I'm not an astrologist either Eye, but have recently had a karmic astrology reading done, which was quite fascinating and answered for me some of the kinds of questions you are asking.
Our charts are not static, the same each time we incarnate, they are "chosen" in accordance with our contract. The influences in our charts that we each experience, can be resisted or ignored or worked with consciously to receive benefit and understanding of ourselves and our path/life circumstances.
I don't know enough about astrology to know whether we can influence our "cycles", but what we can influence is our readiness to tackle what our next challenge is. Bringing awareness to anything improves our ability to benefit from our experience. If we use the metaphor of an onion, with recurrent cycles, we have the ability to penetrate to the next level in this transit, rather than remaining at the same layer.
I think that the astrological influences in our lives are tied in with us choosing our contract and path. The experiences that we encounter and the personal influences we deal with are meant to support our journey and in a sense are one of the tools we can choose to use as we progress along it.