While it’s tempting to write off the more difficult aspects of being alive as merely a price to pay, even the worst feelings can serve a purpose. They can catalyze an opportunity for healing and self-preservation, or call attention to things that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. They are ruthless but necessary. And different signs are better suited than others to capitalizing on their unique potential. For instance, Cancers understand how to harness their fear for self-preservation, while Scorpios can spin gold from jealousy. While these aren’t emotional states any of us want to indulge in or prolong, we’d be wise to appreciate their rightful place in our greater psychic ecosystem. Which is why, to cap off a year filled with myriad challenges, I’m offering a little guidance below as to which challenging emotions each sign is poised to make good use of next year.
Unlike the Hulk, an Aries can still be extremely likable when angry. You’re ruled by Mars, the god of war, so it makes sense that, for you, getting fired up is often more exciting than exhausting. Anger is actionable, and you get off on making things happen. Saying yes or no to something with the full force of your intent is satisfying, and the state of your rage can help you cut through the paralyzing indecision that can dog others. Anger is a bath of ice water, a screaming alarm clock, a tick tick tick that demands your immediate and total focus. When you’re pissed, you’re fully present in a way that can be healing and cathartic. It’s an adrenaline wave you can ride to enlightenment… at least until you fall asleep.
You bulls play it cool on the surface but, deep down, you need your things and your people, and that’s just how it’s got to be. You’re a possessive sign, and while you don’t need the whole world, you do need your own corner of it. If that’s a little suffocating for your friends and family and even yourself, then so be it. However uncomfortable it is to sustain the intensity of your attachments, that unusually high level of commitment strengthens the fibers of your connections enough to withstand the vicissitudes of life—marriages, kids, job moves, relocations, religious awakenings (and slumbers), divorces, illness, loss, and more. None of that stands any chance against your ability to put in the work decade after decade to preserve the stability of your life. Because you need it that way.
The frenetic Geminian mind can process more stimuli than most without overheating, meaning that for the twins, an anxious system is still a functioning one. You’re happiest when you’re learning something new, which means you’re continually transforming—moving from ignorance to knowledge. And with frequent change comes attendant feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. It’s hard to exist in a prolonged state of nervousness, but the engine of your curiosity and appetite for mental occupation has more horsepower than other signs. Although you will need to rest your fluttering wings from time to time, you’re somewhat at peace with a certain amount of baseline tension—it keeps things interesting, at least.
Cancers are the most fearful signs in the zodiac, and being in touch with what scares you is an incredibly difficult thing for most people to sit with. But the function of fear is essential to keeping you safe. It tells you not only what is actually dangerous—steep cliffs, hornets nests, people who are too charming—but what may present a unique threat to you based on your personal boundaries. And that enables you to effectively weed out the bad ones, to the envy of those around you with a more lax emotional security detail. A Cancer’s primary objective is to keep your home (however you define it) a safe, warm, and welcoming utopia amid the chaos of the rest of the world. Your steel walls shield you from all manner of cold and harsh winds (and sweet-talking interlopers), which enables you to stay soft and cuddly to your people on the inside.
You’re famous for your pride, Leo, and when you’re confronting a blow to your ego, the indignance and how-dare-they-ness of it all could not be more magnified. Why would anyone even want to hurt me? you may ask yourself. That may sound like a self-centered question, but you’re unusually capable of deep self-reflection. The moral hazard of excessive pride is awarding it before it has been earned, but Leonine pride is all about asking yourself who you are and what you’re made of before you congratulate yourself. When you dig into why something hurt you, you’re also just as likely to uncover—and investigate—your own hidden values and wants. In other words, you wield your egotism for self-improvement rather than stagnation, because you’re not satisfied to take your own side until you’re sure you’re right. Then you’re cleared to pop off and roar.
The slimy feeling of disgust is an unpleasant one to be sure, and Virgos, you probably experience it multiple times more each day than your fellow astrological denizens. But though its obvious function is to keep you clean—which you appreciate, welcome, and celebrate—it works even harder on your behalf. Your heightened sense of nausea helps you sniff out individuals and situations that are out of sync with your ethics and values. As the most in-the-weeds, detail-oriented sign in the zodiac, it can be dangerously easy for you to miss the forest. But your highly reactive abdominal pit will tell you right away, in the clearest of terms, when someone or something is an absolute no.
