Dear Vicki: I read your blog regularly and have enjoyed learning about the elemental personalities. Based on what you’ve written, I think I may be a primary Fire personality because, before I had children, I loved going to parties, I was very spontaneous, and would often say yes to something before I thought it through. My problem is that my best friend in the world moved away six months ago for an exciting opportunity as a corporate planner with a large firm. Maisy loves the job, but I really miss her. For several months I’ve been telling her how much I miss her and she always asks when we’re going to get together. I have three young children, so can’t easily travel, and Maisy doesn’t have much vacation time yet, so we haven’t been together since she moved. Last night, while talking on the phone, I told her again how much I miss her and she exploded, asking me why I keep telling her that if I’m not going to do anything about it. What is going on? Signed, Missing Maisy
Dear Missing Maisy: This is an interesting problem, and one that really makes sense when you consider the elemental personalities involved. It does sound like you are a primary Fire personality for all the reasons you shared in your letter. As a Fire, you do want connections and will miss them when they are gone. The other elemental personality that really values connections, especially long-term ones, is the Earth personality. And since you have three small children and clearly must love being a mom, I suspect you probably have Earth as your secondary elemental personality.
Being a Fire/Earth personality combination will make connections all the more important to you. It will also make letting go of long-term relationships of any kind that much harder. With both Fire and Earth energy as the dominant force in your personality, it will be very natural – and truly a compliment from your soul – to tell Maisy how much you miss her whenever you can. But it’s clear that Maisy doesn’t get your meaning, which likely has to do with her elemental personality.
Dear Vicki: I like your blog but haven’t seen many questions from guys. Here’s one and I hope you can help me; I’m having a problem with my sister, Anita. I’m 24 and she’s 22 and we’ve been close most of our lives. We are both working our way up the corporate ladder, although in different companies, and months ago set up to go to a business seminar together in a nearby city. We planned to drive there and back with each other and make a whole day of it. I know I’d been looking forward to it, and I think Anita had, too. Well, last week she called and told me that while she will drive to the event with me, she’s going to go straight from it to a “girls only” party at a friend’s nearby cabin. Now, I’m a big boy and can certainly drive home alone, but it feels like she’s dumping me and part of our time together for something else, which sort of sucks. Signed, Dumped Dude
Dear Dumped Dude: It’s very interesting that both you and your sister would end up in business. And that you are both “working your way up the corporate ladder” implies that you must both be primary Wood personalities. Wood people do well in business and, given their emphasis on the future, are usually very focused on getting ahead. The big difference between you and Anita is in the secondary element of your personalities. Anita’s ability to quickly change plans, especially in the name of fun, suggests she has Fire as her secondary personality. Your hurt at her changing plans suggests you probably have Earth as your secondary personality.
It’s very understandable that you would feel dumped by your sister. Your Wood personality will have specific expectations for your time together with Anita and those expectations matter. Also, Wood is the planning element and honoring plans, once made, also matters a lot to Wood people. On the surface, it would seem that, as a fellow Wood, Anita should feel the same way. And at one level, she probably does. If you asked her, I’m sure she’d say that the time with you and your plans together are very important to her. So why did she change them slightly and why is it bothering you so much? The answer lies in the significant difference between your secondary elemental personalities.
Dear Vicki: My husband of two years is a sensitive, creative, artistic man. Bart makes pottery, hand-builds furniture, and paints a lot. When not involved in a creative endeavor, he can usually be found at a coffee shop with friends discussing some profound topic. The problem I’m having with Bart is his inability to stay focused long enough to finish projects and promote them. He’s had many offers to paint murals for people or make furniture, but he never does because he’s still working on his other projects. I do freelance marketing for small businesses and not-for-profit groups and really love helping people. I have tried to help Bart get his act together, but as you can imagine, my trying to structure him doesn’t go over well. Frankly, I’m getting a little frustrated that he can’t seem to finish anything and it’s beginning to affect our marriage. Can you help? Signed, Frustrated in Franklin
Dear Frustrated: You are at a key point in your marriage. The honeymoon is over and now you’re dealing with the nitty gritty of who you are at your core and how compatible you two really are. The good news for you and Bart is that you probably have very compatible elemental personalities. Bart clearly sounds like a primary Water personality. Water people are creative, artistic, and usually ready to discuss anything that seems big picture or philosophic. You, on the other hand, sound like a primary Wood personality. Your occupation in marketing – which is the ability to plan how to position and promote someone or something – is right up Wood’s alley. The fact that you are frustrated also speaks to Wood, because anger and frustration are where stressed Wood people usually go.
