Human temperament is made from combinations of the four elements, Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Everyone has all four, but in different proportions. Everyone also differs in how well they express each element—whether that element is expressed mostly in a clean and clear way or in a distorted way.
It’s not that some parts of your chart are good and some are bad. All are good and all are bad—it is in how you use them. Some will be easier to have as good and you can express those parts well with little effort. Others are more challenged and prone to distorted expression. But it still comes down to what you do with it. You’re in charge.
And so, as a cautionary study, what follows is a look at what happens when each of the 4 elements goes terribly, terribly wrong.
The Fire side of us is naturally upbeat, cheerful and energetic. When Fire goes wrong, all that drive and energy still needs someplace to go, so the person tends toward irritation, frustration and anger. They can also take cheerfulness to the point of being entirely false and being unwilling to admit to having a down day. When Fire is distorted, a person becomes fierce, a bully, arrogant, entitled, self-centered and even violent. When you meet a person who can’t take feedback without exploding, who has to have their own way and who must dominate every situation, blame Fire. Fire is also at work when an individual is hardheadedly self-determined or naïve to the point of clueless because they simply won’t listen to others. And Fire also brings us the megalomaniac, the self-absorbed, self-centered people for whom it’s “all about me.” Fire can be very uncaring and insensitive to others. Oh, and Fire’s known for being an attention-grabber and a drama queen, insistent on blowing things up bigger than they have to be—and always in public.
Earth’s nature makes it practical, pragmatic, grounded, serious and realistic. When a person expresses Earth in a distorted way they become cold and calculating, holding others (and sometimes themselves) to harsh, overly demanding standards. Earth can be judgmental and critical, nit-picky and a perfectionist, setting the bar too high and valuing achievement over a balanced lifestyle. Earth has also gone wrong when a person is overly security-oriented and abusing food and pleasure for comfort in reaction to excessive restrictions in other times or areas. Binging and purging are Earthy behaviors. Earth can also embrace structure too much, becoming extremely regimented, engaging in ritualistic, obsessive routines and finding themselves unable to relax and let life flow. Earth craves wealth and can become a miserly, money-grubbing, gold-digging Scrooge who is obsessed with the bottom line and cries “show me the money!” And obviously, Earth’s ambition can go very wrong, resulting in a person who will ruthlessly step on anybody necessary to climb to the top of the heap—and then paradoxically, they will spend their time hyper-vigilantly watching the competition, unable to relax and enjoy the fruits of their achievement.
Air represents the mental side of human nature, so Air types tend to be idea people—intellectual and curious types. When Air goes wrong, the person is nervous, twitchy, restless and agitated, too full of nervous energy and has too little tendency to work it off physically, as Fire or Earth might do. Instead, Air will spend time reading or surfing the net or otherwise involved with ideas, theories and virtual things instead of physical reality. Air tends to be attracted to caffeine and stimulants that make one’s mind sharper or help one focus. Distorted Air leads to ADD symptoms, Asperger’s Syndrome, autism and other conditions that make it hard to bond emotionally with others, leaving a person cold, unattached and stiff (both emotionally and physically). An Airy type can be the epitome of a talking head, full of theories and the logical reasons behind why they should work, but disinterested in their application. That Airy intelligence can lead to a tendency to criticize whatever doesn’t fit the theory. At its worst, Air is alienated, unfeeling, cut off from others and amoral, because it lacks compassion.
Water represents the emotional side of human life: Water grants us feelings, intuition, instinct, empathy and compassion. Water-gone-wrong heads in a number of seemingly unconnected directions. One way is that distorted Water becomes whiny, clingy, weepy, hypersensitive, histrionic and emotionally self-indulgent. This leads to codependence and being easily manipulated by others. Other people take distorted Water in a different direction, toward being passive-aggressive, manipulative, controlling and a user, always covertly pushing for one’s way. Water is moody; it can fall into pits of depression, resulting in spending time being lazy, unmotivated, greasy & unwashed. You can just feel the creeping entropy. Even when Water is expressed in a spiritual way, the person can take an attitude of spiritual superiority which is actually not spiritual at all. Did I mention that Water has a sexual side? Water can get sleazy, sluttish, creepy and sexually predatory. And Water can be morbidly sensitive, leading to agoraphobia and misanthropy.
So there they are, the four Elements in all their very worst aspects. And there but for the grace of God go we all.
The Four Elements are a fascinating part of human temperament.
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