Dear Vicki: Fran, a dear friend of the family, passed away almost three months ago. She was like an elderly aunt to me and my older sister Ruthie, and it has been hard for me to lose her. I’ve reached out to Ruthie to talk about it, but she apparently doesn’t want to. In hindsight, I can see that Ruthie never really wanted to talk about her feelings. We had a difficult relationship growing up and were very competitive as children. As we grew, I figured out that the easiest way to get along with Ruthie was to do things for her. I baked her favorite cookies, did some of her homework, and even knit her a scarf once. In short, I learned to hide it when I had strong opinions about something or really wanted to do something Ruthie didn’t. Now, I want to talk about Fran, but Ruthie will have none of it. I’m really frustrated about this because I think it’s time for me to be more of my real self around Ruthie. Why am I the one who has to change to get along? And how do I get Ruthie to talk to me about Fran? Signed: Disconnected Sister
Dear Disconnected: I wish I could offer you a magic wand to make Ruthie more willing to talk about her feelings, but honestly, I’m not sure that’s possible. Based on your description of her, I suspect that Ruthie is a primary Wood personality. And given that the two of you were really competitive as children, I think you may be, too. But you also appear to have Earth as a very strong secondary part of your personality. Given this, the interactions between you and Ruthie become somewhat predictable and definitely understandable. Let me explain.
The Wood personality deeply values accomplishment and personal achievement. When two Wood people get together, if they aren’t careful, they can lapse into competitive behavior, possibly even bringing out the worst in each other. I suspect that any conflict between you and Ruthie was very difficult for your secondary Earth personality to take because family harmony is really important to the Earth personality. To avoid conflict and create harmony, it sounds like you stepped into that Earth part of your personality more and more around Ruthie. And one way to demonstrate that would be to do nice things for her.
Dear Vicki: My sister Cate used to be a pretty trusting, optimistic person. Growing up, she always looked on the bright side of things and tended to see the good in life. She was, and still is, a bit of a loner, too. It was always clear she preferred reading or weaving over loud parties, and that hasn’t changed. Cate also has a soft spot for cats and is always taking in strays. She has a home studio as a decorator and I think they keep her company. I love my sister but have noticed over the years that she seems more likely to assume the worst in a given situation, rather than the best. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything anymore (except her six cats) and appears really frightened about what’s going on in the world these days. Is there any way I can help her return to some version of her trusting, optimistic self? Signed, Worried Sister
Dear Worried Sister: It’s understandable that you want to help Cate return to a happier state of being and there are definite ways you can do that. But first I want to suggest that, if you think it’s warranted, you encourage Cate to seek professional help. You will know if that’s necessary, so enough said, but it’s important to remember.
For now, let’s start by taking a look at Cate’s likely elemental personality. From your description, it’s pretty clear that Cate is a primary Water personality. Water people definitely tend to be loners with a keen awareness of their inner resources. This means that, when balanced, they usually trust that they can handle whatever life brings. Water people also view life through the filter of depth, so deep, profound issues (like world peace) matter a lot to them.
The fact that Cate has six cats and they are her only connections right now suggests that her secondary elemental personality is Earth. It is very likely that having six cats to take care of may have caused her to build her Earth energy to such a degree that it is negatively affecting the Water part of her personality. In the Five Elements model, Water and Earth relate on the Controlling Cycle, with Earth controlling Water. If the Earth part of her personality is over-energized from cat duty, it could have decreased the Water part of her personality to the point that she has lost the optimism and trust that comes with a balance Water personality.
Dear Vicki: A supervisor at my brother’s company is retiring in the spring and Jim has been asked to apply for his job. Jim thinks it’s a great idea: He’ll make more money and because it’s a supervisory position, he thinks he’ll also work fewer hours. My concern is that Jim is someone who has always loved starting things or making them better, and spends a lot of time in his current position doing just that. I really think the “hands-on” approach he takes now is what the company appreciates about him. But in a more supervisory position, I’m concerned that “hands-on” will be seen as interfering or controlling in a job where he’s just supposed to support ongoing operations. How do I talk him out of this change? Signed: Worried Sis
Dear Worried Sis: Jim is very lucky to have a sister who knows him so well. Your concerns are certainly justified, but there might be ways Jim’s time in the new job could be positive. Let’s take a look at his primary elemental personality and then consider the possible pros and cons of Jim taking the new position.
Based on your description, I suspect Jim is probably a primary Wood personality. Wood people are usually pretty hands-on in their work. They almost always see ways to improve things, too, and are excited (some might say impatient) about getting started. It takes a lot to talk a Wood personality out of a new project or improvement because they love the movement that comes with creating and manifesting almost anything. People often think that the Wood personality is never satisfied, but that’s not really it. Wood people just always see creative opportunity; it’s in their core wiring. A Wood person doesn’t look at something and think, “That sucks.” They look at something and think, “What if?” They really are visionaries.
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
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.
Dear Vicki: I like your blog but haven’t seen many questions from guys. Here’s one and I hope you can help me; I’m having a problem with my sister, Anita. I’m 24 and she’s 22 and we’ve been close most of our lives. We are both working our way up the corporate ladder, although in different companies, and months ago set up to go to a business seminar together in a nearby city. We planned to drive there and back with each other and make a whole day of it. I know I’d been looking forward to it, and I think Anita had, too. Well, last week she called and told me that while she will drive to the event with me, she’s going to go straight from it to a “girls only” party at a friend’s nearby cabin. Now, I’m a big boy and can certainly drive home alone, but it feels like she’s dumping me and part of our time together for something else, which sort of sucks. Signed, Dumped Dude
Dear Dumped Dude: It’s very interesting that both you and your sister would end up in business. And that you are both “working your way up the corporate ladder” implies that you must both be primary Wood personalities. Wood people do well in business and, given their emphasis on the future, are usually very focused on getting ahead. The big difference between you and Anita is in the secondary element of your personalities. Anita’s ability to quickly change plans, especially in the name of fun, suggests she has Fire as her secondary personality. Your hurt at her changing plans suggests you probably have Earth as your secondary personality.
It’s very understandable that you would feel dumped by your sister. Your Wood personality will have specific expectations for your time together with Anita and those expectations matter. Also, Wood is the planning element and honoring plans, once made, also matters a lot to Wood people. On the surface, it would seem that, as a fellow Wood, Anita should feel the same way. And at one level, she probably does. If you asked her, I’m sure she’d say that the time with you and your plans together are very important to her. So why did she change them slightly and why is it bothering you so much? The answer lies in the significant difference between your secondary elemental personalities.