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“A dear friend of the family passed away almost three months ago. She was like an elderly aunt to me and my older sister Ruthie, and it has been hard for me to lose her. I’ve reached out to Ruthie to talk about it, but she apparently doesn’t want to. In hindsight, I can see that Ruthie never really wanted to talk about her feelings. We had a difficult relationship growing up and as we grew, I learned to hide it when I had strong opinions about something or really wanted to do something Ruthie didn’t. Now, I want to talk about Fran, but Ruthie will have none of it.”...

“My sister Cate used to be a pretty trusting, optimistic person. I love my sister but have noticed over the years that she seems more likely to assume the worst in a given situation, rather than the best. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything anymore (except her six cats) and appears really frightened about what’s going on in the world these days. Is there any way I can help her return to some version of her trusting, optimistic self?”...

“A supervisor at my brother’s company is retiring in the spring and Jim has been asked to apply for his job. My concern is that Jim is someone who has always loved starting things or making them better, and spends a lot of time in his current position doing just that. In a more supervisory position, I’m concerned that “hands-on” will be seen as interfering or controlling in a job where he’s just supposed to support ongoing operations. How do I talk him out of this change?”...

“I’m writing because I’m concerned about my younger sister, Tina. She’s a junior in high school and is a quiet, disciplined, studious student. The problem is that our mother isn’t a normal mother – she’s an outgoing, fun-loving, partying lady! What concerns me is that Mom thinks Tina is letting life pass her by, so is encouraging her to attend parties where alcohol is served, go out with wild guys, all in the name of having fun. How can I help Tina not make a terrible mistake?’...

“I’m having a problem with my sister, Anita. We are both working our way up the corporate ladder, and months ago set up to go to a business seminar together in a nearby city. We planned to drive there and back with each other and make a whole day of it. Last week she called and told me that while she will drive to the event with me, she’s going to go straight from it to a “girls only” party at a friend’s nearby cabin. I can certainly drive home alone, but it feels like she’s dumping me and part of our time together for something else.”...

“At a family reunion last spring, my sister Leah and I decided we’d go see the fall foliage in New England this year. We thought this would be a fun thing to do together. Well, it isn’t turning out to be that fun. At least the planning stage. Leah doesn’t even want to plan! She just wants to get in the car and start driving. Every time I call her to discuss the trip, she says that part of the adventure is discovering what’s out there and we’ll take it as it comes.”...

Dear Vicki: Dory and I have been good friends ever since we met while volunteering at a local pet shelter three years ago. We are a good team there: I organize the ever-changing base of volunteers and Dory keeps everyone upbeat and motivated. She always makes me laugh, and when I get really angry about something – which I tend to do —she has a way of cajoling me out of it. Dory thinks of lots of fun things to do and I really enjoy our time together, but there’s one small problem. Dory has a sister named Katie and sometimes Dory just spontaneously announces that she’s asked Katie to join us when we go shopping, out to a movie, or whatever. I hate this because when Dory and Katie are together, they kind of whip each other into a frenzy. I can tell they are having the time of their lives, but lately it feels like total chaos and craziness to me. How can I tell Dory that I really don’t like it when Katie joins us? Signed, Fried in Franklin Dear Fried: It is very interesting that you’ve signed your letter “Fried,” because I think that’s exactly what’s happening. I strongly suspect that both Dory and her sister are Fire elemental personalities and the two of them together are just too much heat for you right now. Usually everyone loves being around Fire people because they are fun, outgoing individuals who laugh a lot. But each elemental personality will react differently to prolonged exposure to Fire energy, especially a double dose. In the Five Elements model, the two elemental personalities most negatively affected by Fire energy are Metal people (fire melts metal) and Wood people (fire burns wood). Given it was easy for you to organize a significant group of volunteers, I suspect you are a primary Wood personality. Spontaneous organization comes easily to Wood people. And for the record, Metal people organize too, but they look at the past and identify patterns of organization. Wood people organize on the fly. They also succumb to anger. It’s understandable that Dory would want to spend time with you. In the Five Elements model your Wood energy feeds her Fire energy on what’s called the Nurturing Cycle. That usually feels great to the Fire person and not so great to the Wood person. However, given that you are both so dedication to the animal shelter, I suspect that you each have a lot of Earth energy in your personalities, too, and that is the key to the longevity of your relationship. As we’ve discussed previously in this blog, we each have a primary elemental personality, but we also have a secondary elemental personality that “flavors” our primary. I think your Wood energy and Dory’s Fire energy are each flavored by Earth, which explains your strong connection. Earth people bond easily and deeply with each other, really value lasting relationships, and also have a soft spot for animals. So even though Dory’s Fire burns your Wood on...