It’s not advisable to ruminate too long in romantic angst or longing. Unless you’re a Libra, in which case the universe gives you a bit of a pass. As the sign of partnership in all its forms, you’re naturally perked for opportunities to connect with others. When you fall for someone, even if the relationship is complicated, your feelings are usually fairly pure and simple: you just really love them! Even when unrequited, your capacity for desire can be a really fertile psychic space for you to explore what you like about yourself, since what we love does mirror back to us our own values, tastes, proclivities, seductions, and so forth. You’re like the opposite of Narcissus, who couldn’t incubate affection for anyone but himself. For you, the opportunity to fall in love with others is a window into loving yourself—which just so happens to make you more appealing to those around you.
I’m jealous of your ability to harness jealousy for the good, Scorpio. You are the sign of desire, so it’s only natural for you to see things others have and want them for yourself. While most would find this an uncomfortable, destabilizing state to be in; for you it’s a powerful divining tool for sussing out what you really want so you don’t waste time. While it’s never fun to want and not have, it’s worth paying attention to exactly what sparks those hot flames of envy. As a fixed water sign, you don’t covet things indiscriminately—in fact, you’re fairly discerning about where you place your energy. So when you feel incensed that someone gets a job or accolade you never considered pursuing before, that’s a cue to yourself that maybe that’s really a thing you want, independently of that other person. And while you can’t stop someone else from achieving their goals, you can absolutely use your feelings about them to realize your own.
As the centaurs of the zodiac, you’re one to spiritually (and physically) clomp indiscriminately through your life guided only by caprice and the direction of the wind. You answer to no one when it comes to pursuing what makes you happy, which can frustrate anyone who might be implicated in the inevitable clean-up. But your tendency to act without worrying about consequences isn’t simply the shenanigans of a rascal (though it absolutely can be that, too)—it’s you being fully present in the moment you’re in, and not worrying about the future. The earnest and singular pursuit of joy is a noble one, and you’re much more likely to discover gold (literal and figurative) because you aren’t exploring according to someone else’s map. You just get a restless feeling and gallop off into the sunset.
Boredom is tough. For some, it’s a more unbearable state of being than deep sadness or hot rage, offering no narrative to get you through the drudgery of it. There’s no drama in it, only the mundanity of the task at hand and the promise of… incremental progress? But you, Capricorn, have a special tolerance for powering through unstimulating tasks if you must because you don’t need to feel like a protagonist while you’re doing something. You can find comfort in getting things done one step at a time, and because you’re not desperate for entertainment, you’re able to calmly assess when boredom is a necessary nuisance in service of a worthy goal or when it’s time to pivot because the journey ahead is not worth the schlep. That saves you a lot of time—which is actually a very exciting outcome!
As the coolest creatures in the zodiac, Aquarians are exceptional at sloughing off quotidien concerns in favor of galactic-scale ideas. The way you think is at least a decade ahead; you’re fatigued by cliches before they’re cliche. All that emotional distance between you and the world as it is now can be lonely. And loneliness is hard to suffer for everyone, but you are somehow, impossibly, at home with the feeling of alienation. It’s not that you’re immune to the loneliness and disconnection—you really get how it feels to be at an odd angle to your social environment. But that’s what makes you able to appreciate and understand all manner of weirdness in others. And by embodying that tolerance, you inspire others to expand their capacity for acceptance as well.
Sadness is an overwhelming emotion, Pisces, and as a water sign you’re able to weather the tidal waves of disintegration and reconstitution that characterize the feeling of pure grief. No one gets out of it, but not everyone gets through it the way you can. It’s natural for humans to build defenses against the disorientation of sorrow, but the longer we can sit with it, the more quickly we can recover and move forward. You’re a mutable sign, which means you have the psychological flexibility to straddle contradictions and comprehend the incomprehensible. Even when it’s harrowing, destabilizing, and impossible, your ability to simply feel your sadness makes you not only able to heal yourself, but it endows you with the empathy to hold space for others and help them heal as well.
Graphics by Lorenza Centi.