Dear Vicki: I’ve recently begun studying the Five Element theory and am hoping it can help me better understand my younger brother. I love him, but he makes me nervous. Growing up, Gaven was very outgoing, to say the least. He ran instead of walked, jumped around when excited, and always seemed busy. When we were little, I wanted to stay inside and color or read, but that bored him. In high school, he was on the pep squad and in theater. Just watching him made me tired, and honestly, it still does. When we go somewhere together now, Gaven’s the first one out of the car shouting greetings to whoever’s there, even complete strangers. People love him because he’s funny, but he always laughs louder than anyone else, even at his own jokes. Sometimes he’s quiet, but it’s rare and even then, I know there’s always something going on under the surface. I’m sure Gaven’s a Fire, but I find myself wanting to be around him less and less; he drives me crazy. What can I do? Signed: Burned Sister
Dear Burned: Congratulations on your understanding of the Five Elements: Gavin is clearly a Fire. And while you don’t mention what element you think you are, I suspect that from both your love of coloring and reading when younger, and your reaction to Gavin in general, you are probably a Water. That means your relationship with Gavin sits on the Control Cycle, but the responsibility for “controlling” is yours. Deep in your Water wiring is a sense that it’s your job to keep your younger brother from getting out of control. Unchecked, Fires can burn out themselves and others. But as you have learned, attempting to control a Fire is difficult, and often unpleasant.
Fire and Water are exact opposites. Fire is full yang, the energy of expression, joy, and celebration. Fires love activity, love to connect with others, and love the attention their outgoing personalities give them. But most connections with Fires are usually temporary, then they are off in search of the next transforming experience. Waters, on the other hand, are full yin, the energy of introspection, contemplation, and inspiration. Waters need quiet alone time and are happiest discussing issues with a few close friends; they usually find loud, crowded events overwhelming and understandably draining.
So does this mean that you’re doomed to feel like the Grinch whenever you’re around Gaven? Not necessarily. But it does mean that you probably need to have a few talks with your younger brother. You don’t need to teach Gavin the whole Five Elements model (although you can try if you think he’ll sit still long enough), but you should explain the differences between the two of you. Because Fires are such fun, in the “now” people, they often don’t make the time to ponder differences. In fact, one of the beauties of Fires is that they don’t have a “them vs. us” approach to life. Everyone is welcome to have fun with Fires, and everyone usually does. Fires enjoy the joy regardless of who they are with.
Since that isn’t the normal reality for you, it’s important that you help Gavin understand that Waters approach life differently. And while Gavin might find a life of quiet, intimate get-togethers boring, you can help him understand that you rather like them and would love to share a few with him. In fact, if you can each step lightly into the other’s world now and then, you will find that you both have richer lives for the experience.
Yes, you and Gavin are deeply different. But each of you has something the other doesn’t have, and sharing that with each other will enrich (and balance) both of you. When you are deeply in a Water place, the sunshine of fun doesn’t reach you. And while too much Fire energy wears you out if you always try to control it, some Fire is good for you. We all need connections (yes, even Waters) and we all need the joy of celebrating life. Fires do that naturally. Small doses of Fire time with Gavin will help you introduce some balancing yang to your very yin ways.
Conversely, every Fire needs the cooling “down time” of yin energy, and you can offer this to Gavin. Encourage him to spend time with you reading, discussing important issues, or attending a musical event like a symphony. Dinner together in a quiet, serene environment is also a great option, as are quiet walks in nature. The important point is that, every now and then, you offer Gavin a glimpse of your cool, calm world to help balance him.
If you can reach out to Gavin and share your differences with each other, I truly believe that you can create a relationship with your brother that will be healing and fulfilling for you both. Then, instead of running away from him, you can settle in now and then and enjoy the warmth of his banked-down embers. It’s a warmth you will never know without him.