1. Know when to leave the pity party

Know when to stop crying and move on. We all have off days, they don’t necessarily equate to off life.

  1. Do not listen to your pride, listen to your body

I tend to be slightly competitive so this is a tough one for me. However, it’s good to take some time off to regroup and rest. It doesn’t make you vulnerable but smart.

  1. Be around positive individuals

There are quite a number of friends who are waiting for your downfall. Be around those friends who will pick you up when you fall, they are the real deal.

  1. Spot the good in the bad

In this situation, while not feeling well, I still rode 55 miles. Is that what I wanted? No. am I able to improve? Yes.

  1. Meet yourself where you are

You won’t be the best version of yourself always. There will be days that you will be weak and others that you will be powerful. Know how to spot these differences and adjust well.

  1. Advice your inner critic to zip it

Recently, I heard a speaker saying that your thoughts can impact your brain’s ability to perform. So you need to speak to yourself as you would to someone you love. Be your own best friend.

A certain personality type has caught my attention recently. To be perfectly honest, it’s been driving me crazy. Whenever I hear people discussing their insatiable urge to travel and to see the world before they start their real job or apply to graduate school, I want to set them straight.

I’m a millennial. I’m sad to see that my generation is being completely brainwashed by the propaganda of the hash-tag lifestyle, like those simple clickbait listicles that feature chic pictures of sexy, young people perched on the edge of waterfall designed to convince my generation that life will only be worth living if we travel. Instagram influencers play along, perfectly framing and filtering every single picture they share while they explore the world on their daddy’s dime.

Honestly, I believe that the only people with an incessant desire to travel are people who already have, or want to have, a life that’s perfectly mediocre.

You won’t ever make an impact on the world by being a traveler. Traveling isn’t actually doing anything at all. You’re just seeing when you travel. You’re just enjoying. You’re just leeching off of other people who actually have lives that are worth living, and who are doing jobs that are worth doing.

Accomplishments and Travel

No great things in this world have ever been accomplished through traveling just for the sake of #travel. Did Albert Einstein decide one day, “I need to take some time off to do some sightseeing. Maybe I’ll try to do something with significance in a few years…”? No, he didn’t!

Did John D. Rockefeller, one of the United States’ greatest businessmen of all time, pass his time by staging perfect photographs of structures in faraway locations? Of course, he didn’t! He worked. He built things. He created. He actually did impactful things. The moment he became an adult, he began working his way up!

People who are obsessed with traveling are quietly conceding that they don’t have anything actually worth creating or doing. You can’t create when you’re on the move. You can only create if you stay in one place. This allows you to focus on accomplishing your goals. An obsession with travel means that you don’t have any significant and worthwhile goals, so you’re going to settle and “YOLO” your way through your mediocre life.

“Enjoy your youth” and “You’ll only be young once” are adages that people have misappropriated to justify their months, and sometimes even their years, of laziness and idle labor. I agree, each of us will be young only once. But all of us should spend our youths making provisions for our futures.

Running Away

But being obsessed with travel means that you’re afraid to try anything new, so you’re running away. You’re running away from acquiring a stable income, from building a prosperous future, from the possibilities of the differences you could make in the world. You’re running to far-off lands where you take menial and meaningless jobs that you wouldn’t accept at home to earn just enough money to sustain your lifestyle that isn’t actually growing any part of you.

None of this is to say that an occasional vacation from time to time is a negative thing. Taking a week or two off work every year to rejuvenate yourself has been proven scientifically to help you become healthier and more productive. But an insatiable desire to “travel the world” for months or even years after high school or college is not healthy. Everybody who promotes doing so is sucking the millennial generation into a giant pyramid scheme in which nobody will come out ahead except for those promoters and their chosen travel bloggers. Don’t sacrifice your youth to your present desires. Invest it in your future!

You’re worth far more than the fleeting pleasures that #travel offers. You’re worthy to make a significant impact on the world, and people will remember you for that.  You will absolutely not be remembered for traveling.

So, let’s get to work!

It is not news that the world needs love.

