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The Phoenix Complex: Surviving Scorpio’s Death Instinct

The Phoenix Complex: Surviving Scorpio’s Death Instinct


The Pluto Death Drive

For Scorpio Death must Precede Life


Sigmund Freud, a psychologist born with Scorpio Rising and an 8th house Moon, coined the idea of the death wish – – the drive that pushes people toward self-sabotage and suicide as they work against their own best interests, figuratively and literally killing themselves. In the world of astrology, the death wish expresses itself as the Pluto Drive.


Pluto, the planet of death and transformation, gives Scorpios the penchant to hurtle toward catastrophic experiences, behaviors and people that cause them to suffer soul death and bodily harm.  If Scorpios do not pursue this destruction themselves, it will find them; they will attract it because the shadow realm and the harms associated with it are drawn to Scorpios —  even the innocent ones.


Other sun signs have nothing comparable, although 8th housers and very Plutonian people might relate on a milder level to the Scorpio’s destructive drive.

Everyone, at least once, experiences a loss so keen it feels like death because the Scorpio sign does rule one house in every natal chart and Pluto resides somewhere in the natal chart of everyone and will strike some house by transit.  That upheaval doesn’t rise to the level of intense compulsion toward self-destruction that Scorpios suffer with Pluto ruling their sun sign, or that 8th house people might suffer because  they are consigned to what classic astrologers called “the house of death.”


Suicide : Scorpio vs. Pisces

The Pluto death drive is different than the famous Neptune drive toward suicide.

Neptune and Pisces can promote self-obliteration as Pisces energy seeks to sacrifice or erase itself. However, Scorpio’s auto-annihilation seeks the opposite effect: the salvation and refinement of self.

Whether they are wise enough to know it or not, Scorpios are magnetized toward danger for the purpose of fortifying the self, renewing the self and becoming stronger.  It is the only way their Phoenix complex can be put to use.


Scorpio’s greatest superpower – the ability to transform or regenerate themselves — exists in exact proportion to their ability to destroy themselves. The symbol of the Phoenix rivals the Eagle as the highest and most esteemed expression of Scorpio energy.  The Phoenix, of course, is the mythic Grecian bird who is reborn from ashes.

Like the crash-and-burn Phoenix, Scorpios need harm, risk, danger and near-death events if they wish to evolve and cycle higher.


Scorpios don’t always realize they are subconsciously giving into a death wish, although the signs are rather obvious.

Emotionally, the death wish manifests as:

  • depression,
  • suicidal thoughts,
  • rage,
  • a loss of faith expressed as nihilism,
  • nonchalance about survival needs and personal welfare.


Physically, the drive toward death may appear as:

  • Extreme Cocooning – While loner Scorpio cocoons as a habit of nature, the self-destructive drive ups the ante to the level of hermitic living.


  • Zombie-ism – Once they take off the mask, Scorpios are beloved for their passion, charisma and intensity. In the zombie state, those traits are muted. The life force that makes Scorpio magnetic may be down to a flicker – if it can be detected at all.


  • Torching of all bridges – These include bridges to help, prosperity, opportunity, love, and friendship. Yes, even bridges to the personal Scorpio tribe are burned.



The weapons wielded by Scorpio against itself are too varied, unique and numerous to mention, although below are four common ones.

They all, of course, come from the Shadow side of life, which is associated with the 8th house. The Shadow side is that realm of life that society denounces, hides and fears.  If wise and experienced, Scorpio is the sign that has the most authority in this realm. Scorpios can master the shadow realm and play the savior for waywards, lost souls and criminals. However, when they are naive and vulnerable, the Shadow realm can be Scorpio’s grave.


  • Sexual Trauma – Sex is normally exciting and nourishing to Scorpios. However, experiences with sexual perversion, which are quite likely with Scorpios,  can paralyze and destroy. Through Scorpio’s link to taboos, fearlessness, unconventionality and insatiable hunger for the erotic, Scorpios might find themselves traumatized and entangled, by accident, choice, or force in perversions such as molestation, incest, sexual imprisonment, occultic uses of sex, rape, and any other unusual or malignant expression of the sexuality Scorpios worship so much.


  • Addiction – Due to their love of obsession and compulsion, Scorpios can be natural addicts. They are mesmerized and sometimes imprisoned by the rapture of excess. Scorpio’s tendency to sate desire by immersing themselves in surplus can easily be dialed up to the level of destructive addiction.  And we’re not talking simple narcotics. Any substance, any emotion, any person, any habit can become an addiction, triggering Scorpio’s automatic reflex to tilt toward the extreme to the point that they become unhinged and on the verge of ruin.


