Dear Vicki: My sister and I have been very close most of our lives. We both love the Five Elements and I’m pretty sure I’m a Wood and Sami is an Earth. Several years ago, Sami married Dave, who is definitely a Metal, and it’s been a good marriage for her. I realized early on that my brother-in-law will feel controlling to me at times because Metal chops Wood and have dealt with that. But almost a year ago, Dave’s mother became quite ill and moved in with Sami and Dave. Since then, Sami and I don’t get along. She’s acting more like a crazy Fire, and we’re fighting in ways we never used to. She’s fighting with Dave and his Metal sisters, too. I want to support her, but she just seems really different. Can life situations like this change our elements? Signed, Wondering Wood
Dear Wondering Wood: The short answer to your question is that it’s very rare for anyone to permanently change primary elements during a lifetime, even if their life situations dramatically change. However, circumstances in our lies can cause us to use the energy of a none-primary element, and this certainly will cause us to act differently from our “normal” self. For example, when someone close to us passes on, the grief we feel will cause us to be more of a Metal than we might otherwise be. Or when something wonderful happens in our life, we might celebrate in a very Fiery way. But these are temporary changes. And I think this is what’s happening for Sami.
Prior to her mother-in-law’s illness, you and Sami related on the Controlling Cycle (Wood controls Earth), but Controlling Cycle relationships that involve Earth (Wood/Earth and Earth/Water) are rarely diminishing relationships the way other Controlling Cycle relationships are. While Metal chops Wood and diminishes it, Wood anchors Earth, it stabilizes Earth, it doesn’t diminish it. And Earth “controls” Water by guiding it, not diminishing it. That aspect of your Wood/Earth relationship is why the two of you got on so well. But that all changed when Sami’s ill mother-in-law moved in.
As an Earth, Sami would have been more than willing to care for an ill family member. If someone needs help, Earths are usually front and center to help. However, as time has gone on and Sami is taking care of her mother-in-law while surrounded by lots of very structured Metals (Dave and his sisters), something would eventually have to give for her. It’s easy to see why she has made a temporary shift to Fire energy as a coping mechanism.
Earth relates to Metal on the Nurturing Cycle, and this is usually a great relationship for both. Earth loves to be needed by the Metal and Metal expects attention (and more) from the Earth. But if you surround an Earth with several Metals who expect attention from them, it can quickly become overwhelming for the Earth, especially if she is trying to care for someone who is very ill and really needs her. To manage the Metals making demands on her, it sounds like Sami wisely brought up her Fire energy to keep the Metals surrounding her pliant and in balance as they work out the best course of action for the patient. And while Sami probably didn’t consciously decide that she needed Fire to melt all the Metal, because we have all five elements in us, we often automatically draw on them when we need them.
Getting back to your relationship with Sami, the fact that she has stepped into Fire is likely the reason that the two of you are fighting now. If she is acing more like a Fire than her normal Earth, that changes the dynamic between the two of you. You are used to a Controlling Cycle relationship with Sami where you hold the upper hand because your Wood controlled her Earth. But now you have a Nurturing Cycle relationship with Sami where it is your Wood that feeds her Fire. And it sounds like Sami has a lot of Fire these days. Too much Fire is nothing short of chaos for Woods and that is probably what is bothering you the most. Woods hate chaos.
However, your Wood is exactly what Sami needs now. Can you step away from feeling too called upon by her Fire and just be there for her? Yes, it may be chaotic, and yes, that isn’t going to feel really great to you, but Sami needs help. Her newfound primary Fire is probably overfeeding her normal primary Earth (Fire feeds Earth), making it difficult for her to avoid a major pitfall for most Earths: taking care of others instead of themselves. Stand with Sami, remind her that she matters too, help her have enough Fire to manage the Metals but not so much that she loses her way. As a Wood, you bring a structure that both her Fire and Earth lack, so it may fall to you to step in as an advocate for Sami at some point. I encourage you to stay connected with Sami and see what she needs.
And when the situation with her mother-in-law resolves, as it will one way or the other, Sami will eventually leave the Fire behind and revert back to her natural, happy Earth. Until then, I am sure that anything you can do to provide her with loving Wood support and protection will be deeply appreciated.