Dear Five Faces: I’m having trouble with my new brother-in-law and wonder if the Five Elements can help. He’s a really “in your face” and funny guy, but I find it exhausting to be around him. I know it’s said we can respond to others based on parts of ourselves that need work and I’m wondering if this translates to the element types. If we see Fire in another person and don’t like it (I’m pretty sure he’s a Fire), does that mean we’re really just having trouble with our own Fire? Signed, Problem Fire
Dear Problem Fire: This is a great question and there are two ways to answer it. First, yes, it is possible that being around someone with an abundance of an element might increase your own expression of that element. In this case, if your brother-in-law is a balanced Fire, he might help bring up more of your own Fire so that you find him a fun individual to be around. But if he’s an unbalanced Fire, it’s less likely that he would bring up your Fire unless you are a primary Fire yourself. For example, an out of balance Fire can go into drama, anxiety, or panic. Elements other than Fire are rarely drawn to people like that (unless they are off balance themselves). But other Fires can get caught up in the anxiety or hysteria of another Fire having a melt down.
That said, I think what usually happens is that we respond to other people based on the dynamics within the Five Element model. Given that your response to your Fiery brother-in-law is to feel exhausted, I suspect you’re a Wood. And since your Wood energy feeds Fire on the Flow Cycle, too much Fire can demand more and more from you, which will absolutely feel exhausting. This seems more likely to me (that his Fire burns your Wood) than the fact that his out of balance Fire brings up your own out of balance Fire.
Here’s another example taken from life with my husband Mark (I’m a Wood and Mark’s a Metal). If we get into a discussion regarding whether to remodel our house, my Wood will want to get wildly creative and manifest something new right away. But his Metal will want to take things one very precise step at a time. So if I’m in a creative mood and want to discuss plans, and he says we have to look at the budget before we can get creative, my Wood will probably feel pretty stifled. To me, this is a manifestation of Metal controlling Wood, not a case of me disliking his being process-oriented because I’m too much that way myself (no one would ever accuse me of being too process-oriented!).
So when we respond negatively to someone, I usually think of it as an interaction involving unbalanced energies. It’s either too much Control Cycle energy (like Metal over-controlling Wood and the Wood resenting being pruned) or too much Flow Cycle energy (in your case, too much Fire burning your Wood).
To help with your new brother-in-law, I suggest you bring up your own Water when you’re around him since Water helps keep Fire in check. And as odd as it might sound, your brother-in-law might actually enjoy your Water – Fires rarely get to experience the depth and inspiration of Water. Using your Water will help your whole family, too. It might keep your brother-in-law from burning down the house. Good luck!