Are We Really Who We Think We Are?

Dear Vicki: I’ve recently been introduced to the Five Element personalities and it really has helped me understand a lot of things about my family and several friends. However, I’m a bit confused by three girlfriends who each took a quiz to help them determine their elemental personality and all three came out as predominantly Fire personalities. I find that hard to believe because they are all calm, sensible, considerate, reliable people who tend to keep their inner thoughts to themselves. I would say they are content with their day-to-day lives, in particular their families, and are not ambitious in any way. None of them likes the limelight and they tend to have a few good friends, not a vast circle. I have several other friends who do tick all the boxes as classic Fire personalities, but I can’t understand how these three women (all in their 40s and 50s) scored so high for a Fire personality. Can you explain this? Signed: Confused in Conway

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Dear Confused: It’s wonderful that you’re studying the Five Elements personalities and finding them useful! Clearly, I think they’re fantastic tools for understand all sorts of people. Your question about quiz results is an excellent – and not uncommon – one. There are many different Five Elements online quizzes available these days, but regardless of the one your friends took, there are several possible reasons why the results don’t seem to jive with their actual personalities. Let’s take a quick look at what might be going on.

First and foremost, the results of any personality test will only be as good as the test itself. This means that some personality tests will naturally give more accurate results than others. Focusing specifically on Five Elements tests, it’s important to remember that the Five Elements as a model comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where it is used as a diagnostic tool to guide treatments of the physical form (as well as some emotional and mental issues). Because of that, many Five Elements tests include questions about physical illnesses or proclivities one might find in a person with an abundance of a specific element.

Without getting into too much detail here, in TCM each element is said to govern specific channels of energy called meridians that run through the body bringing the energy that keeps the body healthy. If there is a problem in the body, it can be linked to one of these meridians and then linked back to the specific element that governs that meridian. For example, if someone has problems with their heart, in TCM one might suspect problems with the Heart meridian which is governed by the Fire Element. So to determine if someone has a lot of Fire energy, one quiz might ask “Do you have heart problems?” A yes answer might give added weight to the person being a Fire personality.

In truth, heart problems don’t necessarily indicate that someone is a Fire personality. As we have said all along in this blog, healthy relationships between the elements, whether elemental personalities or the actual elements in the model, are extremely important for optimal functioning of anything and everything. The elements’ relationships manifest via the Nurturing and Controlling Cycles, which are the basic ways energy moves in and through the Five Elements model. (If you aren’t familiar with this model, you can see an illustration of it here and read about the Flow and Control Cycles:

Going back to our example of heart issues, while the Fire element might be the most logical culprit, any of the other four elements can and will affect the heart based on their interaction with the Fire element. On the Nurturing Cycle, Wood can feed too much or too little energy to Fire, or Earth can pull too much or too little energy from Fire. On the Controlling Cycle, Water can either over or under control Fire, or Metal can require too little or too much control from Fire. Problems with the balance of any of these four relationships can and will create problems in the Fire element and all that it governs, including the heart.

Obviously, it’s unlikely that your friends have heart issues, but it is just as unlikely that they are Fire personalities. Based on how you describe them, they sound very clearly like Earth personalities to me. So why would all three of them independently show up as primary Fire personalities in the quiz results? Other than the aforementioned issue with the quizzes using physical symptoms as determining factors, there are two other reasons three Earth women might have looked more like Fire people than Earth people.

The first possibility is based on the fact that Fire and Earth personalities are very similar in one basic characteristic: the desire to connect with others. The main distinction is that Fire people love/need quick, fun connections with others, while Earths people love/need lasting long-term relationships. Perhaps the quiz your friends took worded questions about relationships (if it had this type of question) in such a way that both Fire people and Earth people might have answered them the same way. That could account for them scoring higher on the Fire scale than is accurate.

A second possibility is that your friends unknowingly skewed their responses to reflect what they wished they were like rather than what they are actually like. For example, a calm, sensible, reliable mid-life person might secretly wish they had a bit more excitement in their lives so could have stated preferences more in keeping with a Fire personality than who they really are. It seems odd to me that this would happen with all three of your friends independently, but it is still a possibility. Also, most people love being around Fire personalities, so who wouldn’t want to be someone that other people want to be around? In truth, everyone enjoys all of the Elemental personalities at varying times, so we should all be happy and proud of who we are. But of all the times I’ve taught the Five Elements around the world, more people incorrectly want to identify themselves as Fire people than any of the other elemental personalities. Interesting, isn’t it?

The bottom line is that I think the best way to determine our primary and secondary elemental personalities is always by observing our behavior and preferences as we move through life. What do we like? What do we hate? What is our occupation? What are we good at? What stresses us? How we actually act, rather than how we think we might act, really determines who we are. I hope this helps. Blessings to you!

soul searching

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