Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 22, 2014

Transiting Pluto in Capricorn—Is Pernicious Perfectionism Holding You Back?

©3-22-14 by Donna Cunningham MSW

Pernicious perfectionism—doesn’t that have a ring to it? It rings, all right, but not the kind of bell you want to hear in the midst of trying to present your work to the world in a positive light. More like a warning bell, perhaps, or a closing bell. The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines pernicious as destructive or deadly, but often in a covert way that is not readily observed.

One of the more grating qualities of transiting Pluto in perfectionistic Capricorn that I notice often is a sort of snobbish—no, wait, I mean snotty—perfectionism and rush to judgment. If something a person does or offers isn’t a state-of-the-art in presentation or operation, it’s summarily dismissed without trying to absorb the material.

It’s like attending to the Oscars in a dress that’s off the rack because you can’t afford a designer dress, and being snubbed, despite the fact that you’ve turned in a brilliant performance that got you nominated. And then Joan Rivers mocks you on Fashion Police.

AGSA cvr 2014 smI guess that transit is the reason I spent the last two and half months updating all my e-books and giving them killer covers. I don’t want my work judged because of the cover, and, believe me, readers do that today. I’ve illustrated this post —well, call it a gripe session—with examples of my new covers. (I found some of the cover art–including the one on the left–on a site called, very reasonable and high quality pictures.)

My next big project is a complete makeover of my publications website, which needs to be modernized and to get rid of pages about services I no longer offer. That’s why you haven’t seen much of me, Readers, because I’m trying to outrun the pernicious perfectionism of Pluto in Capricorn.

I think a great many of us are afflicted with pernicious perfectionism these days, both on the receiving and dishing out ends. We judge and are judged by the way we dress and look and the way our work looks rather than on the quality. Being dismissed because of these superficial qualities is discouraging to those of us who are trying so hard to make something of ourselves, to somehow make this a better world. Much of the time, they won’t cut you any slack. Astanal 2014 cvr sm

We all have to step our performance up a notch or three to keep up with the times, especially things on the web that expose our work to a wider audience who will never see us in person if our digital presence isn’t a state-of-the-art. I don’t know about you, but that’s a reality that’sdiscouraging, if not outright disheartening.

But you knoOPIL v1-2014 smw what? Stepping our performance up a few notches and preparing ourselves to meet new needs of our target audience is a good thing, albeit stressful. Life is so very much more complicated now, and if we want to be relevant and helpful, we need to be informed about what’s going on in the world and in people’s lives.

Hey, Pluto is supposed to be about transformation, isn’t it?  (With this transit, though, it seems to be more about GO BIG OR GO HOME.)

What about you, Readers? How has pernicious perfectionism affected your work or your personal life? Do you find yourself growing more perfectionistic and judgmental? Tell us about the relevant transits and what you’re noticing commentsgreatdiscussionin the comment section underneath this post.

See a follow-up article here: Positive Perfectionism versus Pernicious Perfectionism


 Read about my books here: My Books.


  1. Oh, you’re so right, Donna! Lately while a chart analysis for a non-astrologer friend, I got bogged down in details trying make everything CLEAR. I also joined the 21st century and bought an HD TV – but have not connected the HD box because I’m AFRAID TO MAKE A MISTAKE.

    Best, Amy T.

    • Hi, Amy, nice to hear from you. Yes, in the early years of doing consultations, I used to wear myself out trying to cover everything in the chart, and finally realized it was too much for the client to absorb anyway, so we both got overwhelmed.

      Funny, I finally bought an HD TV, too and got lost after two paragraphs of instructions. Then I realized that tekkie stuff is what young people are for, and paid a pal’s grandson to fix it. Donna

  2. Reblogged this on Wolf and Raven.

  3. Donna, you are such a rock star in the field of Astrology I think you can put whatever covers on your books you damn well please, and they will be avidly hunted for and read by everyone looking for substance, clarity, and truly valuable guidance. The rest will find you and your books as soon as they realize how bamboozled they were by flashy bells and whistles.

