Dear Vicki: My brother’s wife pasted away two years ago and he really took it hard. It was like the light and joy went out of his life; my funny and outgoing brother became somber and cynical. He used to be the life of the party, but for a while he was pretty morose. Then several months ago, he finally begun dating and recently brought a woman (I’ll call her Hanna) to a family birthday party. We wanted to be excited for him, but Hanna was unpleasantly pushy and opinionated. Most members of my family are elementary school teachers, so we enjoy harmonious environments when not working, but this party ended up far from congenial. Hanna disagreed with my mother about when to start cooking a casserole (Mom is an excellent cook!) and questioned another sibling’s opinion about a movie. I think my brother could tell things weren’t going well because he stopped joking around halfway through the evening, then he and Hanna left early. I want my brother to be happy, but if Hanna is going to be part of the family, how are we ever going to get along? Signed, Overwhelmed in Ohio
Dear Overwhelmed: It’s good news that your brother has started dating again. The loss of a loved one is a difficult event to get over, and it can be especially hard for someone with a Fire personality like your brother. Fire people thrive on fun and excitement, but when they suffer a loss, their Fire quite literally goes out and it can take some time for the joy to come back. It isn’t surprising that Hanna was the person that relit his Fire, either. In the Five Elements model, the element that feeds (and therefore builds) Fire on the Nurturing Cycle is Wood, and Hanna is clearly a Wood personality. Wood energy is outgoing and accomplishment-driven which often makes Wood people seem pushy and opinionated.
On the other hand, I think you and many of your family members are Earth personalities. Earth people make great teachers, they revel in peace and harmony, and a loved one’s happiness will always matter. However, Earth relates to Wood on the Controlling Cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. That means that a room full of Earths could well feel overwhelmed by Hanna’s Wood energy. It’s no wonder that many of you were uncomfortable.
As far as all of you getting along with Hanna, that may be a non-issue because it’s quite possible your brother’s new relationship won’t last very long. Too much Fire for a constant length of time can literally burn out a Wood. If that happens, Hanna will most likely move on to calmer relationships. However, if the Fire doesn’t get too crazy, Woods can enjoy the upbeat atmosphere of life with a Fire, so Hanna could be around for the long haul. But don’t worry, there are ways for you to get along with Hanna and, who knows, maybe even like her!
First, keep in mind that Woods care about making things happen. When Hanna is part of the next family gathering, ask her (in a sweet Earth way) if she would be willing to take responsibility for a few things: maybe starting a salad or setting the table. Make it something easy, so she can do a good job (accomplishment is big for Woods), but not so easy that it’s demeaning (Woods usually care how they come across to others). Most Woods do best at a party or in other social occasions if they have a role to play, so give Hanna a role. This will not only make her feel comfortable, but it will help her fit in.
Second, there are ways to make sure Hanna doesn’t bring too much Wood energy when she is with you all. In the Five Elements model, the element that is responsible for keeping Wood in check is Metal, which is all about logic, rationality, and synthesis. If Hanna comes on too strong, instead of retreating because your Earth energy feels overwhelmed, try meeting her with logic. For example, when she questioned the cooking time for a casserole, you need only have thanked her for the input, but then pointed out (kindly) that your mother has made this casserole for years so has got it down. History – which is the arena of Metal – will usually convince a Wood that someone is right (unless circumstances have changed radically, which Hanna would be in no position to know having just met your family).
The bottom line is that Woods need to feel important and appreciated, so if she does become a more permanent part of your family, if you can take steps to do that, Hanna is sure to be less overwhelming. And who knows? You just might discover that, instead of a monster, she might actually be someone with something to say. Good luck!