Fire and Water: Control is Control, Right?

Dear Vicki: In your recent post to Angry in Alaska, you mentioned that if a Metal person senses too much Wood energy in someone, the Metal will automatically want to “prune” that Wood. Is this true for all Controlling Cycle relationships? I’m a Fire and seem to have fallen in love with a Water. Jenna is serious and can be moody, but she’s also an amazingly creative author who has several published novels. We’ve been together for a few years now and I’ve noticed that when I’m dancing and having a great time at a party, Jenna does seem to throw water on my flames by saying something mean or cutting. It’s like she can barely tolerate me. When I ask her about it later, she acts like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I love her, but it feels bad to be insulted in front of friends, even if I might have been a bit wild. Is this something Jenna does automatically because see thinks my Fire is out of control? If so, how do Controlling Cycle relationships ever last?  Signed: Drowning in Downey

 

Dear Drowning: The quick answer to your question is that Controlling Cycle relationships last because we all need the balancing affect of control in our lives. Too much of anything, even something as wonderful as fun and laughter, isn’t good for us. Too much of anything is, by definition, a loss of balance and the Five Elements model is all about maintaining balance. The Controlling Cycle is the way the model addresses too much of something, while too little of something is addressed via the Nurturing Cycle. These reducing and building tendencies translate to our relationships, too. But in a culture where more always seems better than less, Controlling Cycle connections can seem harsh. Yet they are just as great a gift as a Nurturing Cycle connection. Sometimes, even more.

In your case, too much Fire can and will burn you out. In nature, fire has very little structure; it’s actually just heat made visible. At a personality level this lack of structure manifests as a tendency to have fewer boundaries than the other elements. Interestingly, as a Water, Jenna doesn’t have great boundaries herself. But water in nature is definitely more solid than fire, so Jenna will have more structure than you do. And her gift to you is to cool you down before you burn yourself out. She may do this in ways that seem mean – and we will come back to that in a minute – but she really can be acting in your best interest.

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Can Fire Friend Be Structured Like a Metal?

Dear Vicki: I read your blog pretty regularly and think I understand the Five Elements, but one area confuses me. You describe Metals as being logical and process oriented, which I understand because I am a Metal. However, my good friend Sherry is a Fire and I swear I see her behave in ways that seem to me to be serious and infinitely reasonable. Am I rubbing off on her? She does seem to rub off on me at times; I certainly have more fun when she’s around. But there are so many times that she drives me crazy, I’d like to see her be more Metal more often. How can she be Metal-like some days and not others? Signed: Wants More Metal

Dear Wants More Metal: This is a great question. While no one would ever confuse a pure Fire personality with a pure Metal, the reality is that we are never purely any one element. As you know from reading this blog, we have all five elements in our makeup. And while our primary element frames how we live life, our secondary element definitely “flavors” how our primary expresses itself. Your primary and Sherry’s primary relate on the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal), so there will definitely be times that her Fire drives you crazy and feels controlling (perhaps even threatening) to your Metal. But as you admit in your letter, there are times that Sherry’s Fire loosens you up and you have fun. That’s the way the Controlling Cycle is supposed to work! It helps bring balance.

As to why Sherry might sometimes appear to be more like a Metal, it’s possible that Sherry has Metal as her secondary. The times it expresses itself might be when you find her “serious and infinitely reasonable.” Most Metals find other Metals to be reasonable. In fact, as you may have noticed, if someone wants to change a Metal’s mind, the best approach is to use logic and reason. Sherry might have figured this out about you and seems more Metal when she’s trying to get her way. It’s also possible that Sherry isn’t really as structured as you think, you just interpret some of her behaviors through your own Metal filter of structure. The famous Maslow quote comes to mind here: “To a man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.” There is no doubt that our primary element colors how we look at the world and her people.

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Earth Friend Overwhelms Her

Dear Vicki: We have friends who visit us once a year. She is an out of balance Earth whose conversations center around her grown children that we do not know well. Any attempt to move the conversation to something interesting always fails. And did I mention that she is a talker? I am an introverted primary Water, secondary Metal. Our husbands are happy Woods. While they were here I recognized the Elemental dynamics​ that were occurring but I could not figure out any survival techniques for myself. The men could easily shut her out, but my attempts were countered by her need to stay near me so that I “wouldn’t be alone.” Fortunately, I was able to escape on a couple of extended errands and one visit to my friend, a male Fire element, whose laughter always balances my energy. But for the most part, I felt suffocated all weekend. Help! I need to learn how to cope without blowing up. Where do I start? Signed: Frustrated in Florida

Dear Frustrated: This does sound like a very unpleasant weekend. I’m so sorry. You have done an excellent job of summarizing what the likely dynamics were between the weekend cast of players, and it’s understandable that events unfold as they do. Two Wood guys can easily shut out an unbalanced Earth, but it’s less easy for you as a Water/Metal to do so. Let’s look at why that might be the case and from there we can develop survival techniques for you to use next year.

