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"Summers with Jim have been a dream; I feel free, funny, and in love with everything. But when school starts, I throw myself into teaching and our relationship takes a 180-degree turn. I do love him and want it to work between us for a long time, but why do I stop loving him every Fall?"...

"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 ever be good."...

“I’m writing about my older sister. We always did things together, but ever since she married a few years ago, she doesn’t have time for me. We still live in the same town, but now she’s “too busy” to go to the park or even meet for coffee outdoors.”...

Dear Readers: Over the years, in addition to questions regarding relationships, as a naturopathic physician I’ve been asked about a variety of other issues. Questions regarding physical concerns, certainly, but also emotional, mental, and even spiritual issues, as well. And in truth, they are relationships questions because they address how we relate to ourselves and our world. The answers to these questions are usually short and sweet, but also rational and logical. And of course, they are grounded in the Five Elements model! The information seems more important now than ever before, so I’d like to share some of these with you here. Question: I seem to have a lot of negative thoughts lately. What can I do? Answer: Rub lemon oil behind both ears, then rub your hands together and inhale the fragrance slowly for at least one minute. Do this daily. Why: Mental energy is deeply impacted (some might even say “governed”) by the Metal element. Because Metal energy can be so mental, that’s where we need to work if we have negative thoughts. For people with a lot of Metal energy in their personality – or people who tend to live in their heads a lot – it can be really important to keep Metal energy balanced. Lemon oil works to balance the Metal element. When unbalanced, Metal energy can become critical, negative, inflexible, or controlling. When Metal energy is balanced, it vibrates at a higher frequency and is reasonable, logical, rational, and wise. There is a lot going on these days that stresses the Metal desire to have things done the right way, so using lemon oil daily will not only help with negative thoughts, it will help maintain the processes so important to the Metal elemental personality. Stay safe and well, Vicki...

"My mother passed away last winter, but we waited until this summer so we could have her memorial service and sharing outside. It was a beautiful service, but I was fascinated by the fact that my younger sister Jessica had very different perceptions of my mother than I did. I’m upset that I never had the mom my sister did and now it’s too late."...

"Dear Vicki: I know these are difficult times for many people, but the chaos became personal for me last month when the art gallery where I’ve worked for 20 years was sold. As an artist and homemaker, I so appreciated that the previous owner was a kind, gentle soul who ran a gallery that allowed for the joy of discovering art to steal over his patrons in a quiet way. But he retired and the new owner, Mr. Miller, is a bombastic man who thinks he needs to hit people over the head with ads, promotions, and events to increase attendance. The chaos he creates on a daily basis terrifies me. What can I do?"...

"Dear Vicki: One of my employees constantly gives me trouble. He’s impossible to keep in line. Whenever we have a plan in place, without asking he will change it on the fly. Without permission, he comes dressed in a clown costume to entertain the seniors we serve. I have reminded him of our guidelines dozens of times, and he seems surprised and contrite, but nothing changes."...

"Dear Vicki: My sister and I have been pretty close most of our lives. But we’ve taken very different paths. I went to college, then accepted a managerial position with a local bank. Genni worked as a nurse’s aide, which she loved. Several years ago, Genni married an accountant named John and it’s been a good marriage for her. Early on I realized that my brother-in-law was a controlling, opinionated person and have dealt with that for Genni’s sake. However, almost a year ago, John’s mother (another very opinionated person) became quite ill and moved in with Genni and John. Since then, Genni has really changed."...

"I’m having trouble with my brother-in-law, Tom, and I hope you can help me understand why. He’s a loud, joking, frustrating kind of guy who is always “on,” no matter what is happening. Honestly, I don’t know how my sister stands it. Tom is never quiet and it’s absolutely exhausting to be around him. I actually enjoyed it when things were locked down due to Covid because I had limited connection with Tom. But now that things are opening up, he’s back in my life and I hate it. But my sister loves him, so I need to do something."...

"To honor the anniversary of America’s declared intent to be an independent nation based on democratic principles, I would like to share a brief summary of how important each elemental personality was to the creation of America. Enjoy!"...

"Sugar cravings sit in the Earth element of the Five Elements model. That’s where our grounding sits, too. With all that’s going on these days, it’s easy to feel stressed and ungrounded. For people with a lot of Earth energy, a little bit of sugar can sometimes help. But remember, too much sugar is never a good thing! It’s bad for us physically and can also heighten our panic response."...

"This week, just 3 days past the Summer Solstice, we are once again going to honor the energy of balance and transitions that sits with the Earth element. Earth stabilizes the energy during the equinox times and supports transitions as we move from the longest day of the year to the shortest day and back again. Always ready to nurture and support, Earth responds to the taste of starches (as well as sweetness)."...

"Five years ago, in a fit of spontaneity, Dale and I started a business. It has been very stressful trying to grow it to profitability, especially during the past two years. There’s been lots of fighting, arguing, and aloneness, but not much making up. And definitely no fun or laughter. Dale used to tell jokes and laugh all the time, but now he has gone crazy with rules, schedules, and the right way to do everything. He works all the time and never wants to focus on us. It feels like the business is all that matters to him now."...

