Mother’s Death Leaves Her Brother Adrift

Dear Vicki: Our dear, sweet, loving mother passed away last year and it has been a tough road for our family. She was the glue that held us all together, but for my brother Arnold she was also a lifeline to reality. Arnold is in his early twenties, still lives at home, and never went to college. He is a quiet, sensitive guy who worked in a convenience store and loves photography and drawing comics. He could easily get lost in his art or watching superhero movies, often forgetting to eat or even get to work on time unless Mom reminded him. Since she’s been gone, Dad stays at his law office late and Arnold has lost his job. I have my own family now so can’t really move back home to help out. I think dad will be okay, but I’m really worried about Arnold. How can I help him? Signed: Sad Sister

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Dear Sad Sister: My condolences on your loss. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but it’s especially hard to lose a mom. Most mothers have a lot of Earth energy in their personalities – family and home sit in the Earth element – and they often are exactly what holds everyone together. Earth people love focusing on home and family, and making sure everyone’s needs are met. No doubt you all miss her love and affection, but Arnold is also missing more than that. He is missing the structure and boundaries that she would have provided for him because of the way they related on the Five Elements model.

It’s very likely that your brother is a Water personality.  Everything you said about him, and some things you didn’t, describe Waters perfectly. They are quiet and sensitive people, usually passionate about art or some other solitary endeavor, and not very interested in the type of learning that requires a structured environment like college or even a tech school. They do love to learn, but in their own way, on their own time. As you can tell, structure isn’t something Waters have an abundance of, or necessarily appreciate. In nature, if the two most structured elements attempt to structure water, it rarely goes well. Water will rust metal and rot wood. In nature, only sweet gentle earth can successfully provide structure for water in the form of riverbeds and shorelines. And it’s the same way with people and relationships.

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Jealousy: Can the Five Elements Help?

Dear Vicki: My high school daughter Sammie, who I think is an Earth, has a close friend who’s started comparing herself to several of their classmates. Sammie says Tracy is jealous of their friends who have better grades, cuter boyfriends, nicer cars, etc. She even told Sammie that she wished her mother was as nice as I am. Tracy has become more and more angry about the perceived inequities in her life and it’s threatening their friendship. Sammie feels like there’s a “boogeyman” affecting her previously nice friend. I’d like to offer Sammie suggestions on how to handle Tracy and wonder if the Five Elements might help. I’m assuming jealousy is a Wood thing, right? What can Sammie do to help Tracy out of this Wood place? Thank you. Signed, Wants to Help

Dear Wants to Help: It’s easy to assume that jealousy sits in Wood because success matters to Woods. However, cute boyfriends and nice cars can be a status thing, and status matters to Metals. And nicer parents would matter to an Earth because family connections sit in Earth. So, no, jealousy isn’t automatically a Wood thing. Jealousy can visits any element, but what creates jealousy will differ by element. We can all appreciate what someone else possesses, has accomplished, or the lifestyle they have created, but the strong emotion that’s behind jealousy is usually fueled by the priorities of our main element. For example:

Waters value time for study and discussion and the freedom to go with the flow. A Water who is over-committed or too busy might be jealous of someone who has more free time and less structure than they have.

Woods do value success and personal accomplishment. A Wood who finds themself unable to make things happen no matter how hard they try might be jealous of someone else’s phenomenal success or good luck.

Fires value attention and excitement in their lives. A Fire who is unable to maintain an active social schedule due to work commitments might be jealous of someone who does have the time to mix and mingle.

Earths value deep and lasting connections with people and the ability to spend time with them. An Earth who lives far away from close family and friends might be jealous of someone who lives near their loved ones.

Metals value being right and acknowledged for their wisdom. A Metal who did not win an appointment to a prestigious committee or council might be jealous of the colleague who was appointed.

Because Tracy is predominantly coveting externalized accomplishments (good grades, cute boyfriends, nice cars), it seems likely that your original assessment is correct: She is probably an out of balance Wood. And if she is expressing her jealousy in an angry fashion, you can assume she probably has too much Wood. Sammie can help by building Metal energy around Tracy because it’s Metal that helps prune back Wood. As her best friend, Sammie can encourage Tracy to wear white or give her a hematite crystal to wear, all of which will build her own Metal to address her abundance of Wood.

Sammie can also bring her own Metal by being logical in the face of Tracy’s complaints. Logic really is a good counter to out of balance Wood as long as it offers suggestions and counterpoints, not flat denials of whatever is bothering the Wood.

If Sammie and Tracy are able to balance Tracy’s Wood, she might well be able to take the necessary steps to help herself obtain better grades and cuter boyfriends; that level of accomplishment is not impossible for motivated and balanced Woods. Obviously, Tracy won’t be able to change her parents, but if she is more pleasant to be around, she might find that her family will be nicer toward her. She will certainly be back to being someone that Sammie enjoys again.

One last point: I’m sure you will monitor how all of this affects your daughter. There could be more contributing to Tracy’s problems than Sammie knows, so professional help might be needed for Tracy. Also, Tracy and Sammie relate on the Controlling Cycle, and it is Tracy’s Wood that controls Sammie’s Earth. If Sammie becomes less of her sweet Earth self, an indication that she is becoming deficient in Earth, she may need to step away from Tracy until things are better. This is a complicated issue, bit one thing is for sure: Sammie is lucky to have a wise mother who can help her dispel the “boogeyman.” Blessings to you!

