Five Elements and Elections: Fear, Hate, and Healing

Dear Readers: Four years ago, I posted a blog following what seemed to be a particularly contentious and divisive election in 2016 America. Sadly, it appears that little has changed in America over the past four years and the election held here earlier this week is on its way to becoming even more divisive than the previous one. 

In my 2016 post, I explored the role the Five Elements played in that election with the hope that a greater understanding of the dynamics at play would help heal the country. That remains the impetus and hope behind re-sharing that (annotated) 2016 post today. Blessings to all, Vicki


From 2016:

Dear Readers,

We held a presidential election in America earlier this week and the results left some people astounded and shocked. It was perceived by many as a contest between love and hate, acceptance and fear, inclusivity and exclusion. How we each processed these apparent polarities depended a great deal on which candidate we supported. In the end, the country was split almost exactly down the middle: the electoral vote went to one candidate and the popular vote to the other. In America, the electoral vote decides the election.

It’s not my intent here to discuss who should have won, or who did win. Rather, I’d like to explore the role the Five Elements played in this election in hopes that this understanding will help us begin to heal. America is dangerously divided right now and must come together to move forward. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his June 16, 1858 speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Hopefully, a little understand will help the healing.

A dominant theme in this election was fear. Fear of people not like us, fear of what either candidate might do if elected, fear of lost rights, fear of staying stuck, fear of elitism, fear of exclusion; you name it, we feared it. Even those aspects of the campaign that emphasized working together carried an underlying fear of what would happen if we just couldn’t work together. Truly, this was an election fraught with fear.

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Do Headaches Get You Down?

Dear Readers: Welcome to a new feature of the Ask Vicki blog: Five Element Fixes. Over the years, in addition to questions regarding relationships, as a naturopathic physician I’ve been asked about a variety of other issues. Questions regarding physical concerns, certainly, but also emotional, mental, and even spiritual issues, as well. And in truth, they are all relationships questions because they address how we relate to ourselves and our environment.

The answers to these questions are usually short and sweet, but also rational and logical. And of course, they are grounded in the Five Elements model! The information seems more important now than ever before, so I’d like to share some of these with you here. 

Question: I’ve always had a tendency to get headaches when stressed. Not surprisingly, I’m pretty stressed these days so am having more headaches. I’ve even found myself rather short-tempered when things take too long to happen or don’t turn out the way I want them to. Any tips on managing the headaches?

Answer: When headaches flair up, try the following: Rub a menthol-based balm on your temples, then sit quietly for several minutes taking slow, steady breaths until you feel yourself relax.

Why: Menthol helps balance the Wood element, and out of balance Wood energy is often a significant cause of headaches. That’s because one of the major channels of energy running through the head (the Gallbladder meridian) is governed by the Wood element. So when this energy is out of balance or gets stuck, it can create headaches (and temper tantrums). And by the way, anger and frustration are also symptoms of an imbalance in the Wood element.

Not only does menthol help balance Wood energy, its scent can act as a vasodilator, relaxing and opening blood vessels (especially in the head). This, in turn, facilitates blood flow which helps decrease headaches and create an enhanced sense of calm.

It’s also important to note that the need for accomplishment sits in the Wood element. The lack of accomplishment (or an inability to do certain things) can also create an imbalance in Wood energy. That means it might be a good idea these days to be reasonable regarding your expectations for yourself, and others. And of course, it goes without saying that if your headaches become severe, you should seek medical attention.

Stay safe and well,


Angry Husband Now Depressed and Withdrawing

Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my husband. He’s a great guy and a good provider, but he’s always been a workaholic. He wanted to get ahead in his job and he did. He’s been the CEO of a small accounting firm for years, but now it’s in the midst of being taken over by a larger firm. Dan fought it, but the Board thought it was a good move, and it probably is for everyone except him; he’ll be out. Dan has always been a fighter, and his anger was a force to be reckoned with, but a few months ago that changed. Instead of an angry bull, now he’s sullen and withdrawn. I could manage his anger, but I’m not sure what to do with this. I’ve studied the Five Elements some and always thought Dan was a Wood personality, but now I’m not so sure. How can I help him? Signed: Worried Wife

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Dear Worried: Dan is blessed to have such a caring wife. And while there is much you can do to help him, it goes without saying that he may also need the help of a professional counselor, so please do keep that in mind. Dan does sound like he has a Wood personality. The need for personal accomplishment accompanied with some form of recognition (title, financial rewards, visibility, etc.) does matter a great deal to Woods. They are most happy when they can keep moving toward that goal. But if something gets in their way, an out of balance Wood will succumb to anger. For them, the outward expression of anger still feels like movement, although it’s rarely very productive. In fact, the prolonged expression of anger usually ends up being counter-productive for the situation and harmful for Woods and the people closest to them. Few Woods actually want to be angry all the time and I think this is what’s driving Dan’s behavior right now. Let me explain.

