Dear Vicki: I understand that every element has a balanced and unbalanced way of acting. But I believe unbalanced Woods are more dangerous than the other elements. They are the “doers” of the world and can have a huge impact on the state of Peace or not Peace in any given century. This means that the consequences of their unbalanced choices regarding “means” and “ends” and what true success is can be bitter and long lasting. Because of this, I believe Woods should be more self-aware than the other elements because of their impact on the world and people around them. Am I wrong in feeling that the other elements are less harmful to themselves and the world if unaware of their imbalance? I admit that my perspective could be affected by my personal experience with unbalanced, unaware Woods, but I also observe too much of it in the world today. I would love your take on this. Thank you! Signed: Experienced with Woods
Dear Experienced: These are excellent observations on your part. Of course we all want to be, and be with, people who are balanced. And that’s exactly what the brilliant Five Elements model promotes. The core of the model is the ability to maintain balance for the whole based on constant interaction among the Five Elements. If the model is allowed to “do its thing,” there would never be long-term imbalance in Wood, or in Water, Fire, Earth, or Metal. If Wood moves to a deficient state, more energy will flow to it from Water. And if Wood moves to an excess place, Metal energy will prune the Wood back to balance. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in any whole, be it person, organization, or culture.
In a perfect world, we would all be familiar with this model and understand which specific “negative” behaviors indicate we are unbalanced. For Woods, cruelty in the name of success would indicate too much Wood energy, whereas an inability to get anything done would indicate too little. In either case, the path to balance would come from embracing more Metal or Water, depending on the nature of the imbalance. And in this perfect world, when we recognize these signs in ourselves (and others) we would take the appropriate action to bring ourselves (or someone else) back to balance. However, we are not living in that perfect world. Sadly, we are actually living in a time when the values of the developed world hamper the natural outworking of the Five Elements model. Let me explain.
The majority of what we call the “developed” world embraces culture norms that are patriarchal. But by definition, patriarchies themselves are unbalanced. As Merriam-Webster points out, patriarchy is the control by men of a disproportionately large share of power. Men carry more yang energy that yin, which makes patriarchies more yang. Not surprisingly, patriarchies glorify the yang principles of linear logic, expansion, acquisition, and individual accomplishment. The balancing yin principles of intuitive knowing, inner retreat, sharing, and a focus on the greater good, all necessary to keep yang in check, are not only undervalued in patriarchies, they are often vilified and suppressed because they are seen as a weakness. This makes it almost impossible for yin energy to balance the out of control yang. Let that stew for a few millennia and voila! Welcome to fully entrenched patriarchies, the cultures in which most of us live and breath these days. And what does that mean for each of us? If we imbed our Five Elements personalities into a patriarchy, we’ll get a sense of how well each element functions in a patriarchy:
Fires (full yang): As full yang, one might think that Fires would personify a patriarchy, but while they do care about outward manifestation, they lack the drive for accomplishment so valued by patriarchies. You can’t take fun and happiness to the bank. However, Fires do find benefit in a patriarchy: the actors and entertainers of the world are usually treated like royalty.
Earths (balance): Since balance isn’t an important trait in patriarchies, Earths are usually valued at an individual, personal level rather than a cultural level. Our families matter to us, but not so much to others. A caring teacher or a gentle nurse may touch us individually, but won’t necessarily affect our prestige or bank accounts. Earths are nice behind-the-scene actors in a patriarchy, but rarely take center stage.
Metals (new yin): The wisdom and guidance Metals bring to the party is usually necessary for success. They know the right way to do things, plus what works and what doesn’t, and that makes Metals highly valued in a patriarchy. To honor them, their culture usually showers them with the trappings of success. Metals also benefit from their linearity and structure, traits characteristic of a patriarchy.
Waters (full yin): Because patriarchies are all about full yang expression, the full yin of Waters usually doesn’t matter much. Who cares what goes on inside someone else’s head – unless it produces a book or movie that can sell for loads of money! When Waters dream up ideas that someone else can monetize, they are valued. Otherwise, the quiet, loner aspect of Waters doesn’t find a ready home in the pulsing atmosphere of a patriarchy.
Woods (new yang): These people are made for patriarchies because outward success and accomplishment matter dearly to Woods. Hard work, long hours, devious means, whatever it takes to manifest success is often worth it to Woods because their culture so values it. This creates a willingness on the part of both to look the other way when questionable means are used to reach the desired ends. Woods also benefit from their structured nature, a perfect fit for a patriarchy.
The truth is that because the culture in which we find ourselves prizes yang accomplishment, Woods dive in and think they’re doing exactly what their culture tells them to do: accomplish, achieve, acquire, consume. And they are. Patriarchies see nothing wrong with this manifestation of unbalanced Wood. In fact, it’s so glorified by our culture that many aspire to this condition. Unfortunately, this Wood imbalance comes with problematic behavioral traits: anger, rage, impatience, etc. But you can’t have the “good” parts of the imbalance without the “bad.” This is why the developed world is willing look the other way at an unbalanced Wood’s many misconducts. To mangle an old proverb: The juice of accomplishment is worth the squeeze of poor behavior.
So does their natural tendency to be “doers” make Woods more dangerous to the world than the other elements? It depends on how you define dangerous. Woods are certainly the ones most likely to be front and center leading a movement. But it can’t be a true movement without droves of other people buying into the cause. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people says it all:
“The world will not be destroyed by people who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein
It might well be an unbalanced Wood who starts something destructive, but it will be the other elements standing by without acting, or even worse supporting it, that will allow the movement to grow. If Earths are too kind to speak up, or Waters too afraid, or Fires too busy, evil will grow. If other Woods see benefit for themselves in it and jump on board, evil will grow. And most importantly, if the Metals who know right from wrong and could most easily control the Wood don’t speak up, evil will most assuredly grow.
On a more personal level, it would be lovely if each of us could recognize when we are unbalanced and take the necessary steps to correct that. But it takes a lot of yin self-reflection to come to that state, something generally undervalued in a patriarchal culture. Instead, it’s the people around us who notice our imbalance. When this happens, they usually complain about us to others. But in our perfect world, it would be great if they’d take the time to point out their concerns to us in a kind way. Or even quietly take action to help us. For those who understand energy and how it moves, an unbalanced Wood can be brought back to balance by bringing in Water energy if the imbalance is deficiency, or Metal energy if the imbalance is excess. The same will work for any unbalanced element; just use the information contained in the Flow and Control Cycles.
There is no doubt that this is a dangerous time for our world. The Wood desire for the distinction of leadership coupled with our patriarchal tendency to glorify the accomplishments that come so naturally to Woods is a bad combination. But ultimately, it’s not just about Wood. Remember that a parade of one isn’t really a parade. It takes people supporting and enabling a Wood to allow for damage. And that means all of us contribute to the danger the unbalanced Wood represents. If we don’t like something, it’s our responsibility to stand up, speak up, and act up in our own elemental way. The truth is that even though unbalanced Woods might appear frighteningly dangerous these days, they are just one part of the whole, a whole that requires everyone’s input to maintain the perfection of its balance.