In the Five Elements model, Water and Wood relate to each other the Nurturing Cycle, with Water feeding Wood, which means you should have a happy, nurturing relationship. And you probably do; there are probably many times you feel loved and supported by your Water husband, and he feels the exactly the same about you. That is all well and good, but what you’re describing is a big issue that quite often creates tension in Water/Wood relationships and that’s the issue of structure.
Dear Vicki: At a family reunion last spring, my sister Leah and I decided we’d go see the fall foliage in New England this year. We’re both single, have been out of college for a few years, and thought this would be a fun thing to do together. Well, it isn’t turning out to be that fun. At least the planning stage. Really, Leah doesn’t even want to plan! She just wants to get in the car and start driving. Does she think we’ll just sleep in the car when all the quaint little inns are sold out? I don’t get it; she was flaky as a child, but this is serious. Every time I call her to discuss the trip, she says that part of the adventure is discovering what’s out there and we’ll take it as it comes. What does that mean? I’m wondering if this is a big mistake. Fall is just a few months away! How do I make Leah see we could be driving into chaos if we don’t have a plan? Signed: Frustrated in Farmington
Dear Frustrated: Well, this is certainly an excellent example of how different our elemental personalities can be! The fact that you have a strong desire to plan things, are frustrated that you can’t plan, and dearly want to avoid “driving into chaos” makes it pretty clear that you have a primary Wood personality. Two key attributes of Wood people are their appreciation of structure and their focus on the future. When those two are combined, the end result is almost always a plan. Wood personalities excel at looking to the future and deciding what they think the future should hold. It’s a rare Wood person who does not have a plan for almost everything. And thwarted Wood people get frustrated.
Leah, on the other hand, is clearly not a Wood personality. Her desire to take things as they come is a very common trait of the primary Water personality. Water people revel in the wonder of mystery and discovery. They are happiest going with the flow, which some of the more structured elemental personalities (Wood and Metal) often see as “flaky.” In nature, water has very little structure of its own – it’s happy taking any structure offered to it, be that river bed, bottle, or bowl. Trust sits in the Water element and Water people trust that everything will turn out as it should. One would certainly never say that about a Wood personality.
Dear Vicki: I’m very worried about my daughter and hope you can help. Karen is an attorney in her late 20s who is married to another attorney named Tom. They met in law school and married right after graduation. Karen was always a serious child who spend hours alone reading and painting, but now her life appears to be all work and absolutely no play. Given she’s in corporate law and he’s a trial attorney, the only time they seem to spend together is when they work from home on the weekends. They live in an absolutely sterile apartment (nothing cozy or homey, just empty surfaces in a metal high-rise) and eat take-out most nights. Where is their joy and beauty? How will their marriage survive? I’m concerned that Tom might be a bad influence on Karen because he seems especially focused on getting ahead. What can I do to help these two get a life outside of work? Signed, Worried Mom
Dear Worried Mom: We all need joy and beauty in our lives. However, different elemental personalities find joy and beauty in different ways, so Karen and Tom might not be as unhappy as you think they are. In fact, they might actually be happy. But let’s take a look at the elemental personalities we are dealing with here so we can ascertain what might be going on for everyone involved. And we are going to start with your elemental personality so you can understand the framework you are using to assess Karen and Tom’s happiness.
Without a doubt, you are a primary Earth personality. Your assessment of their apartment as sterile and lacking aspects of “cozy” and “homey” are a clear indication. People with a primary Earth personality value home and family relationships more than anything else. Creating a home that is cozy matters to Earth people, as does fixing wonderful meals for the people they love. And while these things are everything to Earth personalities, they can be markedly less important to the other elemental personalities. Another clue that you are a primary Earth is the fact that you are very worried about Karen and Tom, and especially worried that their relationship could fail. Worry is where Earth people go when they are stressed, and the ending of a primary relationship is almost unthinkable to an Earth person. But while you are definitely a primary Earth personality, I can guarantee you that both Karen and Tom are not.