"Dear Vicki: Since things started opening back up after the pandemic, I don’t really like the world out there. I’m an artist who is on one of the lucky ones – I’ve been able to manifest a successful career by hustling to sell my work. But now that I’m out and about, things feel so harsh. Everywhere I go, I encounter controlling, pushy people telling me what I have to do or even how I should think or act. I’m exhausted, and there are days I either want to hide under the covers or scream at people out of frustration. What’s wrong with me? And can I please change the world around me? Signed: Angry in Arlington"...

"Here’s another up-close comparison across the five primary elemental personalities. This time we’re looking at how each of the elemental personalities relates to structure and boundaries in their lives. Trust me, you can learn a whole lot about a person based on how structured they are (or are not)!"...

Today we offer another opportunity for you to get to know yourself better, or at least better understand your elemental personality. As I mentioned last week, we each have all of the Five Elements in our personality make-up, but we have a special affinity for one of them. I suggested that this elemental affinity can be likened to a primary lens through which we view the world. Our primary lens affects how we interpret and respond to everything that happens in our environment. What we love, who we love, what we hate, what is easy, what is hard, you name it. The reality is that this lens, which I call our primary elemental personality, determines more than we realize regarding how we live our life....

"We each have all of the Five Elements in our personality make-up, but we have a special affinity for one of them. You can think of this elemental affinity as a lens through which we view the world. We spend our life thinking, acting, and seeing the world through this lens. Our priorities and tendencies in life are based on this affinity." ...

There’s so much going on in the world today, and much of it I find upsetting. At a personal level, things aren’t all that great, either. Not surprisingly, I’m having trouble falling asleep at night, which really frustrates me. I don’t want to take lots of pills, but is there anything I can try?...

My husband and I divorced thirty years ago. We never had children, which was fine with me since I spent almost every hour of the day building my medical practice. Apparently, it wasn’t fine with Jim because he remarried within a year of our divorce, opened a restaurant, and immediately had two children with his new wife. Our paths rarely crossed, but in the little spare time I had, I did think of him a lot. Now, thirty years later, he is a widower and manages the restaurant he has owned for decades. I am retired and wonder if there is a chance we might try again. ...

I have to admit I smiled when I read your letter. Doing laundry can often bring out the best or the worst in most of us depending on our elemental personality. Earth people usually enjoy doing laundry because it allows them to focus on improving something about their home (clean clothes are a definite improvement!). Wood personalities usually find it a chore that has to be done to get on to something else (“the only way out is through”). Fire and Water people usually end up doing laundry only when they run out of clean clothes because they’ve either been busy with friends (Fires) or lost in a book or creative project (Waters). And Metal people usually do laundry regularly on a specific day and time and take special care in how that laundry is done. That’s because Metal people believe there is a right way to do everything. And I think this is the root of your laundry woes, but it is definitely fixable!...

"I have been happily married for a long time to a guy I love dearly. He is retired now from his position as a researcher, which he excelled at because he always came up with the most imaginative ways to approach whatever he was working on. But since retiring, he seems stuck and unable to act on many of the “new” ideas he has for himself. He is initially very enthusiastic about a particular topic, but doesn’t seem able to follow through, so quickly loses interest and moves on to the next idea that attracts him. He is very intelligent, but seems to fear not being able to do things perfectly enough to share with the world. I have been a stay-at-home mom most of my adult life, although I always do part time accounting work during tax season. I want to help him, but am not sure what to do."...

Dear Vicki: After a year of working from home, more and more of my friends are getting together, going to movies, eating indoors at restaurants, etc. I haven’t joined them at all, not even to get together outside. Rationally, I know it’s pretty safe if everyone is outside at least six feet away, but the thought of being with people other than my family makes me nervous, even anxious. I miss my friends and want to join them for outdoor events, so what can I do?...

This week we’re going to discuss how we relate to those temporary environments we might find ourselves in like stores, doctor’s offices, friend’s houses, and even in the not-too-distant future, places like restaurants, movie theatres, and hotels as we open up from the pandemic. And while some of the same issues we’ve covered in our previous three posts will definitely be relevant, the most important aspect of the temporary environment is that we usually have almost no control regarding what we encounter there....

This week we’re going to discuss how we relate to our work environment, whether we’re working in or out of the home. And while some of the same issues that we covered in discussing our home environment will also be important in our work environment, there are other issues – like who is in our work environment with us – that will also matter a lot. ...

Many of us share our home with family. Others live in our home alone. But however many of us are in our home, it is a solid fact that the colors we use in our home, the stuff we put in our home, and the way we put that stuff in our home will affect our elemental personalities....

Just like the energy between two people will impact how they feel about themselves and each other, the energy interaction between you and your environment will impact not only how you feel, but how well you think, play, and even love. ...

“My mother passed away last year and the task of cleaning out her things has fallen to me. I am sorting through dozens of boxes and I have a question about my mother’s relationship with herself. I think she must have been a mix of the Water and Earth personalities. However, as she aged, she became much angrier and more frustrated, which I think is the Wood personality. Is it possible that someone can have a bad temper or other Wood traits when their primary nature isn’t Wood?”...

