Is Wild Behavior Really Right for her Sister?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m concerned about my younger sister, Tina. She’s a junior in high school and is a quiet, disciplined, studious student, the kind of child any normal parent would want. The problem is that our mother isn’t a normal mother – she’s an outgoing, fun-loving, partying lady! Life with her wasn’t easy for me growing up, but I figured out that if I stayed in my room and read a lot, she’d leave me alone. Occasionally we’d fight, but usually ended up agreeing to disagree and moved past things. Tina doesn’t seem to be managing as well. When she tries to stand up to Mom, she sort of melts and gives in. What concerns me is that Mom thinks Tina is letting life pass her by, so is encouraging her to attend parties where alcohol is served, go out with wild guys, things like that, all in the name of having fun. And even though Mom loves to party, when she is serious, she can be pretty forceful in her demands. Tina was initially uncomfortable with Mom’s suggestions, but lately she seems tempted by the open door of freedom. How can I help Tina not make a terrible mistake? Signed: Worried Sister in Seattle

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Dear Worried Sister in Seattle: This is an interesting dilemma that appears to be a dance between you, your mother, and your younger sister. You don’t mention how much older you are than Tina, if you still live at home, or what your current relationship is with you mother, so I’ll make some guesses that I hope will be on target. But let’s start with a few assumptions regarding your primary elemental personalities.

The easy one is your Mother. The way you describe her makes it clear that she’s a primary Fire personality. Partying, fun, attention, things like that are often the hallmarks of the Fire personality. The fact that you’re concerned about Tina and are advocating for her suggests that you probably have a primary Wood personality. Wood people stick up for the underdog every chance they get. They can also quibble with other Wood people and end up agreeing to disagree, as you say. That is a very common way for Wood people to save face and both get to be “right.” This makes me think that while your Mother is clearly a primary Fire personality, she probably has Wood as her secondary personality. That would definitely make her a force to be reckoned with at times.

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She Wants to be Warm and Fuzzy with People, But Can’t

Dear Vicki: I’m fascinated with the idea that our elemental personalities create nurturing or controlling relationships with other people. And now I’m wondering if the individual elements that make up my own elemental personality create “relationships” among themselves that nurture or control. I ask because I grew up in a household with a narcissistic and often depressed mother and a father whose anger frightened me. In some ways, I felt responsible for my mother and tried to help. I did a pretty good job, too, because I’m a determined (and some might say forceful) person. I also wanted things to be fair for my mom, so I often defended her against my dad when she couldn’t defend herself. I’m a serious gardener and manage a bakery from a back office, which I think means I have Earth as a primary elemental personality, right? But I don’t feel very Earthy around people. I never did growing up, but I want to now. Could something in my personality be affecting this? Signed: Wants to Be Warm and Fuzzy

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Dear Wants to be Warm and Fuzzy: The short answer to both of your questions is yes: our individual personality elements do interact with each other via the Nurturing and Controlling Cycles and they do affect how our personalities manifest. We all have all five of the elemental personalities in our personality make up. And as the Five Elements model suggests, the Metal part of our personality feeds the Water part of our personality, our Fire part controls our Metal part, etc. In ancient Chinese medicine, understanding these relationships was central to using the elements for physical health and healing. And as we’ve covered in this blog for years now, these same interactions can also be used to understand and support both our personal emotional experiences and our relationships with other people. So, let’s take a look at what might be going on for your personality both as a child and an adult.

First, it will help to understand the primary elemental personalities of your parents. Depression and narcissism both sit in the Water element. Depression usually occurs when there isn’t enough energy to be optimistic and hopeful (which are characteristics of the balanced Water personality). Narcissism usually indicates an over-abundance of Water energy. It’s very likely your mother was a primary Water personality, but one that was unable to hold a balance. Anger sits in Wood and usually manifests when there is too much Wood energy, as does forcefulness, so I suspect that, not only was your father a primary Wood personality, but you are, as well. A strong desire for fairness in very characteristic of the Wood personality.

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Her Female Partner Not Included in Family Plans

Dear Five Faces: My mother recently made an extremely unreasonable request and I am writing for help on how best to deal with it. After a long illness, my father passed away this summer and our small family held a simple, private funeral for him. My fiance, Shelley, attended with me and all was well. Recently, my father’s brother (who lives out of state) has decided to stage an extensive memorial service for my father in January. My uncle is a very conservative person and Mom has asked that Shelley not attend; she’s concerned about flak from his family. Apparently, my parents never mentioned to Dad’s family that I’m gay. How should I handle this? Shelley says she understands and is willing to skip the ceremony for family harmony, but it just isn’t fair. How can I convince my mother that Shelley should be allowed to attend? I’m really angry that Shelley is being snubbed! Signed: Angry Daughter

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Dear Angry Daughter: First, I offer my condolences on the loss of your father. Losing a parent is always difficult. And losing a spouse can be just as difficult, sometimes more so, which means that your mother is probably in a pretty stressed place these days. She may still be reeling from all that needs to be managed when someone passes, so let’s figure out your elemental personalities and see if we can find a way to help you and your family with this issue.

Because you are angry and upset at the unfairness of Shelley not attending the service, I suspect you are a primary Wood personality. Fairness is key to Wood people and anger is where they go when things seem unfair. Shelley’s willingness to skip the service to keep the peace suggests she’s a primary Earth personality. Family harmony is very important to Earth people. Finally, your mother’s insistence on Shelley not attending because of appearances suggest she is probably a primary Metal personality. Appearances matter to them. And even if your mother isn’t normally a primary Metal, with the recent death of her husband she is probably in a Metal place these days. Grief, loss, and letting go all sit in the Metal element of the Five Elements model.

The main elemental dynamic at play here is that you and your mother (as she is now) relate on the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model, with her Metal energy controlling your Wood energy. Wood people do not like to be controlled, so it’s understandable that you are having serious trouble with your mother’s request. Something else Wood people hate is when things seem out of control, which touches on another dynamic involved in your situation that is probably bothering you, as well.

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She Needs Help for Her Grieving Mother

Dear Vicki: For 48 years, my parents had a happy marriage. They seemed the perfect couple to me: she loved being a stay at home mother and he loved being the proverbial breadwinner for the family (he ran his own consulting firm). They raised three happy children, loved their grandchildren, but always took time for themselves, too. Sadly, my father passed away a year ago and not unexpectedly, my mother has taken it really hard. Since then, she hasn’t been able to find joy in life and seems to have pulled away completely. In many ways it feels like we lost both of them when Dad died. I’m wondering if there is any way to bring my mom back; we all miss her terribly. Thanks for any advice you can offer. Signed: Orphaned in Oregon

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Dear Orphaned: When a couple has enjoyed a long and happy marriage, it isn’t uncommon for the surviving spouse to have a difficult time adjusting to life alone. It can be especially hard for people with primary Earth personalities because long-term connections give meaning to their lives. And I think that’s basically what’s going on for your mother; as a stay at home mother of three there is no doubt in my mind that she is a primary Earth personality. And while the loss of a 48-year relationship will be hard for any of us, it can be especially devastating for an Earth person.

However, the flip side of the situation is that sometimes it can be easiest to bring Earth people back from the despair of loss if there are other deep and meaningful relationships still in their lives. These relationships can help them create a new version of how things were before their loss. Fortunately for your mother, it sounds like this is the case for her. She has loving children and grandchildren who clearly want her back in their lives on a regular basis, and that will help you a great deal.

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