Dear Vicki: I’ve been dating an artist for three months and we’re really good together in many ways. Obviously, Craig’s creative, but he’s also very mellow and not overly fussy. We have great discussions and he takes my opinions seriously, which is a refreshing change. I’m having trouble getting people at work to take my suggestions seriously. It’s really frustrating; like I’m talking, but they don’t hear me, so I’m not getting ahead quickly. Anyway, I like Craig a lot, but there is something about him that’s really hard to take. If he says he’ll call on Monday, he might not call until Wednesday. Or if he’s supposed to pick me up at 6:00 pm, sometimes he doesn’t show up until 7:00 pm. This makes me angry. How can I get Craig to change without spoiling what we have? Signed, Angry in Annapolis
Dear Angry in Annapolis: It’s encouraging that you and Craig are doing so well given how very different your tendencies are. You like punctuality, he’s more go with the flow, and both of these can be traced back to your primary elemental personalities. So, let’s take a look at what those might be.
You’re frustrated at work by the fact that no one acknowledges you and you aren’t getting ahead quickly. This is really typical of a primary Wood personality. And Craig, as a mellow artist who loves discussions, seems to be pretty stereotypically a primary Water personality. As you have discovered, there are some pretty significant differences between these two elemental personalities, as well as definite issues associated with each.
Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my partner Lizzie. We’ve run a small auction business for several years and have done really well. I love seeing what comes in and the challenge of researching its history. I run our office, but Lizzie literally runs the auctions. She is engaging, outgoing, funny, and makes running the events look easy. Or at least she used to. Our auction house burned down several months ago and while I took it philosophically—that’s what insurance is for—Lizzie was devastated. I’ve done everything I can think of to get her to see things the way I do, but nothing I’ve said or done has perked her up. Not even breaking ground for our new building. It’s like she’s really burned out or something and the more I try to help her, the worse she gets. I’m fine doing this alone, but I miss Lizzie’s sunshine. How can I help her get enthusiastic again? Signed, Gloomy in Glendale
Dear Gloomy: I’m so sorry about the fire. It’s surely a traumatic event for both of you, but based on your primary elemental personalities, it is probably something that will be easier for you to get over than for Lizzie. But there are ways for each of you to heal, so let’s look at your primary elemental personalities and see what we can do.
The fact that you manage the details of the business, love to research the history of the pieces that come in, and have approached the fire in a philosophic fashion makes me suspect that you are a primary Metal personality with a secondary Water personality. The Metal part of your personality will absolutely love the history of the pieces you sell because Metal people tend to appreciate the past. And no elemental personality does details like the Metal personality. However, your philosophic approach to the fire and loss is something we often see in the Water personality. Water people care less about things and more about ideas and meaning. You don’t mention it, but it wouldn’t be out of character for the Water part of your personality to wonder what the meaning was behind the fire or why the fire happened at all.
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.
Dear Vicki: I need help with my best friend who has really changed. Tammy and I have been close since grade school, but things are really different since she got married. She used to be a real carefree kind of girl, but when she started dating Fred, that changed. They just got married (I thought it was too soon, we’re all only 19), but they say they’re in love. Anyway, Fred is a super-serious person (personally, I think he’s a boring, demanding snob) and I’m afraid he’s changing Tammy. She’s withdrawn from me and seems cold and critical. I’ve only been invited over to their new apartment once. The Five Elements model is new to me (my mom shared it with me), but since Tammy is a great artist (and sometimes moody), maybe she’s a Water? Mom says I’m an Earth. Can you help me get my best friend back? Signed: Lonely in Louisiana
Dear Lonely:The transition from childhood to adulthood is rarely easy. I agree with you that 19 years old seems young to make the serious commitment of marriage, but I know dozens of couples that married young and grew old together. I also know many young couples that were unable to make marriage work and simply grew apart as they continued growing up. It’s understandable that you will feel “displaced” as Tammy’s closest connection now that she’s married; that is also part of growing up. However, if we are wise, we don’t replace people in our life when we marry, we make room for more. Hopefully, Tammy will learn this, but until then I do think there is something specific you can do to try to re-establish your connection with Tammy, who does sound like a Water person.
When we marry, we combine our energies with the energies of our new spouse. That means that Tammy’s Water is constantly in touch with Fred’s Metal. The good news for Tammy is that she and Fred relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with Fred’s Metal feeding Tammy’s Water. That probably feels pretty good to her and might be one aspect of her attraction to him. Interestingly, you and Fred also relate on the Nurturing Cycle, but it is your Earth that feeds his Metal, which could feel like a drag to you and be a reason you find him demanding. Another reason he might bother you – other than the fact that you feel he has come between you and your best friend – is that out of balance Metals can seem snobby and controlling, especially if they are in an excess energy place. Too much energy makes Metals inflexible and dismissive. How Tammy handles that is between her and Fred, but let’s look at what you can do to reconnect with Tammy.
Dear Vicki: I’m familiar with the Five Elements model and how the elements keep each other in balance by either giving energy or taking it away. And in the model, that makes sense. But when that gets applied to people, I don’t understand how controlling someone can be good. My husband is an Earth and I’m a Water, so this means his Earth controls my Water. But I can tell you from personal experience, things don’t feel that good sometimes. Can you please give some real life examples of Water/Earth Controlling Cycle relationships that are positive? Thank you. Signed: Confused About Control
Dear Confused: This is an excellent question! Most people have a negative reaction to the idea of being controlled and that’s certainly come up in several of these blog posts over the years. Cutting something back doesn’t seem good because in our Western culture we often live by the maxim, “Bigger is better!” But in the East, where the Five Elements model originated thousands of years ago, a condition of too much is just as bad as a condition of too little. Said another way, inherent in the Five Elements model is the truth that bigger is usually not better. Instead, when there is too much of any element, it is necessary and good for the whole to reduce that element to help retain balance. And in the abstraction of the model, the element is happy to be reduced so that the whole can remain balanced.
When applying this to people, we usually don’t like being reduced, especially in the West with our “more is always better than less” approach to life. But still, when we are stressed, there are times that someone stepping in to guide, protect, cool down, relax, or counterbalance us is good. And these are all aspects of what one element can do for another in a Controlling Cycle relationship.