The Holiday Season: What Matters to Each Element

Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents decide to take them to Hawaii?”

Dear Vicki: “I don’t want to go to the company holiday party. Can I get out of it?”

Dear Vicki: “My husband is obsessed with finding the perfect gift for his best friend. How can I convince him that’s not the point?”

Dear Vicki: “I want to host the family holidays this year. I throw better parties, but my sister says they’re too loud. Who should win?”

Dear Vicki: “My wife and I have always had a quiet ceremony on New Years Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”

Etc.

Dear Readers: To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that fun and ceremony will likely end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. “We’ve always done it this way; that matters to me” must dance with “We’ve always done it this way; I think it’s boring.” To help you navigate the holiday season and keep your relationships harmonious, I offer a brief summary of what will matter to each of the elements, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone.

Water People: Odd as it may seem, the hustle-bustle of the holidays sits in Water time, which is winter here in the northern hemisphere, a time for quietness and contemplation. This energy of going inside sets the tone for Waters’ lives, so don’t expect your Water friends and family to start acting like Fires just because the holidays are here. On their own, or in quiet talks with others, Waters will emphasize the meaning of the season and how it relates to the bigger picture of almost everything. Ultimately, they might be willing to participate in events they deem important, but you may still need to coax. If and when they do show up, help them feel welcome and part of things by finding a small group of people with whom they can enjoy deep discussions. I know one woman who invites several philosophy junkie friends to her family party every year to help keep her Watery uncle engaged. Be gentle with the Waters and remember that if things get too intense, they might float away to a quiet cove for a while. Let them. And holiday season or not, remember that time alone will still be of paramount importance to your Water friends and family.

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A Water Asks: Can I Be Different Elements?

Dear Vicki: I’ve read about the Five Elements personalities and usually think I’m a Water. I spend a lot of time alone, am a fairly good artist, but can’t seem to get anything going with my work. One person I do hang out with sometimes is my cousin Ellen, who I’m pretty sure is a Fire. She’s always happy, busy, and popular. When I’m with her, I think I might be a Fire because I sure have fun, but on my own, it doesn’t last. I’ve also had times when I think I could be an Earth because I often feel a real need to be outside in the garden. Or in the fall I think I could be a Metal because I want to get rid of everything around me and start fresh. But all that seems to go in phases because most days I don’t want to do anything but stay inside and paint. Why do I seem to be different elements at different times? I’ve heard it said that we can’t change the element we’re born with, but I seem to be changing. Is that possible? Signed: Maybe a Water

Dear Maybe: Great question! The short answer is that we can’t change what is called our primary elemental affinity. I think of our elemental affinity as a secret club we’re born into that affects almost every aspect of how we live our lives. I also think we select our club for a given lifetime based on what we want to accomplish during that life and/or what we may still need to learn. And while we can’t change the club membership we are born with, we can – and do – visit other clubhouses during our life. Sometimes we seek out these visits and sometimes life circumstances create the visits. I think this is what’s happening for you.

Liking time alone, artistic talent, and an unfortunate inability to make things happen with ease does sound like Water. And as a Water, you represent pure yin energy. This means you have come to experience the profound depths and imagination of the inner focus so common to Waters, yet learn not to go so deep as to lose sight of the fact that you have to function in the outer world, too.

Give this, it’s probably not a coincidence that Ellen, the person you most like to hang out with, is a Fire. The wild and crazy yang energy of a Fire is the exact opposite of your inner world and therefore balances you. Hanging out with you probably also balances Ellen – you share with each other a perspective on life that’s exotic and strange. Waters rarely experience the warmth of the sun on their own, and Fires rarely experience the coolness of the water on their own. Together, you bring balance and broaden each other’s experience of life, but that doesn’t change who you are at your core. You’re still a Water and she’s still a Fire.

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Nurture vs. Control: Nurturing is Best, Right?