  • Mystical Void –  Some Scorpios plunge into darkness by falling into a spiritual abyss. Although not discussed as a popular trait, Scorpios are very spiritual – not necessarily in the traditional sense. The keyword normally used is mystical. They have faith in the mystical powers of the Universe; i.e, they trust fate, destiny, Muses, intuition, sixth senses and the Universe’s fair and benevolent rhythms to bring them what all Scorpios live for: deep life meaning, intimacy, the soul mate, and sex that is so transcendent it acts as a salve for the soul.  These are the desires of the 8th house and Scorpio. Without them life may not seem that cherishable and Scorpio might be racked with rage that they have trusted in a fraud…that there is no rhythm to the Universe…that there is no magic …. that life is as dull as it seems on the surface…. that all their probing and depth has been for naught….that while more superficial sun signs find glee, they desire something so intense that it can’t be found.  In this case, absence does not make the Scorpio heart go fonder. And Scorpio feels betrayed and faithless.


  • Anonymity – to all – There are two signs that absolutely need people to survive. Libra who cannot bear being alone and Scorpio who is fine alone, but who needs to volley energy back and forth with an “other” to feel alive and to feel known.  They are the heart-sharing sign and this goes beyond soulmates. Scorpio needs to be known on a soul level and to know others on a soul level. They will shrivel and decay if no one gets beyond their mask and discovers the secret and wonder of who they REALLY are.  Sometimes Scorpios wound themselves with their hyper-need for privacy, hiding into oblivion.


  • Psychotic Escorts  – It is not unusual for Scorpios  to attract the fixation of evil or psychotic people who escort them to crisis. This can be anyone from clingy stalkers to murderers to people who are themselves suicidal.


  • Violence – When the Scorpio soul runs on empty, there may be an absence of light to balance their darkness. Scorpios are naturally very aggressive and under the frustration of Pluto’s death drive, may turn to violence to hurt themselves, whether through physical harming or an actual suicidal attempt. If the Scorpio has personal planets like Moon or Mars in Pisces, sun in the 12th house or Pisces rising, those influences may make suicide attempts more likely. Violence during Scorpio’s self-destruction phase may be directed toward other people. Whether self-directed or outwardly directed, the violence is a result of Scorpio inverting the lust to bond. Scorpios convert that hunger into a lust to destroy all possibility of bonding in a permanent, decisive way… they destroy the sensitivity, the compassion and alas, the physical body that is the vessel for bonding.  But it may not destroy the ache inside.


  • Denial of Survival Instincts – Instead of making decisions to protect the self and livelihood, the Scorpio may become purposefully reckless and threat-seeking, ignoring all tell-tale signs of danger ahead. In fact, they may begin choosing options that bring them face to face with the most danger.


Scorpios are born survivors. Sometimes this is quite literally true. Among the many death myths associated with Scorpio is the idea that Scorpios survive some life-or-death close call as they exit the womb or while they are still infants or children.  Whether this is truth or fable, the idea is that Scorpios can stare in the face of death and triumph.

It is a gift of Pluto. Do not question and certainly don’t deny it.

Like scorpions in the animal kingdom that heal broken limbs by shedding one exoskeleton and growing another,  Scorpios are masters of regeneration and transformation. They are alchemists who can take the energy of death and ashes and transmute them into something life-giving.

They are caterpillars who do come out of the cocoon and become spectacular, radiant creatures.


  • Remember if you are already in the death phase of the Phoenix cycle, then the worst is  almost over. You are about to enter the rebirth phase – unless you wallow in the death phase and never come out.  On the other side are new experiences, even though you may have to start from scratch.


  • Restore Your Ego-  The first causality of the death phase is the sense of self. Remember the legend of who you are. Remenber the fighter spirit you once had. Remember what makes you special and turn on that light.


  • Use your sun’s house to regain your joie de vivre. The house in which your sun resides is the secret to the joy of life. Look to it to get hints of the activities and interests that will make you feel alive.


  • Go Toward That Which Receives You – There’s a funny thing about the all-consuming desire of Scorpios. They desire and obsess over the things that are most denied to them; these become the only things they want and value and will spend years in compulsive pursuit of the impossible and unrequited.  So blind are they that they often do not even see the forces in the world that rise up to meet them. During the rebirth phase, do not waste time on unrequited anything. Go toward the circumstances and people who will receive you, who will embrace you, who will show you favor – whether it’s one thing or person or ten. Build from there.


  • Be Your Own Shrink.  Scorpios are the psychologists of the Zodiac. Turn your Scorpio analytical skills on yourself and identify the voids that death has revealed to you and figure out how you can turn the losses to lessons that serve you for the rest of your life. Journals, art, audio notes, meditation or prayer may help.


  • Plan Your Transformation –  Prove your enemies wrong. Prove the death drive wrong. Probe the lower part of your psyche wrong and plan your own comeback.



In the end, if Scorpios survive several Phoenix cycles to reach their stronger state — and they will — they may still bear the residue of their  struggles. But if anyone can live and thrive with residual damage, it is Scorpio.

© 2014 – 2017, Synthia L. Rose. All rights reserved.

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Synthia L. Rose

Synthia L. Rose is a 9th house Scorpio with a four-planet stellium in Sagittarius. She has more than 10 years of experience as a professional journalist and six years of experience as a professional blogger. An ardent student of astrology, she has studied intuitive astrology since 2008. Synthia is obsessed with penning blogs that examine Scorpio's mystique, Plutonic personalities and the risqué, taboo 8th house life.