The Light and Dark Sides of the Elemental Personalities

Dear Readers: Four years and six days ago, a 29-year-old security guard killed 49 people and wounded 53 others during a mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The brutality of the event shocked us all and left lingering questions regarding who would do such a thing, and why. At that time, I posted an attempt to answer those questions from a Five Elements perspective by highlighting the beauty/beast aspect of each elemental personality, including simple signs that might indicate someone could be unbalanced enough to begin manifesting the beast. Given all that is going on in the United States and other parts of the world these days, it seems like this information might once again be helpful. May love and compassion prevail.

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Dear Readers: When the unthinkable occurs, when humans turn violent against each other as unfolded earlier this week in Orlando, we immediately ask ourselves, “How could this have happened? How is this possible?”

We will probably never know all of the reasons the shooter did what he did. And in truth, explanations pale when held against the tragedy he created. But deep inside, we all have basic needs that drive us forward. In one way or another, we all need to be part of something important, to make a difference, to connect with others, to be loved, to be understood. But when these needs take on a disproportionally large focus in our lives, the pain of their unmet presence can warp us, allowing us to think and act in ways that are unhealthy and potentially dangerous for ourselves, and others. These are the shadow sides of being human and unbalanced.

When basic needs aren’t met, when hatred has overtaken our innate ability to love, we have shown throughout history that we humans are capable of committing atrocious acts. But no one wakes up one morning a suddenly changed monster; the downward slide toward hatred is a path of internal pain and emptiness that those closest to us can often see.

I’m not implying that any single person should have been able to stop what happened in Orlando. But I am saying that if we all understood each other better, if we loved and accepted each other more, it might have made a difference. And while I know I’m biased, I do think that an understanding of the elemental personalities from the Five Elements model is an exceptional way of understanding each other, and ourselves.

To help us move forward, I offer here the light and dark sides of each elemental personality. Please remember that we all have all of the elemental personalities in our energetic make-up, but we usually think and act from a primary one. I believe an important goal in life is to manifest the light and love of these personalities with everyone we meet. And if you know someone who seems to be manifesting the dark side of an elemental personality, please reach out to them; they are probably hurting.

The Light and Dark Sides of the Elemental Personalities

Water Personalities need to be part of something important, something bigger than themselves. When this happens, it gives Water people a sense of their place in the world. They are not just one tiny little seemingly inconsequential drop of water; they are part of the mighty ocean. This provides meaning for their lives so they can live in a hopeful and optimistic manner. But when Water people lose touch with the meaning of life, when they feel alone and isolated, they can become narcissistic and intolerant of others. Intolerance creates separateness and an inability to see that we are all one. We all have Water in us. Watch for intolerance in those around you and when you see it, recognize that someone has lost touch with how they fit into the world. Reach out and help them find meaning.

Wood Personalities need to make a difference in the world. When they do, they see the value of themselves reflected in their accomplishments. They are not just one lone person facing a tide of humanity, they are someone able to impact the world in a positive manner. This gives meaning to their life and allows them to live in a way that champions underdogs and rights the unrightable wrongs. But when Wood people cannot move forward, when they feel stuck and blocked, they become frustrated and angry. Their anger looks for someone to blame, someone to strike out against. We all have Wood in us. Watch for anger and when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their ability to move forward. Reach out and help them succeed.

Fire Personalities need to feel connected; they need people to pay attention to them. When they do, they experience a sense of possibility and excitement that feeds them. For however long that lasts, they are not alone; temporary as it might be, they are part of a group experiencing something together. This allows them to speak for their group and create a potentially transcendent experience for all. But when Fire people cannot connect with others, when they feel isolated and unseen, they become anxious and panicked. Their need to be accepted can cause them to act irrationally in order to prove themselves worthy of being seen. We all have Fire in us. Watch for anxiousness and irrationality. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of connection to others. Reach out and help them connect.