First, it’s not surprising that your friend is happy to hang with you instead of two Wood guys. Woods control her Earth, so she probably doesn’t like how she feels around two of them. At home, her Wood husband probably balances her, but when he’s not around to do so, she probably does go into full-blown Earth mode. Family is of utmost important to Earths, so her tendency to talk about her children – grown or not – is also not surprising. Your reaction to her abundance of Earth is predictable, too. An abundance of Earth will likely feel suffocating to your Metal (Earth feeds Metal) and restrictive to your Water (Earth controls Water). But for her, because you are what she feeds and controls, being with you will feel almost compelling. Your energies are the focus of her every outward energetic expression.

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Earth Can’t Find the Love She Longs For

Dear Vicki: I want to be married and in love, but I’ve been divorced three times. Even though I was so sure I’d found true love with each guy, the relationships didn’t last. My first husband and I married young – we were only 19 – but we were in love and wanted the same thing: a home and family. Or so I thought. He left me for his flashy young secretary who was a better fit as he climbed the corporate ladder. Husband #2, a college professor, left to accept a fellowship to study primitive tribes in Africa. And Husband #3 is an artist who found his muse in the woman who runs a local gallery. They live together in a loft now. I honestly thought each of these men was my true love, a person I could grow old with. But now, at 37, I’m wondering how to pick the right guy. I’m new at the Five Elements, but am pretty sure I’m an Earth. Is there a certain element I should pick? I want a home and a family. Signed: Unmarried in Marengo

Dear Unmarried: It sounds like you’ve had quite an experience relating to different elements. I think you are correct – you are most likely an Earth. Home and family are very high on their list of priorities. The resiliency you’ve shown and hope you continue to hold out for a lasting marriage suggests that you might have Water as a secondary. Bless you on staying positive. But be mindful for yourself that you keep your energies balanced. Too much Earth (desire for a relationship) and Water (trust that everything will be perfect) can create a lot of mud for you. Mud usually lacks clarity and focus, which are important to have when entering into a relationship. Information about the person and their personality tendencies is important, too, but selecting a life partner isn’t as simple as finding a “positive” elemental match. The Five Elements model shows us that all of the elements can get along well with the others.

Honestly, you could “pick” whomever you fall in love with, but then make sure you take the time to determine their primary element so you can understand what their priorities will be in life and relationship. I also suggest that you help them understand what your priorities are as an Earth. Too often we tend to trust “love” as being all we need. And while it’s extremely important, I also believe that we need understanding and acceptance if any relationship is to go the distance. So in the name of that understanding, let’s take a look at what might have unfolded at an elemental level in each of your previous marriages.

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Wood Hates New Brother-in-Law, But Is It Her Fault?

Dear Vicki: My younger sister Pam recently married a guy she’s madly in love with who she met at college. Brad’s controlling, opinionated, and frankly, totally boring, which is so the opposite of Pam. She’s funny and outgoing; we used to have such great times together. And now, I really don’t know what she sees in him. Brad’s in law school and for Pam’s sake, I hope he does well. Anyway, the problem I’m having is that at family gatherings, when Brad asks me how work is going (I’m a marketing specialist for a large outdoor gear firm), I feel a need to justify everything: why I have that job, how well the company is doing, when I might get promoted, etc. It’s ridiculous and I really think I’m growing to hate him. Whenever he asks me anything I feel like there’s such judgment behind his question. I’ve mentioned this to my mother and she says I’m over-reacting. I don’t think so because it feels so real. But maybe I am. Is the dynamic between us my fault? If so, what can I do? I don’t want to hurt Pam. Signed: Angry in Alaska

Dear Angry: When we have an immediate negative reaction to someone, it’s rarely anyone’s fault. That kind of thing usually occurs due to energy interactions because there hasn’t been time to get to know the person well enough to dislike them. In your case, you have had time to get to know Brad well enough to have an opinion about him, so there are several reasons you might be having problems with him. As Pam’s older sister, you might not think Brad is good enough for her. You might also be slightly jealous that he has become a priority in her life, leaving less time for you and Pam to share the “great times” you used to have. You might hate lawyers. The possibilities are endless. But I believe there is always an energetic component to our relationships, so let’s take a look at what might be going on between you and Brad.

You don’t mention what the primary elements might be of the people involved, but from what you’ve shared we can make a pretty good guess. Given your occupation and the fact that you are angry about Brad (rather than sad, depressed, etc.), I suspect you’re a Wood. Marketing, sales, promotional activities, etc. require an ability to plan and look toward the future, and the future is the realm of Wood. Also, when stressed or upset, Woods typically go to anger or frustration. So it’s a pretty safe bet that you are a Wood. Pam is probably a Fire. Funny and outgoing is the trademark of most Fires. Also, they can be a bit dramatic, so being “madly in love” would also fit a Fire. And Brad, well, my guess is that he’s a Metal. Law school, probing questions, opinionated, these all fit Metal. And given this mix of characters, it’s easy to see what’s happening.

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