Dear Vicki: My younger sister Pam recently married a guy she’s madly in love with who she met at college. Brad’s controlling, opinionated, and frankly, totally boring, which is so the opposite of Pam. She’s funny and outgoing; we used to have such great times together. And now, I really don’t know what she sees in him. Brad’s in law school and for Pam’s sake, I hope he does well. Anyway, the problem I’m having is that at family gatherings, when Brad asks me how work is going (I’m a marketing specialist for a large outdoor gear firm), I feel a need to justify everything: why I have that job, how well the company is doing, when I might get promoted, etc. It’s ridiculous and I really think I’m growing to hate him. Whenever he asks me anything I feel like there’s such judgment behind his question. I’ve mentioned this to my mother and she says I’m over-reacting. I don’t think so because it feels so real. But maybe I am. Is the dynamic between us my fault? If so, what can I do? I don’t want to hurt Pam. Signed: Angry in Alaska Dear Angry: When we have an immediate negative reaction to someone, it’s rarely anyone’s fault. That kind of thing usually occurs due to energy interactions because there hasn’t been time to get to know the person well enough to dislike them. In your case, you have had time to get to know Brad well enough to have an opinion about him, so there are several reasons you might be having problems with him. As Pam’s older sister, you might not think Brad is good enough for her. You might also be slightly jealous that he has become a priority in her life, leaving less time for you and Pam to share the “great times” you used to have. You might hate lawyers. The possibilities are endless. But I believe there is always an energetic component to our relationships, so let’s take a look at what might be going on between you and Brad. You don’t mention what the primary elements might be of the people involved, but from what you’ve shared we can make a pretty good guess. Given your occupation and the fact that you are angry about Brad (rather than sad, depressed, etc.), I suspect you’re a Wood. Marketing, sales, promotional activities, etc. require an ability to plan and look toward the future, and the future is the realm of Wood. Also, when stressed or upset, Woods typically go to anger or frustration. So it’s a pretty safe bet that you are a Wood. Pam is probably a Fire. Funny and outgoing is the trademark of most Fires. Also, they can be a bit dramatic, so being “madly in love” would also fit a Fire. And Brad, well, my guess is that he’s a Metal. Law school, probing questions, opinionated, these all fit Metal. And given this mix of characters, it’s easy to see what’s...

Dear Vicki: This may seem like a petty issue, but my sister is driving me crazy. We run a successful restaurant together – I’m the business manager and she’s the chef – but she just can’t get things done quickly. She’s a fantastic cook, and very creative in how she has decorated the place, but she takes forever planning menus, deciding on new china or wallpaper, or even leaving at night when we close the restaurant. We live near each other so travel together, and at night she must run back into the building at least three times to check if she started soaking this or turned off that. I love the restaurant and my sister, but she’s driving me nuts. It’s clear she’s an Earth, and I’m a Wood, which means that I’m on her Controlling Cycle, right? So why is she the one controlling me, and what can I do about it? Signed Not Really in Charge: Dear Not Really: This is an interesting challenge for you. Yes, you and your sister do relate on the Controlling Cycle where it is your Wood that controls her Earth. But while you’re the manager of the restaurant, which is very important, people usually come to a restaurant to enjoy the food and ambiance, which is your sister’s bailiwick. Your normal Wood desire to charge forward on everything will, by necessity, be restrained by the fact that she is the guiding light for the important parts of the restaurant, at least the parts that matter to your patrons. In this way, she can, and probably does, control your behavior. And it’s no surprise you don’t like it. Woods really don’t like to be controlled. The good news for you is that this joint venture with your sister is successful – clearly you’re doing a lot right. Even more good news is that you and your sister have found professions that suit each of you well. Earths usually love cooking and Woods are usually excellent managers. The bad news is that you are unhappy and frustrated. So let’s look at that in a way that will make sense to you. Woods are logical, forward-thinking people who establish a goal and then run toward it full steam ahead. Stopping isn’t an option and detours are tolerated only when necessary. Moving forward becomes its own goal for a Wood. So when your sister suggests you paint the interior of the restaurant a lovely shade of yellow (a good Earth color that stimulates the energy of the spleen and can improve digestion and metabolism) and you agree, you want to get it done. However, before acting she will want to ponder the possible shades of yellow and determine not only what will go best with the rest of the décor, but also what décor will need to change to support the new wall color. For you that means, BAM! You’ve hit a brick wall and aren’t moving forward. Never a pleasant feeling for a Wood. You mention that...