But what is love, exactly? 

It is a state of being that leads you to happiness.  Leading yourself to love doesn’t mean to disregard others in favor of yourself.

Reveling in your own happiness does not mean that you find joy in others’ pain.

Showing mercy to others is not weakness. Love brings about a winning attitude.

Hate doesn’t win.

Hate brings negativity

Hate attacks the body like a disease

Hate leads to a lack of generosity and jealousy

Hate and Jealousy go hand in hand

Not everyone has the best intentions but you don’t have to go along with their negativity.

Give up on having enemies and wish well for all.

We are all connected and putting forth love brings us love in return.

The phrase “star-crossed lovers” has been used often throughout the centuries. But the questions remain the same: Is it really in the stars? Or is it just in your head?

Hippocrates, Chaucer, and Shakespeare all seemed to acknowledge the concept of a predestined, inescapable, unalterable fate between two lovers, like a knot firmly tied by the gods. The concept of having control over your own fate is a tantalizing one. But add modern science and a touch of wishful thinking, and you may realize that you are prey only to your own intentions.

When it comes to relationships, we should consider looking to the planets to lead the way, but there is a catch. The astrology most people interact with on a daily basis is confined to just “sun signs,” and that’s where the confusion comes in. You can’t determine somebody’s personality out of just 12 choices. Your “sun sign” is just one aspect of a far more complex birth chart that also includes your moon sign, your rising sign, lunar nodes, and positions of the planets in the “houses,” among other factors.

The Four Elements and Sun Signs

The Four Elements and Sun SignsWhen considering compatibility in romantic relationships, there are four elements involved. General compatibility exists between people who share complementary sun sign elements. The Fire element signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. Earth element signs are Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo. Air element signs are Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra. And Water element signs are Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio. So compatibility exists between water and earth; water and water; fire and air; fire and fire; and so on.

Your sun sign is based on the date you were born. It’s the sign people generally refer to when they read daily horoscopes. For instance, if you’re a Leo, that means that the sun was crossing through the Leo constellation at the time of your birth. The sun sign is your identity, your sense of self, and the way you express yourself when you feel content and at ease.

Compatibility between two people’s sun signs indicates basic affinity. Signs of the same element are compatible. For example, a Sagittarius and an Aries will both bring fire, representing action, intention, and enthusiasm, to the relationship. But sometimes attraction is sparked in somebody different from you. Tremendous passion can build between a Leo and a Scorpio, for example, because the differences between the signs can be quite thrilling. Tension can build higher levels of excitement in a relationship.

Moon Signs

Your moon sign is determined by the position of the moon at the moment of your birth. It governs your innate, essential needs and is representative of your family (especially your mother) and your home environment.

Regarding relationships, compatibility between moon signs is positive. For instance, if your moon sign is Pisces, a water sign, you might find that your needs are met very well by a Scorpio, another water sign. In more committed relationships, moon signs are especially significant. The moon sign is your instinctive nature. It reflects how you prefer to meet your needs and what you’re emotionally comfortable with. If you’re seeking a long-term relationship, your moon sign should be compatible with your partner’s.

Rising Signs

Your rising sign, also known as the Ascendant, is determined by the sign of the Zodiac that was rising or “ascending” on the eastern horizon at the moment of your birth. This sign is generally understood as the first impression you present, or what people notice when they first meet you. It’s like a mask, or how you express yourself new situations.

Regarding relationships, since the rising signs of two people governs their initial attraction to each other, this is one area in which compatibility between the elements is not necessary. In fact, a degree of tension can be a positive thing. As the old expression goes, “opposites attract.” So somebody who has their ascendant in Aries may be attracted to a Capricorn, and vice-versa. The rising sign is opposite to the partnership house, or the marriage house.


