Dear Vicki: The Winter Solstice is approaching and I’m dreading it as the start of winter. The dark and cold make me very unhappy. But my sister (a writer) loves December: The darker and colder, the better for her. I think she’s crazy, but how can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elements? I don’t even know what element I am. Signed: Dreading Winter
Dear Dreading: Winter Solstice does herald the start of winter in the northern hemisphere; December, January and February are usually the coldest, darkest months here. But within the Five Elements model, Winter Solstice represents a pause in the constant cycling between light and dark. December 21 is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Beginning the next day, the nights shorten and the days lengthen. So if you hate the dark, Winter Solstice is good news for you because beginning December 22, the days get longer. But the cold? Well, that’s around for several more months.
To answer your question, how we respond to a time of year absolutely can have to do with our element, especially since each element has a seasonal affiliation. On the surface of things, it seems logical that an element would resonate with their own season, and that can be true. But it isn’t always so straightforward. If someone’s primary element is unbalanced, they may not do well with their own season and may really need what another season has to offer. Let’s look at how this might work and perhaps you will recognize yourself.
We’ll start with Water, the element with the most yin energy of the Five Elements. Yin is associated with coolness, darkness, inner direction, and stillness, which pretty much summarizes winter. Not surprisingly, Water equates to winter in the Five Elements model. And if they are balanced, Waters do enjoy winter because they like cool temperatures and time alone to ponder deep issues. As a writer, your sister could well be a Water, which means she would love December and find it a very comfortable time. However, if she is ever in an excess Water place, December might be too much Water energy for her. Too much winter can make a Water intolerant and unhappy. The fact that you hate winter could mean that you are also a Water, but perhaps in an excess state. Conversely, if a Water person has low Water energy, which might show up as depression or unreasonable fears, the Water energy of winter will feed them and help them re-establish balance.
The other elements will respond to winter in predictable ways depending on how balanced they are within their primary element and how that element relates to Water/winter. Wood relates to Water on the Nurturing Cycle (Water feeds Wood), so Wood people often enjoy winter as a time to plan what they’ll accomplish once spring (their season) hits. As long as they’re feeling productive, and can stay warm, Woods usually roll with winter weather pretty well. However, since Water feeds Wood, too much winter will create a state of excess energy for some Woods. This can lead to outbursts of anger and frustration at everything winter has to offer, like getting stuck in the snow, cancelled events, or just being uncomfortably cold. That said, a Wood with deficient Wood energy will usually find winter healing as the focused Water energy feeds their Wood and helps it grow.
Fires are the people who usually have the biggest problem with winter, which means you could be a Fire. Water and Fire related via the Controlling Cycle (Water puts out Fire), so too much Water can quite literally stop Fires cold. Compared to Water’s full yin energy, Fire is full yang, which means Fires usually want to be out doing things and connecting with people. They also like warmth, which isn’t a natural state in winter. However, a balanced Fire can usually find aspects of winter that they like: sitting by a fire, holiday parties, and celebrating with friends (new and old). Fires are resilient that way. And for a Fire with excess Fire energy, winter can be a blessing. The forced slow down during winter helps decrease their manic ways and brings a sense of balance. Winter also offers Fires a glimpse into a world that’s the opposite of their own, which is something most Fires appreciate. But for an already-depleted Fire, someone who appears scattered or unstable, the cold and draining energy of winter will only make things worse. So perhaps you are a Fire who has run out of steam.
Earth people represent the transitions between the seasons, so usually do well any time of the year. For them, life is about deep connections with people anywhere they can find them. Earth relates to Water/winter on the Controlling Cycle; it’s Earth’s job to gently guide Water and help keep it in balance. To the degree that winter offers fun activities that can be enjoyed with others, Earths are thrilled to participate. The holiday season, which falls during winter, is a favorite of most Earths and a key time to connect with the people in their lives that matter most. For an Earth with too much Earth energy, the holidays can be a time to meddle and insert themselves where they aren’t needed as a defense against the solitude of winter. However, an Earth with too little energy will find the demands of winter depleting and difficult to manage. They will probably stay inside, indulge their passion for good food, and worry that no one cares. If this resonates with you, it’s possible that you’re an Earth with deficient energy.
People with primary Metal energy usually appreciate winter. Metals like alone time to synthesize and study, and the quiet of winter affords them this opportunity. Part of Metal’s comfort with winter comes from the fact that Metal and Water relate on the Nurturing Cycle (Metal feeds Water), which means that the energy usually flows well between them. Metal represents autumn, a time when energy is consolidating and moving toward yin, which is another reason that Metals often have a simpatico connection with winter, the time of full yin. That said, Metals don’t like to be uncomfortable. If the weather’s too cold, a balanced Metal will usually just stay inside. A Metal with too much energy, someone who is slightly controlling or dismissive, will often throw themselves into winter sports as a way to offload energy during Water time. But a Metal with too little energy, someone who appears overly critical, will find the demands of winter threatening. They usually withdraw from winter in any way they can, including extended vacations somewhere warm. This is another possibility: You could be a Metal with slightly depleted energy.
As you can tell, each element has its own way of relating to winter in proactive, and reactive, ways. In fact, each element has it’s own way of relating to every season. That’s the beauty of the Five Elements model – the elements are five discrete parts of a whole. Interconnected and interdependent, they are each responsible for keeping the whole healthy and balanced. Does that mean that everyone has to like every season? No. But it does mean that there’s information for us in the seasons we love, and the seasons we hate. I hope the information here helps you understand your aversion to winter and that someday you will enjoy the quiet beauty and rest that winter offers us all. It is one of nature’s greatest gifts. Winter Solstice Blessings to you!