Sisters Clash Working Together

Dear Vicki: My sister started a business a few years ago helping people de-clutter their homes. Shelley’s brilliant at it, too; nothing is out of place in her house and not a single drawer is jammed full of stuff. As a stay at home mom with older children and time on my hands, I started helping out by answering phones and filing. At first it was fun working together, but recently it seems that nothing I do is good enough for Shelley. She doesn’t like the notes I leave about phone calls (too rambling), the way I file (not consistent), or even the clothes I wear to her office (not professional). It’s really put pressure on our relationship. We’re about to re-open after the pandemic and I’m wondering if I should just quit. But her business has really grown and she needs the help. Plus, she’s my sister; I can’t just walk away. What should I do? Signed: Not Good Enough 

celtic logo

Dear Not Good Enough: Ah, sisters! They’re family, but usually different. And you two are really different in some very important ways! I suspect that you are a primary Earth personality and your sister Shelley is a primary Metal personality. Earth people love helping others, especially family. And it was clearly a Metal personality who wrote the old proverb: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” (Actually, the proverb was written by Benjamin Franklin who I completely believe was a Metal personality!)

The good news is that you and your sister relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model, which is the big circle in the model below. This means, by definition, your connection should feel supporting. The challenge is that it is Earth that feeds Metal on the Nurturing Cycle, so Shelley will feel more supported by your relationship than you will. Also, because Shelley’s a Metal personality, she may well expect your support. Metal people often feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world for Earth people to cater to their every whim. And in some ways, it is. Earth personalities not only love helping and taking care of people, they love being needed. However, in the current situation, your sister’s Metal tendencies and how they contrast with your Earth tendencies seem to be creating some friction, so let’s see what can be done to bring harmony back to the family.

The Five Elements Model

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One Metal Mother, Two Faces

Dear Vicki: My mother passed away right before Christmas, so we waited until last month to have her memorial. It was a beautiful service, but I was fascinated by the fact that my sister, who is five years younger, and I had very different perceptions of my mother. I found her to be exacting, somewhat aloof, and critical much of the time. My sister remembers her as loving, nurturing, and kind. How is that possible? I’m new to an understanding of the Five Elements, but I have to believe my mother was a Metal; she worked her whole life as a tax accountant. My sister is probably an Earth since she is a full-time mom now and was an elementary teacher before she married. I’m really not sure about my element, but reading what you’ve said about others, I guess I’m a Wood. I like getting things done, enjoy success, and can rub people the wrong way. Can the Five Elements explain why Jessica and I had such different experiences with our mother? Honestly, I’m upset that I never had the mom she did and now it’s too late. Signed: Baffled in Buffalo

Dear Baffled: The Five Elements absolutely can explain why you and Jessica had such different experiences growing up, but first let me offer my condolences on the loss of your mother. It’s never easy to lose our moms, no matter what kind of relationship we had with them. My hope is that the discussion here might offer you a different perspective on your mother and help you heal from your loss.

Since you have some experience with the Five Elements, you know that you and your mother related on the Controlling Cycle (Metal controls Wood). However, your sister and your mother related on the Nurturing Cycle (Earth feeds Metal). This dynamic alone is part of why the two of you would have experienced your mom differently. That your mother was a Metal also contributes to the fact that she would not have  mothered each of you the same. And finally, the age difference between you and Jessica could have been a factor, as well. But let’s start with an understanding of your mother as a Metal parent.

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