The Emotions of the 5 Elements

June 15, 2018

Over the last several decades we have done the unthinkable. Distanced ourselves from nature and inner knowing no longer access our inner wisdom, which is really our common sense. This loss of connection to something sacred and essential has opened to the door to myriad physical and emotional diseases.

The five qualities of energy are metaphorically called Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Like the tides, energies shift with the influence of nature, our unconscious and our soul. There is yin and yang, sometimes we have to allow times of rest, darkness and not knowing as well as active, light filled and focused times.
For example in the Wood phase there is expansion, a time to make plans and clear decisions to move forward but the metal energy is contractive, a time to reflect inwardly on your values and let go of what is non essential to your growth.

Good health demands that we balance yang activity with yin rest. So many are so busy they collapse,  Others are more sedentary and sluggish. Either way one is fatigued, unhappy and unable to enjoy life and can lead to illness.  We live well only when yin and yang are both expressed in harmony.


The balanced emotions are satisfaction and gratitude
Imbalanced emotions are worry and obsession has to do with nurturing ourselves, others and the earth. Weight can be a way to hide, armor or numb themselves to the pain they feel. Others are constantly dieting, fasting, cleansing, hardly eating at all, thinking this will make us more spiritual. Principles of Earth phase are: moderation, satisfaction and gratitude for all that life offers. You stop frantically looking outside yourself for something to satisfy your cravings. Instead you are nourished by life and then you nourish life. The body allows you to transform life into the energy you need for your journey.

What nourishments satisfies your real needs, is it whole foods, attention, silence, movement, touch, sleep, meditation, laughter, fun. As Goldilocks teaches us: Not too much and not too little, but just right. We have to allow for giving and receiving, we nourish ourselves not by consuming food and experience but by contributing to the well being of others. But this must all be in balance, some over care for others and neglect the self, thinking taking care of ourselves as selfish.

We have a crisis in earth element imbalances. Diabetes and obesity are at the highest levels ever. More than one third are obese and two thirds overweight. On a worldwide level we have been receiving  for far too long, wasting and exhausting the earth’s resources.

The challenge of Earth:
Beyond food and drink, every experience, idea, thought and emotion is subject to a digestive process. We have to transform what life give us into substance to build our life and character. Look at people who live in cyberspace, there is a virtual connection to others, but people are left feeling more lonely and alienated.  It is like needed a delicious home cooked meal with friends and instead eating an instant microwave dinner in front of the TV. Technically you have taken in calories but you have nowhere met your need for nourishment and you are left wanting more. It is not so much the quantity of what we take in but the quality.  When we take in negative or junk energy in food, relationships or media, it gets inside us and affects who we are.  We have to discern what kind of consumption drains our energy rather than enhances it. Earth requires that we moderate our habits.

Ask yourself at the end of the day how your choices were, do you feel agitated, discontented and sluggish or are you calm, satisfied and energized. Do I have enough or do I feel that I am enough.


Balanced emotions: Inspiration and hope
Imbalanced emotions: Sadness and Grief
Metal has to do with our inner value, structure, authority, it is the gold or treasure within. Values define you at the center of being, what has to be part of your life to be fulfilled. What inspires you, what you spend you time and money on can give a clearer idea of your values. One metal gift is inspiration by beauty in art, music, nature and people. It is the metal like a knife that cuts to the core and discern what is useful and what to cut away. You open to relationships, teachers, ideas and leaders who influence you towards growth. And you can walk away from anyone that diminishes you.

Metal energy moves inward and supports inner reflection. For many this is unfamiliar or even scary and uncomfortable. Our extroverted culture tells us to seek external stimulation and activity, to be always emotionally up and on. We have to address this phase due to a loss or illness. As we age we can’t get stuck in regret for physical decline and contraction in the body, but look forward to a more expansive spiritual understanding. To be fully human we have to feel pain as well as joy.


Balanced emotions: calmness and Equanimity
Imbalanced emotions: insecurity and fear

Water is the root of all energies of the body, our deep essence or Jing that determines our vitality, resistance to disease and longevity. Think of snow falling on fallow fields and animals hibernating. This phase has to do with the unconscious mind, sexuality, power, financial resources and the unknown. Things bubble up through dreams, memories and images. People can try to be so busy to avoid the water phase and the most profound parts of ourselves.
Fear and insecurity can make it hard to take action. Unconscious fear makes us either too careful or reckless and then we are unable to reach our goals. You have to be in the present moment to be in the flow of life.