    Your expertise, keen insights and plain English will ALWAYS be relevant and helpful…but it never hurts to update. 🙂

    • Well, you just made my day, Sally. Joan Rivers can go hang! Donna.

    • Sally, God Bless wrote precisely my same feelings and thoughts!! Donna Cunningham has ALWAYS come across with as tight a digitally professional impact as the very best astrologers working today.

      I often felt her style and organization were setting the bar for how astrology should be handled in print and online. I cannot imagine who has the balls to criticize her unfairly but I gather from her blogpost somebody..some snotty editor or distributor of ebooks perhaps?

      Donnas whole package online is a template I constantly follow and analyze and skywriter is a blog I intend to follow permanently.

      So this Capricorn with pluto now smack dab on top of natal Saturn
      says consider me a Donna Cunningham acolyte!

      • Thanks for your kind words, Paulette. No, it wasn’t an editor or distributor that nettled me, but I do get lambasted from time to time by readers. And though I know they are mostly projecting their own shadow side onto me, it does give the old solar plexus an owie.

        I delete comments like that, unless I feel it’s valid, because this is MY site, and I don’t have to tolerate nastiness. Valid points people raise, like the reader above who wanted more of the positive side of Pluto, that’s fine, good for discussion. No, it’s more the climate of the world out there, this overemphasis on perfection.

        I should point out, however, that there’s also a POSITIVE PERFECTIONISM that prods us to be more professional in our work. Donna > >

  4. Yes Donna, you’re so right, perfectionism is a beast….I’m halfway through my next book (on Homeopathy) ….don’t talk to me about being perfect….Pluto is exactly conjunct my Saturn in my 5th house and I’m getting paranoid about upsetting ‘people’ with relaying my experiences of being in private practice…and I nearly flipped out over a typo I thought had happened this week on something I’d OK’d with a printer….sigh…Pluto in Cappie ain’t fluffy….LOVE the new covers, and please don’t worry about your work as Sally says you deliver ‘substance, clarity and valuable guidance’…Hear Hear!!! xxx

    • Hey, Mary, good to hear from you, and to know you’re plugging away at a book on the other side of the world too.

      It’s amazing to me that nearly every week, the book excerpt from your book on How to Bond with an Aquarian Woman from about 2 years ago is still on the list of most visited articles here on Skywriter. Are Aquarian women THAT hard to get to know? Oh, wait–I don’t know any either! Donna

  5. Donna, it’s very true! Perfectionism is creeping into my personal/natal Grand Cross in Cardinal signs (Moon 15.02 Cancer, Uranus Libra 13 Libra, Chiron 13 Aries). I’m feeling more ambitious in years. Thank you!

  6. Cheery Evening Donna! How long is this Transit with Pluto going to last? Already being Perfectionistic by Nature, and just having had my Sun Progress from Water into Sag.. I have felt as of late, parts of my SELF resign! Throwing up my hands.. Imagine yourself.. step back and then watch as You view part of your own Self huffing off .. miffed, feeling like I have been thrown into that Bill Murray Movie ” Ground Hogs Day ” only in the nightmare sequel that seems like it is never going to get that script to finally pan out right! OY VEY! ( And I am not even Jewish!) Loved your Article 😉

    • Hi, Carmen! You’ve got PP going on too! Well, I remembered there are some flower remedies that help with those concerns, so I hope to put up a post about that next. Donna

  7. Donna:
    Thanks for this post. With transiting Pluto approaching my natal jupiter/nn conjunction in Capricorn, I feel like I need to drop any traces of self-doubt and fear when it comes to my work and self-presentation. For a while, I was feeling like my work/writing just had to be perfect before I put it out to the public, but I’ve moved away from that mindset. More than ever I want to welcome abundance in my life and feel as if the main thing I need to continue to cultivate is confidence. I realize my work and myself will always be in progress.

