Fire and Water: Control is Control, Right?

Dear Vicki: In your recent post to Angry in Alaska, you mentioned that if a Metal person senses too much Wood energy in someone, the Metal will automatically want to “prune” that Wood. Is this true for all Controlling Cycle relationships? I’m a Fire and seem to have fallen in love with a Water. Jenna is serious and can be moody, but she’s also an amazingly creative author who has several published novels. We’ve been together for a few years now and I’ve noticed that when I’m dancing and having a great time at a party, Jenna does seem to throw water on my flames by saying something mean or cutting. It’s like she can barely tolerate me. When I ask her about it later, she acts like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I love her, but it feels bad to be insulted in front of friends, even if I might have been a bit wild. Is this something Jenna does automatically because see thinks my Fire is out of control? If so, how do Controlling Cycle relationships ever last?  Signed: Drowning in Downey

 

Dear Drowning: The quick answer to your question is that Controlling Cycle relationships last because we all need the balancing affect of control in our lives. Too much of anything, even something as wonderful as fun and laughter, isn’t good for us. Too much of anything is, by definition, a loss of balance and the Five Elements model is all about maintaining balance. The Controlling Cycle is the way the model addresses too much of something, while too little of something is addressed via the Nurturing Cycle. These reducing and building tendencies translate to our relationships, too. But in a culture where more always seems better than less, Controlling Cycle connections can seem harsh. Yet they are just as great a gift as a Nurturing Cycle connection. Sometimes, even more.

In your case, too much Fire can and will burn you out. In nature, fire has very little structure; it’s actually just heat made visible. At a personality level this lack of structure manifests as a tendency to have fewer boundaries than the other elements. Interestingly, as a Water, Jenna doesn’t have great boundaries herself. But water in nature is definitely more solid than fire, so Jenna will have more structure than you do. And her gift to you is to cool you down before you burn yourself out. She may do this in ways that seem mean – and we will come back to that in a minute – but she really can be acting in your best interest.

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Does Unbalanced Fire Bring Out Fire?

Dear Five Faces: I’m having trouble with my new brother-in-law Tom, who is a primary Fire element, and I wonder if the Five Elements can help me understand why. He’s a loud, jokester, frustrating kind of guy who is always “on.” Honestly, I don’t know how my sister stands it. Tom’s never quiet and it’s absolutely exhausting to be around him. I know it’s said we respond to others based on the parts of ourselves that need work, but does this translate to the element types? If we see Fire in another person and don’t like it, does that mean we’re having trouble with our own Fire? Signed: Problem Fire

Dear Problem Fire: This is a great question and there are multiple answers. First, being around someone with an abundance of Fire will affect our own expression of Fire, even if it isn’t our primary element. That’s what often happens at parties: the fun the Fires are having is usually contagious. We all have all five elements, so wherever our own Fire is in our makeup, it usually wakes up a little and wants to have fun. And it usually does have a great deal of fun. However, for people who have trouble expressing their Fire, this can be uncomfortable. So yes, you could be having trouble expressing your own Fire and Tom’s Fire makes that worse. But based on your description of Tom’s behavior, and your reaction to it, I suspect that’s not the real problem here.

It sounds like Tom has too much Fire and that’s what’s impacting you. As the Five Elements model tells us, too much of any element is problematic not only for the whole; each of the other four elements will also be affected. To understand why, let’s use Tom as an example. Too much Fire will drain Water as it reaches across the Controlling Cycle to manage the Fire (Water puts out Fire). Too much Fire will increase Earth by dumping excess energy into it via the Nurturing Cycle (Fire feeds Earth). Too much Fire will deplete Metal by sending too much energy across the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal). And too much Fire will deplete Wood by pulling too much from it via the Nurturing Cycle (Wood feeds Fire).

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Lying Son: Is He an Out of Control Fire?

