She’s Ready to Cut Ties with Her Brother

Dear Vicki: I feel terrible admitting this, but my brother and I fight about everything. I spent most of this year arguing with Ted about whether to sell our parent’s house (Mom passed two years ago and we just relocated my father to a retirement home) or keep it for rental income. We disagreed about which facility to place him in (my brother won), what to do with all the furnishings when we moved Dad (my brother won), who should host the holidays (I won only because I pointed out that his house is under renovation), etc. I’m a nurse and Ted’s a doctor, so he often points out that he knows more about everything than I, so I should just do what he says. I’m weary of the fighting and his angry, aggressive attitude toward me. I’d really like peace in the family, so I am seriously considering breaking off ties with him completely. The desire to do this has been especially strong this fall. I hate to tear the family a part, really the idea hurts my heart, but is there ever going to be a way to fix our relationship? Signed: Weary in Wisconsin

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Dear Weary: Family dynamics can be especially difficult. As the old saying goes, we pick our friends but are stuck with our family. Your family has been through some difficult times lately, too, with the loss of your mother, the relocation of your father, and the possible sale of your family home. This level of stress tends to bring out the very best, or the very worst, in us all. And while you and your brother may never be best friends, a little understanding might help you get along when you need to. And that is where the Five Elements model can help.

Ted sounds very much like a Wood personality. Wood people appreciate prestige, and our culture certainly holds doctors in high esteem. Ted would have needed a great deal of perseverance to make it though medical school, and Wood people usually have the stamina to push through barriers and succeed at manifesting almost anything. In fact, in the Five Elements model, Wood is represented by the power of spring, an energy that brings forth life from the darkness of winter.  You, on the other hand, sound more like an Earth personality. Earth people are usually very caring and compassionate. They want everyone to be happy and are miserable when there is fighting. Few people on the planet are more caring and compassionate than nurses, so your choice of professions also supports the strong likelihood that you are an Earth personality.

If we look at the primary relationship dynamic between Wood people and Earth people as outlined in the Five Elements model, we see that they relate via the Controlling cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. This means that it could feel to you like Ted is trying to get the upper hand when you argue because, in the Five Elements model, it is Wood’s job to make sure that Earth holds strong in the face of too much neediness from others. Left to their own devices, Earths can give so much to others that they deplete themselves physically or emotionally. When faced with an Earth that is giving too much, a Wood personality will often step in and try to control the situation to protect the Earth.

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Brother’s New Girlfriend Overwhelming the Family

Dear Vicki: My brother’s wife pasted away two years ago and he really took it hard. It was like the light and joy went out of his life; my funny and outgoing brother became somber and cynical. He used to be the life of the party, but for a while he was pretty morose. Then several months ago, he finally begun dating and recently brought a woman (I’ll call her Hanna) to a family birthday party. We wanted to be excited for him, but Hanna was unpleasantly pushy and opinionated. Most members of my family are elementary school teachers, so we enjoy harmonious environments when not working, but this party ended up far from congenial. Hanna disagreed with my mother about when to start cooking a casserole (Mom is an excellent cook!) and questioned another sibling’s opinion about a movie. I think my brother could tell things weren’t going well because he stopped joking around halfway through the evening, then he and Hanna left early. I want my brother to be happy, but if Hanna is going to be part of the family, how are we ever going to get along? Signed, Overwhelmed in Ohio

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Dear Overwhelmed: It’s good news that your brother has started dating again. The loss of a loved one is a difficult event to get over, and it can be especially hard for someone with a Fire personality like your brother. Fire people thrive on fun and excitement, but when they suffer a loss, their Fire quite literally goes out and it can take some time for the joy to come back. It isn’t surprising that Hanna was the person that relit his Fire, either. In the Five Elements model, the element that feeds (and therefore builds) Fire on the Nurturing Cycle is Wood, and Hanna is clearly a Wood personality. Wood energy is outgoing and accomplishment-driven which often makes Wood people seem pushy and opinionated.

On the other hand, I think you and many of your family members are Earth personalities. Earth people make great teachers, they revel in peace and harmony, and a loved one’s happiness will always matter. However, Earth relates to Wood on the Controlling Cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. That means that a room full of Earths could well feel overwhelmed by Hanna’s Wood energy. It’s no wonder that many of you were uncomfortable.

As far as all of you getting along with Hanna, that may be a non-issue because it’s quite possible your brother’s new relationship won’t last very long. Too much Fire for a constant length of time can literally burn out a Wood. If that happens, Hanna will most likely move on to calmer relationships. However, if the Fire doesn’t get too crazy, Woods can enjoy the upbeat atmosphere of life with a Fire, so Hanna could be around for the long haul. But don’t worry, there are ways for you to get along with Hanna and, who knows, maybe even like her!