Earth Personalities need to feel needed and loved. When they are, they find value in their ability to make a difference for others. They contribute by helping others, and this gives life meaning. And in however it is represented, the “family” they bring together creates a sense of home wherever they are. In this home they create belonging for all. But when Earth people do not feel loved, when they are not needed, they will assert themselves in potentially inappropriate ways to prove their value. We all have Earth in us. Watch for neediness and meddling. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of being loved. Reach out and offer love and acceptance.

Metal Personalities need to understand things and make order out of life. When they do, this gives them importance. Their belief that they are contributing to posterity means that their life will have mattered; the world will be a better place because of them. But when Metal people cannot make a difference, when their contributions are not recognized or appreciated, they become dismissive and judgmental. They act to ensure that what they think is right will come to pass, regardless of the effect on others. We all have Metal in us. Watch for dismissive, judgmental action. And when you see it, recognize that someone has lost their sense of importance. Reach out and offer appreciation.

I realize that these are very basic, simple ideas offered in the face of a profoundly complex problem. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe these baby steps can help us better manifest the loving aspects of each elemental personality. Maybe we can reach out and help those we see lost in the dark. And maybe we can follow the light and change the world.

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What Elemental Personality Are You?

Dear Readers: 

I regularly hear from people asking how best to determine their elemental personality. Four years ago, I wrote a blog about just that and thought it might be a good time to share it again.

Stay safe and well,


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Dear Readers: At a recent workshop, a student approached me unsure of her primary elemental personality. She had taken several different “learn your element” tests and while they all narrowed the focus to three elements (Water, Earth, and Metal), she still wasn’t sure which one was her true primary elemental personality or even how they might manifest in her life. Most of the test results said she was a primary Water personality, but she just wasn’t sure.

I explained that while the tests are a great starting point, I believe that the best way to determine your primary elemental personality can be to observe yourself relative to what we know about each of the element personalities. To do this, I asked her to send me answers to the following five questions:

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Are We Really Who We Think We Are?

Dear Vicki: I’ve recently been introduced to the Five Element personalities and it really has helped me understand a lot of things about my family and several friends. However, I’m a bit confused by three girlfriends who each took a quiz to help them determine their elemental personality and all three came out as predominantly Fire personalities. I find that hard to believe because they are all calm, sensible, considerate, reliable people who tend to keep their inner thoughts to themselves. I would say they are content with their day-to-day lives, in particular their families, and are not ambitious in any way. None of them likes the limelight and they tend to have a few good friends, not a vast circle. I have several other friends who do tick all the boxes as classic Fire personalities, but I can’t understand how these three women (all in their 40s and 50s) scored so high for a Fire personality. Can you explain this? Signed: Confused in Conway

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Dear Confused: It’s wonderful that you’re studying the Five Elements personalities and finding them useful! Clearly, I think they’re fantastic tools for understand all sorts of people. Your question about quiz results is an excellent – and not uncommon – one. There are many different Five Elements online quizzes available these days, but regardless of the one your friends took, there are several possible reasons why the results don’t seem to jive with their actual personalities. Let’s take a quick look at what might be going on.

First and foremost, the results of any personality test will only be as good as the test itself. This means that some personality tests will naturally give more accurate results than others. Focusing specifically on Five Elements tests, it’s important to remember that the Five Elements as a model comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where it is used as a diagnostic tool to guide treatments of the physical form (as well as some emotional and mental issues). Because of that, many Five Elements tests include questions about physical illnesses or proclivities one might find in a person with an abundance of a specific element.

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What Kind of Boundaries Do You Have?

Dear Readers: Today we offer yet another opportunity to better understand yourself and the people in your life. Or at least a chance to better understand your elemental personalities. As I have mentioned here numerous times, at a very deep level the energy of the Five Elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal) helps shape our personalities. That’s because the energy of these five elements is stacked up in our personal energy fields and the order of this stacking determines which of the five affects us most. This dominant or primary element is called our elemental personality and the more we know about it, the more we know about ourselves. Even better, the more we know about the primary elemental personalities of the people in our lives, the better we can understand them. And best of all, because the Five Elements interact in predictable ways based on the ancient Five Elements model, we can use this model to predict the highs and the lows of every relationship we have.

