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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Family Overwhelmed by New Wood Girlfriend

Dear Five Faces: My widowed brother has begun dating and recently brought a woman I’ll call Hanna to a family birthday party. It was hard because we wanted to be excited for him, but Hanna was unpleasant and really rather pushy and opinionated. We’re a family of teachers, mostly elementary school, and enjoy peaceful, 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 (my mother is an excellent cook!) and questioned another sibling’s opinion about a movie. I think my brother could tell things weren’t going well, too, because he’s normally a really outgoing and funny guy, but he stopped telling jokes about 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

Dear Overwhelmed: Welcome to the world of different elements! You don’t mention your element, your brother’s element, or Hanna’s, but it’s going to be pretty easy to guess what’s going on. First, I think you and many of your family members are Earths. You love peace and harmony, food is important, and your brother’s happiness matters. These are very Earthy attributes. On the other hand, as an outgoing and funny guy, your brother sounds like he might be a Fire. And Hanna? That’s easy; it takes one to know one. Hanna is a Wood. In many ways that makes her a perfect partner for your Fire brother because Wood feeds Fire. But a room full of Earths might well feel overwhelmed and controlled by Hanna since Wood sits on the Control Cycle for Earth. It’s not surprising that many of you were uncomfortable.

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