Lunar nodes aren’t classified as signs. Rather, they’re the mathematical, astronomical points at which the orbit of the moon crosses the sun’s path on the celestial sphere, the “ecliptic.” The nodes exist on an axis and are determined by the exact position of the moon and the sun at the moment of your birth. The southern node shows the accumulation of habits and knowledge from your family lineage, like what you have, what you’ve accomplished, and the things you already know. It represents past-life connections The northern node represents where you’re going, what you need to move toward, accomplish, and achieve. It demonstrates what you’re trying to fulfill in your life. The two nodes are on an axis, so they’re always opposites.

In regards to relationships, the nodes should be associated. If your nodes overlap, there’s a good chance your paths will cross. The nodes dictate the idea of fate, and if there’s karma to be worked out in this lifetime. Romeo and Juliet, for example, certainly would have had nodal associations.

With all that said, don’t outright dismiss a potential romantic relationship based on somebody’s sun sign, their moon sign, or their ascendant. They may have other planets or elements that line up with yours. It’s an involved and complex science. The more you study it, the more precisely you can reach conclusions.

Sometimes we hear from our supportive friends that it is important to take back your power.  This may be power you have relinquished to relative or romantic partner. You probably didn’t even know you did it.  It is not uncommon.  This is not an exclusively female problem, even though it is very predominant among this group.   Some of us have given up our power to a parent. Some may have given up our power to a lover.   No matter who you are, you might feel that you could stand up to someone in your lives.

People can rob you of your power at work. You could have demanding clients or customers or coworkers.  You have probably dealt with a supervisor who has  tried to take your power.

So how do you fix this?

Know when you are giving it away

An excellent way to keeping control over your power is to be aware of your part in everything.Be aware of when you are about to give away your power. If you often leave decisions to others or leave it up to someone else to give you directions, you are handing the reigns of your life to someone else.   This action may also be accompanied by a regretful, resentful feeling.

Passivity and indecisiveness gives away your power. Sometimes you have to let go for a legitimate reason.  Just be watchful.

Know the facts

If you find yourself looking over an event where you think you should have handled things differently, ask yourself what truly happened in that situation.   If it is a situation with a relative, see where things fell apart. Chances are that this  behavior follows a pattern.  Please take note so you can avoid this in the future.

Own it

An excellent way to keeping control over your power is to be aware of your part in everything. Once you know your flaws and weaknesses you can be fully on your mark when you meet with a potential power taker.  You can be honest with them, in fact, you should.  This will keep you from getting into a blame/victim cycle.  Be strong for yourself.

Let others own their power as well

Being aware of your power does not mean that you have to take charge of an entire challenge.   Take ownership of your part, and let them take charge of their own.  A true partnership will flourish with this honesty.  But what if the balance starts to shift?  Take a break. Be honest. Ask questions. Get them to take a moment to breathe and calm down. You don’t have to engage, but it would be helpful if you listen.

You are not responsible for how others feel.  This doesn’t mean that you can be overly aggressive  and mean, but in normal situations, you don’t have to be guilty when you are not at fault.

You don’t have to compete

Once you get in the habit of owning your power, you may start feel like you can conquer the world. This does not mean you have to display your new found power in an aggressive competition with the world. Remember that boundaries are important, but they aren’t everything.

Create compassion and self-love

Once we start  on a path to a good communication we begin to love ourselves a little more. This will only increase as we see our self-worth.   Once we have all of that in place for ourselves, we can extend this to others.  Loving yourself creates love and appreciation for others.

Your improved empathy can help encourage others. Once you lead by this example, others will fall in place.   This will create a better world for everyone.   It will take time and practice, but have faith in yourself as you move on your life journey.

Dear Readers,

Scenarios like this happen far too often: a gunman injures and murders multiple people just for being different from him. If the gunman survives, he’s often charged with a federal hate crime, defined by the FBI as a crime based on biases against something about the targeted victim, such as their race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. Essentially, they have so much hate towards something about the victims that they take violent and deadly action.

Why? Who could do something like that?

Finding answers is a complex task. You could spend an entire lifetime attempting to come to an understanding of human personality. But for those who asked if some understanding might be gained from the Five Elements Philosophy, I’d like to offer these thoughts.

