The Personalities that Created American Democracy

Dear Readers: I wish you all a happy Fourth of July in whatever way you do (or don’t) acknowledge the day! Here in the USA, July 4th is when we celebrate the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776, an act that formalized our move from a colony of Great Britain to an independent nation fashioned as a democracy. George Washington called it the Great Experiment. And while we have lasted over 200 years, these days it seems more appropriate than ever to honor and celebrate our bold creation.

By anyone’s standards, breaking from Great Britain was a dangerous move, and I’ve always wondered what it must have been like to be one of those early colonists. Several years ago, I had an animated discussion with a friend who announced that she was sure the early colonists were all Wood elemental personalities. When I asked why, she said that Wood people are the adventuresome, bossy types who get things done. We laughed, but then had an excellent discussion that concluded with the firm belief it took all of the elemental personalities to create and claim American independence.

To honor the anniversary of America’s declared intent to be an independent nation based on democratic principles, I would like to share a brief summary of how important each elemental personality was to the creation of the United States of America.

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Sisters Clash Working Together

Dear Vicki: My sister started a business a few years ago helping people de-clutter their homes. Shelley’s brilliant at it, too; nothing is out of place in her house and not a single drawer is jammed full of stuff. As a stay at home mom with older children and time on my hands, I started helping out by answering phones and filing. At first it was fun working together, but recently it seems that nothing I do is good enough for Shelley. She doesn’t like the notes I leave about phone calls (too rambling), the way I file (not consistent), or even the clothes I wear to her office (not professional). It’s really put pressure on our relationship. We’re about to re-open after the pandemic and I’m wondering if I should just quit. But her business has really grown and she needs the help. Plus, she’s my sister; I can’t just walk away. What should I do? Signed: Not Good Enough 

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Dear Not Good Enough: Ah, sisters! They’re family, but usually different. And you two are really different in some very important ways! I suspect that you are a primary Earth personality and your sister Shelley is a primary Metal personality. Earth people love helping others, especially family. And it was clearly a Metal personality who wrote the old proverb: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” (Actually, the proverb was written by Benjamin Franklin who I completely believe was a Metal personality!)

The good news is that you and your sister relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model, which is the big circle in the model below. This means, by definition, your connection should feel supporting. The challenge is that it is Earth that feeds Metal on the Nurturing Cycle, so Shelley will feel more supported by your relationship than you will. Also, because Shelley’s a Metal personality, she may well expect your support. Metal people often feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world for Earth people to cater to their every whim. And in some ways, it is. Earth personalities not only love helping and taking care of people, they love being needed. However, in the current situation, your sister’s Metal tendencies and how they contrast with your Earth tendencies seem to be creating some friction, so let’s see what can be done to bring harmony back to the family.

The Five Elements Model

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The Light and Dark Sides of the Elemental Personalities

Dear Readers: Four years and six days ago, a 29-year-old security guard killed 49 people and wounded 53 others during a mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The brutality of the event shocked us all and left lingering questions regarding who would do such a thing, and why. At that time, I posted an attempt to answer those questions from a Five Elements perspective by highlighting the beauty/beast aspect of each elemental personality, including simple signs that might indicate someone could be unbalanced enough to begin manifesting the beast. Given all that is going on in the United States and other parts of the world these days, it seems like this information might once again be helpful. May love and compassion prevail.

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Dear Readers: When the unthinkable occurs, when humans turn violent against each other as unfolded earlier this week in Orlando, we immediately ask ourselves, “How could this have happened? How is this possible?”

We will probably never know all of the reasons the shooter did what he did. And in truth, explanations pale when held against the tragedy he created. But deep inside, we all have basic needs that drive us forward. In one way or another, we all need to be part of something important, to make a difference, to connect with others, to be loved, to be understood. But when these needs take on a disproportionally large focus in our lives, the pain of their unmet presence can warp us, allowing us to think and act in ways that are unhealthy and potentially dangerous for ourselves, and others. These are the shadow sides of being human and unbalanced.

When basic needs aren’t met, when hatred has overtaken our innate ability to love, we have shown throughout history that we humans are capable of committing atrocious acts. But no one wakes up one morning a suddenly changed monster; the downward slide toward hatred is a path of internal pain and emptiness that those closest to us can often see.

I’m not implying that any single person should have been able to stop what happened in Orlando. But I am saying that if we all understood each other better, if we loved and accepted each other more, it might have made a difference. And while I know I’m biased, I do think that an understanding of the elemental personalities from the Five Elements model is an exceptional way of understanding each other, and ourselves.