    • A writer is always in ;process, Sag Mind, because we gain new skill from everything we write. I grew a great deal as a writer in the process of crafting my book on stelliums published in November as a book that I hoped anyone could read, not just astrology students. And I am 71, writing since my teens.

      One thing I would recommend is subscribing to Writer’s Digest magazine, or reading it at the library. I’ve subscribed for at least 30 years, and it helps me keep my writing vivid, even though I don’t write fiction. We don’t have to reinvent the craft of writing, we can learn from the greats. Donna

  8. Honestly Donna? I understand my life better and found healing from wounds inflicted during childhood through your talent of explaining concepts clearly and your sense of humour. Your book on stelliums helped me tremendously, having 6 out of 10 planets in one sign and 1 house. Even when I read the work of other astrologers, they refer to your work often. I never paid attention to the covers, but I remember what you wrote.

    • Thank you, Victoria. I’m so glad that my work has been healing for you. Donna

  9. Hi Donna,

    I’ve read your posts off and on and I thoroughly enjoy your valuable insights. However, I have to disagree with your interpretation of this transit (I hope that is ok… I am interested in the discussion more than argument!).

    I’m curious why you associate this transit with a superficial or surface-level perfectionism. Neither Saturn or Pluto are superficial or concerned with presentation that I know of (which may be little). I generally associate snobbishness with Venus (Libra, Taurus) and shallowness with Mercury and Jupiter (Gemini, Sag and sometimes Virgo). I think this transit has a LOT of potential for showing the regenerative and constructive qualities of Pluto and Saturn.

    To me this transit represents an obsession with pragmatism. For example, this ‘wage’ movement in the US seems like a sign of this transit as well as a demand for financial accountability — work related issues are in need of transformation; a re-awaking of discipline, hard work and personal responsibility. Another characteristic trend that started around 2006 just before this transit began, and is just starting to pick up steam, is the “maker movement”, where people are rejecting large-scale, proprietary commercial enterprises and developing their own open-source materials and tools to manufacture products themselves small-scale; going back to local markets and prizing a direct interaction and deeper understanding of things the production of goods and especially farm work and foods which we lost over the last 50 years. That has Saturn/Pluto written all over it to me!

    I think it also translates to the personal level — where we’re more aware and concerned with quality and accountability of what we produce or work towards; which may mean a little more perfectionism than usual! What do you think?

    I feel this transit strongly as t. Pluto is coming into its “home” of the 8th house in my chart, passing over my Mars currently. I’m one of the people that wants to act as a force of change; even if I just end up changing myself for the better. For example, I’m coming to the realization that if something is broken, if an idea doesn’t work, or if something is not adequate or available, I should do something about it. It seems simple, but I’ve been raised with the idea that if something isn’t right, it’s not my problem. If it isn’t dealt with by someone who is sanctioned as The Fixer, you live with it. That’s the attitude I’ve lived with my entire life. And I’ve decided I don’t want to, or need to, stand for that. I feel like this is a Pluto influence on my Cap Mars.

    I’m still a little scared of this transit because with Pluto it’s always deeply exhausting. It will last about 2 years — later to be joined by t. Saturn (the two will be conjunct over my Moon and opp. my Mercury with +3 deg orb in six years — my nagging fear is it will involve something with my partner, as the Pluto/Saturn transit will be directly over his Mars/Asc conjunction 0 deg orb — or something with my mother who will be 73 by then).

    Anyway, I hope whatever the transits are heralding, Pluto will not be criticizing my fashion choices!

    • Oh, there is no doubt that some of us are using Pluto in Capricorn to transform and regenerate ourselves. I am using the Pluto in Capricorn transit to transform and regenerate my ebooks and other parts of my career. It’s time!

      But using Pluto that way requires insight, self awareness, motivation for self-improvement, and lots of persistent work. People who lack those qualities are more likely to look at and dwell on other people’s faults rather than their own. However, I do find that Capricorn planets can make less-evolved people snobbish because they over-emphasize success and status. Donna

      • Absolutely agree Donna,,you have distinctly “distilled” the crux here…the subject of this blog post and the assimilation of the comments.