The Five Elements Philosophy categorizes people into five general personality types based on factors such as their life focus, their priorities and needs, their vulnerabilities, and so on. This philosophy also takes key relationship dynamics among the five elemental personality types into consideration. It’s these relationship dynamics that relate to hate crimes, which are rooted in how people relate to other people.

Hate Crimes and Personality TypesThe Five Elements personality types are defined by their similarities and differences across an array of traits. For those of you not familiar with them, I’ll summarize the basics.

  • Water personalities are focused on exploring philosophy and inner wisdom. When out of balance, they tend to become solitary and reclusive.
  • Wood personalities are focused on accomplishment and success in the physical world. When out of balance, they tend to become abusive and angry.
  • Fire personalities are focused on celebrating and enjoying. When out of balance, they tend to become hysterical and panicked.
  • Earth personalities are focused on relationships with friends, family, and home. When out of balance, they tend to become timid and codependent.
  • Metal personalities are focused on acquiring and sharing knowledge. When out of balance, they tend to become dismissive and erudite.

If something they highly value was threatened, each of these personality types is capable of committing a crime. But the horrific act of murdering another person would be difficult for somebody with Earth as their personality type, because Earth personalities are usually gentle, caring people. Fire personalities would also not be likely to commit a hate crime because their gregarious, upbeat personalities tend to make them friends to everyone. And a Water personality would not be likely to become violent because they tend to live most of their lives inside of their heads. The remaining two elemental personality types, Metal and Wood, would be most likely to take violent action against another person, but for significantly different reasons.

Metal personalities firmly respect the concept of right and wrong, so deeply felt righteous indignation may compel them to descend from their ivory tower to take on an offender. The type most likely to elicit such a response from a Metal personality is a Wood personality. Metal and Wood personalities relate to each other based on control—it’s Metals’ role to make sure Woods stay in line. And based on their compulsion to be right, a Metal could turn to violence if motivated strongly enough by a need to maintain control.

Wood personalities can be driven by their desire to acquire things or accomplish goals, so they may choose to take action against somebody who they perceive is standing in their way. The type most likely to elicit such a response from a Wood personality is a Metal personality. Once again, this relates to the control aspect of Metal’s role to keep Woods in line. Woods could turn to violence or commit a crime if sufficiently enraged over being stopped or held back.

There’s also another dynamic at play between Metals and Woods. Their energy flows are diametrically opposed. Wood represents energy that’s gearing up towards a maximum expression, while Metal represents energy that’s slowing down towards a minimum expression. The tension created can cause a definite disparity between Metals and Woods that could veer in an unhealthy direction. It’s not a surprise that Woods can perceive Metals as aloof and snobby, while Metals can view Woods as pushy and bombastic.

I’m certainly not suggesting that all of the world’s criminals are either Wood or Metal personalities But based on our current culture’s influence forcing possessions, acclaim, and success to have a profound effect on our sense of self, these the two elemental personalities are the ones I believe to be the most likely to veer towards the behavior we describe as hate crimes.

It’s also important to note that everyone has energies of all five elements in our personalities. Yes, that means everyone has Wood and Metal energies inside them. Even if they’re not our main elemental component, they are present and could be triggered in stressful times. Working to keep our energies balanced will ensure that we don’t unintentionally trip others up.

This simple daily exercise will help keep your personality energies balanced within yourself. First, place the tips of your thumbs on the outer corners of your eyes and rest your fingertips on your forehead. Breathe normally and stay in this position for one to two minutes. Then rest your left palm on top of your head and your right palm across your forehead. Breathe normally and stay in this position for one to two minutes more.

These times are difficult for many people. I hope everyone is able to find ways to participate in the solution, instead of adding to the problems. Blessings and peace to all.

Love, Toria

My blog post today is an answer to an email sent by a reader. She wrote:

Dear Toria,

An interaction I had with my husband yesterday left me feeling especially upset. Both of us work stressful jobs; I’m a project manager, and he’s an accountant. We’re involved in our grown children’s lives, and we’re active at our church. Basically, our weekdays are very full. Our weekends have one fun day and one chores day. For me, chores day includes doing the laundry. I even fold everything, and then leave it on our bed so each of us can put our own clothes away.

