Dear Readers: When the unthinkable occurs, when humans turn violent against each other as unfolded earlier this week in Orlando, we immediately ask ourselves, “How could this happen? How is this possible?”
We will probably never know all of the reasons the shooter did what he did. And in truth, explanations pale when held against the tragedy he created. But deep inside, each of us have basic needs that drive us forward. In one way or another, we all need to be part of something important, to make a difference, to connect with others, to be loved, to be understood. When these needs take on a disproportionally large focus in our lives, the pain of their unmet presence can warp us, allowing us to think and act in ways that are unhealthy and potentially dangerous for ourselves, and others. These are the shadow sides of being human, and I think that many of them sit in the Five Elements.
There is ugliness unfolding around us at a global level, but often the most potent actions we can take to counter this ugliness is to act locally. When basic needs aren’t met, when hatred has overtaken our innate ability to love, we have shown throughout history that we humans are capable of committing atrocious acts. But no one wakes up one morning a suddenly changed monster; the downward slide toward hatred is usually a path of internal pain and emptiness that those closest to us can see.
I’m not implying that any single person should have been able to stop what happened in Orlando. But I am saying that if we all understood each other better, if we loved and accepted each other more, that might make a difference. And while I know I’m biased, I do think that understanding the Five Elements is an exceptional way of understanding each other. We all have all of the Five Elements in us.
To help us move forward, I offer here the light and dark sides of each element. Clearly, the goal is to manifest the light and love of our elements with everyone we meet. And if we know someone who seems to be manifesting the dark side of an element, the loving approach is to reach out to them; they are probably hurting.
The Light and Dark Sides of the Elements
Waters need to be part of something important, something bigger than themselves. When this happens, Waters see their place in the world. They are not just one tiny little seemingly inconsequential drop of water; they are part of the mighty ocean. This gives their life meaning and they can live in a hopeful and optimistic manner. But when Waters lose touch with the meaning of life, when they feel alone and isolated, they can become narcissistic and intolerant of others. Intolerance creates separateness and an inability to see that we are all one. We all have Water in us. Watch for intolerance and when you see it, recognize that someone has lost touch with how they fit in the world. Reach out and help them find meaning.
Woods need to make a difference in the world. When they do, they see the value of themselves as it’s reflected in their accomplishments. They are not just one lone person facing a tide of humanity, they are someone able to impact the world in a positive way. This gives their life meaning and they can live in a way that champions underdogs and rights the unrightable wrongs. But when Woods cannot move forward, when they feel stuck and blocked, they become frustrated and angry. Their anger looks for someone to blame, someone to strike out against. We all have Wood in us. Watch for anger and when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their ability to move forward. Reach out and help them succeed.
Fires need to feel connected; they need people to pay attention to them. When they do, they feel a sense of possibility and excitement that feeds them. For that time, they are not alone; temporary as it might be, they are part of a group experiencing something together. This allows them to speak for their group and create a potentially transcendent experience for all. But when Fires cannot connect with others, when they feel isolated and unseen, they become anxious and panicked. Their need to be accepted can cause them to act irrationally in order to prove themselves worthy of being seen. We all have Fire in us. Watch for anxiousness and irrationality. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of connection to others. Reach out and offer help.
Earths need to be needed and loved. When they are, they feel value in their ability to make a difference for others. They contribute by helping others contribute. This gives their life meaning and the “family” they bring together creates a sense of home wherever they are. In this “home” they create belonging for all. But when Earths do not feel loved, when they are not needed, they will assert themselves in potentially inappropriate ways to prove their value and demonstrate their importance. We all have Earth in us. Watch for neediness and meddling. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of being loved. Reach out and offer love and acceptance.
Metals need to understand things and make order out of life. When they do, they believe that others will benefit from their wisdom. This gives them importance. Their belief that they are contributing to posterity means that their life will have mattered. The world will be a better place because of them. But when Metals cannot make a difference, when their contributions are not recognized or appreciated, they become dismissive and judgmental. They act in ways to assure that what they think is right will come to pass, regardless of the effect on others. We all have Metal in us. Watch for dismissive, judgmental action. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of understanding and importance. Reach out and offer appreciation.
I realize that these are very simple ideas offered in the face of a profoundly complex problem. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe these baby steps can help us manifest the highest and most loving aspects of each element to everyone we know. Maybe we can help change the world.