Dear Five Faces: I like your blog, but never thought I’d write in. However, I’ve come up against a difficult issue and I think I need help. My mother passed away 10 years ago and my father still lives on his own. Recently, he’s started becoming fearful and paranoid, which is so not like my father. I’m pretty sure he’s a Metal – he was in the military – and always seemed very self-sufficient, even when Mom was alive. But that self-sufficiency has changed and now he’s afraid of becoming lost, of someone breaking into his house, of terrible storms hitting, of something happening to me or my children, you name it. He’s also very sad, more so than he was before, even when Mom passed. Is he becoming senile? I’m an Earth and the constant need to reassure him breaks my heart. He seems to resent my interventions, too, which he never did before. What can I do? Signed, Running Ragged
Dear Running Ragged: I don’t think your father is becoming senile. What I suspect might be happening is that he’s in a Water place, in an out of balance way. Frequently, as we move into our golden years, we complete the cycle of life that begins with the baby, which is Water, and move through all of the elements as we grow. But in many teachings, instead of ending with Metal, our final stop is said to be Water. That’s why some people claim that both birth and death sit in Water.
As part of his natural flow, I think your father has moved out of Metal (both his life stage and his primary affiliation) and into some Water. If he were in a balanced Water state, he would be cheerful, playful, and optimistic, and many older folks do become just that. Instead, with too much Water, your father is just as you say: fearful and paranoid. And remember, sadness and grief are attributes of out of balance Metal, so if his Metal is depleted because of the emphasis on Water, it’s not surprising he seems to be sad.
A significant problem to be addressed is the fact that this shift creates a strain on your relationship with your father. For your whole life, your Earth would have felt nurturing to him because Earth feeds Metal. But now, with him in a Water place, your once nurturing Earth now feels controlling, because Earth controls Water. So as we work out how best to help you help him, please remember that the rules may have changed regarding how you two relate. And in truth, this is going to be to your benefit.
A person with too much Water needs to be balanced by the controlling element, and for your father right now, that is you! He actually needs your Earth to help guide his expression of Water just as rivers need riverbeds to guide their flow. So even if he temporarily resents your interventions, please try to keep at it. This will help on two fronts. First, your Earth will help bring down and balance his Water. Second, it will build his Metal (Earth feeds Metal), which will help him act more like the father you remember and relieve some of the sadness.
As you “intervene” to help balance your father, you might try to meet him in the Watery place he currently is. This means think of what a child might enjoy: Invite him to dinner once a week, make his favorite desserts, maybe even take him to a movie. As a temporary Water, he will resonate more with playfulness than he ever did as a Metal. Enjoy it! You might also suggest activities that you know Waters appreciate, like painting, listening to music, or reading. There is no way to know for sure what your father might enjoy, but let your knowledge of the elements guide you.
With time and the help of your Earth energy, your father should move away from his out of balance Water place back toward Metal. This means he will be more of the father you remember and less of a sad man deep under Water. Good luck!