The kidneys have to do with hearing, not just outer but the inner voice, and the voice of the world.
Like the winter, in the water phase we need time to be spacious, silent, and still. We need these rich reserves to draw upon in the springtime of life. With water imbalances we can have trouble focusing, managing resources and insecurity. Because our choices we do not have time, money or resources that allow us to rest regularly.
Jing is like a battery we need for our whole life, if we have excessive behaviors early on, then later we may be depleted, and there are no quick fixes, although one of the best remedies is qi gong.


Balanced emotions: Kindness and forgiveness
Imbalanced emotions: Anger and frustration
With the wood phase we can explore our hopes for the future and envision, for it rules the eyes, of how we want to live. It helps us access a sense of inner purpose and direction, and make plans and decisions about where we are going and how to get there. We must be careful not to talk ourselves out of what we want or resist what wants to come through us. On the negative side if we feel blocked we can get frustrated and get tougher, push harder, become arrogant, impatient and irritable. The other extreme is to collapse at the first sign of resistance and difficulty. We then can give up, get depressed and despair. Instead we must use wood energy to move forward and take appropriate action.

We have to differentiate between excessive anger and healthy self-assertion.  We may have learned early on that is better to be nice and polite or at least keep quiet rather than assert ourselves to get our needs met. This self assertion can feel messy and uncomfortable, especially when first using this energy, when you may feel programmed to be Minnesota nice.

When your wood is balanced you feel fresh, flexible (after all it rules ligament and tendons) and excited by visions (rules the eyes) of what is possible. The liver has an amazing ability to regenerate itself, if you cut 80% out, it would grow back while still function, so it rules renewal. It is said to rule plans and strategies. Exercise is essential to balanced wood, keeping blood and qi moving. Yoga and qi gong help unite body, mind and spirit in the present moment.

So we have to learn kindness and forgiveness, first for ourselves, then others.  With major hurtful events, you might want to write out the story, including all the hurt feelings and then burn the letter. You can say out loud: “I release you, I forgive you, I am moving forward in my life”


Balanced emotions: Joy and love
Imbalanced emotions: Anxiety and despair

Fire, like the summer it rules, is a time to play, laugh and enjoy life. We can feel more deeply, we communicate, express ourselves and experience more warmth in our relationships. It also gives us the capacity for compassion, which means to suffer with, so we must keep our hearts open or else feel separate. Fire is about our relationship with spirit and our expression of our true selves in the world.

With fire we shift our attention to the tremendous love, courage and joy that is available. Courage, from the Latin Cor or heart, means we feel the fear and do it anyway, despite feeling vulnerable. We do what it takes to open the heart, following its authentic desires for truth and meaning.

In the fire phase you are asked to both surrender and be changed by love. We cannot solely rely on intellect, analysis or rational thought, but rather allow the inner knowing of the heart to lead us. But this also involves self discipline, which is required for success. But if we don’t trust we can become “control freaks” at home or work, dominating and micromanaging others and the environment to gain a sense of control in our lives.
In Taoism it is called Wu Wei, or actionless action, allowing life to unfold on its own.
So to fully live your life you must unite the wisdom of the head with the heart, embrace your dreams and tap into your passion. You must wholeheartedly want to grow, develop your consciousness and work diligently to manifest the truth of who you are, without overdoing. And don’t forget a keen sense of humor.

The heart is considered the ruler of all organs. It houses the mind, thus the center of emotional and mental activity. It is in charge of memory, emotions, consciousness, thinking, spirit and sleep. Where heart if out of balance, the spirit has nowhere to rest, which can result in insomnia, confused thinking, rapid speech, inappropriate laughter and mania. The paired organ, the small intestine separates the pure from impure, in both a physical and mental-emotional sense.

The heart needs play. Americans spend less than an hour in unstructured play and more than seven hours in front of an electronic screen each day, so we are out of shape and stressed out as a result.

So we have these organs, that when they are out of balance, can generate negative emotions. But likewise if we have strong negative emotions they can cause organ dysfunction. So we have to work on the physical and emotional levels to stay happy and healthy.


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