Wood Hates New Brother-in-Law, But Is It Her Fault?

Dear Vicki: My younger sister Pam recently married a guy she’s madly in love with who she met at college. Brad’s controlling, opinionated, and frankly, totally boring, which is so the opposite of Pam. She’s funny and outgoing; we used to have such great times together. And now, I really don’t know what she sees in him. Brad’s in law school and for Pam’s sake, I hope he does well. Anyway, the problem I’m having is that at family gatherings, when Brad asks me how work is going (I’m a marketing specialist for a large outdoor gear firm), I feel a need to justify everything: why I have that job, how well the company is doing, when I might get promoted, etc. It’s ridiculous and I really think I’m growing to hate him. Whenever he asks me anything I feel like there’s such judgment behind his question. I’ve mentioned this to my mother and she says I’m over-reacting. I don’t think so because it feels so real. But maybe I am. Is the dynamic between us my fault? If so, what can I do? I don’t want to hurt Pam. Signed: Angry in Alaska

Dear Angry: When we have an immediate negative reaction to someone, it’s rarely anyone’s fault. That kind of thing usually occurs due to energy interactions because there hasn’t been time to get to know the person well enough to dislike them. In your case, you have had time to get to know Brad well enough to have an opinion about him, so there are several reasons you might be having problems with him. As Pam’s older sister, you might not think Brad is good enough for her. You might also be slightly jealous that he has become a priority in her life, leaving less time for you and Pam to share the “great times” you used to have. You might hate lawyers. The possibilities are endless. But I believe there is always an energetic component to our relationships, so let’s take a look at what might be going on between you and Brad.

You don’t mention what the primary elements might be of the people involved, but from what you’ve shared we can make a pretty good guess. Given your occupation and the fact that you are angry about Brad (rather than sad, depressed, etc.), I suspect you’re a Wood. Marketing, sales, promotional activities, etc. require an ability to plan and look toward the future, and the future is the realm of Wood. Also, when stressed or upset, Woods typically go to anger or frustration. So it’s a pretty safe bet that you are a Wood. Pam is probably a Fire. Funny and outgoing is the trademark of most Fires. Also, they can be a bit dramatic, so being “madly in love” would also fit a Fire. And Brad, well, my guess is that he’s a Metal. Law school, probing questions, opinionated, these all fit Metal. And given this mix of characters, it’s easy to see what’s happening.

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An Interesting Twist: Earth Controlling Wood?

Dear Vicki: This may seem like a petty issue, but my sister is driving me crazy. We run a successful restaurant together – I’m the business manager and she’s the chef – but she just can’t get things done quickly. She’s a fantastic cook, and very creative in how she has decorated the place, but she takes forever planning menus, deciding on new china or wallpaper, or even leaving at night when we close the restaurant. We live near each other so travel together, and at night she must run back into the building at least three times to check if she started soaking this or turned off that. I love the restaurant and my sister, but she’s driving me nuts. It’s clear she’s an Earth, and I’m a Wood, which means that I’m on her Controlling Cycle, right? So why is she the one controlling me, and what can I do about it? Signed Not Really in Charge:

Dear Not Really: This is an interesting challenge for you. Yes, you and your sister do relate on the Controlling Cycle where it is your Wood that controls her Earth. But while you’re the manager of the restaurant, which is very important, people usually come to a restaurant to enjoy the food and ambiance, which is your sister’s bailiwick. Your normal Wood desire to charge forward on everything will, by necessity, be restrained by the fact that she is the guiding light for the important parts of the restaurant, at least the parts that matter to your patrons. In this way, she can, and probably does, control your behavior. And it’s no surprise you don’t like it. Woods really don’t like to be controlled.

The good news for you is that this joint venture with your sister is successful – clearly you’re doing a lot right. Even more good news is that you and your sister have found professions that suit each of you well. Earths usually love cooking and Woods are usually excellent managers. The bad news is that you are unhappy and frustrated. So let’s look at that in a way that will make sense to you.

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Metal Sister Blocks Hawaiian Holiday

(Dear Readers: This is another popular post from three years ago. With so much hot weather lately, I suspect thoughts of December are welcome!) 

Dear Vicki: The holidays are approaching and I recently had a very frustrating conversation with my sister, who I am pretty sure is a Metal. We are both married with children and have always had Christmas dinner together since we were children. This year, my family has the opportunity to go to Hawaii for Christmas to stay in a friend’s timeshare for free. We live in a cold climate and this would be fantastic for my family. However, my sister is very upset at me for even considering doing something different for Christmas than we have done for years, which I think is quite unreasonable on her part and is making me angry. What should I do? Signed, Hoping for Hawaii

Dear Hoping for Hawaii, First let me say I think it’s amazing that you’ve managed to spend every Christmas dinner with your sister since you were children. What about your  respective spouses’ families? Have they never had Christmas dinner with you? My Wood fairness hopes that it’s just a matter of everyone living in the same town so that holiday time is equally shared with both sets of relatives. But that’s not the problem you wrote in about, so let’s talk about your dilemma.

