Ask Vicki: Relationship Advice Using the Five Elements

Her Sister Has Really Changed. Why?

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. She’s hardly ever calm anymore and is frequently panicked and scattered. Plus, we’re fighting in ways we never used to, and she’s fighting with John, too. She just seems really different now. Can life situations change our primary elemental personality? Signed, Wondering Sister

Dear Wondering Sister: The short answer to your question is that it’s very rare for anyone to permanently change their primary elemental personality during a lifetime, even if their life situations dramatically change. However, remember that we all have all five of the elemental personalities in our energetic make up, and life circumstances absolutely can cause us to access the energy of a non-primary element, if necessary. When this happens, we will probably end up acting differently from our “normal” self.

For example, when someone close to us passes on, the grief we feel will cause us to manifest more of a primary Metal personality than we might normally because letting go and endings sit in Metal. Or when something wonderful happens in our life, we might celebrate in a very Fiery way because celebrations and parties are the domain of the Fire personality. But these are temporary changes; we don’t permanently become a primary Fire or Metal personality if we weren’t one to begin with. And I think this sort of temporary change is what’s happening for Genni, so let’s take a look.

It seems likely that you are a primary Wood personality (managing things is a great fit for Wood people) and Genni is a primary Earth personality (caring about and for people is very Earth). Prior to her mother-in-law’s illness, your relationship dynamic with Genni was via the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model (the big star in the model below) where Wood controls Earth. But Controlling Cycle relationships that involve Earth (Wood/Earth and Earth/Water) are rarely diminishing relationships the way other Controlling Cycle relationships can be. Let’s use you and John as an example.

It’s likely that your brother-in-law is a primary Metal personality because accounting requires a level of detail and minutia at which Metal people excel. You mentioned that you found John controlling at times, and he probably does come off that way to you because Metal relates to Wood via the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model. Metal “controls” Wood by diminishing or pruning it. However, the way Wood “controls” Earth is by anchoring it with its roots and stabilizing it, not diminishing it. The same is true with the controlling relationship between Earth and Water. Earth “controls” Water by guiding it, not diminishing it. This aspect of your Wood/Earth relationship with Genni is why the two of you got along so well. Your Wood personality supported her Earth. But that all changed when Genni’s mother-in-law moved in.

As a primary Earth personality, Genni would have been more than willing to care for an ill family member. If someone needs help, Earth people are usually front and center to assist. However, as time has gone on and Genni is taking care of her mother-in-law (who I suspect is also a primary Metal personality) while surrounded by a very structured Metal personality husband, something would eventually have to give for her. Earth feeds Metal on the Nurturing Cycle of the model (the big circle), which means Genni has been giving to both her mother-in-law and her husband. And to manage this, it appears she has temporarily brought up the Fire part of her personality as a coping mechanism. Let me explain.

Earth relates to Metal on the Nurturing Cycle, and this is usually a great relationship for both. Earth people love to be needed by the Metal people and Metal people expect attention (and more) from Earth people. But if you surround an Earth person with several Metals who expect and/or need attention from them, it can quickly become overwhelming. This is especially true if she is trying to care for someone who is very ill and genuinely needs her. To manage the Metal people making demands on her, it sounds like Genni wisely brought up her Fire energy. Fire melts Metal via the Controlling Cycle and that was Genni’s way of taking some of the pressure off of her. Of course, Genni didn’t consciously decide that she needed Fire to melt all that Metal, but because we have all five of the elemental personalities in us, we often automatically draw on them when we need them.

Returning to your relationship with Genni, the fact that she has stepped more strongly into the Fire part of her personality is likely the reason the two of you are fighting now. If she is acting more like a primary Fire personality (rather than her normal Earth), that changes your relationship dynamics. You are used to a Controlling Cycle relationship with Genni where your Wood controlled her Earth. But now you have a Nurturing Cycle relationship with Genni where it is your Wood that feeds (is consumed by) her Fire. It sounds like Genni has a lot of Fire energy these days, and too much Fire energy is nothing short of chaos for the Wood personality. It’s probably what’s bothering you the most, too. Woods really hate chaos.

That said, your Wood energy is exactly what Genni needs right now. Can you step away from feeling too called upon by the Fire part of her personality and just be there for her? Yes, it may be chaotic, and yes, that isn’t going to feel really great to you. But Genni clearly needs help. Her newfound primary Fire personality is likely overfeeding her normal primary Earth personality (Fire feeds Earth via the big circle in the model), making it difficult for her to avoid the major pitfall every Earth personality faces: taking care of others instead of themselves. Stand with Genni, remind her that she matters too, support her in having enough Fire energy to manage the Metal people around her, but not so much that she loses her way. As a Wood person, you bring a structure that both Genni’s Fire and Earth energies lack, so it may occasionally fall to you to step in as an advocate for her.

If you can, I encourage you to stay connected with Genni and help her with whatever she needs. And when the situation with her mother-in-law resolves, as it will one way or the other, Genni should eventually leave the need for Fire behind and revert back to her natural, happy Earth personality. Until then, I am sure that anything you can do to provide her with loving Wood support and stabilization will be deeply appreciated. And that’s what family is for. Blessings to you and your family!