To help us move forward, I offer here the light and dark sides of each elemental personality. Please remember that we all have all of the elemental personalities in our energetic make-up, but we usually think and act from a primary one. I believe an important goal in life is to manifest the light and love of these personalities with everyone we meet. And if you know someone who seems to be manifesting the dark side of an elemental personality, please reach out to them; they are probably hurting.

The Light and Dark Sides of the Elemental Personalities

Water Personalities need to be part of something important, something bigger than themselves. When this happens, it gives Water people a sense of their place in the world. They are not just one tiny little seemingly inconsequential drop of water; they are part of the mighty ocean. This provides meaning for their lives so they can live in a hopeful and optimistic manner. But when Water people lose touch with the meaning of life, when they feel alone and isolated, they can become narcissistic and intolerant of others. Intolerance creates separateness and an inability to see that we are all one. We all have Water in us. Watch for intolerance in those around you and when you see it, recognize that someone has lost touch with how they fit into the world. Reach out and help them find meaning.

Wood Personalities need to make a difference in the world. When they do, they see the value of themselves reflected in their accomplishments. They are not just one lone person facing a tide of humanity, they are someone able to impact the world in a positive manner. This gives meaning to their life and allows them to live in a way that champions underdogs and rights the unrightable wrongs. But when Wood people cannot move forward, when they feel stuck and blocked, they become frustrated and angry. Their anger looks for someone to blame, someone to strike out against. We all have Wood in us. Watch for anger and when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their ability to move forward. Reach out and help them succeed.

Fire Personalities need to feel connected; they need people to pay attention to them. When they do, they experience a sense of possibility and excitement that feeds them. For however long that lasts, they are not alone; temporary as it might be, they are part of a group experiencing something together. This allows them to speak for their group and create a potentially transcendent experience for all. But when Fire people cannot connect with others, when they feel isolated and unseen, they become anxious and panicked. Their need to be accepted can cause them to act irrationally in order to prove themselves worthy of being seen. We all have Fire in us. Watch for anxiousness and irrationality. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of connection to others. Reach out and help them connect.

Earth Personalities need to feel needed and loved. When they are, they find value in their ability to make a difference for others. They contribute by helping others, and this gives life meaning. And in however it is represented, the “family” they bring together creates a sense of home wherever they are. In this home they create belonging for all. But when Earth people do not feel loved, when they are not needed, they will assert themselves in potentially inappropriate ways to prove their value. We all have Earth in us. Watch for neediness and meddling. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of being loved. Reach out and offer love and acceptance.

Metal Personalities need to understand things and make order out of life. When they do, this gives them importance. Their belief that they are contributing to posterity means that their life will have mattered; the world will be a better place because of them. But when Metal people cannot make a difference, when their contributions are not recognized or appreciated, they become dismissive and judgmental. They act to ensure that what they think is right will come to pass, regardless of the effect on others. We all have Metal in us. Watch for dismissive, judgmental action. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of importance. Reach out and offer appreciation.

I realize that these are very basic, simple ideas offered in the face of a profoundly complex problem. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe these baby steps can help us better manifest the loving aspects of each elemental personality. Maybe we can reach out and help those we see lost in the dark. And maybe we can follow the light and change the world.

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Managing Grief and Control Issues During Difficult Times

Dear Vicki: My widowed mother passed away earlier this year. My older brother, Paul, was named the executor of her will and estate, which surprised me; I assumed we would be co-executors. But Paul is an attorney, so I guess that makes sense. He is very responsible and orderly and has approached this task like it’s the most important thing in the world. But even though I’m a book nerd librarian who coaches girls soccer, I think I have something to offer the process. Basically, the problem is that Paul has a woman who wants to buy Mom’s house straight out, but I think the price is too low and we should wait until the pandemic is over. I have tried discussing this with Paul, but he refuses to budge and just shuts me out. How can I approach Paul and this situation without inflaming it? I feel extremely frustrated and angry, like he has slammed the door in my face. These are such difficult times, and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Can you help? Signed: Saddened Sister

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Dear Saddened Sister: First, I send deep condolences to you and your brother on the loss of your mother. As you say, these are already difficult times, but the passing of your mother certainly makes things much more difficult for your whole family.

To help you address the issue with your brother in the midst of your loss, let’s start by looking at the Five Element personalities and dynamics involved. As a self-described book nerd and librarian coaching girls soccer, you sound like a mix of the Water and Wood elemental personalities. A passion for books and reading usually sits in the Water personality. But it takes a lot of focus, planning, and outward-expressing energy to coach soccer. These are attributes of the Wood personality. Your brother, on the other hand, sounds like a stereotypical primary Metal personality. As we have said here many times, it takes a great deal of detail and precision to practice law, and the Metal elemental personality excels at that.