        As a Cap with Pluto involvements…I want to be effective in my transformation…I want to embody..”Work smarter not harder”

      • Oh, yeah! That is my motto-smarter, not harder. And I’ve figured out a lot of that in these recent months. (At age 71 1/2, I’d darn well better work smarter, because there’s not a lot of work harder left in me.) Donna

      • Ah! That makes more sense now; I didn’t think of it that way. Thank you!

  10. GP Big or Go Home.

    Yeah, just about sums up Pluto transit for me.

    Perfectionism? If it’s in the context of delving into the depths of my ‘true’ nature, then a big definite yes! With natal Pluto in 8th House Virgo, I’ve a knack for sussing others out…digging into the nitty-gritty (I used to be an archaeologist, so no surprise there)…and with Pluto transiting my 1st House, AC in Sagitarrius and Mars in 1st House Capricorn? Well, let’s say there’s a rewiring of the persona as we speak. I’ve also a broad Uranian streak in me, and with my progressed AC moving through Aquarius, and into Pisces (my Sun sign), I’ve been crow-barred (cheers Lord Pluto) into living my North Node. Which natally lies in 2nd House Aquarius! So ‘soul searching’ on the deep structures of my values and related archetypes / identities level has been centre stage throughout this Capricorn transit.

    I’m in a transition from a career in IT, towards nlp life coaching with a dash of astrology. So I’ve had to look at what works/fit for purpose, and what isn’t. So there’s the perfectionist in me!



  11. Thank you Donna. I’ve been struggling for years over writing a book that takes a lot of research (and me being strongly Saturnian contributed to an insanely high ideal of it I had in my mind). Now, as Pluto is passing over one arm of my Cardinal cross, I finally realize that there are two things: perfection and the deadline, and you have to choose between the two.

    • Oh, man, Tatiana, I can totally relate. My Stellium book was first due in May, then September, and only finally was released in November. But I just HAD to make it as good and thorough as possible, because the topic was so important for the many stellium people out there.

      As a writer, there is POSITIVE PERFECTIONISM, too, and that’s a good thing, too. Doing it right to the best of our ability is the best service to our readers. Every page of a magazine article or book, I polish about 5 times before considering it good enough.

      I think there’s a difference between that kind of striving for perfection, and the painful sort of self-doubt that keeps many talented writers from writing at all or from finishing their work.

      Incidentally, I do associate Pluto with research and delving beneath the surface to find the truth or the things that are hidden. And research is the scaffolding of a book. I absolutely love that part of doing a book. Regards to a fellow writer, Donna > >

  12. My first reaction when I read your post was exasperation. The superficial stuff like covers can be learned in a couple of months, but the knowledge of astrology comes from a lifetime of study. Please know that you are appreciated for the substance of your work, no matter how often styles may change.

    I also can identify with your dilemma, because my Libra husband is going through something similar now (can’t escape that Grand Cross). He is administrating a grant from a large corporation for the university; the main purpose of the grant is to foster knowledge and development of ethics among students. The state government jumped in, because they need an ethics training program, and this is their chance to get some of it done for free! So my husband is in charge of producing training videos for the state government, using student actors and the university’s creative media department.

    The corporation has been generous and supportive. The students involved (and my dh) are working diligently and responsibly. The government input is mainly criticism that it doesn’t look “professional” enough…

    I think they are hoping to take over the project, but the corporation involved is committed to this being a learning opportunity for students. It is more likely that they will just wear down the patience of the benefactor and the people doing the work and end up with nothing. Which might be a warning for others caught up in pernicious perfectionism at a superficial level; complain too much, and you might lose it all.

  13. What a wonderful–and much needed–project, Mary! I read research that a huge percent of high school and college students think there is nothing wrong with cheating or copying other students’ work.

    And your husband’s experience is a cautionary tale on the not-so-innocent uses of perfectionism.

