When Pluto began creeping up towards a close square to my Sun in late 2010, my whole world began to crumble. First my dissolving marriage crashed in a particularly mortifying way and then I embarked upon what turned out to be the extremely difficult process of disentangling myself from the life I’d created for myself in France–something I’d imagined would be as simple as casting off an old garment, but which instead dragged me through three confusion-filled and grinding years.

I’d foolishly assumed it would be easy to walk away from my moribund relationship, sell my house, pack up my belongings and fly away to my native land. I’d always lived my life that way:  pulling up  stakes when I felt the urge–unfettered and free. But this time, life didn’t cooperate. I was ready to go but nothing fell into place. Instead I found myself taking a  forced detour through limbo land.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the relentlessness of Pluto’s lengthy transit and how painfully humbling this planet’s influence can be. Pluto came within a one degree orb of my Sun (it was proceeded by Saturn conjunct my Sun) in late February 2011, moved into an exact square to my Sun by late January 2012 and continued to move back and forth within that tight square until late September 2013, finally moving slowly and excruciatingly out of orb.

Only then did I reach the point where, although not on the terms I’d hoped for, I was able to leave France and go my way. But the process I went through to get to this point was one I can only describe as pulverizing. During it, I lost all sense that I had any control over events, I had no idea what was happening from one day to the next, was dragged over the coals of my past and forced to face myself in ways that were hard to bear.

Sound like fun? Pluto’s effect is–in my mind–more powerful and devastating than that of any other planet. It forces us to confront our dark side–and the flip, or bright side of this experience is that by making us more aware of our lowliness as well as of our powerlessness it clarifies our relationship to the divine. In this sense, Pluto can represent the classic Job experience. It brings us what appear to be senseless trials and tribulations which test our faith and mettle. It has the power to transform and purify us in a way that nothing else can.

When I look back and acknowledge how much useless egotism I released during that Pluto transit and how I was forced to stew in my own juices  (which is the classic way Pluto performs its alchemy) the whole experience acquires a meaning and value it was impossible to appreciate while it was happening.

Pluto’s transits are long lasting and profoundly challenging. Right now, those born in the time frame that puts their birth suns in Pluto’s path: in the neighborhood of January 7th, April 7th, July 9th and October 10th are in the throes of a transformational process that is bound to radically shift their perspective. But Pluto can form aspects to any one of the planets in our birth charts and knowing about these aspects and what they can involve can not only help us understand our own experience but hopefully to cope with it more gracefully.