We both had a stressful week last week. So last night when my husband came to our room to put his clothes away, he condescendingly accused me that I don’t how he likes his jeans folded.

That got me really angry!

I washed and dried his damn clothes for him. Why does it matter how I fold his jeans? What’s his problem?

Signed: Washed Out in Illinois

Here’s my answer:

Dear Washed Out,

I must admit your email made me smile. Depending on our elemental personalities, doing household chores can bring out both the best and the worst in us.

Earth personalities usually like doing laundry because it lets them focus on improving something. Clean clothes definitely are an improvement! Water and Fire personalities usually only do laundry after they run out of clean clothes to wear either because they got lost in a creative project or a good book (Water personalities) or were busy with friends (Fire personalities). Wood personalities generally view chores as things that have to be done so they can get on to something else. And Metals usually do laundry on a specific day and at a certain time and take special care in how the laundry gets done, because they believe there’s a right way to do everything.

I think these traits are the cause of your laundry issues: You definitely are not a Metal personality. But you definitely married one!

The way Metal personalities approach the world matches with the mindset needed to be a successful accountant. There’s not only a right way and a wrong way to do things, there’s also a right place, a right time, a right procedure, and so on. And all of those aspects have to be honored.

In the Five Elements Philosophy, Metal personalities occupy the end position in the cycle. This allows them to gain a clear understanding of the things that work and the things that don’t. Based on this understanding, they construct the rules, the protocol, the hierarchy, and son on, regarding what they view as the optimal approach to things, whether it’s accounting, or laundry, or everything else in between. Frankly, they’re usually spot-on in their observations.

But you sound like a Wood person. It takes keen planning and organizational skills to be an effective project manager. This describes the Wood personality exactly. Details are far more important to Metals than they are to Woods. So it makes sense that while you care that the laundry gets washed, dried, and folded, you care less about just how it’s folded. But your husband, as a Metal, clearly does care how it’s folded.

How can you iron this wrinkle out?

It’s important to remember that in the Five Elements Philosophy, you and your husband relate to each other with his Metal controlling your Wood. At best, this dynamic between you feels like he’s got your back. At its worst, especially in stressful times, it feels more like he’s throwing up brick walls in your path at every turn.

Another important component of the energy dynamic between the two of you is the difference in how your personalities approach tasks. For example, Wood personalities generally won’t follow a recipe. They generally have an idea of the ingredients that go into a specific dish, and add things as their mood strikes them. However, Metals usually follow a recipes to the letter because in their view, the recipe is the utmost authority on how to achieve the optimal outcome. Metal personalities approach nearly everything in this manner, whether it’s cooking, or laundry, or accounting: There’s a right way to do the task and there’s a wrong way, and for a good reason. Who’d consider doing anything in a way any other than the “right” way? Busy Wood personalities think in that way. Wood personalities gladly would sacrifice a small amount of perfection to serve accomplishment and efficiency. But don’t worry—you can address this.

Kindly ask your husband why he cares so much how you fold his jeans. He might have a reason that’s important to him, so you may decide to honor it. If you choose not to honor it, mutually agree with him that you’ll leave his laundered jeans neatly laid out on the bed so he can fold them the way he wants to. Metals usually do have good reasons for the things they seem inflexible about. Understanding their reasons can help you find a good way to approach them.

And if you’re both under stress, you need to find effective ways to de-stress. If there’s something you enjoy doing together that reduces your stress levels, you should do that. But if not—if it means that you go jogging while he tinkers with the car—you each need to do what you know will work to lower your stress levels. The good news is that both Wood and Metal personalities appreciate structure. If you can incorporate regular stress reducers into your routines, you’ll bring your elemental personalities back into balance. The end result will be that the troubles you’re experiences will “come out in the wash” (sorry, I had to!). Best wishes to you!

Love, Toria

My blog post today is an answer to similar emails sent by several readers. They wrote:

Dear Toria, I can’t my grandkids won’t be with me for Christmas. Why would their parents take them on a vacation now?

