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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Looking Back: A Reader Asks, “What Element Am I?”

Dear Vicki: I find it interesting to read about the elements, but how do I know for sure what element I am? Wants to Know

Dear Wants to Know: The short answer is that you are all of them: We each have all of the elements in us. The real question is what is your primary element? What element determines the filter you use when you’re stressed, reacting instinctively, or just living? This filter affects almost everything in your life: the people you like, the jobs you hate, what you’re good at, and even the physical challenges you might have.

There are many ways to determine your elemental affinity, including questionnaires, comparing yourself to people whose affinity you know (Robin Williams was a Fire, bless him, and Hillary Clinton is a Wood), studying the elements, and even energy tests. And while all of these are excellent tools, because you are the best expert about yourself anywhere on the planet, I personally think that the best way to determine your affinity is to study the elements and recognize yourself in them.

To begin the process of determining your elemental affinity, a quick question I always ask people is how they act when they’re stressed. Take a moment and think about how you react when something doesn’t go well for you. Do you get angry (Wood) or panicked (Fire)? Do you detach from the problematic situation and people (Metal) or quietly go in a different direction to get what you want (Water)? Or do you try to understand why things aren’t going well and look compassionately on anyone involved in the problem (Earth)? Social training aside, since we automatically revert to our “true self” when really stressed, we can usually determine our elemental affinity easiest when in that state. And if you’re not sure how you act when stressed, ask a friend or family member. I guarantee, they will know.

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