Dear Vicki: It’s been a tough year for me in many ways and the whole idea of creating the holidays my family has come to expect overwhelms me. But the minute I decide to cut back on decorating and buying gifts, I feel guilty. On top of that, even though my children have families of their own, when I mentioned not baking Christmas cookies this year, they were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed if I don’t bake. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, and I just don’t have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing. Is there an easy way to tell my family that I want to skip the holidays this year? Signed: Tired in Tennessee
Dear Tired: I can promise that you’re not alone in your desire to skip the holidays. I hear from many people – mostly women – who express similar sentiments. And it’s very understandable. Here in the U.S. the holidays have become a behemoth commercial event perpetuated by a retail industry brilliant at pushing all of our “make it perfect” buttons. Somehow, we seem to have bought into the idea that bigger and better matter. But deep inside, I suspect we know that isn’t true. So why does the commercialization of the season still exert such a hold on us?
I think most of us go crazy around the holidays in the name of love. For centuries, gift giving has been a primary expression of love and esteem. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually part of our Five Elements make-up. Sharing with others is an expression of the Earth element. Earth is also where home, family, food, and deep relationships sit. Sounds like the holidays, doesn’t it? And those clever advertising people figured out decades ago that if they tie all of these things together during the holiday season, they create a very powerful message. Nothing tugs at our heartstrings more than the idea of sharing gifts and meals with those we love during this special time.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m concerned about my younger sister, Tina. She’s a junior in high school and is a quiet, disciplined, studious student, the kind of child any normal parent would want. The problem is that our mother isn’t a normal mother – she’s an outgoing, fun-loving, partying lady! Life with her wasn’t easy for me growing up, but I figured out that if I stayed in my room and read a lot, she’d leave me alone. Occasionally we’d fight, but usually ended up agreeing to disagree and moved past things. Tina doesn’t seem to be managing as well. When she tries to stand up to Mom, she sort of melts and gives in. What concerns me is that Mom thinks Tina is letting life pass her by, so is encouraging her to attend parties where alcohol is served, go out with wild guys, things like that, all in the name of having fun. And even though Mom loves to party, when she is serious, she can be pretty forceful in her demands. Tina was initially uncomfortable with Mom’s suggestions, but lately she seems tempted by the open door of freedom. How can I help Tina not make a terrible mistake? Signed: Worried Sister in Seattle
Dear Worried Sister in Seattle: This is an interesting dilemma that appears to be a dance between you, your mother, and your younger sister. You don’t mention how much older you are than Tina, if you still live at home, or what your current relationship is with you mother, so I’ll make some guesses that I hope will be on target. But let’s start with a few assumptions regarding your primary elemental personalities.
The easy one is your Mother. The way you describe her makes it clear that she’s a primary Fire personality. Partying, fun, attention, things like that are often the hallmarks of the Fire personality. The fact that you’re concerned about Tina and are advocating for her suggests that you probably have a primary Wood personality. Wood people stick up for the underdog every chance they get. They can also quibble with other Wood people and end up agreeing to disagree, as you say. That is a very common way for Wood people to save face and both get to be “right.” This makes me think that while your Mother is clearly a primary Fire personality, she probably has Wood as her secondary personality. That would definitely make her a force to be reckoned with at times.
Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents 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 Year’s Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Dear Readers: Happy Thanksgiving! May this day focused on gratitude enrich your soul and create an awareness of the blessings in life that will deepen the joy in your heart. There is always something for which to be thankful.
For many people, in addition to its purpose as a day of gratitude, Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the holiday season. And every year at this time, I receive letters from readers asking how best to address a multitude of thorny holiday issues. So, in the name of holiday harmony, I once again offer this brief reminder of what will matter the most to each of the five primary elemental personalities in your life (including you!) during the upcoming holiday season.
Dear Vicki: I’m moving into a house on a lake that absolutely needs redecorating and I’ve always found that I have a strong relationship to the colors around me. The colors of my walls seem to either energize or deplete me and I’m wondering if this might have something to do with the Five Elements. For example, sitting in a beige space really bottoms me out; I feel like a sad, limp noodle. But brighter colors seem to energize me. I’m drawn to greens, yellows, reds, purples, even lavender. Anything but pastels, especially pale blues and grays! My question is, when decorating a space, are there certain colors that are best to use based on one’s primary elemental personality? I’m a pretty outgoing person who loves joking, summer fun, and being in the center of activity. I think this means I’m probably a primary Fire personality. What colors would be best for me to use in this new house? Signed: Rainbow Lady
Dear Rainbow Lady: This is an excellent question and the short answer is yes, the colors we surround ourselves with will absolutely affect us based on our primary elemental personality. The geography of where we live will have an effect on us, too. Living near water, like a lake or the ocean, will impact us, as will living in a desert or on a mountain. Returning to colors, our relationship with any given color will depend on our primary elemental personality and the element that the color in question corresponds to in the Five Elements model. So, let’s take a look at how this might work for you.
It does sound like you’re a primary Fire elemental personality: Fire people are usually very outgoing, love to laugh and tell jokes, enjoy being the center of attention, and are rarely fazed by speaking to large crowds or appearing onstage. You will want to select colors that interact positively with your Fire, and that’s where the Five Elements model will help us out. There are two aspects of the model that will be important here: the colors associated with each of the elements and the relationship between each of the elements.
Dear Vicki: I’m fascinated with the idea that our elemental personalities create nurturing or controlling relationships with other people. And now I’m wondering if the individual elements that make up my own elemental personality create “relationships” among themselves that nurture or control. I ask because I grew up in a household with a narcissistic and often depressed mother and a father whose anger frightened me. In some ways, I felt responsible for my mother and tried to help. I did a pretty good job, too, because I’m a determined (and some might say forceful) person. I also wanted things to be fair for my mom, so I often defended her against my dad when she couldn’t defend herself. I’m a serious gardener and manage a bakery from a back office, which I think means I have Earth as a primary elemental personality, right? But I don’t feel very Earthy around people. I never did growing up, but I want to now. Could something in my personality be affecting this? Signed: Wants to Be Warm and Fuzzy
Dear Wants to be Warm and Fuzzy: The short answer to both of your questions is yes: our individual personality elements do interact with each other via the Nurturing and Controlling Cycles and they do affect how our personalities manifest. We all have all five of the elemental personalities in our personality make up. And as the Five Elements model suggests, the Metal part of our personality feeds the Water part of our personality, our Fire part controls our Metal part, etc. In ancient Chinese medicine, understanding these relationships was central to using the elements for physical health and healing. And as we’ve covered in this blog for years now, these same interactions can also be used to understand and support both our personal emotional experiences and our relationships with other people. So, let’s take a look at what might be going on for your personality both as a child and an adult.
First, it will help to understand the primary elemental personalities of your parents. Depression and narcissism both sit in the Water element. Depression usually occurs when there isn’t enough energy to be optimistic and hopeful (which are characteristics of the balanced Water personality). Narcissism usually indicates an over-abundance of Water energy. It’s very likely your mother was a primary Water personality, but one that was unable to hold a balance. Anger sits in Wood and usually manifests when there is too much Wood energy, as does forcefulness, so I suspect that, not only was your father a primary Wood personality, but you are, as well. A strong desire for fairness in very characteristic of the Wood personality.