Dear Five Faces: I’m having trouble with my new brother-in-law Tom, who is a primary Fire element, and I wonder if the Five Elements can help me understand why. He’s a loud, jokester, frustrating kind of guy who is always “on.” Honestly, I don’t know how my sister stands it. Tom’s never quiet and it’s absolutely exhausting to be around him. I know it’s said we respond to others based on the parts of ourselves that need work, but does this translate to the element types? If we see Fire in another person and don’t like it, does that mean we’re having trouble with our own Fire? Signed: Problem Fire
Dear Problem Fire: This is a great question and there are multiple answers. First, being around someone with an abundance of Fire will affect our own expression of Fire, even if it isn’t our primary element. That’s what often happens at parties: the fun the Fires are having is usually contagious. We all have all five elements, so wherever our own Fire is in our makeup, it usually wakes up a little and wants to have fun. And it usually does have a great deal of fun. However, for people who have trouble expressing their Fire, this can be uncomfortable. So yes, you could be having trouble expressing your own Fire and Tom’s Fire makes that worse. But based on your description of Tom’s behavior, and your reaction to it, I suspect that’s not the real problem here.
It sounds like Tom has too much Fire and that’s what’s impacting you. As the Five Elements model tells us, too much of any element is problematic not only for the whole; each of the other four elements will also be affected. To understand why, let’s use Tom as an example. Too much Fire will drain Water as it reaches across the Controlling Cycle to manage the Fire (Water puts out Fire). Too much Fire will increase Earth by dumping excess energy into it via the Nurturing Cycle (Fire feeds Earth). Too much Fire will deplete Metal by sending too much energy across the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal). And too much Fire will deplete Wood by pulling too much from it via the Nurturing Cycle (Wood feeds Fire).
You don’t mention what element you are, but your responses to Tom’s out of balance Fire give us several clues. That you feel exhausted around your fiery brother-in-law suggests that you are either a primary Wood or Metal. This’s because an out of control Fire depletes both Wood (by burning it up) and Metal (by melting it). However, your comment that you find Tom frustrating is more Wood than Metal. Upset Woods get frustrated while upset Metals get dismissive, and you sound more frustrated and angry than dismissive. Also, Tom’s excessive Fire will seem to be demanding more and more from you, which will feel exhausting. This reaction to excessive energy on our Controlling Cycle is probably one of the biggest problems we have in getting along with people. If we aren’t able to recognize it for what it is – a problem with energy dynamics – we end up writing someone off as unlikeable when there is a way to change things.
To help you with your new brother-in-law, I suggest you bring up your own Water when you’re around him since Water is what helps keep Fire in check. This will not only make you more comfortable around him by protecting you from his excessive Fire, it might also affect his Fire and calm it down. To increase your Water, wear lots of blue, use frankincense and myrrh essential oils, and wear jewelry made of lapis lazuli or aquamarine when you are with him. Even better, try to have family events near water, if you can, or at least have an indoor fountain nearby. Anything you can do to add the energy of Water to family events with Tom will help a great deal.
And as odd as it might sound, your brother-in-law might actually enjoy your Water energy – Fires rarely get to experience the depth and inspiration of Water. Your ability to share some of this with him might actually create a more positive relationship between the two of you. Increasing your Water energy at family events will help your whole family, too. It can keep your brother-in-law’s Fire burning at a level that will bring comfort to everyone. Good luck!