Where Did Her Happiness Go?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing with a question regarding how I relate to myself. I’m hoping you can help. Over the past several years I’ve turned into a crabby person. I’m not that old, but I seem to have lost a lot of joy in my life, especially as it relates to the holidays. They are over now, and I’m happy about that, but I just never found the holiday spirit. I remember even 15 years ago I could sit with a cup of tea and feel the blessings of the season. Now, they are just one big whirl of anxious activity and sadly, pretty empty or meaningless. They are busy times, but as I’ve climbed the corporate ladder at the consulting firm where I work, the holidays and other times that used to be fun, magical, or even just happy don’t seem that way anymore. Is this part of growing up, or growing old? And can I change it back? Signed: Empty in Edgewater

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Dear Empty: Your letter probably could have been written by half the people in the United States. It’s a common problem that comes from believing we can/should/need to do it all. This tendency is especially strong in people with a primary Wood personality, and it sounds to me like that might be the case for you. Wood people do believe at some level that they can do it all. They carry the motive power and manifestation directive of Spring energy. That’s the energy that allows tender leaves to burst through tough bark, or crocuses to emerge from the snow. At some level, Wood personalities see everything as a personal challenge, one they are determined to meet. Climbing the corporate ladder is a perfect example, but it isn’t just about work. Creating a perfect holiday season – or the ultimate vacation – can also be taken up as a worthy challenge. Do it all, and do it better than anyone, often describes Woods who have taken on so much they are out of balance. Success will always matter to Wood people, but the wise ones know that balance in all things is important. I think losing sight of that truth may be what’s tripping you up.

No one human being can do it all, all the time, but the Wood personality will try. In doing so, they build up more of that “can do” aspect of their personality to a point that it becomes unbalanced. If we look at the Five Elements model, remember that Wood relates to the other four elements in the following manner:

  1. Wood feeds Fire, so too much Wood can lead to too much Fire, which can lead to more activity and anxiety than normal.
  2. Wood controls Earth, which can lead to less Earthiness, which is where home, family, and often holiday enjoyment sits.
  3. Wood is controlled by Metal, meaning it is Metal’s job to make sure that the level of Wood energy doesn’t get too high. But too much Wood for too long can deplete Metal as it continuously tries to manage Wood. This can lead to a loss of the logic needed to move rationally through life.
  4. Wood is fed by Water, and the more Wood there is the more energy it will demand from Water. This often depletes Water, which can affect our ability to connect with joy, wonder, and fun.

So over the long haul, if this pattern isn’t changed one can end up with too much Wood, too much Fire, and not enough Earth, Metal, or Water. A good image for this might be the hysterical bull in a china shop! For you, the end result is pretty much what you described in your letter: a sense of needing to do more (too much Wood energy), anxiety (too much Fire), emptiness around the holidays (not enough Earth energy to feel the connections), little meaning (this usually comes from Metal wisdom) and no peace and magic (both have strong representation in Water). Bottom line: you have worked yourself to a place that your Wood personality is out of balance, which really just means that your relationship to yourself is out of balance. But no worries, there are ways to address that.

First and foremost, you need to examine your workaholic ways, which are often a trademark of the Wood personality. The good news is that Wood people usually have a great deal of structure, so setting better boundaries for yourself will probably be something you can do. Create “work times” and “non-work times” and stick to it. The other personality that has lots of structure is Metal, and since Metal energy is what helps “prune” too much Wood energy, it will be important that you get very logical, rational, and strict about your new schedule, all attributes of the Metal personality.

In addition, to help balance you out you need more of what the Earth and Water personalities have to offer. Earth people love time with close friends and family, something that usually happens more around the holidays. Perhaps your busy schedule didn’t allow as much holiday connecting as you wanted (or needed), so start connecting more now. Spend time with close family and friends, or even just more time at home. And to build more Water energy, you can use some of that time at home to read, color (FYI, adult coloring books are excellent at tapping into Water energy), or even just listen to music. Not only will these activities help build Water energy, but that extra Water energy will help balance the too much Fire state you find yourself in right now.

As all of these aspects of your personality come into better balance, I think you will find that you become less anxious, more accepting, wiser, and even more playful. But don’t worry, you will never lose the strength of your Wood “make it happen” personality. It will always be your primary, it just needs help from all the others. And now is the perfect time to start. We are in winter here in the northern hemisphere, which is Water time, a time of new beginnings. Ride that energy to balance now so that when spring hits, which is Wood time, you will be balanced, happy, and ready to take on the world in a wonderful new way! Blessings to you!

girl happiness

Brother’s New Girlfriend Overwhelming the Family

Dear Vicki: My brother’s wife pasted away two years ago and he really took it hard. It was like the light and joy went out of his life; my funny and outgoing brother became somber and cynical. He used to be the life of the party, but for a while he was pretty morose. Then several months ago, he finally begun dating and recently brought a woman (I’ll call her Hanna) to a family birthday party. We wanted to be excited for him, but Hanna was unpleasantly pushy and opinionated. Most members of my family are elementary school teachers, so we enjoy harmonious environments when not working, but this party ended up far from congenial. Hanna disagreed with my mother about when to start cooking a casserole (Mom is an excellent cook!) and questioned another sibling’s opinion about a movie. I think my brother could tell things weren’t going well because he stopped joking around halfway through the evening, then he and Hanna left early. I want my brother to be happy, but if Hanna is going to be part of the family, how are we ever going to get along? Signed, Overwhelmed in Ohio

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Dear Overwhelmed: It’s good news that your brother has started dating again. The loss of a loved one is a difficult event to get over, and it can be especially hard for someone with a Fire personality like your brother. Fire people thrive on fun and excitement, but when they suffer a loss, their Fire quite literally goes out and it can take some time for the joy to come back. It isn’t surprising that Hanna was the person that relit his Fire, either. In the Five Elements model, the element that feeds (and therefore builds) Fire on the Nurturing Cycle is Wood, and Hanna is clearly a Wood personality. Wood energy is outgoing and accomplishment-driven which often makes Wood people seem pushy and opinionated.

On the other hand, I think you and many of your family members are Earth personalities. Earth people make great teachers, they revel in peace and harmony, and a loved one’s happiness will always matter. However, Earth relates to Wood on the Controlling Cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. That means that a room full of Earths could well feel overwhelmed by Hanna’s Wood energy. It’s no wonder that many of you were uncomfortable.

As far as all of you getting along with Hanna, that may be a non-issue because it’s quite possible your brother’s new relationship won’t last very long. Too much Fire for a constant length of time can literally burn out a Wood. If that happens, Hanna will most likely move on to calmer relationships. However, if the Fire doesn’t get too crazy, Woods can enjoy the upbeat atmosphere of life with a Fire, so Hanna could be around for the long haul. But don’t worry, there are ways for you to get along with Hanna and, who knows, maybe even like her!

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