Dear Vicki: I am new to the study of the Five Elements and find it fascinating. In looking at our family, it seems that my husband, myself, and our two daughters are all Fires. Our son, Mike, is definitely a Wood, which helps me understand why he feels uncomfortable when we are all together. When Mike was younger, he would take a pillow and curl up somewhere quiet to nap because we seemed to exhaust him. Now that there have been additions to the family – two sons-in-law (one Water, one Metal) and a grandson (Wood) – Mike seems to handle family gatherings a little better. But with the holiday season coming up, how can we help Mike be even more comfortable for the numerous times we are all together? Are there colors or things to add to the environment that would be helpful? We love him dearly. Signed: Mom
Dear Mom: As a Wood myself, I feel for your son growing up in a family full of Fires. Wow! Life would never have been boring! And even though Wood and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle, it’s Mike’s Wood that had to feed all four of your Fires. That’s a lot to ask of one Wood and totally explains why he not only appeared slightly uncomfortable, but also snuck away for naps. Feeding four Fires would exhaust any Wood.
Even Fires will admit that too much Fire energy can become chaotic, and chaos takes a Wood down quicker than almost anything else. That’s why Woods are often perceived as control freaks. But in truth, they don’t want control, they just want to prevent things from getting out of control. Living with four Fires, Mike was not only exhausted from trying to feed your Fire (in relationships, this means being the audience for the Fire), he was also likely trying to manage what he perceived as chaos. When younger, withdrawing from the drama was probably the best way for him to retain his own balance. And as you may have discovered, it works for adults, too.
It’s not surprising that maturity and additions to the family have made things a bit better for Mike. The good news is that Woods have great boundaries and, as an adult, it’s probably easier for Mike to draw a line now than it was when he was young. If things get too chaotic now, he can easily excuse himself (having work to catch up on is a great Wood excuse) and seek out a quiet area. There are different elements in the mix now, too, which also takes some of the pressure off of Mike, although it will be important to understand the specific relationships he’ll have with each of the new additions to your family.
One of your daughters is married to a Water and if he’s a balanced Water, Mike probably gets on well with him. Mike and this brother-in-law relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with your son-in-law’s Water feeding Mike’s Wood. However, if your Water son-in-law is too Watery, this will be very uncomfortable for Mike because too much Water rots Wood. I encourage you to watch for signs that this son-in-law is too Watery (he appears narcissistic or intolerant). If this is the case, he won’t be a ready ally for Mike.
Your other son-in-law is a Metal, which relates to Wood on the Controlling Cycle. And while this may seem to be a bad set up for Mike (Metal chops Wood), I can tell you from personal experience that some of my closest friends – and my husband – are Metals. Balanced Metals are often excellent support for Woods because they are the only element with more structure than Wood. If Mike has a close relationship with this brother-in-law, he can be an ally. And because Metal relates to Fire on the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal), your Metal son-in-law will probably be a willing escape buddy for Mike if the Fire energy gets too crazy.
You don’t mention how old the Wood nephew is, or which son-in-law is the father, but it’s likely that Mike will be a strong supporter of this “baby Wood.” The same dynamics that we discussed playing out between Mike, his Fire family, and each brother-in-law will be in place for the nephew, it will just depend on whether his father is the Water or Metal. Mike will probably take it upon himself to help this nephew when he can; Woods like to support the underdog. The only reason this might not happen is if the nephew has too much Wood energy, which will feel competitive and uncomfortable for Mike.
When your whole family is together, there is a lot you can do to help Mike (and your nephew) feel comfortable in the potential chaos of four Fires celebrating. First, make sure Mike himself is balanced going into the event. If he has too much Wood (this will look like anger or impatience) or too little Wood (indecision or frustration), have him hold the emotional balancing points for Wood by lightly placing the thumbs of each hand on the outside corners of his eyes while resting the fingers of each hand across his forehead. He can hold this position for several minutes and it will help bring his Wood into balance. At the family event, you can also encourage Mike to wear peppermint or lavender oil. These oils help balance Wood regardless of what’s throwing it off. Wearing malachite, amber, or green aventurine crystals on a leather cord around his neck at family events will also help Mike stay balanced, regardless of the energy imbalances around him.
Finally, I want to point out that nowhere do you mention anyone having any Earth energy, but there has to be some, especially when you are all together. Family events bring out the Earth in all of us (family sits in the Earth element), so you can use the energy of Earth to help create a safe and comforting environment for everyone at your gatherings. I suspect that you have a strong secondary Earth; pure Fires often don’t have children. This means that the Fire daughter with the son probably also has a secondary Earth. The two of you can make sure that what represents Earth energy (love, deep connections, and good food) are always present at your holiday events. This will help Mike, and everyone else, feel balanced and in harmony with each other. Giving Mike a specific job during the events will also help him. Woods usually aren’t party people (unless they have a strong secondary Fire, which Mike clearly does not), and a roll to play makes parties more meaningful for Woods, especially when they can accomplish the job well. It could be as simple as bringing specific decorations, serving as bartender, entertaining the nephew, or anything else you know will be easy for Mike. Succeeding at his task will be important to him.
Bless you for caring enough to write in (that’s your Earth). May your holidays be balanced, Earthy, and bright (but not too Fiery)!