“So much catches me by surprise these days, I often wish that I had some sense of what was coming. Is there a way to become more intuitive?”...

Time and again people have taken sides against each other for any number of reasons. Disagreeing seems to be a natural – and therefore fairly common – aspect of human behavior. Thankfully, most disagreements can be settled with a little logic or reason, perhaps some legal intervention, and hopefully a healthy dose of kindness....

Recently, I’ve had several questions as to why people seem to disagree about almost everything under the sun these days. Whether we’re talking about something as simple as weather preferences or as serious as politics, there does seem to be a distinct inability to agree on things lately. As one woman put it: “It seems like everyone doesn’t agree with me on everything. Why can’t we all just get along?”...

It’s been almost a year since we were told it might be wise to avoid crowds. Last March, I posted a blog about how each of us (based on out elemental personalities) might handle isolation. Someone suggested re-posting it to remind us of ways we might help manage the continued isolation we are experiencing....

“With all that’s been going on in the U.S. I often find myself at a loss for words when talking with people. Part of me would just like to float away to an island and be by myself, yet when friends express ideas that I don’t agree with, I want to share my thoughts but just can’t seem to find the right words. Any suggestions?”...

Power has been a hot topic in our world lately. Who has it? Who abuses it? Can it transfer? Does it go away? Is it good? Is it bad? And really, what does it mean? A quick answer to that last question can be found in Webster’s dictionary....

Welcome to 2021! Here in the US, it’s certainly starting out with a bang (not necessarily in a good way). It’s been said that it’s hard to change what you don’t know needs changing, so I look at the start of 2021 as offering a pretty clear message that some change might be a good thing. But how does one go about ushering in change? Honestly, I think we begin with ourselves. When we do, that change will not only reflect out to the collective, it can also guide us in ways that allow us to support the collective if further changes are needed. ...

For years, this blog has used the Five Elements model from Chinese medicine to discuss the five basic elemental personalities. We've covered issues like strengths and weaknesses of each, as well as understanding how they relate to each other. At times, we’ve even dipped into how they relate to themselves. One issue we've never covered is what happens to an elemental personality when some form of mental illness is present. Recent events suggest this might be a good time to cover this topic, especially as it relates to the primary Wood personality....

Thank you so much for your enthusiastic support of this blog. I deeply appreciate your letters and comments, as well as the opportunity to explore with you the wisdom embodied in the Five Elements model. This deceptively simple model provides a window into the workings of the universe and helps us better understand ourselves, the people in our lives, and our relationships. As we say a ready goodbye to 2020, I once again offer you The Five Elements Blessing....

The Five Elements model depicts a whole made up of five distinctive parts: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. We usually focus on the unique attributes of each part and how they interact with each other. Water feeds Wood, Wood controls Earth, Earth feeds Metal, Fire melts Metal, etc. During this holiday season, I would like to remind us that at its core, the Five Elements model really illuminates how five unique parts contribute to the balance and survival of the whole. And that means any whole....

“The Winter Solstice is approaching and that means the start of winter. I hate it! The dark and cold always make me very unhappy. My sister loves December, the darker and colder, the better for her. How can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elemental personalities?”...

“This is supposed to be such a joyful time of year, but try as I might, I always end up sad and depressed around the holidays. And of course, with Covid this year, it’s even worse. ...

“With Covid-19 lately I’ve been a real Scrooge! I criticize everything my husband suggests (I know he’s just trying to help, but his ideas aren’t that great). What can I do to be less critical of him (and actually, less critical in general)?”...

“Thanksgiving is coming and because of Covid, I’ve decided it’s best if I don’t travel home to be with my elderly parents this year. It’s the right thing to do, but my heart literally aches over this. Is there anything that will help?”...

Four years ago, I posted a blog following what seemed to be a particularly contentious and divisive election in 2016 America. Sadly, it appears that little has changed in America over the past four years and the election held here earlier this week is on its way to becoming even more divisive than the previous one. In my 2016 post, I explored the role the Five Elements played in that election with the hope that a greater understanding of the dynamics at play would help heal the country. That remains the impetus and hope behind re-sharing that (annotated) 2016 post today....

“I don’t think of myself as a cowardly person, but I’ve felt afraid of a lot of things lately. Some of it could be justified, but mostly I feel like I’m just being silly. What can I do to manage my fear?”...

“I’ve always had a tendency to get headaches when stressed. Not surprisingly, I’m pretty stressed these days so am having more headaches. I’ve even found myself rather short-tempered when things take too long to happen or don’t turn out the way I want them to. Any tips on managing the headaches?”...

“As winter approaches, I’ve started worrying more. Will we be able to have the traditional holiday celebrations? How will we connect with people if socializing outside isn’t an option? Will the people I care about stay well? And will this ever end? Is there anything that can help me stop worrying so much?”...

“During the pandemic, many of my friends are socializing day and night on Zoom, and sometimes even in person, but I just don’t feel like it, even though I know it would be good for me. How can I convince myself to be more social?”...