Wood Needs Holiday Help Processing Loss

Dear Vicki: My partner Jillie and I have been together for eight years and have lived together for the past five years. This summer, our house was damaged beyond repair in a storm, so we have moved into an apartment with the small amount of our household goods that were salvageable. The holidays are coming and I know it’s going to be a very different year, but my usual optimism is failing me. I used to love decorating and hosting family and friends, but this year I just want to ignore the whole season. Jillie is a Metal/Earth and has been clear she’d like to have some kind of festivities. I’m a Wood/Earth, so should want that, too, but I’m just not feeling it. All I feel is exhausted, not particularly supported by Jillie, and a complete lack of enthusiasm for the whole season. What can I do? Signed: Sad in the South

Dear Sad: I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s always difficult to move forward after a tragedy, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time to do this. The memories of what has been lost can haunt us like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past, making current holidays hard to imagine. This will be especially hard for you and Jillie because you both have a good amount of Earth, which is where home and family sit. What Jillie has going for is her Metal energy which makes it possible for her to detach from expectations regarding the holidays. Sadly, it isn’t going to be as easy for you. Expectations sit smack dab in Wood and I think it’s your Wood that’s a major factor in how you feel.

You and Jillie have faced a significant loss together and even though you both have a lot of Earth, how you process that loss and move forward will be very different. Jillie’s Earth is a secondary to her Metal and relates to it on the Nurturing Cycle. So even though she was probably just as devastated as you were by the loss, her Earth fed her Metal and made it easier for her to let go of things. This heightened Metal would also long for a traditional acknowledgement of the holiday season since traditions matter to Metals. You, on the other hand, also have Earth as your secondary, but your primary element is Wood. These two elements relate on the Controlling Cycle. In the face of the loss, your Wood probably rose up to manage the chaos and in the process took down some of your Earth energy. Less Earth energy for you means less connection to Earthy things like holidays.

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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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Why Does She Fall Out of Love in the Fall?

Dear Vicki: Jim and I started dating 16 months ago. I believe he is an Earth/Water and I love being a Fire – it really helps me be a good teacher. Summers with Jim have been a dream; my Fire flares up and I feel free, funny, and in love with everything. But when school starts, I throw myself into teaching and our relationship takes a 180-degree turn. When that happens, Jim tries even harder to make me happy, but I want to focus on teaching my kids, so feel like pushing him away. In the Fall, I don’t have the time or energy to keep us entertained and really don’t want to owe him for all the wonderful things he does for me while I’m teaching. I know he’s just trying to be nice, so I don’t really understand my intense, angry reaction towards him. Also, Jim is a great artist, but doesn’t seem to take his career seriously. He always has work, but is so laid back about things that sometimes I want to jump in and manage his career. I do love him and want it to work between us for a long time, but why do I stop loving him every Fall? Signed: Frustrated Fire

Dear Frustrated Fire: It is absolutely possible for you to have a long-term relationship with Jim, but you will need to be mindful of your energies and manage them well. As a Fire, you know that you love connecting and having fun with people, but your Fire energy doesn’t necessarily need for those connections to last very long. On the other hand, Jims primary Earth will want lasting, long-term relationships. The good news for you is that long-term relationships between a Fire and an Earth can feel happy and natural for both people. It’s a Nurturing Cycle relationship where Fire feeds Earth. In nature, an earthen hearth is the perfect structure to hold and support fire allowing it to burn stable and steady, something that fire doesn’t often do left to its own devices. As an Earth, Jim can provide this gentle structure for you and your Fire.

One of the reasons you feel so happy and in love during the summer is that summer is your season. During summer everyone is a little more Fire as we loosen the structure of work, take vacations, and devote more time to play. Life is fun! The two summers you’ve been with Jim, you have had a ready companion to hold your Fire. I suspect you have actually been able to be more of your Fiery self your two summers with Jim because he has held the space for you. That would make your summers with Jim seem very much like a dream. But summer can’t last forever, and I think part of the problem you’re having in your relationship is the advent of Fall and the energy it brings. Autumn is Metal time and it calls us to slow down and turn inside. For you as a teacher, it also asks you to get serious about your profession. To do this, I think you allow your secondary element to influence you more than you know, and I have little doubt that your secondary is Wood.

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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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