Dear Vicki: Your recent posts about how the five elements can feel controlling to us in relationships were pretty good; I learned a lot. But they left me with a question: Should I just avoid close relationships with people who are on my Controlling Cycle? As a Wood, I’m guessing that I’ll always feel uncomfortable around Metals, even balanced ones, so maybe I should go for relationship with the elements that sit on my Nurturing Cycle. That has to create better relationships, doesn’t it? Signed: Catching On in Connecticut

Dear Catching On: Thank you for your kind words about my blog posts. I’m very glad you are learning a lot, and I’m even gladder that you have written in with your excellent question. There is so much that goes into creating relationships that I fear you will be in big trouble if you chose only to relate to Water or Fire people (the elements that sit on your Nurturing Cycle). First, you will probably be unable to accomplish this because some relationships are dictated by our occupations. Unless you work by yourself or own the place where you work, you will likely have little say regarding co-worker selection. Second, when love strikes, I suspect it can’t be relied on to honor your intention regarding Nurturing Cycle relationships. And that’s as it should be; love often provides our richest growth opportunities. Third, and most importantly, the whole point of understanding how the different elements interact with each other is to facilitate our ability to get along with anyone.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please remember that when you understand what’s important to each of the elements, what motivates them, what they need to be happy, what upsets them and why, you have at your fingertips all that you need to get along with them. And while as a Wood you think you may never feel completely comfortable with Metals, I will respectfully disagree. I’m a primary Wood married to a Metal and it’s a fantastic relationship! Do I have to remind myself from time to time that his basic outlook on the world is different from mine? Absolutely! But so often that difference ends up helping me. I’ll give you an example.

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Managing Stress: A Five Elements Approach

Dear Vicki: Thanks to your blog, I’m beginning to understand the impact our energies have on our relationships. I’ve heard you say that one of the best things we can do for our relationships is to keep ourselves balanced, but it seems harder and harder to stay balanced these days. There’s so much going on in the world with all the natural disasters lately and even a growing threat of war. My personal life is much more intense, as well. I work in a daycare center and the children are more agitated, their parents are more stressed, and it feels like I can’t do enough to keep everyone happy. How can we keep ourselves and our relationships balanced when things are so stressed and crazy? Signed: Worried for Us All

Dear Worried: There does seem to be more stress in the world these days. We have had devastating hurricanes, typhoons, flooding, fires, and earthquakes affect every continent in the past few years. Political issues around the world have created their own kind of stress, as well. Add to this whatever is going on in our individual lives, and we have a recipe for imbalance in our energies. But we have choices in how we address stress, and the Five Elements model offers us informed options. That’s another beautiful aspect of the Five Elements model – it simplifies what can be a highly complex situation.

From a Five Elements perspective, the model says there are only two ways the elements can become imbalanced. They can move to a state of over energy (excess) or under energy (deficiency). And when that happens, the fix for the imbalance sits in the interactions of the elements with each other. This is simple and easy at a model level, but does get a bit more complicated when applied to the human personalities the elements represent. However, it’s still surprisingly easy to identify what’s out of balance when we’re stressed and take appropriate steps to relieve the stress and regain balance.

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Charlottesville: Supremacy vs. Diversity

Dear Readers: Disagreement is an important reality of life for humans. Since developing the ability for advanced cognitive processing, we’ve rarely completely agreed on anything. Possibly the directions of up and down, and maybe that gravity exists, but beyond that, a difference of opinion is the norm. And that’s fine, good, and necessary as long as disagreement doesn’t degenerate into violence. The ability to think abstractly sets humans apart from other animals, but sadly, so does our tendency for violence in the name of an idea, desire, or belief.

The deadly events in Charlottesville last weekend highlighted this unfortunate aspect of human behavior. What happened there was an attempt to defy the most American of premises: That all people are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Class and economic distinctions may come and go, but the supremacy of one race over another flies in the face of our country’s founding documents. It also ignores the value of diversity. As humans, we can be equal, but different, and it’s those differences that give us strength as a people. While the concept of diversity clearly hasn’t yet found universal acceptance, to those who say it’s impossible to embrace diversity, I would like to offer the perfect example of why diversity is not only possible, but is absolutely necessary.

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