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"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?”...

“Cal and I met when we were in law school. He was smart, funny, and very outgoing. I was more serious but somehow, we clicked. We married right out of law school and life was fast-paced and passionate...

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....

“I’m having an issue with my husband of three years. Jax is a wise and kind guy who’s really into things being done the ‘right’ way. When he’s stressed, he can get pretty dismissive, but other than that we usually get along really well. Recently, though, we had a significant argument about the upcoming elections. I can’t believe what’s happening in our country and am terribly concerned. Jax just shrugs and tells me not to worry. ...

“I’m having trouble with a neighbor who keeps using our outdoor pool without being invited. Other than the social distancing thing, her five children splash water all over, run around the pool when we’ve told them to walk, and generally don’t follow the rules. We are already stressed and having rude neighbors here ruins things for my family. I want to do the right thing, but also don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or create a difficult relationship with the people next door.”...

“My husband Roland is a truly kind person, but he has a deep appreciation for structure and doing things the “right” way. Since the pandemic hit, Roland has become judgmental, overly critical, and even somewhat sloppy. His art gallery has reopened, and sales are picking up, but Roland isn’t getting back to his usual self. I’ve tried to support him by bringing cookies and his favorite lunches to the gallery but nothing seems to work. Help!”...

“I’m the mom of two small children and having them home so much lately has given me an opportunity to observe more closely the ways they act with other family members. Are children’s elemental personalities already fixed in place when they are 4 years old and 7 years old?”...

“Family is very, very important to me, but I am having trouble with two cousins who appear to have an overwhelming need to control my life. They strongly suggest that I do things the way they do, according to what they think is right. I have friends that seem to act this way toward me, too. When I haven’t done what they suggest, it has caused family rifts and the breakup of friendships. The pushy people in my life also don’t seem to feel the need to apologize for their actions, so it’s often up to me to make the first move, which doesn’t feel right. What can I do?”...

“For the first time in almost 35 years of marriage, my husband and I are having trouble. If I look back at when things changed, it was probably five years ago when my brother died and I had hip replacement surgery. Instead of the fun-loving, happy homemaker I had been, I became a warrior determined to come back better than ever. Initially, Brad was very supportive and encouraging, but not anymore. Once I recovered, I found that I actually liked being more assertive, even if it meant I was often angry or frustrated. But apparently Brad doesn’t like it. He’s been uncharacteristically opinionated and cruel, is working longer hours, and generally seems to be pulling away.”...

“I hope you can help me understand my younger brother. Growing up, Gavin ran instead of walked, jumped around when excited, and always seemed busy. When we were little, I wanted to stay inside and color or read, but that bored him. In high school, he was on the pep squad and in theater. Just watching him made me tired and irritable. It still does. We’re in our early twenties now and have both moved back home temporarily to take care of our aging parents during the pandemic. I find myself wanting to be around him less and less, which is pretty hard in a small house with so much shut down these days.”...

“Our daughter divorced last year and when the pandemic started, she moved back home with her two-year-old son. Since they’ve been with us, Weston has really changed. I thought this would be a great time for our family with Stacy managing her IT team from here and Weston’s promotion. But my previously optimistic, go with the flow husband has become a gloomy cynic who ignores Stacy, picks on Jimmy, and eats potato chips like there’s no tomorrow.”...

I wish you all a happy Fourth of July in whatever way you do (or don’t) acknowledge the day! Here in the USA, July 4th is when we celebrate the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776, an act that formalized our move from a colony of Great Britain to an independent nation fashioned as a democracy. And while we have lasted over 200 years, these days it seems more appropriate than ever to honor and celebrate our bold creation....