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Metal Employee and Motherhood

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m having trouble with a woman who works for me. I run a small accounting firm where Greta has been a valued employee for eight years. I don’t know as much about the Five Elements as I do about accounting, but I suspect Greta is a Metal. She has been on time, thorough, precise, and steady the whole time she has worked for us. She also remembers birthdays and listens when people have problems, so is well liked in the firm. However, earlier this year Greta had her first child and since returning from maternity leave, she has made several minor mistakes in her work, seems preoccupied, and has allowed her desk to become more messy than usual. She has a major thing for sugar now, too, and actually brings cookies for the office. I’m concerned about this change as it has required me to be much more hands on than I used to be and I don’t like the distraction. I want to focus on innovations for our business. Is this a motherhood thing for Greta or something else? More importantly, will she ever get back to the stellar employee she once was? I’d hate to fire her, but it may come to that. Signed: Responsible in Rochester

Dear Responsible: You are facing a situation that many employers face when an employee becomes a mother: Things change. Greta has a new top priority now, which is her child. She also has hormones flooding her body that reinforce this shift in priorities. She is bound to be different, but that doesn’t mean she won’t remain a valuable employee. You don’t mention how long Greta has been back from maternity leave. If it’s only a few weeks, I suggest you cut her some slack a while longer. She is most likely running on fewer hours sleep than usual since babies wake often during the night. She is also trying to juggle the numerous demands associated with her changed family and still do an excellent job.

Excellence matters to Metals, as you have seen over the past eight years with Greta. And that hasn’t changed for her; she will still do her best for you. But you will need to give her time to make order out of the wonderful chaos her baby has added to her life. As a Metal, Greta will find the process and structure necessary to juggle her work and family life successfully because that’s what Metals do. They excel at creating a hierarchy that allows everything to work smoothly. However, right now Greta isn’t just a pure Metal. She is a Metal with a strong secondary Earth. Let me explain.

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Forgiveness: Which of the Five Elements Has It?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I recently made a terrible mistake that has created quite a rupture in my family. I’m a Fire and have a terrible time keeping secrets. Last Christmas, after a great deal of spiked eggnog, my sister Lisa confided to me that she’d had an affair several years ago when she and her husband were having a rocky time. They have since put things back together and are expecting their first child this fall. Lisa never told him and was wondering if she should admit to it now and ask forgiveness so they could start their family on a clean slate. But now I’m the one who needs forgiveness! At a family gathering last month, I’d had a bit too much champagne and let it slip to our mother about the affair. Mum confronted Lisa and now they are both very upset. It’s been weeks and neither has forgiven me. Mum is an Earth and Lisa is a Water, although she’s a lot like Mum, so maybe she has a secondary Earth? What can I do to gain forgiveness from these two? And which element forgives the easiest? Signed: Big Mouth

Dear Big Mouth: Well, you’ve gotten yourself into quite a pickle, haven’t you? Yes, Fires have notoriously poor boundaries at times, but that’s little comfort when you have betrayed the trust of someone close to you. It’s especially bad to betray the trust of a Water because trust sits in Water. So, is there anything you can do to obtain forgiveness? Yes. But to help you out here, I’m going to answer your second question first: Which element forgives the easiest?

The short answer is that each of the Five Elements can forgive. But how easily they forgive will depend on what they’re being asked to forgive. Each element has different priorities and goals in life, so it will matter whether the forgiveness being asked for involves something that is really important to that element. The closer the infraction strikes to the core of the element’s identity, the harder it will be to receive easy forgiveness. Let’s take a look at what will be easy and hard for each element to forgive.

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The Elements: Their Super Powers and Gifts

Dear Vicki: I love the Five Elements and have used them as a teaching tool with my daughter, Emma. She’s eleven now and understands that our elements can affect how we think and act. Yesterday, Emma and I were in the car and got stuck behind a slow truck. My Metal was fine going slowly until the truck could turn off, but in true Wood fashion, Emma was agitated about the progress we weren’t making. I suggested she practice patience, but instead, she shouted, “I hate being a Wood! We’re always in trouble!” I assured her that wasn’t the case and the issue passed, but it made me wonder if my Metal is affecting how I parent Emma. Also, could you please share what you consider to be the special aspects of Wood so that I can reinforce the positive parts for Emma instead of always seeming to reel her back. Thank you. Signed: Emma’s Mom

Dear Emma’s Mom: What a cool mom you are! It’s fantastic that you’ve taught Emma about the Five Elements. I’m happy to share what I consider to be the special aspects of Wood. In fact, I’ll provide what I call the super powers and gifts for each of the elements here. But I’ll start with your question regarding how your Metal might affect parenting a Wood daughter.

As you know, Metal and Wood relate on the Controlling Cycle. That means Metal will feel a deep internal drive to help keep Wood in check for it’s own good. In a way, that describes a basic goal of mothering: Keep the child safe. And keeping a little Wood safe is often much harder than keeping a little Water, Earth, or Metal safe. Only little Fires will be as prone to undertaking adventures as little Woods.

As a Metal mom, perhaps you’ve caught yourself pulling Emma back from something “for her own good.” And yet, remember that you will discern what you think is good for her through your Metal filter. Metals are more reasoned and discerning than Woods, so it’s right that you use your skill and gifts as a Metal to help guide Emma. However, Woods thrive on taking initiative and making things happen, which means you’ll need to make sure you’re allowing abundant opportunities for Emma to do that. For example, mountain climbing at eleven years old is probably a bad idea, but volunteering for a local charity, planting flowers for seniors, or starting a dog-walking business are all activities that will feed Emma’s need to manifest. Remember that Woods need action and movement, which by definition, may not always seem safe to a Metal.

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