Dear Vicki: My 12 year old son has always been funny and outgoing, but lately I’ve caught him lying to me. It’s not really big stuff, but it’s concerning. For example, when Todd spent the weekend at his fathers (we had an amicable divorce five years ago), Todd reported that he and his dad had lunch with the mayor. When I checked, it turns out that the assistant mayor is an old high school friend of my ex-husband and that’s who they lunched with. When I challenge Todd, he laughed and said it’s a better story to have lunch with a mayor. Another time Todd complained that his history teacher assigned 100 pages to read over the weekend. It turned out that the assignment was 50 pages, but they could do more for extra credit. His response when I asked was to cop a dramatic attitude and laugh. I’m beginning to wonder if Todd’s a Fire who’s out of control and that’s why he’s lying. Regardless, I’m very upset, my Metal will not tolerate it, so how do I get him to stop? Signed: Disturbed Outside Denver

Dear Disturbed: Teaching children that honesty matters is an important part of parenting. It will be especially important to you as a Metal because following rules and maintaining high ethical standards matter greatly to Metals. The norm for our culture has been that lying is wrong, and Metals are our guides for determining right from wrong, so you are probably upset that your son isn’t getting with the program. In truth, your son’s lying strikes at the core of your values as a Metal. We’ll address his lying first, but I suspect there’s another issue at play that’s part of what’s upsetting you, and we’ll cover that later. But first, the lying.

It’s interesting you suspect that Fire would be the element to lie. That’s possible, yet all of the elements will lie. But the reasons they lie will be different.

  • When Fires lie, it’s usually for a sense of drama. Todd’s correct, it’s a more dramatic story to say one has lunched with the mayor than the assistant mayor. Fires exaggerate a story for the effect, too. Fires enjoy being the entertainer and garnering the attention.

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Fire & Fidelity: A Metal Does the Dance

Dear Vicki: Cal and I met when we were in law school. He was smart and funny. I was more serious, but somehow we clicked. We married right out of law school and life was fast-paced and passionate. We worked hard, but I could always count on Cal’s teasing and humor to keep me connected. My sister understands the Five Elements and told me that Cal’s a Fire and I’m a Metal, which makes him good for me. And for a year or two, she was right. He went into trial law and I took the corporate route. But two years ago, right after our daughter was born, Cal won a large and high visibility case and things changed. He worked later, played harder, and has been around less and less. I’ve left my firm and am trying to make a good home for the three of us, but he’s hardly ever here, which isn’t the right way to run a marriage. And when he is home, we fight and there’s no passion left. I finally confronted him last month and he admitted that there’s someone else who, as he puts it, is more fun than I am. I still love him and I want Alma to have a full-time father. Can the five elements help? Signed: Jilted in Jersey

Dear Jilted: This is a complicated situation, as you no doubt know. I do think there are actions you can take that will help, but first let’s be clear what is happening.

When you and Cal met in law school, I suspect your sister was correct: you were a Metal and Cal was a Fire. But Fires lack the structure usually required to succeed in law school, so Cal has to have a strong secondary in either Wood or Metal. His choice of trial law suggests that his secondary is Wood. That means getting ahead, defending the underdog, and winning will all matter greatly to him. And now that he’s become visibly successful, it will matter even more. So while he’s a primary Fire, it’s likely that he’s stepped more into his Wood these days. And as you’ve seen, that Fire/Wood combination can make for an excellent, and usually very successful, trail attorney.

The fact that you had a child so soon after law school suggests that while your primary is Metal, which helped you in law school, you have a strong secondary Earth. And even though family and home will matter to you, I think you’re still acting from a place of Metal, especially given your comment about the “right” way to run a marriage. That’s a Metal approach and could be one reason you and Cal are fighting so much these days. Your Metal desire to play by the rules will feel restrictive to his Wood (Metal controls Wood).

It’s important to note that you and Cal have always had some form of a Controlling Cycle relationship. In law school, Cal’s Fire controlled your Metal and helped keep you balanced enough to enjoy the playfulness of his Fire. In fact, that was probably a significant part of the attraction between you and Cal. Fire and Metal are polar opposites when it comes to structure. Metal is the most structured element of the five; Fire is the least. Fire really has no structure – it’s just heat made visible. A Fire/Metal relationship is often very stable because Metals need help staying loose and Fires need help creating structure.

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