Understand your inherent drives, desires and tendencies, your gifts and powers, as well your limitations through the ancient Chinese five element theory.
You may be familiar with the five-element theory, according to which the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water symbolize the five basic processes of nature, and represent the five qualities of natural phenomena.
Since we’re an integral part of nature, the five-element theory applies to us as well – to our health, personality, potential, and life challenges.
Identifying your five-element type, whether you’re a wood type or a water type, for example, can help you understand your inherent drives, desires and tendencies, your gifts and powers, as well your limitations.
It’s not meant to put a label on your personality, but rather to serve as a tool for self-awareness, self-understanding and self-mastery.
Five Element Personality Types
There are five archetypal personalities associated with each element:
- Pioneer for Wood,
- Wizard for Fire,
- Peacemaker for Earth,
- Alchemist for Metal, and
- Philosopher for Water.
I’ll briefly describe each archetype below. Check it out and see which type resonates with your understanding of who you are.
The Pioneer (Wood Archetype)
You’re bold, driven, confident, ambitious, assertive, decisive and competitive. You’re also likely to be committed, focused, and determined.
You love action and adventure, and perform well under pressure. Curious about the uncharted territory, you’re eager to innovate, reform and revolutionize.
Metamorphosis is your organizing principle, and action compels you.
On the other hand, you have a tendency to overdo, over-perform and over-direct.
When you push yourself too far and spread yourself too thin, you may have a tendency to either discharge the pent-up energy thorough emotional outbursts, overindulgence, erratic and compulsive behaviors, or become overwhelmed, uptight and exhausted.
Physically, the wood archetype may develop headaches, cramps and muscle spasms, high blood pressure, nerve inflammations, and migratory pain.
If you are a wood archetype, you may need to watch your tendency toward extremism.
Give yourself permission to rest and relax, and establish some level of regularity and stability in life, such as regular diet, sleep and exercise. It’ll help you go the distance, and enjoy your adventure even more.
The Wizard (Fire Archetype)
You’re lively, intuitive, communicative, charismatic, optimistic, and enthusiastic. You’re also likely to be devoted, tender and empathetic.
A natural salesman, you believe in the power of charisma and desire. You love sensation, drama, and sentiment, and you relish excitement and delight in intimacy.
Fusion and love are your organizing principles in life.
However, if your fire energy goes to the extreme, you may feel anxious and agitated. You may also experience nervous exhaustion, or bizarre perceptions and sensations.
Physically, the fire archetype may develop cystitis, hot flashes, canker sores, hives, thirst, swollen hands and feet, and insomnia.
If you are a fire archetype, you may consider tempering your excitement, conserving your energy, and allowing yourself moments of quietness and solitude.
The Peacemaker (Earth Archetype)
You’re nurturing, attentive, considerate, supportive, agreeable, sympathetic and sociable. You’re also likely to be relaxed and poised.
You have a gift for establishing and sustaining relationships, and the ability to nurture and promote our connectedness with each other and our world.
Harmony, togetherness and unification are your guiding principles.
When you’re out of balance, you may overextend yourself in order to be all things to all people. You may also doubt yourself and become worried and obsessed, or become meddling and overprotective.
Physically, the earth archetype may develop lethargy, indigestion, unruly appetite, water retention, and muscle tenderness.
If you are an earth archetype, you may consider balancing your devotion to relationships with solitude and self-expression, and strive to develop self-reliance while building relationships and community.
The Alchemist (Metal Archetype)
You’re reserved, disciplined, discerning, scrupulous, methodical and honorable. You’re also likely to be calm and neat.
You like definition, structure and system, and respect virtue, discretion and authority. You seek to live according to reason and principle and hold yourself and others to the highest standards.
Seeking the perfection of form and function, transmutation is your guiding principle.
When you’re out of balance, you tend to become autocratic, strict, formal, distant and unnatural. Or you may become indifferent and inhibited. You may also have a tendency for self-righteousness and disillusionment.
Physically, the metal archetype may develop stiff joints and muscles, dry skin and hair, shallow breathing, a sensitive to climate, and poor circulation.
If you are a metal archetype, you may consider balancing your rationality, self-control and meticulousness with passion, spontaneity and social involvement.
The Philosopher (Water Archetype)
You’re candid, introspective, ingenious, curious, sensible, and objective. You are also likely to be modest, careful, thrifty, self-contained and self-sufficient. You yearn for meaning that transcends the daily existence.
Revelation propels you, and a relentless quest for truth is your motivational force in life.
However, if your tenacity, prudence, introspection and solitary independence go to the extreme, you may become emotionally inaccessible and undemonstrative, or tactless, unforgiving and suspicious. You may also cut yourself off from the warmth of human bonding, and suffer from isolation and loneliness.
Physically, the water archetype may develop hardening of the arteries, deterioration of teeth and gums, backache, chilliness or loss of libido.
If you are a water archetype, you may consider balancing your introspection, self-sufficiency and independence with tenderness, openness, social contact and bonding.
So which archetype resonates with you?
Again, the five archetypes are meant to be a tool for self-understanding. They are not cast in stone. You may find that your archetype changes according to seasons or at different stages of your life.
The keyword is balance.
- Fire and water balance each other,
- Metal and wood balance each other, and
- Earth is at the center that balances all the other four elements.
I hope you find this article helpful, and that you’ll apply the principles of five elements in your life, and live in joy and harmony…
NOTE: This article is inspired by the book Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide to Chinese Medicine, written by Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D. I recommend the book if you want to get a comprehensive understanding of the five-element theory, archetypes, and how to use it to improve your health and wellbeing.
You may also be interested in Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself, by Florence Littauer