Dear Vicki: I am a yin Wood with Earth as a strong secondary. My sister, Carolyn, is one year younger and is a yang Wood. She loves her work and works very hard. She is also very competitive; we were both very competitive as children. But the biggest problem for me is that Carolyn never talks with me about her feelings. When our mother died four years ago, I visited Carolyn and her family (she has a husband and two teenage daughters) at Christmas two months later. Carolyn never even mentioned our mother that day and barely tolerated me saying a few words about her passing. My mother and Carolyn had an okay relationship, so it wasn’t that. I love Carolyn and have worked to establish a stable relationship with her, usually by stepping into my Earth. But this frustrates me at times because I feel I can’t bring my true Wood self forward around her. I would love for Carolyn to soften up a little so we could talk about our mother and our feelings. Is there a way to ease Carolyn more into this kind of communication? Signed: Disconnected Sister
Dear Disconnected: I wish I could offer you a magic wand to make Carolyn more willing to talk about her feelings, but honestly, Woods usually don’t enjoy talking about feelings. It doesn’t feel safe to them because they don’t like to lose control. And Woods absolutely hate to cry in front of people. It’s interesting that, as a Wood yourself, you want to talk about feelings, but I think that’s because you really are an Earth around Carolyn. It could have started as a self-defense mechanism when you were both younger because her yang Wood might often have trumped your yin Wood. And since Woods hate to lose and Earths hate competition, retreating to your Earth would have avoided conflict and probably made for calmer family dynamics.
This means that acting Earth is probably pretty entrenched in your relationship with Carolyn now. And while your Earth will want to talk about your mother, Carolyn likely won’t. That doesn’t mean that she didn’t love your mother, it just means she probably doesn’t see a benefit in digging up pain from the past. By now, four years after your mother’s death, Carolyn has already processed the loss with her immediate family and moved on. But Earths like to reminisce about departed family members; it helps them honor the close connection they had. That’s a big difference between a Wood and an Earth.
You express frustration about not being able to be your true Wood self around Carolyn, and that’s understandable. But what you say you want is to “soften up” Carolyn so that you can talk about your mother and other emotional issues. I really think that’s coming from your Earth, not your Wood. Earth is where family sits and where sweet discussions about family usually happen.
As a primary Wood, the frustration you feel around Carolyn might be heightened by two key factors. First, if you try to express Wood, Carolyn’s yang Wood could eclipse your yin Wood much as it might have when you were children. This could upset your sense of what is right given that you are the older sister. Second, if you stay in your Earth with Carolyn, you might feel controlled by her because Wood controls Earth.
But worry not; all is not lost. If you desire more connections with Carolyn, there are several ways you can begin developing them. One is to bring forward your own Wood with her, but do this gently. You don’t want to look like you are challenging her in any way. And try “seasoning” your Wood with plenty of your Earth, which is what she’s used to from you. As two Woods together, you might be able to create a common goal or project that you can tackle cooperatively, either in the same town or from afar. Woods love to help the underdog, so maybe you could do volunteer work or address an important cause together. This will give you more in common than just family and feelings, and anchor your relationship in the present rather than the past. Carolyn might be too busy to want to take on anything right away, but if you find the right project, she’ll probably agree. Woods like to help make a difference in the world.
The best way to develop a connection with Carolyn that will address your desire to talk about feelings and family is to connect with her Earth. Watch and see how she manifests Earth. Does she like to cook for her family? Perhaps you could suggest a shared cooking class next time you are together. Does she have pets? Our animals often bring out our Earth, so maybe you could walk dogs together or even take on foster pets if you live near enough to each other. Does Carolyn like to garden? If so, you might offer to help Carolyn in the garden when you visit. These are all activities that could help you connect with Carolyn’s Earth. In truth, this will be a longer road, but it is possible to develop a relationship with Carolyn that brings in more Earth.
And remember, if Carolyn is a really strong yang Wood, she may never want to discuss her feelings with you, especially if she already has a safe outlet for that with her husband. But she might soften up enough to listen to you talk about your feelings, and that would be a wonderful start. Let your Earth lead the way!