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Mother’s Death Leaves Her Brother Adrift

Dear Vicki: Our dear, sweet, loving mother passed away last year and it has been a tough road for our family. She was the glue that held us all together, but for my brother Arnold she was also a lifeline to reality. Arnold is in his early twenties, still lives at home, and never went to college. He is a quiet, sensitive guy who worked in a convenience store and loves photography and drawing comics. He could easily get lost in his art or watching superhero movies, often forgetting to eat or even get to work on time unless Mom reminded him. Since she’s been gone, Dad stays at his law office late and Arnold has lost his job. I have my own family now so can’t really move back home to help out. I think dad will be okay, but I’m really worried about Arnold. How can I help him? Signed: Sad Sister

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Dear Sad Sister: My condolences on your loss. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but it’s especially hard to lose a mom. Most mothers have a lot of Earth energy in their personalities – family and home sit in the Earth element – and they often are exactly what holds everyone together. Earth people love focusing on home and family, and making sure everyone’s needs are met. No doubt you all miss her love and affection, but Arnold is also missing more than that. He is missing the structure and boundaries that she would have provided for him because of the way they related on the Five Elements model.

It’s very likely that your brother is a Water personality.  Everything you said about him, and some things you didn’t, describe Waters perfectly. They are quiet and sensitive people, usually passionate about art or some other solitary endeavor, and not very interested in the type of learning that requires a structured environment like college or even a tech school. They do love to learn, but in their own way, on their own time. As you can tell, structure isn’t something Waters have an abundance of, or necessarily appreciate. In nature, if the two most structured elements attempt to structure water, it rarely goes well. Water will rust metal and rot wood. In nature, only sweet gentle earth can successfully provide structure for water in the form of riverbeds and shorelines. And it’s the same way with people and relationships.

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Helping Her Heartbroken Brother

Dear Vicki: I am so lucky to have the greatest brother in the world. Jimmy has always been there for me and now I want to be there for him. He is a nurse at our local hospital and had been dating Tina (a lab tech there) for over a year. They seemed like total opposites to me – she’s hysterically funny and always ready to go out for a good time, Jimmy is a gentle, quiet homebody – but I guess they must have completed each other in some way. The year they were together was the happiest I have ever seen my brother. He mentioned he was going to propose to Tina, but the next thing I knew they had broken up. I’m not sure what happened, but Jimmy is super depressed and talking about leaving the hospital. What can I do to help him? Signed: Caring Sister

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Dear Caring Sister: The end of a relationship is a difficult time for everyone involved. It will be especially hard for someone like your brother because, although you don’t mention it, I suspect he’s an Earth type of person. Most nurses have a lot of Earth energy and the fact that he is gentle and likes to spend time at home also suggests that he is a primary Earth. Caring for people and home are two big priorities for Earths. Long-term relationships are something else that matters deeply to Earths and I think this may be where Jimmy and Tina got into trouble. Tina sounds a lot like a primary Fire person. They usually laugh a lot and enjoy fun times out with friends. Connecting and creating relationships matter to Fires, too, but they don’t expect – or usually need – them to last. So while Jimmy and Tina both cared about connecting and relating, their expectations for the relationship would have been very different from the start.

What this means is that while Jimmy and Tina clearly enjoyed the time they spent getting to know each other, the purpose of that time together was likely very different for each of them. As a Fire, Tina would have seen the time as a fun connection with someone who was there for her and accepted her as she was. Earths do this for everyone, but it is very natural for them with Fires because, in the Five Elements model, Fire naturally flows to Earth via the Nurturing Cycle (the big circle in the model). In nature, the earthen hearth has always been the perfect receptacle for fire and it is no different with people. Earths usually find it especially easy to accept Fires for who and what they are.

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Death, Guilt, and Healing: Helping a Wood Rebuild

Dear Vicki: I’m hoping you can help my brother, Brad, who was in a terrible car accident three years ago. It was winter and the road conditions weren’t great here in Maine, but he and his best friend were determined to go skiing. We tried to talk them out of it, but they laughed at us and went ahead. Brad was driving when another car, going way too fast, lost control and skidded into them. Brad survived, but his best friend was killed. Brad did rehab for months and healed pretty well, but he is a changed person. He used to be a loud, assertive, wheeler dealer who turned around a chain of failing sporting goods stores, but now his heart doesn’t seem to be in anything. He’s closed one of his stores and the other two aren’t doing so well. It’s not like he’s super depressed anymore, it’s just that he’s not his normal outgoing self. Is there some way the Five Elements can help him get back to who he was before the accident? I think he was a Wood, so should I make him wear green? Signed: Sad Sister in Maine 

Dear Sad Sister: My heart goes out to your brother. The loss of someone close to us is always difficult, but the idea that we had something to do with it can be especially hard to bear. I think you are correct – Brad does sound like a Wood. Woods are adventuresome and rarely back down from a challenge. Weather probably wouldn’t stop a Wood determined to push through. That’s the MO of Wood: Just do it! It’s true that Woods are risk takers, but they usually aren’t reckless enough to take more of a risk than they think they can handle. Brad correctly assumed that he could manage the road conditions. The problem was that someone else apparently couldn’t.

There are several factors at play when a Wood goes though what Brad has experienced. First, remember that Woods need to keep moving toward a goal; the worst thing that can happen to a Wood is for something to stop their forward movement. For Brad, the accident not only stopped the movement of his car, it ended the trajectory his life had been taking. No longer was life about being a successful businessman. Instead, he was faced with months of trying to reclaim his health and body functioning. And even more significantly, he had to come to terms with the loss of his best friend. This last aspect was certainly made harder for Brad given that he was driving when the accident occurred. The guilt he feels must be profound. I’m assuming you’ve encouraged Brad to seek professional help. Hopefully he is seeing a counselor on a regular basis, which will help. But there are ways the Five Elements can help, too, so let’s take a look.

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