and make sense of the craziness.

    My family used to call me “little mother”, and I even chose a career where I “mothered” special ed kids – I think it was my way of doing for them what I needed myself. Then when that job ended, I mothered my own mother. It took me many years to learn the difference between nurturing and enabling, and I let go of a lot of relationships in the process (Pisces on the 7th), but it’s all good. Right now, I’m mostly focused on nurturing my talents and my values, which include social causes. I still get very emotionally involved and can become very disillusioned. Thanks for another great article, Donna.

    • LB, good honest self-examination. Good work. Did you download the chapter about codependency with the link in the article? It’s mainly about ACAs, and may give you many new insights. Donna

      • Hi Donna – I just downloaded this morning and read it over a cup of pero. I wish I’d known about your writing thirty years ago, although maybe I wouldn’t have been ready to process it back then. Ever read “The Drama of the Gifted Child”? That pretty much sums it up.

        It’s funny, but I most identified with the Moon in Aries letter from Ma (that’s what I called her), and my mother’s Aquarius Mars sat right on my Moon, which trines my Gemini Mars (my Taurus mom’s Venus was in Gemini). I’m still processing but want to do the “Psychological Exercises” you suggest. It’s a great eBook. Makes me want more. Thanks so much.

      • Glad if it helps, LB. We find the help we need when we most can use it, I believe. And we re-find the help we need when it’s time to review it–why certain books or teachings come back into our lives. Donna

      • Not only are you wise, Donna, but you’re also a bit psychic. LB

  8. I’m in awe!!! I just survived a Pluto transit through my 4th/ sag, which triggered my up until then sleeping 4th house sag neptune. If only i had read this some years earlier..
    By the way, could a 12th house Neptune signify an inability to set boundaries against deep fears and anxieties?
    (The 12th h. meaning is such a foggy concept to grasp.. even without Neptune in it!)
    Excellent post, so deep and, at the same time, so practical!

    • A 12th house Neptune is like a double dose of Neptunian energy (since the 12th is related to Neptune and to Pisces), so it would increase the difficulty in setting boundaries because of a strong capacity to empathize and soak up other’s pain psychically. Donna

  9. In Plasidus house calculation, my Neptune is in Sag in the very end of the 4th house (in Koch house system, reads in the 5th). I’ve intuitively felt it was in the 4th, and after this article, I’m even more convinced it fits in the 4th. The Neptune is sextile my Pluto/Moon conjunction in the 3rd, and forms a Yod with my sun/Chiron in the 10th.

    My childhood home life is/was definitely atypical, with mom being from a family of hoarders, and filthy, physically nonfunctional environment. This has affected me very deeply, and I left pretty dramatically before graduating high school to escape this suffocating physical environment, neglect, and denial. My home life everywhere I lived after that was wrought with interpersonal conflicts. Years later, I moved back home to “help” my parents after my dad’s heart attack for fear of their imminent death and illness in that energetic stagnancy. I’d begun doing major personal growth, and having worked on myself a lot, I saw it was possible to come back without being a victim in the situation again. I thought it would be a short term situation to finally “fix” my parents, and clean the house– how naive I was! I soon gave up trying to physically clean it, because it would go back to the way it was, or my mom’s unwillingness to part with any item would make it impossible to rid the clutter. I began to focus more intensely on myself and my own growth and felt that the best way to affect the space was by example. So my intense inner journey began. Through my self healing, and becoming a healer in the time I’ve lived with them. I have assisted my parents in emotional and psychological ways I would never have dreamed of before. What I thought would be a year or so has turned into 9 years, and very challenging ones, but also abundant in opportunities to heal these issues and to transform the constant disgust, anger, disappointment, etc,. I’ve developed a new career as a healer and pursued spiritual studies intensely during this time.

    Boundaries have always been a issue because my mom seems to have few, and the house was the epitome of boundarylessness.

    I’m still learning of course, and this article has really clarified this placement of Neptune in my life, and how it’s played out. Thanks Donna!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Curious. I’ve wondered what the charts of hoarders look like (probably cluttered with a bajillion asteroids!), and though you’re not the hoarder the Neptune in the 4th certainly fits. there’s a download somewhere in the series of articles on boundaries about Adult Children of alcoholics and their charts that might apply to you as well. Do you know anything about your parents’ birth charts that would relate to hoarding. Donna

      • my sister and father both have this compulsive disease. Sister is ACOA with 12th house Nept. &moon in scorpio Father has scorp rising with cancer stellium in the 8th.(afflicted) So much of yur 12th house examination and research right now is hitting so close to home I almost cannot handle it. It has taken me yrs to completely understand what codependency is and/or how my chart shows this tendency and unconcious patterning in my life and relationships. I still am vague about why my 9th house Neptune is indicative of same. Trying to be brave about your articles but am feeling creeped out

      • Sorry it’s hard to take, but be brave and do it a little at a time. (Those posts aren’t going anywhere!) Confronting it will change your life for the better over time. If your 9th house Neptune is within 10 degrees of the Midheaven, that’s a conjunction to the part of the chart that represents parental authority.


  10. Hi Donna,
    I forgot to mention that Uranus is also in the 4th house, (not conjunct Neptune, though), opposite the sun, so right in the middle of the bottom of the Yod. So that makes for my comment about the house being “atypical.” My mom is not the only one though, also one sister and aunt, and her other sister and mother to a lesser degree. I don’t know how far back in the family line it goes… I grew up thinking it was a reaction to the great depression, but now I know it has deeper psychological issues and emotions that contribute to this pattern.