Dear Toria, I want to skip my company’s holiday party. How can I get out of it?

Dear Toria, My wife is obsessed with buying the perfect gift for her best friend. How do I convince her that gifts aren’t the point?

Dear Toria, I’d like to host my family’s holiday gathering this year. I know that I throw the best parties, but my brother thinks they’re too loud. Who’s right?

Dear Toria, My husband and I have always had a quiet, intimate New Year’s Eve celebration. But now he wants us to go to his friend’s house instead. Wait, what?

I hope that they, and you, find my answer helpful:

relationships healthy and happy throughout the holidays

Dear Readers: Each year, I receive an abundance of letters asking how they can best address issues related to the holidays. The holidays are replete with meaning and tradition, guaranteeing that fun and ceremony will co-mingle with dashed expectations and pushed buttons.

To help keep relationships healthy and happy throughout the holidays, following is my brief summary of things that matter the most to each of the Five Element personalities, and things that don’t. There are also some suggestions about how to keep the holiday season joyful for everybody.

  • Water Personalities: In the Five Elements Philosophy, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season falls within Water time, at least in the northern hemisphere. Winter is generally a time for contemplation and quiet, setting the tone for Water personalities’ lives.

Water personalities appreciate the true meaning of the holiday season. They may participate in events that they think are important, but you might still have to coax them to join. When they show up, help them feel comfortable and welcome by finding a smaller group of similar people with whom they can engage in meaningful conversation. Be gentle with Water personalities and keep in mind that if the event gets too intense, they may float off to a quieter location for a bit. Time alone is still of paramount importance to Water personalities.

  • Wood Personalities: Wood people approach planning for the holidays with zeal and zest. There make lists for gifts, set deadlines for shipping and mailing, schedule events, and so on. Woods are driven to do this to help keep the holidays from feeling too chaotic to them. In the Five Elements Philosophy, Wood is the channel between Water and Fire, or mystery and celebration. More than at most other times, Wood personalities need influence from both Water and Fire during the holidays. Business shouldn’t be an issue for them, but they’ll still need down time.

Whatever they do, if a Wood spins out, remind them that gifts and events mean less to people than the true spirit of the season. And if you want a Wood person to enjoy a holiday event that they didn’t plan, give them a role to make them comfortable and to ensure that they have a good time.

  • Fire Personalities: Having a Fire personality around guarantees liveliness and happiness. In the Five Elements Philosophy, Fire relates to summer, which is a season of abundance, merriment, and action. Winter can be a dreary time for Fires, to the chance to get together with other people and celebrate for any reason during the holidays is generally quite welcome. Parties are fun, spontaneity abounds, and everything is awesome during the holiday season for the majority of Fire personalities. If they have the opportunity to connect with other people and to be at the center of attention, they’ll usually be happy.

With that said, Fire personalities may need help setting boundaries when it comes to how many events they can participate in and keep their sanity. If you offer this help, your Fire family and friends will be able to light up the holiday season without literally burning themselves out. Fire is about transformation and inspiration, so don’t be too surprised if Fire personalities are particularly drawn to events that inspire action or have a cause.

  • Earth Personalities: Most holiday events involve gatherings with friends and family, which is important to Earth personalities. Almost every gathering includes food—especially sweets—which is akin to Earth heaven! Long-term connections are deeply important to Earth people, so their activities during the holiday season will focus on spending time with their loved ones.

Earth personalities love to give hand-made gifts, so be patient and let them express their love. But help them avoid becoming overwhelmed by reminding them that bigger does not necessarily equal better. In the Five Element Philosophy, Earth represents balance. But even Earths can overdo things.

  • Metal Personalities: During the holiday season, Metal personalities may need help to get into the holiday spirit. They may see frivolity as a waste of time. But they’re kind people who bring much wisdom to gatherings, so coax them into joining and everyone—even the Metals—will be glad that they did.

