Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 24, 2014

Positive Perfectionism versus Pernicious Perfectionism

©3-24-2014 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

We’ve had a lively and productive discussion in the comment section of the recent post about Pluto in Capricorn and pernicious perfectionism. I’d like to share some of our insights with those of you who missed it. One reader described it vividly when she wrote that the level of snobbery and rushing to judgment in the world at large is soul-killing. Several noted that their own surge of perfectionism has their work stalled.

Others thought I was focusing on the negative qualities of Pluto and Capricorn to the exclusion of such positive ones as transformation, healing, and regeneration. It’s true that my frustration at the pain this is causing in the world at large might not have been balanced. (What rant is? Show me someone who can rant and be fair at the same time, and I’ll bow to their superiority.)

My aim–when I’m not on a soapbox–is usually to describe both the positive and the less constructive traits of a planet’s placement so that people know that, given conscious awareness, they can make wise choices. Below are the pluses and minuses we can find in combining Pluto with Capricorn. Mix and match the qualities of the sign and planet to see how you might be using it.


Traits of Capricorn:       Traits of Pluto:      
Capricorn’s Roles:   planner, supervisor, authority, parent, troubleshooter, organizer, manager,   mentor. Possible Constructive   traits: hard working, able to delay gratification, businesslike, serious,   realistic, disciplined, organized, reliable, responsible, high standards,   foresightful, cautious, resourceful. Possible Difficult   Traits: bossy, conservative, stuck in the past, rigid, over-ambitious,   insecure, anxious, unimaginative, opportunistic, inhibited, snobbish,   skeptical, pessimistic, gloomy, workaholic.  Pluto’s roles: psychologist, healer,   occultist, magician, renovator, analyst, hospice worker, genealogist, banker,   financier, medium, magician, shaman, seer, researcher, detective.Possible   Constructive traits: deep, perceptive, psychologically astute,   insightful, empathic, transformative, persevering, resilient. Possible Difficult   Traits: suspicious, mistrustful, loner, resentful, vengeful, unforgiving,   possessive, obsessive, compulsive, spiteful, enmeshed in power struggles,   manipulative


(The mix of traits for Saturn in Scorpio would be fairly similar, since Pluto rules Scorpio and Saturn rules Capricorn. The two planets will spend a total of about two years in what is called mutual reception, meaning each planet in the pair is in the sign ruled by the other planet. Read more about mutual receptions here: Planets in Mutual Reception—Join our Online Research.)

There’s no doubt that some of us are using Pluto in Capricorn to transform and regenerate ourselves. Using Pluto that way requires insight, self awareness, humility, 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.  I do find that Capricorn planets can make less-evolved people  snobbish and judgmental because they over-emphasize success and status at the expense of the finer qualities that don’t show on the outside.

For some of my readers, this transit (and the related one of Saturn in Scorpio) has brought a healthy surge of discontent with your work as it stands now, wanting more out of yourself and yearning for a breakthrough.

perfect mixThat can be called a POSITIVE PERFECTIONISM. There’s a difference between that kind of striving for perfection, and the painful self-doubt that keeps many talented and creative people from finishing their work or sharing it with the world.

The  helpful effect of this transit in career-oriented Capricorn can be an increased professionalism in the way we pursue and showcase our work. What used to be good enough isn’t good enough any more—we’re all being challenged to raise the bar. Maybe it’s coming from an inner hunger for growth, or maybe it’s coming from increased demands in your field to step your work up a notch. But the pressure is there.

Many of you are finding new mountaintops to surmount, like the mountain goat of Capricorn. Me, too, which is why I’ve revised and updated most of my ebooks over the past couple of months. Not fun, but needed and at least the Saturn/Capricorn influence has given me the patience and persistence to do it.

The word professionalism often has 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 be state of the art in it? Professionalism can be a good thing, but it does ask us to be more exacting in our expectations of ourselves. And that’s a Pluto in Capricorn type of transformation, since Capricorn aspires to high standards that lead us to be more professional.

What about you, Readers? Looking past the stresses of this transit, can you see yourself raising the bar on your performance in the areas of life Pluto is touching? Share your process with us in the comment section.

 See the original post here: Transiting Pluto in Capricorn—Is Pernicious Perfectionism Holding You Back?

Other Posts about Pluto on Skywriter:


  1. Pluto will be conjunct my Venus exact in early summer 2015 and then conjunct my Sun late 2017. Looking at my values and what I spend or how I make my money. I think it is a total transition of who I am now and what I can become. Pluto conjunct my Mercury in 2009-2010. My Capricorn planets being in the 11th I have lost to death 2 dear friends of over 25 yrs.

    • Oh, my, I have a stellium in the 11th also, and those big outer planet transits primarily affect me through my friends. I lost a ton of them to AIDS when Pluto was squaring those planets, and now Neptune is squaring them from the 8th. My big fear was that, now that we’re in our 70s, some of them might get a bit dingy. So far, it’s more that their health is bad, but it’s early yet. Friends have always been my greatest blessing AND my greatest challenge. Donna

  2. Hi, Donna. I usually associate this Pluto transit with family loss, since my father died a few years back the very week that Pluto crossed the cusp of my fourth house, and as I witness the decline of my mother. But after I read your post this morning, I mulled over the question of where I am “taking it to the next level.” I thought about it while I pulled up weeds from my vegetable and herb garden, while I started another batch of kombucha, and while I helped my homeschooled kids do their math…ding,ding,ding! I am taking home and family matters to the next level as Pluto transits my fourth house. And this has required me to reclaim some responsibilities from the professionals; for example, growing my own medicinal herbs for safe, effective remedies and educating my kids at home in a state that ranks 49th in the quality of the public schools. Even in the unobtrusive fourth house, Pluto is making its influence felt!

