Dear Readers: Last Saturday, 11 people were killed and two others critically injured during religious services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh when a lone gunman entered the building intending to “kill Jews.” As a result of his actions, he has been arrested and charged with federal hate crimes, which the FBI defines as crimes where the perpetrators act based on a specific bias against some aspect of the victim, such as race, color, religion, sexual orientation, etc. In essence, they hate something about the victim vehemently enough to take violent action against them. But why? And who would do something like this?
The answers to these questions are as complex as humanity itself. One can spend a lifetime trying to understand the human personality. But for those who have asked if there might be some understanding to be found in the Five Elements model regarding how people can hate each other enough to turn violent, I would like to offer the following thoughts.
The Five Elements model provides us with the ability to categorize people into five basic personality groups based on key factors such as life focus, needs and priorities, vulnerabilities, etc. This same model contains not only personality information, but also key relationship dynamics between each of the five elemental personalities. And it’s this relationship information that’s important here because hate crimes are predicated on how one person (or group of people) relates to other people, specifically people who they dislike or have a bias against.
The five elemental personalities are defined by their differences across a variety of topics, but for those of you less familiar with them, their basic priorities can be summarized as follows:
- Water personalities tend to focus on exploring inner wisdom and philosophy. Out of balance, they can become almost reclusive.
- Wood personalities tend to focus on success and accomplishment in the physical world. Out of balance, they can become angry and abusive.
- Fire personalities tend to focus on enjoying and celebrating life. Out of balance, they can become panicked and hysterical.
- Earth personalities tend to focus on relationships with home, family, and friends. Out of balance, they can become codependent and timid.
- Metal personalities tend to focus on acquiring and sharing wisdom. Out of balance, they can become erudite and dismissive.
In truth, any one of these elemental personalities could be capable of committing a crime if something they value was threatened. But an act as horrific as killing another human being would be hard for someone with a lot of Earth energy in their personality because Earths are usually caring, gentle people. Fire people would also be unlikely to commit hate crimes because their upbeat, gregarious personalities make them a friend to all. And Water personalities would be unlikely to resort to violence because they live most of life in their heads. The two elemental personalities most likely to take negative action against a fellow human would be Wood and Metal personalities, but for very different reasons.
Metal people firmly embrace the right and wrong of everything, so a deep sense of righteous indignation could motivate them to leave their ivory tower and take on a worthy opponent. The people most likely to create this reaction in Metal personalities are Wood personalities. We see this in the fact that Metal and Wood relate to each other in the model via the Controlling Cycle. It is Metal’s “job” to keep Woods in line. Based on their strong need to be right, Metals could turn violent if motivated by a strong enough need to maintain control.
Wood personalities are driven by a desire to accomplish or acquire things, so could take action against someone they believe stands in their way. The people most likely to create this reaction in Wood personalities are Metal personalities. Once again, this references the fact that Metal and Wood relate to each other in the model via the Controlling Cycle where it is Metal’s “job” to keep the Woods in line. Woods could turn violent and commit a crime if motivated by enough rage at being held back or stopped.
There is also another factor at play regarding the dynamic between Wood and Metal, and that’s the fact that they are diametric opposites in terms of energy flow in the Five Element model. Wood represents new yang, a time when energy is gearing up toward maximum expression (which will happen in the Fire element). Metal represents new yin, a time when energy is slowing toward minimum expression (which will happen in the Water element). The yin/yang tension between these two can create a definite sense of “otherness” between Wood and Metal people that could develop into an unhealthy bias. It isn’t surprising that Woods (especially out of balance ones) can view Metals as snobby and aloof, while out of balance Metals can perceive Woods as bombastic and pushy.
Please bear in mind that I’m not suggesting the world’s criminals are all Metal or Wood personalities. Far from it. But in our current culture where success, acclaim, and possessions deeply affect our sense of self, I believe these are the two elemental personalities most likely to slip down the rabbit hole of the behavior we call hate crimes. Especially if they are involved in or motivated by something in the culture that reinforces the need to “win,” whether in an intellectual or success-based arena.
Finally, it’s important to remember that we each have all five elemental energies in our personality make up. That means we all have Metal and Wood energy in us. They may not be our primary elemental personality, but they are there and can easily be triggered during times of stress. If we work to keep these energies balanced in ourselves, we will ensure that we do not unintentionally trip up others. And an easy way to help keep these two personality energies balanced in ourselves is to do the following quick exercise daily:
- Place your thumbs on the outside edges of your eyes while resting your fingertips across your forehead. Hold this position for 1 to 2 minutes, breathing normally.
- Then rest the palm of your left hand on the very top of your head and place the palm of your right hand across your forehead. Hold this position 1 to 2 minutes, breathing normally.
These are difficult times for so many people. I pray that we all find as many ways as we can to become part of the solution, rather than inadvertently contributing to the problem. Blessings and love to all. Vicki