These are strange times indeed. None of us could have foreseen what we are experiencing and for once, it is global in every sense of the word. There is no one place or person in our world that is not being directly affected by this situation in some way or another, right now.
It doesn’t discriminate against race, financial status, class, age, gender or sexual preference.
That means that we really are all in this together but that doesn’t mean we are all having the same experience.
We are all as unique as our finger prints and at the same time, there are patterns in the ways that we communicate, behave and see the world around us that have been well established and understood for tens of thousands of years. Understanding a little about the psychology of human behaviour has always been fascinating for so many of us and my own take on this takes us right back to the origins of personality type descriptors which referred to the four ‘types’ as being like the elements.
Whatever our preference, or element – one thing we ALL need is to feel as if we have some semblance of control over our own lives and our own destinies. Stress comes from the feeling that we have lost all control and that we are no longer in the driving seat. To get back into that driving seat we will need slightly different things and that self-awareness and recognition of the needs of the people around us can be a huge help.
Some of this will really resonate for you and you may also spot these preferences and types in others which could help you to help them.
In a nutshell there have long been established four ‘preferences’ that have been identified in various different ways throughout history. Thousands of years ago these preferences or ‘types’ were described as the four humours and then the four temperaments, but even before that in ancient texts they have been referred to as the elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire. These days there are many and varied modern equivalents all essentially doing the same thing with a greater or lesser degree of detail and complexity and often used in recruitment and selection exercises and for team building and developing emotional intelligence.
But I am a simple creature who is rooted in what we can learn from the elegant simplicity of nature and prefer, for these purposes, to go back to basics.
So – the four ‘elements’ describe the four preferences and they are;
Earth – solid, honest and goal focused. In ancient times these would have been the hunter, gatherer and protector roles in our tribes. In the tribal system they were the ‘Warriors’.
Air, detailed and logical, endlessly curious and searching for meaning, patterns and connections. In our ancient tribe they would have been working out the logistics of setting up the camp and how and what we could learn from the movement of the stars across the sky. In the tribal system they will have been the ‘Scientists’.
Water, people and relationships focused, nurturing and supportive these were our tribal carers, guardians, the people who took care of everyone, kept the family or the tribe together and mediated when there was conflict. They were the ‘Empaths’.
Fire, vision, inspiration and storytelling. This element has a focus on possibility, positivity and energy. They will have been sharing the stories of the ancestors around the camp fire and creating pictures with words. In the tribal system they will have been the ‘Storyteller’.
How does all that play into what we are experiencing now? If you understand yourself and others better you can apply a more relevant balm – a little like a diagnosis and prescription situation!
Let’s start with our Earth types.. like earth itself what you get is a person who is honest, firm and ‘down to earth’. Typified by action-oriented activities, pretty disciplined and goal focused, this is that friend that always tells it like it is, has an honest, sometimes blunt quality and is less emotional and more practical in their approach to the world around them.
If you, or someone you care about, has this preference, the challenges will be about how to feel that you are achieving something, working towards a goal, making things happen, talking action. These earthy people need to be kept busy, but tasks with lofty long-term gains won’t keep them motivated or engaged. Less likely to want to sign up for a 6 month online course, more interested in a 10 minute You Tube overview. They need quick wins, short bursts of activity with goals that can be achieved quickly.
Those with an Air preference tend to be more self-contained and may be described as introverts. That doesn’t mean shy or anti-social by the way! It simply means that you are energised by time alone inside your own head and are happy to experience solitude without feeling lonely.
Your air preference is probably responding quite well to this period of self-reflection and enjoying the opportunity to learn new things, study, read and involve yourself in new hobbies or some that you haven’t picked up in a while if you have been too busy.
Air has a long-game mentality which means that you would be happy to sign up for programme of learning which stretched over weeks or even months. You can lose yourself in books and you will enjoy long walks or bike rides if you are fortunate to have access to that.
You will probably want to do some improvements to your environment or tinker with some sort of mechanical object!
You need routine, so make sure that to keep yourself in a happy place you are sticking with a regular timetable of getting up and going to bed and organise your exercise for a time of day that you can commit to.
You will also need a bit of alone time and if you are constantly surrounded by people may need to find somewhere to ‘get away from it all’. An option might be to stick your headset in and close your eyes and listen to a book or a podcast. Perhaps take a walk on your own, if you can, or find a space where you can ‘hide’ you just really need a bit of space to re-charge.
If you are living with an Air person, either personally or professionally, respect these boundaries and be patient. They have a slow burning energy and a calm and emotionally stable demeanour most of the time, help them to maintain that and you will all be just fine.
Our Water people, the most nurturing and compassionate of the bunch, will have the calm, quiet and supportive qualities we all need in times like this. Although tending to be more introverted in many respects, needing space to lose themselves in a good book or film or to soak in the hot-tub, water people really like to have their people close and will be finding an extended period of separation much harder than some.
You will need to do things with the people you love and care about. If you have them with you then you will enjoy taking care of them. You will want to cook and clean and chat and talk, and talk and talk some more about what is happening, how you are all feeling and how you are being affected by the situation. If you are not together, then you will need regular calls and video catch-ups.
Your concern will be entirely focused on others and what they need, want and are dealing with and as such you may forget about yourself! Please don’t. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others and if you get too overwhelmed you will retreat into yourself completely and be hard to reach.
What you do is less important than who you do it with. That’s all great unless you are on your own. If you are on your own and you are in a position to do so, volunteer for something that will help people. If you can help others you will feel valuable and valued and you will also have access to that human connection that you need.
If you are living with someone with a strong water preference, be there for them even if you are very different and you want to do your own thing, make time for them and ask them to allow you time for yourself. It’s all about compromise.
Lastly, Fire. Fire people are usually extraverted and display as outgoing and creative even if beneath it all they are quite shy and insecure. They are the ‘performers’ of society. That makes for an interesting challenge if you have a fire preference. You might surprise people by being really pretty ok about being on your own for a period of time. But it won’t last. Natural explorers and with a need to entertain and be entertained there are some strategies you can deploy to keep yourself motivated.
Use this time to create vision boards for your future, write that book you have been working on for years, go through your wardrobe and declutter your storage spaces. Think ‘Visual’ with Fire people. It’s all about imagery and how things look, aesthetics and visualisation.
Also – make sure you exercise! Hedonistic by nature you will avoid doing the things that are good for you if they don’t provide instant pleasure – so make sure you have someone in your life who will encourage you and once it becomes habit you will be able to motivate yourself easily enough.
Living with someone like this? Keep them entertained with silly jokes and ‘banter’, engage them in some future focused discussion and brainstorming ideas together. If you are apart, check in by text or messenger and if you want to chat, make a plan to do so. They will also be very happy to lose themselves in reading, box sets and films or doing something creative that allows them to day dream the time away. Staying focused on anything long term is a struggle though so don’t expect too much!
A final tip – the state of your bed and your head is the state of your brain and your head…
Stuck onboard? Making your cabin a nicer place to be and making your bed and clearing your bathroom and personal space every day will help you to feel in control, declutter your head AND you’ll be a much better roomy!
Every one of us is a beautiful and complex mix of all four of these elements to a greater or lesser degree and the real magic happens when you can see your elemental make up clearly and respond to it accordingly but I hope that this insight has given you some food for thought and some ideas and that you can use this time to discover and embrace your true nature.