Dear Vicki: Max and I have been close friends since childhood. We met at a child’s reading event at the local library when we were 9 years old and bonded over the books. Growing up, Max was a quiet, go with the flow kind of guy and I was a quiet, go with the flow kind of girl. We hung out a lot. But during college, Max really started to change. The first Christmas vacation back home we went to a poetry reading together (Max loved to write poetry), but he seemed cold and withdrawn. I wondered what was going on, but he never mentioned any problems at school, so I never asked. But by the time we graduated from college last year, Max was a different person. These days, his easy-going nature is completely gone and he’s become very precise and rigid. What happened to my old Max? I don’t know if it will help, but I’m a children’s librarian and Max is a computer programmer. Signed: Missing Max
Dear Missing Max: Childhood is a wonderful time of imagination, play, and discovery. As we’ve said here many times, regardless of our primary elemental personality, we all use a great deal of Water energy during childhood. If we are also a primary Water personality, our love of books, going with the flow, creativity, and the other aspects of the Water personality will stay with us as we grow.
However, if the Water personality aspects we manifest during childhood change as we grow, it is possible that our primary elemental personality really wasn’t Water, we were just in the Water phase of life. It’s also possible that the changes we manifest as we grow are because we have learned to lead with a different elemental personality for any number of reasons, even though our primary personality was, and still is, Water. And I think that might be what has happened for your friend, Max.
Dear Vicki: The Winter Solstice is approaching and that means the start of winter. I hate it! The dark and cold always make me very unhappy, but my sister (a writer) loves December: The darker and colder, the better for her. I think she’s crazy, but how can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elemental personalities? I have no clue what mine is, but I sure hate winter! Signed: Hates the Cold and Dark
Dear Hates the Cold and Dark: Winter Solstice does indeed herald the start of winter in the northern hemisphere; December, January and February are usually the coldest months here. But within the Five Elements model, the Winter Solstice represents a pause in the year-long journey from longest day to longest night, then back again. December 21st is the shortest day of the year, and thus the longest night. Beginning the next day, the nights shorten and the days lengthen. So if you hate the dark, Winter Solstice is actually good news for you because beginning December 22nd, the days get longer. But the cold? Well, that’s around for several more months.
To answer your question, how we respond to a particular time of year absolutely can have to do with our elemental personality, especially since – as we have mentioned in previous posts – each elemental personality has a seasonal affiliation. On the surface of things, it seems logical that each personality would resonate positively with their own season, and that can be true, but it isn’t always so straightforward. If someone’s primary element is unbalanced in their personality expression, they may not do well with their own season. Let’s look at how this might work and perhaps you will recognize yourself in one of these elemental personality descriptions.
Dear Vicki: I’m moving into a house on a lake that absolutely needs redecorating and I’ve always found that I have a strong relationship to the colors around me. The colors of my walls seem to either energize or deplete me and I’m wondering if this might have something to do with the Five Elements. For example, sitting in a beige space really bottoms me out; I feel like a sad, limp noodle. But brighter colors seem to energize me. I’m drawn to greens, yellows, reds, purples, even lavender. Anything but pastels, especially pale blues and grays! My question is, when decorating a space, are there certain colors that are best to use based on one’s primary elemental personality? I’m a pretty outgoing person who loves joking, summer fun, and being in the center of activity. I think this means I’m probably a primary Fire personality. What colors would be best for me to use in this new house? Signed: Rainbow Lady
Dear Rainbow Lady: This is an excellent question and the short answer is yes, the colors we surround ourselves with will absolutely affect us based on our primary elemental personality. The geography of where we live will have an effect on us, too. Living near water, like a lake or the ocean, will impact us, as will living in a desert or on a mountain. Returning to colors, our relationship with any given color will depend on our primary elemental personality and the element that the color in question corresponds to in the Five Elements model. So, let’s take a look at how this might work for you.
It does sound like you’re a primary Fire elemental personality: Fire people are usually very outgoing, love to laugh and tell jokes, enjoy being the center of attention, and are rarely fazed by speaking to large crowds or appearing onstage. You will want to select colors that interact positively with your Fire, and that’s where the Five Elements model will help us out. There are two aspects of the model that will be important here: the colors associated with each of the elements and the relationship between each of the elements.
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
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.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing because my husband and I have run out of ways to help motivate our son James. He is 12 years old, musically talented, and loves photography and drawing houses. Currently, James wants to be an architect, photographer or a musician. The problem is that he has lots of ideas, but rarely puts anything into action. It’s like he gets stuck at the starting point and can’t get going. Not surprisingly, he struggles with his schoolwork and getting organized. He daydreams a lot and we constantly need to remind what he should be doing. Sometimes we even have to sit with him to make sure he gets things done. We had him tested and while the results came back in the normal range, we still need to make lists for him regarding what needs to get done each day. Fortunately, he’s an only child so we do have the time to focus on him. I work part time as an accountant and my husband is a computer designer, writer, and programmer. What will it take to help James accomplish things and succeed? Signed: Weary and Worried in Washington
Dear Weary and Worried: It is very understandable why you are worried about your son’s apparent inability to accomplish things. We have an accomplishment-driven culture these days that readily equates success with manifestation: What have we done lately? And while this works well for several of the elemental personalities, not all of them will thrive or feel comfortable in this kind of environment. I think that may be part of the issue for James.
Your description of him perfectly fits that of the primary Water personality. Water people definitely dream and create, and sometimes their act of creation produces a physical manifestation like a painting, photograph, or drawing of a house. But Water people often don’t have the structure to stay with projects long enough to actually manifest something that is not an act of creation itself. This includes chores, uninspiring homework, etc. And while manifestation starts with an idea or a dream, in most cases it needs to be brought down to the physical to be real.