Identity Crisis: Water with Earth? Maybe Metal?

Dear Readers: At a recent workshop, a student approached me unsure of her primary element. She had taken several different “learn your element” tests and while they all narrowed the focus to three elements (Water, Earth, and Metal), she still wasn’t sure which was her true primary or how they manifested in her life. Most of the tests said she was a primary Water, but she just wasn’t sure. I explained that while the tests are a great starting point, the best way to know your element is to observe yourself relative to what we know about the elements. To do this, I asked her to send me answers to the following five questions:

  1. Do you work outside of the home? If so, what is your occupation?
  2. Do you have children?
  3. What are you passionate about?
  4. Are you in a marriage or partnership relationship? If so, what does your partner do for a living?
  5. When something goes wrong for you, what emotion do you usually experience?

She sent me the answers and I responded with comments to help clarified which element was relevant to each aspect of her life. The analysis felt accurate and illuminating to her, especially the way we were able to identified characteristics that are often tied together, separate them out, and reintegrate them into a picture that represented her.

Thinking that this simple analysis might help others, she has kindly agreed to let me share it here. Of course, many of the specifics have been changed to protect her identity. Her answers to the questions are in italics and my comments follow each section of her letter. Thank you, Ms. Identity Crisis, for allowing me to share this!

Hi Vicki,

I am my husband’s legal secretary. We met in college in the ’70s; I was a freshman and he was a junior. We married within a year, then I dropped out and worked. When he graduated from college, he was accepted into a law school. I went to secretarial school, then obtained a really good job as a corporate secretary during the day and went to college in the evenings. After my husband graduated, we moved to the Midwest and he began working with a law firm. I’m a really good secretary, but often find it boring. I took the training because I could get good jobs and it would potentially help my husband. And it has; I’ve been his secretary for about 25 years. 

Okay, I doubt that you are a primary Water. One has to have some structure to be a good secretary, especially a legal secretary. Water usually doesn’t have that much structure. Also, the best secretaries often have a lot of Earth; they’re happy to help people with almost anything. I don’t think you could do this job for 25 years if you were a primary Water, but Earth makes sense. And some Metal would certainly be a plus with organizing an office.

These days my husband practices law by himself as a criminal defense attorney. Our son just turned 25 and is successful in his job. I wanted more children, but my husband didn’t think we could afford them. Living with him hasn’t always been easy, but I have this very loyal streak in me and I could never bring myself to destroy what we worked so hard to build. I preferred to manage through the difficult times and hope for a better future and that’s pretty much where we are now. If you would ask my husband, he would probably have a totally different take on our life together since he tends to focus more on the future. I’m more focused on the present, and when he makes me mad, I stew about all the wrongs of the past!

Your husband is probably a Wood — they focus on the future. Earths (and Fires) are more into the present, and it’s Metals who can stew about the past (a Metal’s focus is on the past). Earths usually want children, and loyalty is also an Earth thing (Waters usually aren’t all that loyal). Also, going along with whatever your husband said around having more children would be possible for you because his Wood controls the Earth you have, an element that would be especially strong around the issue of children.

If I could narrow down what I am most passionate about, it would be spiritually evolving and helping people heal. In my 20s I was very much into medicinal herbs, tarot, and Carlos Castaneda. But I got busy with marriage, working, and a family so ended up dropping most of it. Ten years ago I finally went back to college and obtained a degree in psychology. I’m also certified in several other forms of healing, including energy healing. I’m currently in a Touch Therapy program and will finish that this year. I really, really love being able to help people feel better using my skills and even joined a local BNI (Business Network International) chapter to help build my business. I almost couldn’t do it, though, because they are very structured, but I made it.

Your interest in spirituality will come from your Water, and possibly your Metal. However, people in the healing arts usually have lots of Earth. By your own admission, you “really, really love being able to help people feel better.” That passion is very Earth! And spreading out across many different healing modalities can be a Water thing (floating from one to the other). On the business end, you are probably using your Metal to manage the BNI structure that is so difficult for you. On a side note, you seem thrilled to undertake new trainings and learn new things, but might be having a bit of trouble stepping into the role of therapist/practitioner instead of student. I wonder if your husband having so much Wood makes it challenging for you to use your own Wood. It usually takes Wood to manifest things.

When something goes wrong for me, I go through stages. I obsess about it for a while, I feel bad, it keeps me awake at night, but then I work on letting it go and putting it out to Spirit that things will work out for the best. I have learned that the best thing to do is surrender to the outcome with the hope and belief that things will be ok.

This is an Earth approach in the initial stages (obsessing about things is very Earth). The ability to finally trust Spirit and let go is Water, then Metal.

You were right when you suggested that I don’t like structure; I much prefer to go with the flow and let things evolve. This is very different from my husband who likes to predict and say for certain how things will work out. I listen a lot but don’t say anything!  Growing up, my family lived in Australia and after 8th grade I had to go to a boarding school in Sydney. My dad told me that he didn’t worry about me because I was adaptable so he knew I would be ok. That is pretty much how I have lived my life; I adapt to whatever comes along.

Going with the flow is totally Water. But it’s the Earths of the world who listen more and say less. Waters will talk if they are philosophically engaged with what’s being discussed, as will Metals. But neither Water nor Metal are inclined to listen unless they are intellectually interested. Along with being a good listener, your childhood ability to adapt also comes from your Earth. Earths excel at connect with people where they are, so that probably helped you make good friends at school. But it must have been hard for you to be away from home at a boarding school because home and family matter deeply to Earths.

And can I just say that your husband is so Wood! His desire to predict what will happen and know outcomes for certain speaks of issues around control. His Wood will want to ensure things don’t go out of control. And if he needs to be in control, he might well have a secondary Metal. Defense attorneys frequently use Metal to get through law school and add Wood to it to argue a case.


After reading what you have shared, I really think you’re a primary Earth. You are passionate about helping people, enjoy healing arts, love children, put your needs after your husband’s in terms of career, excel at being a secretary, value loyalty, listen to others well, and obsess about things when upset. This is Earth.

You are probably a secondary Water, even though the ability to be a legal secretary all these years would be hard for your Water because of the requisite structure. However, your love of going with the flow, interest in spirituality, desire to learn new things, and ability to trust Spirit all speak of Water.

And if Water is your second, your third element has to be Metal; there’s no way you could be a successful secretary without some structure. And that’s where Metal shines. Also, the fact that you stew about the past and are able to manage the BNI structure says you are tapping into Metal. When we know we need it, we can reach down and draw on our third element at will, so you probably learned to do this early on. Also, with a Wood husband, your Metal has probably been useful on occasion to help keep his Wood in line (Metal controls Wood).

This makes you a primary Earth with a secondary Water. Interestingly, your own Earth has probably kept your Water in line many times (Earth controls Water) allowing you to accomplish as much as you have. It’s also probably helped to avoid making mud of your life now and then, too. Congratulations on your life, a wonderful blending of Earth and Water!

water with earth

2 thoughts on “Identity Crisis: Water with Earth? Maybe Metal?

  1. I enjoyed this article tremendously, and It gave me a lot of insight into how to determine which element you are. I suspect that this information will be helpful to many people, I know I learned a lot. Vicki’s writing style is very clear and has the ability to make complex topics understandable.

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