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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Stepping into the Shoes of Another Element

Dear Vicki: I have a question. In your post last week (Earth Wants to Change Her Element), you suggested we visit a different elemental clubhouse when we need the qualities of that element. But practically speaking, how do we do this? How do we find the resources within ourselves to go there? Signed: A Curious Water

Dear Curious Water: This is a great question! And let me assure you that it’s not hard to take on the qualities of an element that isn’t our primary for a short period of time. In fact, we do it all the time. When presented with a darling puppy or kitten, even those of us who aren’t primary Earths usually feel a slight tug at our heartstrings and instinctively want to cuddle the cute animal. Or when those of us who aren’t primary Metals find ourselves in a bit of a panic, we often “talk ourselves off the ledge” in a very rational way. And although it isn’t wise to do this often, there are probably times when those of us who aren’t primary Fires have a nip of wine to “get in the party mood.”

Because we have all five of the elements in us, we know each of them better than we think we do. We’ve all had Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal moments or months, regardless of our primary element. We’ve all visited each of the other clubhouses before. So when we want to tap into specific attributes of any element, we already have a pathway there because we’ve been there before.

Now, to be more specific, there are many tools we can use to step into the shoes of any element we want. Here are two examples:

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Earth Wants to Change Her Element

Dear Vicki: I was at a class you taught on the Five Elements a few years ago and think you said that we can sometimes become a different element. Did I hear that right? I’m so tired of being an Earth and would love to change elements. How do I do that? Signed, Ready for a Change

Dear Ready: Well, that’s not exactly what I said. Our elemental makeup is woven into the fabric of our being at birth and doesn’t change. I like to think that our souls select our primary elements for what are probably very good reasons. And I’m not one to argue with my soul (at least not very often).

What I did say was that we have all five elements in our makeup, and I probably described them as clubhouses. That’s because I think of our elemental affinity as being assigned to a secret club at birth – so secret that no one tells us we belong – and we spend our life thinking, acting, and seeing the world as a member of that club. There’s a Water clubhouse, a Wood clubhouse, etc. We normally hang out in the clubhouse of our primary affiliation because it’s where we feel the most comfortable. For me, that’s the Wood clubhouse. For my husband, it’s the Metal clubhouse. For you, it’s the Earth clubhouse.

However, we can and do visit other element clubhouses from time to time. Sometimes by choice, other times life events seem to bump us into a different clubhouse to help us cope with a situation. For example, I had a period in my life years ago when several important people and animals close to me passed on. That definitely made me an honorary Metal for several months as I processed the grief. I thought like a Metal, acted like a Metal, and pretty much was a Metal for that time. And I needed to be a Metal to move through what had happened and come to a place of letting go. Woods don’t let go very well; balanced Metals excel at it.

But it doesn’t take a life event to change clubhouses for a time. We can consciously choose to visit a different clubhouse any time we need what it has to offer. For example:

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Sister Changes, Needs Wood Support

Dear Vicki: My sister and I have been very close most of our lives. We both love the Five Elements and I’m pretty sure I’m a Wood and Sami is an Earth. Several years ago, Sami married Dave, who is definitely a Metal, and it’s been a good marriage for her. I realized early on that my brother-in-law will feel controlling to me at times because Metal chops Wood and have dealt with that. But almost a year ago, Dave’s mother became quite ill and moved in with Sami and Dave. Since then, Sami and I don’t get along. She’s acting more like a crazy Fire, and we’re fighting in ways we never used to. She’s fighting with Dave and his Metal sisters, too. I want to support her, but she just seems really different. Can life situations like this change our elements? Signed, Wondering Wood 

Dear Wondering Wood: The short answer to your question is that it’s very rare for anyone to permanently change primary elements during a lifetime, even if their life situations dramatically change. However, circumstances in our lies can cause us to use the energy of a none-primary element, and this certainly will cause us to act differently from our “normal” self. For example, when someone close to us passes on, the grief we feel will cause us to be more of a Metal than we might otherwise be. Or when something wonderful happens in our life, we might celebrate in a very Fiery way. But these are temporary changes. And I think this is what’s happening for Sami.

Prior to her mother-in-law’s illness, you and Sami related on the Controlling Cycle (Wood controls Earth), but Controlling Cycle relationships that involve Earth (Wood/Earth and Earth/Water) are rarely diminishing relationships the way other Controlling Cycle relationships are. While Metal chops Wood and diminishes it, Wood anchors Earth, it stabilizes Earth, it doesn’t diminish it. And Earth “controls” Water by guiding it, not diminishing it. That aspect of your Wood/Earth relationship is why the two of you got on so well. But that all changed when Sami’s ill mother-in-law moved in.

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