August 13, 2020 A Perfectionist Drowning in Stress
Dear Vicki: My husband Roland is a truly kind person, but he has a deep appreciation for structure and doing things the “right” way. For almost twenty years he has managed an art gallery and done it very well. The gallery had grown and taken on dozens of new artists, and Roland personally championed each of them. But since the pandemic hit, Roland has become judgmental, overly critical, and even somewhat sloppy. The 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 – and even tried flirting with him – but nothing seems to work. In fact, the gallery is doing fine these days, but he seems to be getting worse. Help! Signed: Misses Her Man
Dear Misses: Roland is a lucky guy to have someone who cares about him so much. Bless you for trying, but I suspect that flirting (and lots of cookies) aren’t enough to get him back to his usual self. Given how you describe him, Roland’s primary elemental personality is likely Metal. The fact that he has a “deep appreciation for structure and doing things the ‘right’ way” strongly suggests Metal. People with a primary Metal personality are usually wonderfully structured perfectionists, until they become stressed. When that happens, they can become a dysfunctional version of their normal selves.
If, in the face of stress, the distortion is toward too much Metal energy, an out of balance Metal person will seem domineering, controlling, and dismissive. Conversely, too little Metal energy will usually manifest as an inability to determine what’s important (confusion), which makes the Metal person more critical. It’s a subtle, but important distinction because it will determine the best way to help the stressed Metal personality. Based on your description, it sounds like Roland’s Metal energy is depleted, and in truth, it’s not a big surprise.
The pandemic has stressed almost everyone, but it seems possible that Roland was already slightly stressed trying to grow the gallery before the onset of Covid. And as he tried to do that, who was he surrounded by in that gallery? Likely a multitude of artists, and artists are usually primary Water personalities with very little boundaries and structures (part of what makes them very creative). In the Five Elements model (see below) Metal and Water people relate via the Nurturing Cycle (the big circle), so initially Roland’s relationships with his artists would have been congenial and felt supportive, especially to them. But as the gallery grew, it is possible that he took on too many Water people without enough help, which would have made it harder for his Metal personality to keep in place the structure and order he needed and his customers expected.
Because it’s Metal that feeds Water in the model, it’s easy to assume that too many Watery people demanding attention would cause Roland to increase his Metal energy to keep his Water people “fed” (so to speak). If that had been the case for Roland, bringing in the Fire energy of flirting could have been a good approach because Fire decreases Metal on the Controlling Cycle of the model (the big star). More Fire would have helped keep Roland’s excess Metal energy in check.
However, it sounds like the stress has taken Roland to a place of too little Metal energy, which is also understandable. In the model, Water demanding too much from Metal can easily deplete Metal, leaving it in a deficient state. And that’s what Roland’s behavior seems to indicate. The fact that you say he has become sloppy tells me that he’s losing his grip on perfectionism, which is an indication of a depleted Metal personality. Confusion and criticism are other indications. The good news is that there is much that can be done to help Roland return to his kind and fully Metal personality self. What he really needs right now is to build his Metal energy and you are the perfect person to help.
The fact that your first attempts to support Roland were bringing him cookies and lunches suggests that you are a primary Earth personality. (The flirting indicates that you probably have a secondary Fire personality.) What Roland needs now is more Earth energy because it is Earth that feeds Metal via the Nurturing Cycle of the model. This means that instead of tapping into the Fire part of your personality with Roland, which will further deplete him, you need to tap into your Earth. Fix his favorite foods, avoiding spicy dishes because their fiery nature can decrease Metal energy. If he wants some sweets (which can build Earth), give them to him in limited amounts. Basically, just nurture Roland in any way that you know works for him, which as a primary Earth personality, should come naturally for you. Metal people are not, by nature, cuddly, but they do appreciate “appropriate” nurturing from an Earth person, especially a spouse. And ask Roland to drink several cups of Red Clover tea daily, which will also help his Metal energy regain balance.
In addition to upping your Earth energy around Roland, you can help him build his own Earth energy, which will also feed his Metal. If he enjoys the outdoors, perhaps arrange several getaways or day trips to nature areas where social distancing is possible. And try to include mountains in the mix because the vistas they provide often feed the Metal person’s soul. Other ways to build his Earth energy include lying on the ground (weather permitting, of course) and surrounding him with Earth’s color, which is yellow (if he can stand it – Metals usually prefer the simple and clean look of white).
Also, because these problems originated at work, it would be a good idea to include more Metal and Earth energy around him at the gallery. Place metal sculptures and pottery pieces in his office. Avoid fountains because there’s already too much Water energy there. And finally, while it’s not actually a Five Elements solution, if possible, I suggest you encourage Roland to hire an assistant. If they are a Metal personality, so much the better.
These are challenging times for many people for a variety of reasons, but I truly believe that following the suggestions here will save your Metal personality husband from drowning in the flood of Water that his career provides. Good luck! Stay safe and well!