Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my son Jacob. He graduated from law school four years ago and moved to New York from our small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up, Jacob was a quiet, studious child. He was something of a loner, but always seemed to appreciate the love and attention my husband and I showered on him. We supported him through college and grad school, were always so proud of him, and felt his continued gratitude. But since he started work as a corporate attorney, he has changed. He often won’t return our calls, interrupts or loses his temper when we do talk, is pretty critical, and has generally turned into a not so nice guy. Children change as they grow, I know, but this seems very dramatic. He has put a lot of pressure on himself to advance in his career, but why is he so different? It feels like we’ve lost him. Did we do something wrong? Signed: Puzzled in PA
Dear Puzzled: You are correct: Children do change as they grow. They learn about the world and their place in it. They make new friends and grow from these new relationships. They take continuous steps to become more independent. But they usually don’t change so dramatically over the course of just four years, so I think there has to be something else going on with Jacob. Let’s see if we can figure it out.
You don’t mention what primary element you think he is, but the fact that he was a quiet, studious child means he would likely be a Water or a Metal. His choice to practice law, however, would require the structure necessary to withstand the rigors of law school. That structure would be seen in both Metal and Wood. The overlap here is Metal, which also fits with the fact that the attention to detail necessary to practice corporate law usually sits in Metal. And this is just a guess, but your worry and concern about your son, and the fact that you so easily assume you might have done something wrong in raising him, suggest that you are probably a primary Earth element. This means that you and Jacob relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model with your Earth feeding his Metal.
On the surface, this should be good news for both of you. Earths love family, children, and helping people. Metals often expect attention and support, especially from Earths. Your relationship of parent to child also supports this natural flow of energy from Earth to Metal in the model. So what isn’t working? Why has he changed seemingly out of the blue?
Remember that while we usually act and react to the world through the lens of our primary element, we do have all five elements in our energetic make up. I suspect that as part of adjusting to his new work environment, Jacob has stepped into his Wood element. Manifestation, competition, and individual accomplishment all sit in Wood, and in our current culture, these are the normal hallmarks of success. Metals are usually very wise people. They study the past to determine what is needed in the future. As a Metal, Jacob has likely observed what makes for a success law career and thus determined what he needs to do to succeed himself. This means that he is probably taking on many of the characteristics of a Wood these days. And while this will certainly help him in his quest for success, it can affect other aspects of his life, especially his relationships.
For you, it means you are now relating to a Wood son instead of a Metal son. Your sweet, studious child is now a driven, aspiring adult determined to succeed. Wood and Earth relate on the Controlling Cycle with Wood controlling Earth, which is definitely going to feel different to you, probably not in a good way. Interrupting is a sign of impatience, which is an out of balance Wood characteristic, as is anger and frustration and being too busy to connect with people unrelated to the task at hand. Bottom line? Not only is your son acting like a Wood, he is acting like someone with too much Wood. But there are several ways you can help him.
The brilliance of the Five Elements model is that when an element is out of balance, the fix for the problem is right there in the model. The element responsible for making sure there isn’t too much Wood is Metal (Metal and Wood relate on the Controlling Cycle). Your son’s primary Metal could well be depleted from trying to manage the abundance of Wood he is using, and that would explain the fact that he has seemed overly critical to you. Deficient Metal personalities do become critical because they don’t know the answers themselves but don’t want someone else to appear smarter than them. Basically, Jacob needs to get back to more of his real Metal self to help balance out his rocky Wood “get ahead” tendencies.
I encourage you to have a heart-to-heart talk with Jacob and share your concerns regarding his changed behavior. As a wise Metal, hopefully he will acknowledge that he’s unhappy with himself. Few Metals really like the Wood lifestyle. If he is open to suggestions, you could encourage him to drink red clover tea regularly, put lots of white in his environment, or even wear a hematite pendant on a long chain under his shirt. These will all help build back his Metal. But honestly, I suspect your talk itself will probably be most important. And that is based on the beauty of your relationship with Jacob.
Not only are you his mother, but your Earth feeds his Metal. You can build his Metal just by being you. And while being around you more would help him now, few super busy adult sons like mom dropping in unannounced. So instead of visiting, you can deliver your Earth energy in a different Mom way. It may sound corny, but try sending him small packages of his favorite homemade cookies or sweets (we all know too much sugar is not a good thing). It will remind him of you and home, which can bring up his own Earth to feed his Metal to help balance the Wood he is using these days.
Jacob is very lucky to have such a caring mother. I truly believe that if you reach out and share your concerns with him, then follow that up with some treats from home, it won’t be long before the son you think you’ve lost will be headed back your way. Blessings to you!