Dear Vicki: My mother has always been a strong and loving woman. She is a nurse who managed (and still does) a multi-physician office while my two brothers and I were growing up, but she still had time to bake cookies and help with science projects. When her father died and living alone was too hard on Grammy, Mom moved her in with us. The problem now is that I recently received an amazing offer to teach at a nursing college out of state. I want to accept the offer, but my mother has all of a sudden turned into a mean and angry person. She actually makes snarky comments about my leaving. I know she has a lot going on at work and with Grammy here, and Dad isn’t a lot of help, but this is my chance and now I feel guilty taking it and worried that something really might be wrong with Mom. Can you help? Signed: Worried in Western Oaks
Dear Worried: Congratulations on the offer from the nursing college. It does seem like a wonderful opportunity for you and it is understandable that you would want to go. It is also understandable that your mother may be less than enthused. Let’s take a look at your likely elemental personalities and see what might be going on for your mother and how you might help.
The fact that your mother was able to run a large office suggests that she probably has a lot of Wood energy in her personality. That she is a nurse and also an excellent mother indicates that she clearly has a lot of Earth energy, too. I suspect that she is a primary Earth personality, but that her secondary Wood has been front and center for most of her adult life. It would take the Wood skills of organization and getting things done to have accomplished all she did while you and your brothers were growing up. It’s a very Earth thing to move her mother in when her father passed, but a very Wood thing to have the stamina to make it all work.
You also seem to be a primary Earth personality given your choice of nursing as a career. I’m sure this greatly pleased your mother and made for an even stronger bond between the two of you. In fact, I suspect this is part of the reason your mother is having such a hard time with the idea of you moving away. Earth people create strong bonds because deep and lasting relationships are one of the great priorities of their lives. And while at a rational level your mother is probably secretly pleased for you to have this opportunity, at a functional level it clearly isn’t going over very well with her.
For two primary Earth personalities, the idea of being separated usually isn’t a happy thing. Your emotional response to this issue with your mother is guilt and worry, places that out of balance Earths easily go. On the other hand, it appears that your mother is stepping into the Wood part of her personality and responding from there. Anger and sarcasm (a form of “snarky”) usually indicate an imbalance in Wood energy, and I think that’s really at the heart of what is going on for your mother. She has too much Wood energy right now which is affecting her own Earth energy. Here’s what I think is happening.
Wood people place a strong emphasis on fairness. Your mother has been there for her mother, and you moving away may indicate in a subtle way that you won’t be there for her, which won’t seem fair. I’m sure that isn’t your intent, but it’s clear your mother is not responding to this rationally. In fact, with everything she is managing, your mother is probably drawing more and more on the Wood part of her personality to hold things together. Too much Wood energy in anyone can easily lead to anger.
Too much Wood energy will also lead to less Earth energy which is where caring and compassion sit, something your mother needs right now. This is because in the Five Elements model, Wood and Earth relate on the Controlling Cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. Less Earth will not only make your mother less understanding of your need to get out on your own, it will actually lead to more Wood energy (which then makes for less Earth in an ongoing cycle). The dynamic for this is that Earth controls Water and Water is what feeds Wood. Less control of Water (because there is less Earth) means more Water. And more Water means more Wood.
The good news is that this set of relationships is the key to what you can do to help your mother. The beauty of the Five Elements model is that each element has one element that feeds it and one element that controls it. The element that controls Wood is Metal, which seems to be an energy that is sorely missing in your relationship with your mother. Metal people usually act with an eye on what is right and proper. It is “right” to expect (and even encourage) an adult daughter to go out on her own and make her way in the world. The logic and rationality of Metal will “prune” your mother’s excess Wood anger and help her get back to a more balanced version of herself. To do this, you will need to step into your own Metal energy (remember we have all five of the elements in our personalities) and approach the fact that you are accepting the new job in a clear, calm, and rational manner. If this doesn’t feel natural to you, you can build your Metal energy by using eucalyptus or lemon essential oils and wearing a hematite or snowflake obsidian crystal 24/7.
Finally, I suggest that you plan on having your talk with your mother over a meal, or at least over dessert. Food, especially sweets, brings out the Earth energy in everyone and it is the Earth part of your personalities where you and your mother connect the strongest. Staying rational in the face of what is clearly an emotional issue for your mother by addressing things from a Metal perspective will not only make the discussion easier for you, it will be an important energetic step in helping to address her anger going forward. Blessings to you!