Dear Five Faces: Since we were kids, Max and I had been close friends. We met at a child’s reading event at the local library when we were 10 and sort of bonded over the books. Growing up, Max was a quiet, go with the flow kind of guy and I was a quiet, go with the flow kind of girl. I’m sure we’re both Waters, but Max really changed after we went away to college. The first Christmas vacation back home, when we got together at a poetry reading (Max loved to write poetry), Max seemed cold and withdrawn. It made me wonder what was going on, but he never mentioned any problems at school, and I never asked. Over the years, my best friend Max really changed and by the time we graduated from college last year, he was a different person. His easy-going nature is gone now and he’s become very precise and rigid. What happened to my old Max? I don’t know if it will help, but I’m a children’s librarian and Max is a computer programmer. Signed: Missing Max
Dear Missing Max: As children, if we’re lucky, our needs are met and life is full of fun and wonder. But that can change when it becomes necessary to meet our own needs as an adult in a Western culture. Earning a living and becoming a productive member of society usually requires that we embrace the cultural norms where we live. In the West, we value structure, discipline, and precision, all attributes that do not come naturally to Waters.
I think what happened to Max is that his naturally Watery ways were at odds with what’s necessary to succeed as a student and employee in the US. Especially as an adult, the ability to function well within the average work world usually requires observing office hours, embracing specific process and corporate guidelines, and often working well as part of a team. These are not inherent strengths of Waters, those sweet beings who love prolonged pondering of options and ideas, spending time by themselves, and waiting for inspiration to strike before they act, regardless of how long it takes.
When Max came face-to-face with the reality that, as a male in a patriarchal culture, he was expected to hold down a job, pay bills, and likely work in an office, I suspect he moved from his primary Water to his secondary element which, if he is a computer programmer now, is probably Metal. Programming is a solitary job that would be comfortable for both his Water and Metal, and does benefit from the inspiration Waters can tap. However, it also draws heavily on the precision perfected by Metals. To succeed, Max stepped into his Metal.
But Max would also have to face the fact that to survive in our culture, we usually have to embrace structure in one form or another. As you no doubt know from personal experience, that also does not come easily to Waters. Initially, Max might have tried to stay in his Water and create structure. If so, there are two likely ways for Waters to create structure for themselves. The first is to draw on their Earth to create flow boundaries and direction much like a riverbank guides a river. As a children’s librarian, your secondary is likely Earth, so this is probably what you did to get through school and may even do now to embrace structure in your job. But I suspect Max initially took the second path, which was to freeze his Water.
Ice is structured Water, but also Water removed from most of the lovely attributes we associate with Water. That first Christmas when you found Max acting “cold” to you might have been his beginning attempts to create structure for himself in order to survive college classes, deadlines, etc. But because frozen Water isn’t healthy over the long term, Max probably found it more productive to move from Water into his Metal.
So is Max lost to you forever? Probably not, but how you relate to him will have to change. For all intents and purposes now, Max is living as a Metal and you need to honor that. Metal and Water relate on the Flow Cycle, so a nurturing relationship between the two of you is still very possible. Give yourself a chance to get to know the “new” Max without judging him. Time with a Metal Max might actually feel good to you since his Metal will feed your Water. And it can feel good to him, too, because your secondary Earth will feed his Metal. You can also bring out a bit of your own Fire, which will soften his Metal. Doing fun things together that include laughing might be a great start.
And remember, his Water is still there. Once he feels accepted by you, he might relax and it will show up. But be accepting. If Max senses any judgment on your part, he could freeze up again, leaving you facing a wall of ice. Good luck!