    I took a brief look at my mom’s chart years ago… but I’m not so skilled at interpreting others charts, yet. I grew up thinking she was a libra, because her birthday is a cusp date. But she never fit what I knew about Libras. When I finally got her birth time and did a chart online, I saw her sun was at 0’1″ degrees Scorpio, just on the edge of the 11th/12 house cusp and saw that her ascendant is also Scorpio, which described an intense, reactive, combative, powerful woman, and that is exactly described her! Her mars is also in the 12th house. Her moon is in capricorn. It was a revelation to finally see my mom in her truth. My childhood started to make sense– her addiction to romance novels— thousands, and she doesn’t want to part with a a lot of them. Walking around nude in front of her teenage sons at times, without anyt conception of how others are affected by her actions… She feels she is he consumate victim in her life, and in someways she is, but also the perpetrator and doesn’t take responsibility for almost anything- blaming anyone else. Just total lack of boundaries. She has Neptune in her 10th house of career, which makes sense because that is where she lacks a lot of boundaries– with her clients and her paperwork, which contributes a lot to the clutter in our home, as she has s home office. Though that is still only a portion of the problem.

    If you want my mom’s birth data (my dad’s not like that by nature at all- he just is passive when it comes to my mom and he feels powerless to do anything to change it, ) or want some other relative’s friends birth data for research into an astrology article on hoarding, let me know. I think it would be a fantastic idea! By sharing stories like this, I’ve had others open up and share with me that their parents, or they themselves, are also hoarders… it’s more common then we know! literal “dirty” big secret! LOL!


  11. Wow, this is a great article, thank you Donna. =-)

    I have moon(virgo 3rd) square neptune(sag. 6th), MC in Pisces, and mercury(scorpio 5th) parallel neptune

    People have always lied,stolen,abused and decieved me and when they would apologize I would say ok and stay there friend, even when I knew better, I’m a big pushover. lol!

    I grew up in a chaotic household with a both my parents mentally ill. My mother has G.A.D/depression is a binge drinker/eater and my stepfather was bipolar and an alcoholic/drug user.

    I used to want to take care of everyone.

    I wanted to be a veterinarian, then a psychologist and then it was a nutritionist,but I remembered that I always enjoyed, since I was little,drawing and writing, so I tried it again…really liked it and so now I want to be an Artist and spread beauty and happiness that way.

    Thank you again, Robin

  12. Thanks Donna for the free download.

    And your writing & sharing in general!

  13. Dear Donna,

    Thank you very much for free download of Astrological Indicators of the ACA Syndrome! I almost cry when i was reading it because is just so ME.

    I am astrologer (not practicing yet) but using it more for self search sinds I was very young. I grew up in alcoholic family (my mother) and I recognize myself in everything you’ve written.

    Born as Capricorn with saturn on 2th house cusp Gemini (very low self esteem) conjuct the south node. Neptune (lord of 11th house) exact on Descedant sextiel Venus on MC, inconjunct Moon in 5th and Mars in 12th house sextiel Pluto in 5th.

    I have such big boundary problems as over-identification with almost everybody that I just meet. I think and feel the position of Neptune in 7th house (especally on descedant) is the worst off all! or most difficult to handel because of the projection (7th house) to all our contacts. You agree?

    don’t need to tell how much disappointed and pain i have experience in love relationships until now…

    Thank you again Donna.
    I am so grateful that someone finally put some light on this very serious, painful issue!

    • I’m so moved, on the threshold of a new year, to know that something I wrote so long ago is still helping other adult children of alcoholics to understand what drives them. Thanks for writing back to me. The thing that helped me most with the effects of my two alcoholic parents was the Adult Children of Alcoholics 12-step program. You might look into it and see if it offers you insight and support in overcoming the effects. And, yes, I’d say that Neptune in the 7th is among the strongest placements, and that the conjunction to the Descendant (7th cusp) which would also be an opposition to the Ascendant, would be even more powerful. Regards, Donna

  14. Boundaries are such an important part of sound mental health and it has taken me a lifetime to understand and repattern mine. Moon exactly conjunct Asc in Aquarius with Neptune in 8th in quincunx aspect (Mercury and Sun in Cancer other leg,, sextile to Neptune and quincunx Moon). Had to “mother” my 4 younger brothers and sisters as our mother never fully recovered from losing her first child at 2 in a fire and could not connect emotionally with any of us.

    I gathered so many “lame ducks” around me for years and it took a fraught battle with cancer at 53 to finally show me how to start caring for MY own needs. Needless to say, the hoards of one-legged ducks as I called these erstwhile “friends” melted away when it was my turn to receive, as I healed, rather than give. Having 7 planets and the Sun on the west of my chart also provided grist for the mill to learn to balance my needs versus other’s needs.

    I became a professional astrologer at 43 (thank you Uranus!) and found that I had a much larger number of clients with Neptune in the 4th and 10th than the average. I read a book called The Emotional Incest Syndrome by Dr Patricia Love which provided much insight into the problems of a child bound too closely to one parent in childhood, in a way replacing the other parent.

    When checking into family history with clients with this placement, it was quite amazing how many of them had been co-opted by a parent in this way and losing their sense of Self in having to serve the parent’s needs all the time. This is an equally important issue to add to the alcohol/addiction parental issues as it also leads to major issues with boundaries in adult life.

    I would be interested in reading your take on this Donna.



    • That sounds like an important book, Lynne. You might want to create a checklist of traits these clients have in common to give to those clients and to recommend the book to them. It can literally change their lives. Donna

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