This means that an important key to good relationships is the ability to determine the primary elemental personalities for ourselves and the people in our lives. And I believe that the best way to do that is to recognize yourself (and your friends and family) in basic descriptions of the elements and their behaviors. As I have suggested before, your primary personality is like being born into a secret club. All members of the Wood club will have similar tendencies, as will all members of the Metal, Water, Earth or Fire clubs. How members of these different clubs get along in relationships has been the primary focus of this blog for years, but it’s just as important, if not more so, to know yourself and what matters to you. When you do, your relationships will automatically start making sense, too.

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Who Do You Think You Are?

Dear Readers: Happy 2019! I hope it’s a year of happiness, joy, and excellent relationships for you all!

Today marks the beginning of a new feature here at the Ask Vicki blog. Lately, many of the letters and inquiries I receive are from people who not only want to understand the Five Elements spin on their relationship problems, but also want to explore more about their individual elemental personality. It’s an important request, and I think the best way to do that is to understand each of the elemental personalities and see where you fit in.

Remember that we all have all of the Five Elements in our personality make-up, but we have a special affinity for one of them. You can think of this elemental affinity as a lens through which we view the world. It’s as though at birth we’re assigned to a secret club – 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.

Our priorities and tendencies in life are based on our club membership. When we enter into a relationship with someone from a different club, which is very common, the relationship becomes a predictable dance between the two clubs. But to understand this dance with another person, you need to know your club membership, if you will, and the club membership of the person you are relating to. And that’s where many of you have asked for help.

So beginning today, once or twice a month I will offer an up-close comparison of the five elemental personalities based on specific issues like What Matters, Personal Expressions, Structure and Boundaries, Strengths and Weaknesses, Socialization Tendencies, Relationship FocusStress Tendencies, Likely Professions, Primary Focus, Favorite Question, and something I like to call Elemental Truths. I’m sure you will begin to recognize yourself – and the people you relate to – in these comparisons. So let’s get started with two of my favorites!

  1. What Really Matters to Each Elemental Personality

What Matters to Water Personalities: Deep Issues

People who hang out in the Water Club view life through the filter of depth. Profound issues matter to Waters, who often seem obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge, truth, and meaning. Waters are interested in art, philosophy, and religion, but won’t care about the surface aspects of these pursuits. Instead, they’ll focus on the underlying meaning of it all.

What Matters to Wood Personalities: Accomplishment

People who hang out in the Wood Club value accomplishment and success. Good at decision-making and planning, Woods can see what needs to be done and rally the troops to do it (or go it alone through hard work). We all need Wood energy if we’re going to accomplish anything, but members of the Wood club need accomplishment to feel successful.

What Matters to Fire Personalities: Connections

We all need Fire energy at times because we all need relationships. The push to connect begins in Fire, and while these connections usually aren’t long-term for Fires, they need the charge they get from spontaneous connections to feel alive. Without connections, life becomes pale and gray for a Fire.

What Matters to Earth Personalities: Relationships

People who hang out in the Earth Club value long-term relationships. The spontaneous connections forged in Fire slowly find emotional depth and reinforcement in Earth. It has been said that Earth makes order out of the Fire relationships that last. Earths excel at making people feel safe and loved.

What Matters to Metal Personalities: Knowledge

People who hang out in the Metal Club value knowledge. They sit at the end of the Five Elements cycle so are better equipped than other elements to harvest what has been learned this time through, whether over the span of a week, a year, or a lifetime. We all use Metal energy to learn and discern, but Metals thrive on synthesizing knowledge and wisdom into understanding.

  1. Favorite Question of Each Elemental Personality (short and sweet, but deep to ponder)

Water: Why?

Wood: When?

Fire: Where?

Earth: Who?

Metal: How?

I hope these comparisons begin to provide a bit more clarity regarding your primary elemental personality and also the primary elemental personalities of the people in your life. And remember, we all have all five elements in our personalities, so even if your favorite question is “When?” making you a member of the Wood Club, it doesn’t mean you won’t visit the Water Club now and then to ask “Why?” That’s the fun of life! Blessings to you all!