    Professionalism has a lot of negative connotations today, and yet wouldn’t we all want our doctors and other helping people to be extremely professional in their work–and to keep state of the art in it? So professionalism is a good thing, but it does ask us to be more exacting in our standards for ourselves. And that is a Pluto in Capricorn type of transformation, since Capricorn asks us to be professional. Donna

  14. Oh, this blog post came at a perfect time for me! First, your covers look terrific, Donna! I know people judge books by their covers — in fact, I produce photo imagery for the book publishing industry.

    And that brings me to why I love this post — I am SO MIRED in pernicious perfectionism lately! It has slowed my work down to almost a standstill. I am poring over my stuff for hours on end, constantly finding new errors I need to correct. It doesn’t help, I’m sure, that Tr. Pluto is conjunct my Merc/Ve conjunction! I’m already painfully perfectionistic and this is getting to be too much! 😉

    • Hi, Colleen. I can’t honestly believe that a transiting Pluto conjunction to your Mercury/Venus natal conjunction will have a bad outcome. It sounds like you’re wanting more out of your work and are about to make a breakthrough. New mountain tops to surmount, like the mountain goat of Capricorn. Donna

  15. As Tr. Pluto (ruler of my natal 3rd) trines my Ascendant and prepares to leave my natal 4th, I find my growing awareness has both informed and *limited* my choices, making me very particular. Viewing the world through fresh eyes has been like starting over from scratch and has left me searching for ways to rebuild the foundations of my life without becoming isolated. Ignorance is bliss no longer applies, any compromises I choose to make from here on are made with eyes wide open – now that I no longer believe in the illusion, it’s not as easy as it used to be and sometimes I struggle! We’ve made a lot of changes in the way we live; I’m trying not be too hard on myself when I fail to live up to the ideal.

    I like what forge said about wanting to be part of the change, partly through my own choices and partly through challenging systems and individuals who value success, money and/or power over truth, ethics and justice. There’s a lot of illusion, corruption and injustice in this world and we only perpetuate it when we look away. That said, we absolutely have to look at ourselves first, before we turn our attention to others. I also understand how not everyone has access to the same set of choices. For some folks, choice is a freedom/luxury they don’t always have.

    I agree with you Donna, the shadow side of Capricorn seems to express itself as a preoccupation with attaining success and status, or form over substance. When we focus on the easy and superficial, we lose sight of the greater truth – or in the case of our writing, the content or *message*.

    • So good, LB–I agree with all you said. Being /*particular */can be a wise choice! Donna

    • This is very insightful. I’ve never thought Cappy could express a need for status that way. I suppose you could think of any negative expression of a sign as a lack of substance, really — Capricorn through motivations of success despite means as one possibility.

  16. Hi Donna!
    I am thoroughly enjoying your approach, and the comments, to the stretch of Pluto in Capricorn. Along with the shorter but equally vulvanizing effects of Saturn in Scorpio, my work, my life and the writing I do has flipped itself upside down and inside out. I’m on my personal route 66, at age 66 taking the high road by transforming non-fiction into the world of myth and magical thinking. As you know shortly after Pluto moved into Capricorn, I started an online writers’ group to transform isolation into an intimate and regular platform to prime the pump. What is happening as Pluto digs deep into my 12th House Capricorn (where my moon resides natally!) reads like an equal opportunity experience with all sides of the dark goddess.

    Saturn in Scorpio gives me the concentrated (2.5 yrs) of making peace with the role of elderhood as it moves through my 10th and 11th houses. Who is this public being now? The answers show up in myth, dialogue between the characters that fill my imagination and the closets of perfection.

    I love giving myself the permission, and the power, to climb the mountain at my own pace. Being Capricorn/Saturn ruled by chart, I can commit. The transformative bit of this Pluto-Capricorn epoch seems to be about committing to casting spells, and conjuring words in Plutonian fashion at a Saturn pace: deep, slow and sometimes not easily understood by the masses. Maya Angelo said something about why she writes, and who she writes for: it’s those who have paid their dues, and stick around to really get what I’m trying to say. It’s those Pluto pays with the coin of the realm.

