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“Almost five years ago, my good friend Lanny and I started a business helping local restaurants get leftover food to homeless people. Lanny did most of the planning and was definitely the energy behind making it happen. I did the analysis and created the process necessary to get the food where it needed to go. Two years ago, my son became seriously ill. I had to leave our business, but Lanny kept it going. Several months ago, there was an article in our newspaper about the business with a quote from one of the people we had helped together thanking Lanny for all she’d done to make such a difference. She was quoted as thanking him, but she never mentioned me. I don’t understand why she didn’t acknowledge all I’d done to help start and run the business.”...

“Max and I have been close friends since childhood. Growing up, Max was a quiet, go with the flow kind of guy and I was a quiet, go with the flow kind of girl. But during college, Max really started to change. I wondered what was going on, but he never mentioned any problems at school, so I never asked. These days, his easy-going nature is completely gone and he’s become very precise and rigid. What happened to my old Max?”...

“Abby, my close friend and business partner, has been acting very strange lately. Our business is stalling right now because Abby hasn’t been very organized or powerful lately. She’s been low-key, distant, and sort of stuck in the past. When I ask her what’s going on, she denies that anything is wrong. As her business partner, I feel it is my responsibility to let Abby know we need her to snap out of it. What can I do to help Abby get back in the saddle?”...

Dear Vicki: I read your blog pretty regularly and think I understand the Five Elements, but one area confuses me. You describe Metals as being logical and process oriented, which I understand because I am a Metal. However, my good friend Sherry is a Fire and I swear I see her behave in ways that seem to me to be serious and infinitely reasonable. Am I rubbing off on her? She does seem to rub off on me at times; I certainly have more fun when she’s around. But there are so many times that she drives me crazy, I’d like to see her be more Metal more often. How can she be Metal-like some days and not others? Signed: Wants More Metal Dear Wants More Metal: This is a great question. While no one would ever confuse a pure Fire personality with a pure Metal, the reality is that we are never purely any one element. As you know from reading this blog, we have all five elements in our makeup. And while our primary element frames how we live life, our secondary element definitely “flavors” how our primary expresses itself. Your primary and Sherry’s primary relate on the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal), so there will definitely be times that her Fire drives you crazy and feels controlling (perhaps even threatening) to your Metal. But as you admit in your letter, there are times that Sherry’s Fire loosens you up and you have fun. That’s the way the Controlling Cycle is supposed to work! It helps bring balance. As to why Sherry might sometimes appear to be more like a Metal, it’s possible that Sherry has Metal as her secondary. The times it expresses itself might be when you find her “serious and infinitely reasonable.” Most Metals find other Metals to be reasonable. In fact, as you may have noticed, if someone wants to change a Metal’s mind, the best approach is to use logic and reason. Sherry might have figured this out about you and seems more Metal when she’s trying to get her way. It’s also possible that Sherry isn’t really as structured as you think, you just interpret some of her behaviors through your own Metal filter of structure. The famous Maslow quote comes to mind here: “To a man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.” There is no doubt that our primary element colors how we look at the world and her people. The bigger truth is that any element can take on attributes we associate with a different element if they need or want to. Our primary element is a lens, not a death grip. Waters may naturally tend to go with the flow when doing their thing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be somewhat Metal and get to work on time if they need to. Of course, they may find that much structure to be a drag and look for a job that can be as...

Dear Vicki: We have friends who visit us once a year. She is an out of balance Earth whose conversations center around her grown children that we do not know well. Any attempt to move the conversation to something interesting always fails. And did I mention that she is a talker? I am an introverted primary Water, secondary Metal. Our husbands are happy Woods. While they were here I recognized the Elemental dynamics​ that were occurring but I could not figure out any survival techniques for myself. The men could easily shut her out, but my attempts were countered by her need to stay near me so that I "wouldn’t be alone." Fortunately, I was able to escape on a couple of extended errands and one visit to my friend, a male Fire element, whose laughter always balances my energy. But for the most part, I felt suffocated all weekend. Help! I need to learn how to cope without blowing up. Where do I start? Signed: Frustrated in Florida Dear Frustrated: This does sound like a very unpleasant weekend. I’m so sorry. You have done an excellent job of summarizing what the likely dynamics were between the weekend cast of players, and it’s understandable that events unfold as they do. Two Wood guys can easily shut out an unbalanced Earth, but it’s less easy for you as a Water/Metal to do so. Let’s look at why that might be the case and from there we can develop survival techniques for you to use next year. First, it’s not surprising that your friend is happy to hang with you instead of two Wood guys. Woods control her Earth, so she probably doesn’t like how she feels around two of them. At home, her Wood husband probably balances her, but when he’s not around to do so, she probably does go into full-blown Earth mode. Family is of utmost important to Earths, so her tendency to talk about her children – grown or not – is also not surprising. Your reaction to her abundance of Earth is predictable, too. An abundance of Earth will likely feel suffocating to your Metal (Earth feeds Metal) and restrictive to your Water (Earth controls Water). But for her, because you are what she feeds and controls, being with you will feel almost compelling. Your energies are the focus of her every outward energetic expression. Interestingly, if you were in a place of either deficient Metal or excess Water, her energy would probably feel good to you. Extra Earth would feed your low Metal and bring it back to balance. Extra Earth would also provide controlling guidance to any extra Water you have and help it stay focused. However, given your negative reaction to her, we can assume that your energies are relatively balanced, which is good news. So sadly, in spite of the fact that your Water and Metal both crave aloneness, this Earth isn’t going to want to be alone when around you, or let you be alone. It’s telling...