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The Personalities of Peaceful Assembly

Dear Readers: Over the past week, as peaceful and not-so-peaceful citizens have assembled in the streets of America, I’ve received several calls and emails asking which of the Five Elemental personality types would be most inclined to do this. Is it the Wood personality? The Fire personality? Maybe the Earth personality? And let’s put the Metal and Water personalities in there, too, because I believe that any of the elemental personalities can and will actively assemble for the right reason. Destroying property is a different matter, but it might surprise you that each of the elemental personalities could find themselves participating in those activities as well, depending on how balanced they are and the nature of their secondary elemental personality. So, what might make each of the elemental personalities engage in peaceful assembly? And who might sink to property destruction and theft? Let’s take a look.

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         Water Personalities: Water people are the quiet dreamers and imaginative thinkers. If there is a new or better way to do something, the Water personality might take part in a peaceful event to show their support for the new way. Water people are also idealists who need to be part of something bigger than themselves, so those with a lot of yang energy (the energy of outward expression) will definitely gravitate toward protesting as a way to help make the world a better place for everyone. The balanced Water personality also easily trusts, so would feel fine engaging in peaceful protest.

However, when the Water personality is really out of balance, it can become narcissistic, inflexible, and intolerant of other people’s views. Fixated on what they want and aggravated by any who challenges them, they can blame others for what isn’t working for them personally and manifest out-of-character displays of belligerence and aggression. Unbalanced, Water people can easily justify to themselves the “rightness” of taking what they need but would be less likely to destroy property just for the sake of destruction.

Wood Personalities: Wood people are passionate about fairness and quick to step in with their considerable power to help the underdog, be it a person, an organization, or a cause. The Wood personality is ready to act to right a perceived wrong. Wood people are frequently the ones who plan marches because the ability to organize and manifest sits in the Wood element. They are planners who see into the future. Because of this, people often look to them to help lead. And a march is perfect for them, because when something is wrong, Wood people need to help make it right. This need can also extend to people who have Wood as their secondary elemental personality.

That said, if the Wood personality is unbalanced, the action and accomplishment that are their greatest strength can become their greatest weakness. Wood people can be prone to explosive responses to lack of movement or change, or if things aren’t happening to their liking. Unbalanced, Wood people are capable of going on a rampage. They could justify destruction as necessary to accomplish their goals and any theft as simply something they deserve.

Fire Personalities: Fire people crave excitement, so the initial stages of a march will attract them. They also like making short-term connections with people, and the common cause of a march generally facilitates this because there is plenty of time to connect while marching for miles. The Fire personality focuses on the “now” so will likely give an immediate “Yes!” if asked to participate. That said, if the march goes on and on and on, the Fire personality might begin to find it tedious and leave to do other things.

However, if the Fire personality is unbalanced, the energy of the group they are with might take hold and facilitate their participation in destruction. A weakness of unbalanced Fire people can be an inability to manage their energy. They thrive on drama and excitement, but can lack the structure to avoid taking things too far. Their entanglement in group energy can mask what is happening until they are wildly participating in activities they would never have thought possible.

 Earth Personalities: Earth people care about others. To the core of their being, they want to make a positive difference for people. They are compassionate individuals who are quick to help out in any way they can and will work hard to foster inclusion. Connections also matter to the Earth personality, and if they commit to something, they are in it for the long haul. And if things stay peaceful with everyone getting along, they will be front and center at a march. But if there is confrontation or discord, it may be more than they can take.

The Earth personality is the least likely to become involved in property destruction because they care about other people and, by extension, their property. The only way a primary Earth personality might become destructive is if they have Wood or Metal as a strong secondary personality. Otherwise, you will recognize the Earth people as the ones helping to clean up the mess after the destruction.

Metal Personalities: Metal people care about the right and wrong of things. If something “bad” or “wrong” happens (like murder or breaking the law), they will definitely have an opinion and usually make that opinion known. Marching can be a definite way that Metal personalities express indignation at a wrong. And as long as things stay well organized and under control, they will be fine. But if things get messy or undisciplined, it can move a Metal person out of their comfort zone, and they might choose to leave.

However, if the Metal personality is unbalanced, they can lose some of their natural structure and adopt the values of the group in which they find themselves. Even when values like property destruction are not something they would normally embrace, if in the mind of the group they are “right” or “appropriate” for the moment, the unbalanced Metal person could be swept along and find themselves participating because of the importance of the cause.

So, the short answer is that under the right set of circumstances, each of the elemental personalities could be involved in peaceful assembly. And while it would take a lot, if exceedingly stressed and unbalanced, most of the elemental personalities might also be swept along in chaos that is destructive.

Blessings to all! Stay balanced, safe, and well!

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