Metal holds the last elemental position, so Metals can usually manage transitioning to a new year fairly easily. But sometimes, being reminded of somebody who’s no longer with them, or ending a year, can make a Metal person sad. The best way to help Metals avoid this is to include them in holiday activities where Earths can nurture and feed them, and Fires can enchant and delight them. The Metal may protest, but holiday gatherings are generally good for them.

The bottom line is that inherent in each Five Element personality are both positives and negatives. With this knowledge, we can enjoyably interact with everybody, and deepen our relationships as we do. And that’s certainly something we can be thankful for. Happy Holidays, everybody!

Dear Toria,

I feel bad about admitting this, but I argue with my brother about everything. We spent most of this past year fighting about whether we should sell our parents’ house or keep it for rental income. Our mother died a couple years ago, and we recently relocated our father to an assisted living facility.

My brother and I argued about where to place our father. My brother won. We fought about what to do with the furnishings when Dad moved. My brother won. We disagreed about who should host our holiday gathering. I won, but only because I reminded him that he’s currently remodeling his house. And so on, and so on.

I’m a nurse and my brother is a doctor, so he’s always pointing out that he’s smarter than I am and he should get to tell me what to do. I’m sick and tired of all of the fighting, and of his aggressive, angry attitude towards me. I want peace in our family, so I’m actually considering completely breaking off all ties with my brother. I don’t really want to tear our family apart. The idea breaks my heart. But I don’t see a way to heal our relationship. Can you help me?

Signed: Tired in Tennessee

Here’s my answer:

Dear Tired in Tennessee,

Family dynamics are often difficult. The old adage is right: we choose friends, but we’re stuck with family. Your family has definitely been through some tough times recently, with your mother’s death, your father’s relocation, and the uncertain status of your parents’ house. Stress at these levels brings out the best and the worst in us.

facing relationship issuesYou and your brother might not ever be friends, but some understanding could help you get along civilly when you have to. The Five Elements Philosophy can help you do this.

It sounds to me like your brother is a Wood personality. Wood personalities appreciate esteem, and our society definitely admires doctors. Your brother needed a lot of perseverance to get though med school, and Wood personalities generally have the energy to overcome barriers and are successful at manifesting what they want.

It sounds to me that you’re an Earth personality. Earth personalities are generally quite compassionate and caring. They want everybody to be content, and are distressed when people fight. Nurses are probably the most compassionate and caring people on the planet, so the fact that you’re a nurse supports my opinion that you’re an Earth personality.

According to the Five Elements Philosophy, Wood controls Earth, so it feels to you like your brother is trying to win when the two of you argue. In the Five Elements Philosophy, it’s Wood’s role to be sure that Earth stays strong when faced with excessive neediness in other people. If left on their own, an Earth person will give so much of themselves to others that they’ll deplete themselves emotionally or physically. When a Wood person faces an Earth who is giving too much, the Wood will often try to control the situation in an attempt to protect the Earth. If the Earth person rejects that protection, just the presence of the Wood will feel aggressive.

Disagreements with your brother probably feel aggressive to you because Woods want to get their own way. Anybody who tries to stop Woods from getting their way will certainly feel the Wood’s rage. Interactions between you and your brother probably make you feel like he’s controlling you because that’s the default dynamic of energy between your personality types.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the two of you’re doomed to argue and disagree for the remainder of your lives. You said he agreed with you about who should host the family’s holiday gathering after you reminded him that his home was being renovated. Instead of arguing, you used logic on him, and he agreed with you. That worked in your favor because the elemental personality that controls Wood is Metal, and Metal personalities are rational and logical. The rationality and logic of Metal personalities keeps the aggressive Wood personalities under control.

So when dealing with your brother, try to stay as rational and logical as you ca. This will add to your Earth personality a Metal edge that will control your brother’s Wood personality, instead of your Earth being controlled by his Wood. The bottom line is that you may always feel that your brother’s Wood personality is a bit controlling. But if you remember this and try to act rational and logical around him, I think you’ll find it easier for the two of you to get along. He may also mellow out a bit if he feels less Earth, because he won’t feel the urge to control you. Best wishes to you!