Dear Vicki: Last fall I moved back to my hometown after a ten-year absence and reconnected with an old friend from my high school days. I remember Becca as very caring and considerate, someone who was willing to help out a lot, but she’s really overdoing things now. Under the pretense of helping me get settled, Becca calls or stops by way too often for my taste. I feel suffocated and want to know how I can tell her to back off. I actually look forward to going to work (I’m an attorney) since she doesn’t call me there. I’m pretty sure I’m a Metal, and I really just want to cut things off with Becca, but I don’t want to be unkind. How do I handle this? Signed, Suffocating Dear Suffocating: It sounds like Becca is an Earth who is genuinely trying to help you get settled after your move. She is doing what comes naturally to her, too, because Earths are wired to help with change. Their energy actually grounds the chaotic energy of transitions. This means that Earths can help stabilize almost any shift, good or bad. Hopefully you moved back to your hometown for a good reason, but change, even positive change, can be challenging. Earth energy helps facilitate adaptation to change, so in that way, having Becca around after your move is a blessing. Given your reaction to Becca and the fact that you’re an attorney, it’s likely that you are a Metal. As a Metal, you and Becca relate via the Nurturing Cycle, with her Earth feeding your Metal. In proper doses, this should feel good to you. Earths care about people being comfortable and most people appreciate help when relocating. However, in the name of caring about someone, it’s not hard for an Earth to slip into a place that looks and feels more like interfering than assisting. An out of balanced Earth can lose sight of the appropriate amount of support to offer someone and when this happens, their constant attempts to help can come across as smothering, especially to Metals who value their solitude. Given your reaction to Becca’s apparent desire to make you her new project, it seems that’s where you are now. The good news is that you have several options regarding how to handle this situation. As a Metal, you will probably prefer to cut to the heart of the matter and let Becca know that she is coming on too strong. Your Metal approach to doing this will likely be to cite examples of her past behavior that have been uncomfortable for you. This is because Metals are great at using the past to define and explain. And because Metals are basically very kind people, you will no doubt do this in a gentle manner. But no matter how gentle or kind you are, as an Earth Becca is likely to see it as a rejection of her and her attention. Energetically, it will feel like you are stopping the energy...

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because my good friend Jessie has recently started complaining a lot about her sister. The sister has a new job and according to Jessie, she never calls her anymore, won’t do her share at family gatherings, seems snobby, etc. I know her sister and she’s a kind and very logical person, so suspect this isn’t true. I also know that Jessie lost her job a few years ago and while she’s told me she loves the free time, I’m wondering if Jessie is jealous of her sister’s new job. I’m pretty sure Jessie is a Wood (she managed a big box store), and I have no idea what her sister is. Maybe a Metal? Her new job is with a financial firm. Is there a specific element that gets jealous? And how can I help Jessie? Signed, The Sounding Board Dear Sounding Board: First, Jessie is very lucky to have you in her life. We all need people to listen to us and I think what’s happening for Jessie is that she’s processing how she feels about the fact that she doesn’t have a job anymore and now her sister does. This is sure to cause Jessie to re-live the loss of her own job and probably re-evaluate whether the free time has been the great opportunity she thinks it is. And if Jessie is a Wood, this won’t be a pleasant experience for her because Woods don’t like looking back; life is all about the future and moving forward for them. As Jessie ponders her sister’s new job, she is likely to see it as an indication that her sister is successfully moving forward while she is not. Personal accomplishment matters a great deal to Woods and in our culture accomplishment is usually tied to our occupation. This is especially true for Woods. Further, if Jessie’s sister is a Metal, it will make the whole dynamic even more unpleasant for Jessie because Metal relates to Wood on the Controlling Cycle. Even without words, Jessie will feel a subtle sense of being controlled by her sister because that’s what Metal does to Wood. Because anything that causes a Wood to feel held back or stuck is viewed as a problem, this could be the dynamic prompting Jessie’s inaccurate criticism of her sister. We’ve all had times when we feel unhappy and projecting the blame onto something other than ourselves, be that another person, a situation, a lost opportunity, etc. This is likely what Jessie is going through, but you can help her by listening to her as she comes to grips with her feelings. Also, it will help if you can point out what she’s accomplished since losing her job. Has she done volunteer work? Improved her home? Read a series of great books? As a Wood, Jessie won’t have been content sitting around, so if you can remind her of all the positive things she’s done since leaving the work force, that will help a great deal. Jessie probably has lots...