Help! She Hates Thanksgiving!

Dear Vicki: Thanksgiving is less than one month away and I’m dreading it. I hate Thanksgiving. It’s so much work! I remember my mother used to cook for days to be ready for Thanksgiving dinner. And then it took hours to clean up after it. She never complained, but it must have bothered her when Dad and my brothers went off to watch football while my sister and I helped Mom clean the kitchen. My girls are teenagers now and while I’ve made the “traditional” Thanksgiving meal all of their lives, and they have helped me, I’ve dreamed about doing things differently. I want to honor the idea of being grateful – that’s the most important part – and I want my family to have a wonderful holiday, but when I suggest changing it up a little in the food department to make things easier, my husband refuses to break with tradition. Secretly, I’d like to boycott the whole holiday this year, but then I feel guilty. Am I a horrible mom? Signed: Hates Turkey

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Dear Hates Turkey: The short answer is that, no, you are not a horrible mom. Actually, you seem like a pretty honest mom to me. You care about your family and want to do well for them, but you also want to make it easier for you and your girls. That is very reasonable and actually very loving. The fact that you really want to make a good Thanksgiving holiday for your family but are feeling guilty that you might not be doing enough for your family suggests that you probably have a good amount of Earth energy in your personality. Earths care about making and keeping people happy. They want to do the best they can for their friends and family. But a balanced Earth will also know when and where to draw the line so they don’t become a squishy doormat. Congratulations on knowing when to raise your hand and ask for change!

And then there is your husband. People who value traditions and want to stick with them usually have a Metal personality. As we have said here many times, Metal people focus on the past. From that perspective, they determine what has worked before, what has not, and what should be carried forward. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” is a common Metal anthem. This sounds like your husband, right? The Thanksgiving traditions have worked for him, so why change them?

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He Complains About The Way She Does Laundry

Dear Vicki: I had an incident with my husband yesterday that has left me surprisingly upset. We both work full time jobs (I’m a project manager for a construction firm, he’s an accountant), try to stay involved with our grown children, are active in our church group, and basically have very full days. Weekends we usually have one fun day and one day for chores, which for me includes the laundry. I wash, dry, and fold everything, then leave it on the bed so we can each put away our own clothes. It had been a stressful week for both of us, but last night when it can time for him to put away his jeans, he rather condescendingly said, “How many times do I have to tell you how I like my jeans folded?” Well, I got really angry. He gets his darn clothes washed and dried; does it really matter how they are folded? What’s going on? Signed: The Laundry Lady

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Dear Laundry Lady: I have to admit I smiled when I read your letter. Doing laundry can often bring out the best or the worst in most of us depending on our elemental personality. Earth people usually enjoy doing laundry because it allows them to focus on improving something about their home (clean clothes are a definite improvement!). Wood personalities usually find it a chore that has to be done to get on to something else (“the only way out is through”). Fire and Water people usually end up doing laundry only when they run out of clean clothes because they’ve either been busy with friends (Fires) or lost in a book or creative project (Waters). And Metals usually do laundry regularly on a specific day and time and take special care in how that laundry is done. That’s because Metals believe there is a right way to do everything. And I think this is the root of your laundry woes: I suspect that while you are not a Metal personality, you certainly are married to one.

As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, the mindset it takes to be a good accountant matches well the way Metal personalities approach the world. Not only is there is a right (and wrong) way to do everything, there is a right time, a right place, a right procedure, a right regulation, etc. And they all must be honored. In the Five Elements model, Metal people sit at the end of the cycle and this vantage point bestows upon them the ability to glean from the cycle an understanding of what worked and what did not. From this understanding they create the hierarchy, protocol, rules, etc. regarding what they perceive to be the optimal way to approach everything, be that accounting, laundry, or anything in between. And honestly, they are usually pretty spot on in their assertions.

You, on the other hand, sound like a Wood personality. It takes keen organization and planning skills to be a successful project manager, and this exactly describes the Wood personality. Details are way less important to Woods than they are to Metals, so it’s understandable that, while you will care that the clothes are clean, dry, and folded, you will care less exactly how they are folded. But as a Metal, your husband clearly does care how they are folded. So how can you smooth out this wrinkle?

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Hate Crimes: Who ARE These People?

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.

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My Daughter Hates Her Teacher!

Dear Vicki: My high school senior is having problems with one of her teachers. I know, what high school student doesn’t have teacher problems, right? But my concern is that the dynamic between Jillian and Mr. Smith could set a tone for the rest of Jillian’s educational life. She’s an outgoing, fun-loving, teenager who excels at the more social aspects of high school like cheerleading and parties, but generally gets respectable grades. Mr. Smith is deliberate (Jillian calls him boring), thoughtful, and what I would call deep. Jillian finds his history class boring and thinks everything about him is a “total downer” (other than the fact that he frequently lets them out of class early). Consequently, she isn’t doing well in the class. I don’t want to let her drop it, but is there some way to help her appreciate his deep approach to learning? Signed, A Concerned Mom

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Dear Concerned Mom: Bless you for caring enough to help your daughter understand her teacher instead of just letting her bolt from the class. I think there is a definite possibility of offering Jillian a lesson in relationship dynamics as you assist her in better understanding her history teacher. Here’s how you might approach the situation.

Based on how you and Jillian describe him, it seems pretty likely that Mr. Smith is a Water personality. Water people are deep and thoughtful, love pondering the greater truths of the world, and often use wisdom from the past to inform current and future learning. Jillian, on the other hand, sounds like a Fire personality. Fires love socializing, being the focus of attention, and standing out in a crowd. If we use the Five Elements model, we will see that Jillian and Mr. Smith relate to each other via the Controlling Cycle where his Water energy controls her Fire energy. Few Fire people like having Water rain on their parade, so it’s understandable that Jillian reacts negatively to Mr. Smith.

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She Has a Difficult Relationship with Herself

Dear Vicki: I enjoy your blog and know it’s supposed to be about relationships with other people, but I’m wondering if we can use knowledge of the five elements to help get along better with ourselves. At times I actually feel like two different people. I work in a deadline-driven industry, so I’m usually focused on addressing the tasks at hand for the day. It matters to me to be seen as someone who can make things happen and succeed. But every now and then when I notice someone who needs help, I want to reach out and connect with them, but the voice in my head tells me I have too much to do and should mind my own business. The end result is that I pass by the opportunity to express the compassion I feel, and it makes me sad. Is there something I can do to change this? Signed, Too Efficient

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Dear Too Efficient: Your question is a beautiful illustration of the fact that our personal elements can and do become out of balance in relationship to each other. As I’ve said before, we each have all five elements in our personality make-up, it’s just that one or two are the most prominent, so create the personality we manifest to the world. And even thought our primary element determines how we see things, it shouldn’t interfere with our ability to express the totality of who we are. When that happens, it can indicate that something is out of balance in the way our personal five elements are relating and interacting with each other.

In your case, it sounds like you have a primary Wood personality; Wood people do want to be seen as someone who can make things happen and succeed. This is very important to them. Earth people, on the other hand, love to connect with and help people, so it’s likely you have Earth as your secondary element. And the fact that you are unable to express your Earth energies the way you’d like to suggests that you are manifesting too little Earth. That is often referred to as deficient Earth.

There could be many reasons for this, but given that you have a primary Wood personality which relates to your secondary Earth via the Controlling Cycle in the model, I think it’s safe to say that your Wood is over-controlling your Earth at an emotional level. Your letter didn’t mention if you’ve been more angry or impatient than usual lately, but these would be additional clues that you have too much Wood energy at the moment and it’s affecting your ability to express your Earth.

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