I do believe you are correct in your assessment – your sister definitely sounds like a Metal. Traditions are very important to Metals, and for good reason. They have the ability to look back across the cycles and see what has worked and what hasn’t. And to a Metal, if something is working, why would anyone in their right mind want to change it? You don’t mention what your element is, but the fact that you think she is “quite unreasonable” and is “making you angry” suggests that you are probably a Wood. Since Metal and Wood relate via the Controlling Cycle (metal chops wood), her insistence on following traditions likely feels stifling to your sense of excitement in planning something different.

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Wood Friend Green with Envy

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because my good friend Jessie has recently started complaining a lot about her sister. The sister has a new job and according to Jessie, she never calls her anymore, won’t do her share at family gatherings, seems snobby, etc. I know her sister and she’s a kind and very logical person, so suspect this isn’t true. I also know that Jessie lost her job a few years ago and while she’s told me she loves the free time, I’m wondering if Jessie is jealous of her sister’s new job. I’m pretty sure Jessie is a Wood (she managed a big box store), and I have no idea what her sister is. Maybe a Metal? Her new job is with a financial firm. Is there a specific element that gets jealous? And how can I help Jessie? Signed, The Sounding Board

Dear Sounding Board: First, Jessie is very lucky to have you in her life. We all need people to listen to us and I think what’s happening for Jessie is that she’s processing how she feels about the fact that she doesn’t have a job anymore and now her sister does. This is sure to cause Jessie to re-live the loss of her own job and probably re-evaluate whether the free time has been the great opportunity she thinks it is. And if Jessie is a Wood, this won’t be a pleasant experience for her because Woods don’t like looking back; life is all about the future and moving forward for them. As Jessie ponders her sister’s new job, she is likely to see it as an indication that her sister is successfully moving forward while she is not. Personal accomplishment matters a great deal to Woods and in our culture accomplishment is usually tied to our occupation. This is especially true for Woods.

Further, if Jessie’s sister is a Metal, it will make the whole dynamic even more unpleasant for Jessie because Metal relates to Wood on the Controlling Cycle. Even without words, Jessie will feel a subtle sense of being controlled by her sister because that’s what Metal does to Wood. Because anything that causes a Wood to feel held back or stuck is viewed as a problem, this could be the dynamic prompting Jessie’s inaccurate criticism of her sister. We’ve all had times when we feel unhappy and projecting the blame onto something other than ourselves, be that another person, a situation, a lost opportunity, etc.

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After a Misunderstanding, Wood Brother is Hiding

Dear Vicki: I’m having trouble with my brother, Sam. We’re both adults – he’s a successful attorney and I’m a nurse – but he’s acting like a spoiled child. Last month was our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and at my suggestion, their children (me, Sam, and our two brothers) all chipped in to send them on a cruise. The night before they left, we had dinner together and I brought a small “bon voyage” gift for Mom and Dad. Well, Sam didn’t like that. He accused me of trying to make him look bad, currying favor with our parents, and several other less choice motives, which really hurt my feelings. Of course, I was just trying to honor our parents, but Sam refuses to believe me. I’ve reached out to him, but this time he won’t return my calls. He’s divorced, so I can’t ask his wife for help now, either. It breaks my heart to have this rift with him. Why is he like this, and what can I do? Signed: Sad Sister

Dear Sad Sister: It was very thoughtful of you and your siblings to send your parents on a cruise for their anniversary. I hope they had a fantastic time.

I’m sorry about the problems with Sam, but your comment that “this time” he won’t return your calls suggests it isn’t the first time you two have had an issue like this. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising. While you don’t mention what elements you are, it’s likely that you’re an Earth. The fact that the cruise was your idea, your thoughtfulness in bringing a bon voyage gift, and your heartbreak at a “rift” with a sibling all suggest you live life through a filter where personal connections are very important. Helping people also matters a lot to Earths, and few of us on the planet help people more than nurses do.

Sam, on the other hand, is clearly not an Earth. Lawyers usually have a great deal of Wood or Metal, depending on whether they’re corporate or trial attorneys. Success matters to both, but Woods will usually personalize the success more than Metals. The anger that Sam is expressing also suggests that he’s more Wood than Metal. Metals like to be honored, of course, but Woods want to look good in front of people. As a Wood, if stressed or out of balance, Sam could easily have construed your sweet departure gift as an attempt to make him look bad, something Woods can’t stand. The idea that you would “curry favor” at his expense carries a sense of competition, which is also much more of a button-pusher for Woods than Metals. A Metal usually knows his own worth and can detach from the challenge. But out of balance Woods will often rise to anything they perceive as bait in order to prove themselves.

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