    Glad post, and comments. Thanks Donna.

    • Mokihana??? Hi, old friend. You must be writing from a new email address, or WordPress would have recognized you right away. Glad to hear how your writing is evolving under this transit. I miss the writing group you led, and still have hopes of getting back to writing for the sheer joy of self-exploration. It’s just that I have a huge and difficult to do list of projects that I must do. After the web page update, I have two books of essays to put together from my TMA articles and blogs, one of the books being about vocational astrology. But each time I get one of your emails with writing prompts, I do miss the group. Donna

      • Yes, it’s me. Your work, your writing continues to serve up banquets of good. If, and when you are able to join me at the pump you will be welcomed with open arms. In the meantime, you serve us well here old friend!

      • The day will come, Moki. Thanks for your kind words. Donna

  17. Pluto in Capricorn effects me greatly (and in a sense, the whole US) with its mutual reception of Saturn being in Scorpio for the rest of this year.

    **And then yay, it finally shifts into Sagittarius!**

    Saturn in Scorpio (which I have in my natal chart) usually feels great, giving me a sense of personal authority, personal power.

    It gives me a power that Saturn in Libra or even Saturn in Aires or Aquarius could never provide.

    However, having the extra pressure of the transiting Saturn in Scorpio plus Capricorn in Pluto — it’s too much power, too much responsibility regarding corporations as I watch them (as we all do) transform.

    Everyday I have to fix something regarding a corporation, big or small. Sometimes I spend all day on the phone assisting, fixing, and it’s remarkable in the last 5 or so years how ruthless Pluto and Scorpio have been tearing through this country’s corporations, familiar authority and CEOs.

    We needed transformations. However, I am looking forward to Uranus being in the gentler sign of Taurus and Pluto transiting into Aquarius.

    I feel and see people “stuck” and simply believing and accepting the “authority” of insurance companies, healthcare & medicine, the media, present forms of technology, etc.

    If you don’t have the latest iPhone, you’re out of date. That’s Capricorn, not Aquarius. Aquarius is remembering that technology constantly changes and we can all have different types of technologies. Some of us can specialize in photography, some of us video rendering, some of us gaming.

    Anyway! That’s just a little bit of what I’ve noticed. Whew! I’m looking forward to the next sign, honestly, haha.

  18. Pluto in Capricorn over Mars in the Sixth House – (mixed aspects): Here is what happened when Pluto began the transit –

    Pluto makes a trine to natal Jupiter and sextile to Sun and squares to Saturn/Neptune and opposition Uranus

    Unexpected and deep-rooted health problems began to surface, many that had lain dormant for decades now finally were being recognized and diagnosed properly after years of being misdiagnosed
    I began to realize that the doctors hadn’t been doing their job properly – was shocked and dismayed (after all, we think we can trust our doctors!)
    I took the initiative and after some research, successfully diagnosed several and tests returned positive confirming own suspicions
    Taking the initiative in medical procedures to the point of reading own lab results and planning treatment, obtaining supplements and prescriptions independently
    Both working with and against doctors – encountered many who lacked the specific knowledge needed
    Surprised doctors – complimented by a few, even specialists
    Success in own treatment to the point of keeping self gainfully employed and active and bringing self back from the brink and healing others also
    Pluto brought to the surface that which needed to be addressed and for that I am grateful
    Pluto (nature) only asked that you work with it (natural healing methods)
    Had to walk away from most conventional medical schools of thought that push prescription drugs
    Traumatic at the time, when you can’t function properly, but a challenge (Mars loves a challenge!)
    Aware the Pluto can cause either constructive or destructive action so very careful (Capricorn) about treatment, as it could go either way
    Same with job environments – some job environments are destructive to health and must be walked away from
    Best way is to obtain healing through food and healthy habits, however, Nature will work with complimentary natural methods

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: