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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Control a Red Hot Issue for This Metal

Dear Vicki: Your last blog post about the positive aspects of control was really interesting, but like you said, having Earth as the controlling element is hitting the jackpot. Earths are gentle and kind. I’m not so lucky – I’m a primary Metal, which means Fire is my control. Too much time around Fire people is hard on me; they aren’t sweet and “guiding” like Earths. They are much harsher. How can control be a good thing when the element controlling you destroys you? Signed: Melted Metal

Dear Melted Metal: You are one of several emails I received regarding last week’s blog. There is definitely a bit of control envy out there. Everyone wants Earth on their Controlling Cycle! And I do understand. As a Wood, interactions with Metals, my control element, can feel tough even when their “pruning” is well intentioned. But there is great wisdom in the Five Elements model! Think of it: A sweet Earth wouldn’t have a chance of controlling a rampaging Wood because Wood has way too much structure for an Earth to oppose. Instead, it’s Metal, the most structured of all elements, that controls the excessive Wood. But while Earth cannot control Wood, that Wood structure is perfect for helping stabilize the over-energized Earth. Landslides are impossible on a well-wooded slope.

As a Metal, nothing stands up to your structure, but when you’re in a place of excessive Metal, more structure is the last thing you need. What you really need is to release some structure and the heat of Fire is the perfect way to bring flexibility to Metal. In truth, no element destroys another; they just bring balance. Fire decreases the too structured Metal and gives it flexibility. Metal prunes the over-expanded Wood to keep it from toppling. Wood anchors and prevents the Earth from sliding. And just to complete the cycle, Water prevents Fire from burning too hot and destroying itself.

The brilliance of the Five Elements model is that the element controlling you is just what you need to address an over-energized state. But this is still fairly abstract, so let’s look at a few real life examples for the Controlling Cycle relationships not covered last week. We’ll start with your Controlling Cycle relationship first.

Continue reading

With the Five Elements, Control Can Be Good

Dear Vicki: I’m familiar with the Five Elements model and how the elements keep each other in balance by either giving energy or taking it away. And in the model, that makes sense. But when that gets applied to people, I don’t understand how controlling someone can be good. My husband is an Earth and I’m a Water, so this means his Earth controls my Water. But I can tell you from personal experience, things don’t feel that good sometimes. Can you please give some real life examples of Water/Earth Controlling Cycle relationships that are positive? Thank you. Signed: Confused About Control

Dear Confused: This is an excellent question! Most people have a negative reaction to the idea of being controlled and that’s certainly come up in several of these blog posts over the years. Cutting something back doesn’t seem good because in our Western culture we often live by the maxim, “Bigger is better!” But in the East, where the Five Elements model originated thousands of years ago, a condition of too much is just as bad as a condition of too little. Said another way, inherent in the Five Elements model is the truth that bigger is usually not better. Instead, when there is too much of any element, it is necessary and good for the whole to reduce that element to help retain balance. And in the abstraction of the model, the element is happy to be reduced so that the whole can remain balanced.

When applying this to people, we usually don’t like being reduced, especially in the West with our “more is always better than less” approach to life. But still, when we are stressed, there are times that someone stepping in to guide, protect, cool down, relax, or counterbalance us is good. And these are all aspects of what one element can do for another in a Controlling Cycle relationship.

Continue reading