    • That really fills the bill in terms of how it would operate in a house not associated with career…digging deeper into your roots. Thanks for telling us about it. As for Pluto crossing into the 4th house, that cusp is not just any cusp, it’s one of the 4 angles of the chart (the IC), and when one of the slow-moving planets aspects it, it’s a life changing phase. Donna > >

  3. I started having back/hip pain about 3 years ago. after an MRI, xrays, PT, cold laser treatment and sleepless nights, I am finally feeling better. my natal Saturn is in my first house and transiting Pluto in my 7th. yes it has taken 3 years but I have finally come to accept that I have an old back and arthritis in my hips. the days of extreme flexibility are gone. the Pluto transit of transformation/death/regeneration has helped me enter this phase of my life/body. I am very lucky. I have the same Solar Return as Peter O’Toole. we both had Yods—he passed over and my life too will never be as it was before.

  4. Pluto is moving through my first house, and having had MS for over 30 years, the last 3 years I have really changed in my appearance. I am no longer the working, walking, dancing fool I used to be. I’m nearly 180 degrees from what I used to look like. Or sound like, write like…
    Saturn has also been going over my Moon at 21 degrees Scorpio conjunct Neptune. I’ve had plenty of time to dig through my past…and I realized that I have to do better. Be better.
    I cannot physically, outwardly, “raise the bar”,but I can inwardly. I need to work on who I really am.

  5. I have not seen initial comment posted where I shared some of my insights concerning the Pluto in Capricorn transit however in case you were able to get a chance to take a look here is some more regarding what to me is the most significant transition my life.
    As I stated because this transit will cover the 16 year period between 2008 and 2024 a comprehensive assessment can perhaps only be done after it has moved from Capricorn and entered Aquarius. I also mentioned I happened to notice while looking into it’s personal significance for myself and best to take advantage of the indications delineated concerning Pluto ingress into and transit through Capricorn and my natal tenth house that the United States of America will encounter it’s first Pluto return in that Pluto was 27 degrees 54 minute Capricorn in the ninth house of the US chart which has Gemini rising rectified to 3 degrees 34 minutes Gemini by Marc E. Jones.
    Already there have been some very significant configurations which have brought a great deal of changes both actual and potential and many of the changes have not been completed yet but just to give us a very general and partial context, we are talking about the economic bubble which trust in 2008, the so-called Arab spring of 2011, and the current crosses in the Ukraine, Thailand and Venezuela. These are by no means the only consequences of the this transit but it is within these kinds of general social and cultural upheavals the more impersonal and individual ramifications of this trans-Saturnian take place.
    Many of new age enthusiasts quite optimistically and in my view wrongly believe that the entire world will change for some supposed “Utopian” better associated with a fantasized ‘Age of Aquarius’ made [poplar in the ’60’s when there was a significant sift in socio-psycho-spiritual awareness.
    Our general more accepting attitudes towards most esoteric studies come from that time though at the same time there is in my opinion a complete misunderstanding regarding how this Age of Aquarius may actually come about having to do with things like the delineation of Pluto being a destroyer but in the sense of a complete and total evolutionary transformation not just a developmental progression or change along the current line.
    In this latest essay you brought up one of the important configurations involved in this evolutionary process which has to do with the transit of Saturn in Scorpio and it’s mutual reception with Pluto in Capricorn which began I believe and the end of January last year and will continue until the end of this year on December 29th 2014.
    This combination allows for the possibility to confront the deep seated emotional traumas which we have harbored as individuals in an organized and methodical manner and gives us the ability to face our fears and deal with them over time or to become consumed by them the more we insist on hold on to them, the past and blaming others for what is in fact our own short coming in particular emotional.
    On the more mundane level it has to do with realizing that being all about the “Benjamins” is not at all what this country was founded on and to the extent we as a nation are not living up to those values articulated in that founding document is to the extent we will suffer the “pernicious” side of the transit you referred to in your earlier essay.
    Again I have more I want to say but also again the timing has got me. I have about 6 minutes to sign-off and catch a bus. So thanks again for your blog and this opportunity.
    James Page/Mephistoples

  6. Donna ~ During a recent Senate subcommittee hearing on how the US might learn from other countries and improve upon our current for-profit healthcare system, I was inspired watching a Canadian doctor respond to a US Senator who criticized and mischaracterized Canada’s single-payer system. Canadians (along with many of us here in the US) are calling the doctor a hero for “schooling” the US Senate. Speaking truth to power with authority and integrity (Saturn in Scorpio), seems like a good example of something very positive coming from this transit.

    At its best, Saturn in Scorpio encourages us to dig deep and face up to unpleasant truths so we can let go of whatever isn’t working and begin to heal, while Pluto in Capricorn can represent the established Plutocracy’s resistance to any change that promises greater social and economic justice – though it might wish to *appear* otherwise.

    • Yeah, it’s a mystery to me why we don’t have universal health coverage like many European countries and Canada have had for decades. It’s no wonder our rates of things like prenatal problems are way higher. Donna

      • Donna ~ If we’re willing, Saturn in Scorpio seems like as good a time as any to look at how and why our current insurance system doesn’t work.

        I was just thinking this morning how by *transforming/perfecting* an already established insurance program, Medicare, into something universal via **Single-payer, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All** (H.R. 676) more of us would benefit from the positive attributes of all this powerful Pluto/Saturn- Capricorn/Scorpio energy. Right now, we’re experiencing more of the negative side as it relates to insurance – though some of the fortunate ones would disagree.

        Being both a realist and idealist, I don’t know if anything will change for the better during my lifetime, but I’ll continue to advocate for it anyway. I’m encouraged that more folks are at least talking about it.

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