Dear Vicki: I find it interesting to read about the elements, but how do I know for sure what element I am? Wants to Know
Dear Wants to Know: The short answer is that you are all of them: We each have all of the elements in us. The real question is what is your primary element? What element determines the filter you use when you’re stressed, reacting instinctively, or just living? This filter affects almost everything in your life: the people you like, the jobs you hate, what you’re good at, and even the physical challenges you might have.
There are many ways to determine your elemental affinity, including questionnaires, comparing yourself to people whose affinity you know (Robin Williams was a Fire, bless him, and Hillary Clinton is a Wood), studying the elements, and even energy tests. And while all of these are excellent tools, because you are the best expert about yourself anywhere on the planet, I personally think that the best way to determine your affinity is to study the elements and recognize yourself in them.
To begin the process of determining your elemental affinity, a quick question I always ask people is how they act when they’re stressed. Take a moment and think about how you react when something doesn’t go well for you. Do you get angry (Wood) or panicked (Fire)? Do you detach from the problematic situation and people (Metal) or quietly go in a different direction to get what you want (Water)? Or do you try to understand why things aren’t going well and look compassionately on anyone involved in the problem (Earth)? Social training aside, since we automatically revert to our “true self” when really stressed, we can usually determine our elemental affinity easiest when in that state. And if you’re not sure how you act when stressed, ask a friend or family member. I guarantee, they will know.
Another good indicator of your elemental affinity can be found in what you do for a living. Are you an accountant? If so, you will need structure to thrive in that kind of job, so you’re probably a primary (or secondary) Metal or Wood because these are the most structured elements. Are you a nurse or caregiver of some kind? If so, you’re probably a primary (or secondary) Earth because this element loves to help people. Are you an artistic sort that loves to express yourself creatively or even ponder big ideas? Then you probably have Water very near the front of the line because imagination sits in Water. And if you love having a busy life where you’re constantly on the go, you probably have a lot of Fire because Fires thrive on activity and fun.
It’s important to remember that, because we have all of the elements in us, we can and will use each of them at varying times in our lives. How we do this is another clue in determining our elemental affinity. For example, my primary affinity is Wood, so I can bring the structure and motive power of Wood to what I do, hopefully in a balanced way. And my secondary affinity is Earth, so I am caring and compassionate in my role as a naturopathic physician (at least I try to be). But on dark days, if someone interferes with my Wood desire to move things forward, the compassion of my Earth can take a backseat to the frustration of my Wood. This is one indication that I am a primary Wood and a secondary Earth, not the other way around. Wood’s need to move forward will trump Earth’s need to support others.
Day-to-day, our primary and secondary elements usually run show. But our third, fourth, and fifth position elements absolutely do impact who we are and what we do. In my Five Elements make-up, my third element is Metal, hence my passion for sharing information in a written form via blogs and books. I also love to teach people in live settings, which is where my fourth element, Fire, shines. My fifth element, the one I have the least of in my make-up, is Water. That means I’m not so good at going with the flow. I love the imagination of Water, but too much Water overwhelms and rots my Wood, is way too unstructured for my Metal, makes mud of my Earth, and puts out my Fire. However, I can be pretty philosophic about things, so that’s a good way that my Water contributes to who I am.
The more you read about the Five Elements, the easier it becomes to see how they express themselves in your life. Would you usually prefer to stay home than go to a party? That means you probably aren’t a primary Fire because Fires love parties. But your primary could be any of the other four. It depends why you want to stay home and what you do while there. Waters will usually skip the party and do something alone (like read or paint) or possibly discuss world events with a few like-minded friends. Woods will avoid the party (unless it furthers a goal, in which case they’ll begrudgingly attend) and work, usually planning their next steps. Earths will skip a large party in favor of a quiet, comfy evening at home with close family and friends. And Metals will find the party frivolous (unless it honors them), opting instead to pursue their passion for study and understanding the how and why of things.
As you can see, recognizing your primary and secondary elements provides you with a great deal of information. It will help you embrace the parts of yourself that you like and better understand the parts you might wish were different. And as we illustrate in this blog every week, knowing your elemental affinity also helps explain your interactions with others, which can become the first step in improving all of your relationships.
I hope this gives you a better sense of how to discover your elemental affinity. And do keep studying those elements. Understanding them will change how you view the world and everyone in it!