Dear Vicki: I read your blog pretty regularly and think I understand the Five Elements, but one area confuses me. You describe Metals as being logical and process oriented, which I understand because I am a Metal. However, my good friend Sherry is a Fire and I swear I see her behave in ways that seem to me to be serious and infinitely reasonable. Am I rubbing off on her? She does seem to rub off on me at times; I certainly have more fun when she’s around. But there are so many times that she drives me crazy, I’d like to see her be more Metal more often. How can she be Metal-like some days and not others? Signed: Wants More Metal
Dear Wants More Metal: This is a great question. While no one would ever confuse a pure Fire personality with a pure Metal, the reality is that we are never purely any one element. As you know from reading this blog, we have all five elements in our makeup. And while our primary element frames how we live life, our secondary element definitely “flavors” how our primary expresses itself. Your primary and Sherry’s primary relate on the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal), so there will definitely be times that her Fire drives you crazy and feels controlling (perhaps even threatening) to your Metal. But as you admit in your letter, there are times that Sherry’s Fire loosens you up and you have fun. That’s the way the Controlling Cycle is supposed to work! It helps bring balance.
As to why Sherry might sometimes appear to be more like a Metal, it’s possible that Sherry has Metal as her secondary. The times it expresses itself might be when you find her “serious and infinitely reasonable.” Most Metals find other Metals to be reasonable. In fact, as you may have noticed, if someone wants to change a Metal’s mind, the best approach is to use logic and reason. Sherry might have figured this out about you and seems more Metal when she’s trying to get her way. It’s also possible that Sherry isn’t really as structured as you think, you just interpret some of her behaviors through your own Metal filter of structure. The famous Maslow quote comes to mind here: “To a man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.” There is no doubt that our primary element colors how we look at the world and her people.
The bigger truth is that any element can take on attributes we associate with a different element if they need or want to. Our primary element is a lens, not a death grip. Waters may naturally tend to go with the flow when doing their thing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be somewhat Metal and get to work on time if they need to. Of course, they may find that much structure to be a drag and look for a job that can be as “flowy” as they are, but Waters can be semi-structured if they choose. Waters can also start things like Woods do, it just won’t be as easy as it is for a Wood, or as definitive. Waters can laugh and have fun like Fires, but it will probably be in smaller groups. And Waters can certainly connect deeply with other people like Earths do, it just may not be the most important thing in their lives.
As a Fire, Sherry will certainly be fun and outgoing, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be Metal-like and serious at times, as you have noted. Sherry can probably also plan a great party, it just might not be as organized as one planned by a Wood. But I guarantee you she won’t care about that. The party will be the goal, not the organization. Sherry can also connect very well with people – all Fires can – she just won’t need those connections as much as Earths do. And Sherry will absolutely be able to cop a philosophic attitude now and then, offer a quick “C’est la vie” over a disappointment, then move on. But she won’t want to get mired too deeply in a more Watery discussion of what went wrong; that will threaten her fun and happiness (Water puts our Fire).
Looking at Earths, they value and need deep connections, but that doesn’t mean they can’t detach from them in a Metal way if necessary. Although sending a child off to college will be harder for an Earth than a Metal. Earths can be creative like Waters, especially when working with children, it just will be at a simpler level. They can be organized like Woods, too, especially when “feathering a nest.” And Earths will love meeting people the way Fires do, they will just look to take those connections deeper than most Fires might.
As a Metal, you probably take a big picture approach the times you have to end things. This is very Water. You also likely advocate for fairness the way a Wood will because it’s the right thing for you to do. You also will value your surroundings the way an Earth does, but your house will be vastly more streamlined than an Earth’s home full of well-loved things. And as you have admitted, you are quite capable of having fun in a Fire way when you are with Sherry.
The bottom line is that each element can and does express attributes we associate with a different element. They will just be colored by the person’s primary element, which is as it should be. And please, do yourself and Sherry a big favor. Rather than trying to make her more Metal, appreciate her for what she apparently is: a Fire/Metal able to use the structure of Metal while expressing her Fire. Blessings to you both!