Love, Toria

My blog post today is an answer to an email sent by a reader. She wrote:

Dear Toria,

I’ve had a difficult year in many ways. The idea of making Christmas happen in the way my family has come to expect is overwhelming. But the moment I choose to cut back on buying gifts or decorating, I feel guilty.

Besides that, even though my grown children all have children of their own, they were shocked when I told them I’m not going to bake Christmas goodies this year. Now I worry that they’re disappointed I’m not baking. I work full time and I’m caring for my own mother. So I just don’t have the joy or energy to do the holiday thing right now.

Is there a way to let my family know that I have to significantly scale back the way I do Christmas this year?

Signed: Exhausted in El Paso

Here’s my answer:

Dear El Paso:

I promise you aren’t alone in wanting to skip Christmas! I’ve heard from lots of people, mostly women, who’ve expressed a similar desire. And it’s totally understandable. Christmas has become a major commercial event that’s hyped by retailers that specialize in pressing our “it has to be perfect” buttons. For some reason, we’ve fallen for the idea that more and bigger is better, despite knowing deep down inside that isn’t true.

So why does all that hype exert such a stranglehold on us?

I think that most people who lose it around the holidays are doing it out of love. Gift giving is an expression of esteem and love, and there isn’t anything bad about that. It actually is part of our make-up according to the Five Elements Philosophy.

Sharing with others is a characteristic of Earth personalities. Earth is also the base of family, home, food, and profound,, long-term relationships. That all sounds like the holidays, right? Advertisers realized years ago that tying all those things together around the holidays creates a powerful message. Little else tugs at our hearts harder than the concept of sharing meals and gift with our loved ones during the Christmas season.

I think you, Exhausted in El Paso, are an Earth personality. You’re feeling guilt over not doing enough. You worry that your children are disappointed. You’re tired from taking care of other people. This is a classic behavior pattern for Earth personalities. Since most activities related to the holidays embody Earth-y components like family and food, Earth personalities are more likely to give in to extravagant expectations about the holidays than the other four elemental personalities are.

With that said, each of the elemental personalities has inherent vulnerabilities related to the holiday hype:

  • Wood personalities can use holiday socializing and gift giving as occasion to stand out, which is important to them. But they frequently wear themselves out in the process.
  • Fire personalities love holiday parties, because they love to have fun. But left unchecked, it’s possible for the Fires to actually burn themselves out.
  • Metal people join in the socializing and gift-giving because it’s the “right” thing to do, but these things aren’t really in their nature. Too much of those things brings controlling, dismissive aspects out of their usually kind selves.
  • Water personalities may be successful at retreating from all of the holiday hype into a quiet corner to think about the reasons for the season. If they can’t, they simply withdraw and get characterized as a Grinch or a Scrooge!
  • For people with Earth personalities like you, Exhausted in El Paso, the holidays are the biggest of all set-ups. Earth personalities tend to go overboard and often drive both themselves and their family members crazy by trying to do everything, because they think that bigger, better, and more is equal to greater love.

But there is a solution. Of course it’s related to the Five Elements. Wood energy governs extras Earth energy by stabilizing and anchoring Earth, supplying the boundaries and structure that Earth personalities frequently lack.

When Earth personalities try to do too much, they need more Wood energy. They’re aided by Woods’ visionary capacity to communicate clearly, to plan effectively, and to form and enforce boundaries no matter how soft their frazzled Earth heart becomes.

So, to answer your question: start out by assuring your family that you love them. Then, in a linear and practical Wood manner, outline for them what you feel is reasonable for you to do this holiday season, and what you need to let go of. If things on your “needs to go” list are important to your adult children, they’ll have to do those things. That is an option for you, too—Wood personalities are delegators, so you could describe what it takes to create the Christmas they love, and then divide the tasks among you all.

With help from the Five Elements Philosophy, your family should be able to focus the aspects of of the Christmas season that’s the most important: spending time together. After all, the greatest gifts we can give to anybody are our love and our time. Merry Christmas to you and to your family!

Love, Toria