Dear Vicki: Your last blog post about the positive aspects of control was really interesting, but like you said, having Earth as the controlling element is hitting the jackpot. Earths are gentle and kind. I’m not so lucky – I’m a primary Metal, which means Fire is my control. Too much time around Fire people is hard on me; they aren’t sweet and “guiding” like Earths. They are much harsher. How can control be a good thing when the element controlling you destroys you? Signed: Melted Metal
Dear Melted Metal: You are one of several emails I received regarding last week’s blog. There is definitely a bit of control envy out there. Everyone wants Earth on their Controlling Cycle! And I do understand. As a Wood, interactions with Metals, my control element, can feel tough even when their “pruning” is well intentioned. But there is great wisdom in the Five Elements model! Think of it: A sweet Earth wouldn’t have a chance of controlling a rampaging Wood because Wood has way too much structure for an Earth to oppose. Instead, it’s Metal, the most structured of all elements, that controls the excessive Wood. But while Earth cannot control Wood, that Wood structure is perfect for helping stabilize the over-energized Earth. Landslides are impossible on a well-wooded slope.
As a Metal, nothing stands up to your structure, but when you’re in a place of excessive Metal, more structure is the last thing you need. What you really need is to release some structure and the heat of Fire is the perfect way to bring flexibility to Metal. In truth, no element destroys another; they just bring balance. Fire decreases the too structured Metal and gives it flexibility. Metal prunes the over-expanded Wood to keep it from toppling. Wood anchors and prevents the Earth from sliding. And just to complete the cycle, Water prevents Fire from burning too hot and destroying itself.
The brilliance of the Five Elements model is that the element controlling you is just what you need to address an over-energized state. But this is still fairly abstract, so let’s look at a few real life examples for the Controlling Cycle relationships not covered last week. We’ll start with your Controlling Cycle relationship first.
Fire controlling Metal: A graduate student writing his dissertation loses himself in the process of researching and synthesizing material on his topic. He skips meals and works late every night, so risks damaging his health. But if his girlfriend is a Fire, she can cajole him into having some fun and relaxing now and then. This not only gives him a much-needed break and rest, but might even provide enough flexibility that he discovers new ways of looking at his material instead of the same old ways he has before.
Metal controlling Wood: Here’s a perfect example from my life of Metal controlling Wood in a good way: Several years ago my husband and I decided to remodel our old house. I made a list of all the things that needed improving and lobbied hard to start them all at once. My wise husband sat me down and, as only a Metal can, pointed out the reasons (time, money, skill sets, schedules, etc.) that we needed a more systematic approach. And of course, he was right. In my Wood enthusiasm to do it all, we would have had the whole house torn up before we had anyone lined up to do some of the important work like plumbing and wiring, and we’d have run out of money months before any of it could be completed. Instead, we worked through the house one slow room at a time and it was, I will admit, much more sane.
Water Controlling Fire: A young actor lands a leading role in a new Broadway musical and it’s a big hit. Suddenly, he has offers coming in from everywhere and in typical Fire fashion, he says yes to everything he can. Soon, he is literally burning the candle at multiple ends. Spreading himself too thin, the actor becomes very scattered and starts missing events and flubbing performances. Finally, his mother, a wise Water, shows up at his apartment, sits him down, and delivers the healthy big picture warning that he won’t be around to have a long and satisfying career if he burns out in the first five years. His mother convinces the actor to join her for a week at the shore where the ocean water and the mother Water help bring balance back to his life.
Wood Controlling Earth: A woman who makes children’s clothing for a living is asked to babysit her three young grandchildren for a month. She happily agrees and is soon in grandmother heaven. She cooks for them, bakes for them, and sews each a special new outfit, all the while managing her own business. Two weeks into the adventure, her Wood husband notices that his wife often gets up at night to make sure the iron is turned off. Worried that the grandkids aren’t eating enough, she makes more food than necessary and is insulted when he won’t take the leftover SpaghettiOs to work for lunch. At the point that she starts calling him to inquire what he is eating for lunch since it isn’t her leftovers, he knows it’s time to tame her Earth. He takes three days off and spends them settled at home with his wife. The gentle structure he brings helps calm her, as do the assurances he gives that the grandkids look great, are happy as clams, and certainly don’t seem sick. By the time he returns to work, grandma is back to balance and like any Earth, able to happily accomplish twenty things at once.
The point of these illustrations is that no element destroys the element it controls. Its presence decreases the over-energy aspects of that element in a much-needed way. And while it probably doesn’t feel like it at the time, people from your controlling element usually give you a gift: They help you return to a state of balance so that you can function at your best. For you, Metal embraced by Fire allows your structure to express itself in ways that would be impossible without the heat. Bottom line: It’s a good thing!