When a Wood expresses anger, it’s usually because something they want to do or see happen isn’t unfolding as they would like. Woods in positions of authority often learn that the occasional angry outburst will motivate employees (and family members) to get things going to avoid additional outbursts of anger. Not a great management technique, but sadly successful in many cases. Fortunately, most Woods eventually come to the understanding that their anger isn’t doing anyone any good. When that happens, and the Wood realizes that nothing they do will get the desired results, if they are energetically balanced they will assess the situation and change tactics.  But if they are unable to do this because they are either unbalanced or unable to find an alternative tactic, to avoid the continued expression of anger, a Wood can shut themselves down. And yes, this can look a lot like depression.

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Our Relationships with Control

Dear Vicki: I grew up in a family of Woods. My father was an angry, controlling man who was never happy with anything and always wanted more of everything. My mother was primary Earth, but I think her secondary was Wood because she fought for control with my father all the time regarding his abusive ways. Because of this, my home life was out of control and I couldn’t wait to leave. But now that I’m an adult, not only do I avoid Woods, I appear not to have any Wood myself. I’m not competitive and I have trouble with the idea of fairness (I want to ask “Fair to who?” – there are always two sides). In my personal relationships, I’ve avoided trying to control anything, yet my husband tells me I have control issues. Can you help me understand what he means? He’s a Fire and I’m a Metal, if that helps. Signed: Confused About Control in Concord

Dear Concord: I’m sorry to say this, but I agree with your husband – I do think you have control issues. Or more accurately, you have issues with control. And that’s very understandable given your childhood. As a Metal child in a household of battling Woods, your Metal would have been depleted from trying to keep Wood in check in any way available to you (Metal controls Wood). When you add the fact that life unfolding in a proper and controlled way was important to your Metal, it means that your young life was pretty much about control.

What this left you with is a negative attitude toward control, but not just because trying to keep it in place was exhausting. Out of control Wood can be scary, and the fact that you witnessed so much fighting and discord growing up probably created a deep sense of insecurity. In your eyes, Wood became the enemy, so it’s not surprising that you’ve avoided Wood most of your adult life, even the Wood in yourself.

But let’s be clear, you do have Wood; we all do. I suspect that you’re just so uncomfortable with Wood energy, and in fact may deem it dangerous, that you refuse to acknowledge it in yourself. And if it does rear its ugly head, your Metal probably chops it down rather quickly. If this condition of missing Wood is severe enough, it’s called “Wood lacking.” I covered the topic of a “lacking” element in a previous blog ( if you want to read more about it.

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Less Wood, More Earth Will Help Caregiver

Dear Vicki: I’m an Earth with a Metal secondary married to a Fire guy whose secondary is Earth. We have been married for 14 years, but have been struggling for the last few. Due to my husband’s head injuries, I’ve been the sole provider and caregiver for the last 10 years. My Earth tendencies for the caregiving and my Metal control and structure made this work for us in the beginning. But for several years now I’ve been burned out, which has led to health issues of my own. I’m struggling with anger and resentment towards my mate and frustration with my own health. I feel incredibility under appreciated because my husband fails to grasp the overwhelming stress I deal with and how this stress affects me. I’ve been working on making time for myself to regain my health, and it has worked; I am getting better. But I still have the anger and resentment. My husband tries, but he fails to understand all that is going on.  How do I get over being so angry and resentful regarding my situation? Signed: Angry in Anaheim

Dear Angry: Bless you for all that you’re dealing with in your life. Caring for an incapacitated loved one is never easy. And the fact that it’s your partner, the person you would normally turn to for love and support, makes it doubly difficult. Our ability to do this kind of thing comes from our Earth. That’s where compassion and caring sit, and no doubt you have drawn on these feelings many times over the past several years. The fact that you are a primary Earth is very likely what has made the protracted caregiving possible for you.

From your letter it sounds like you’re currently in a place of excess Wood; anger and resentment are clear indications of too much Wood energy. And while you don’t mention what kind of health issues you have developed, a key aspect of our immune system sits in the Earth element. The fact that you have become ill yourself suggests that your Earth is probably depleted, which wouldn’t be surprising if you have an excess of Wood (Wood controls Earth). Therefore, as you have surmised, the first step is to address the excess Wood energy you have.

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