Archetypes Love and Relationships

Communicate Better in Difficult Situations

Whether in love, at work, as parents, or friends, when we understand our own and others’ personality traits and what motivates our engagement tactics, we can easily predict and overcome most of the common pitfalls in relationships by learning to communicate better.

Creatures of habit don’t communicate better

We are creatures of habit whether we want to admit it or not.  Some of our repetitive behaviors, motivations and choices are environmentally driven and others have roots deep within our innate nature. The well-established patterns we perpetuate and embody over time serve as the foundation of our perceptions of how people and things should be.

But, what the Five Archetypes teaches us is that when we understand and have empathy for the diverse ways we each see the world, we become exponentially more successful in all areas of life.  When we develop compassion for this diversity, we actually enrich our lives in ways we may never have thought possible. On the other hand, when we hold on too tightly to our own embedded viewpoints, our experience of life remains small, myopic and we are easily wounded by the various opinions and beliefs of others.  In such a state, we feel unfulfilled in relationships and expend precious energy wondering why others don’t see problems and solutions the same way we do.  

To sort out the confusion we experience in the face of this type of interpersonal conflict, many folks seek insights from personality classification systems. These theories offer a great way to demystify why we are the way we are, or why our colleagues and partners act and react in seemingly baffling ways.

The Five Archetypes is a highly personalized system for first understanding yourself and then mapping a reliable path for self-actualization and fulfilling relationships which will help you communicate better. The method is based on a fascinating combination of ancient wisdom and frontier science. The classification system is rooted in the Chinese medicine model for how all things grow and expand through challenges. Our inclination in a crisis is to fall inward and close down, but for those of us who are tired of repeating unpleasant mistakes, this program provides a time-tested and science-based road map for consistent success in the face of conflict.  

The mapping guidance for how to succeed when we feel discomfort is built on a combination of:

Let’s begin with the fact that “old dogs CAN absolutely learn new tricks.” By all means, modern research like Carol Dweck’s has proven that we can expand our ability to grow and change–even and especially–in the face of conflict.  

As you’ve probably experienced time and time again, under stress and in reactive states, we do what we know, which is usually not the best option for the least painful outcome… We don’t usually take a beat and breathe and calm down. We don’t pause and take stock of our internal and external environments before formulating an opinion or taking action. Miffed with a glaring emotional reaction to conflict, we ordinarily step right back onto that easy, well-traveled, reactive path that we believe has served us so well over the years, keeping us “safe” from feelings of discomfort in relationships. While those reactions may feel good at the moment, they don’t always serve as growth or resilience-building experiences. Contrarily, they will keep us repeating behaviors that hold us back.

According to the Five Archetypes, these familiar ways of engagement (our healthy ones and our less productive ones) are inextricably linked to our core nature. And because they are so ingrained in us–almost as if imprinted in body, mind and spirit–we really do lean on them subconsciously to keep us feeling safe, experiencing joy and helping us avoid painful vulnerability.  These natural traits also help us measure whether we’re on our right path and living to our fullest purpose. 

From a Growth Mindset perspective, as Carol Dweck teaches, if we question what we believe about our strengths and our habitual ways of interacting in stress, and practice new, diverse styles of interaction, we can realize a more expansive and fulfilling life path that produces consistently better results.

Next, let’s look at epigenetics. Epigenetics is the idea that our environment impacts our gene expression, our tiniest of internal processes.  Epigenetics plays an important and foundational role in the Five Archetypes method because it teaches us that every detail of the context of our internal (sleep, digestion, movement, breathing, emotions) and external (relationships, weather, job, culture, politics, transportation) environment serves as determining factors to the choices we make for solving our daily challenges.  

Problems can never be solved out of context, without consideration for the environment in which they occur.  For example, if you asked me how to resolve an interpersonal conflict and offered only vagaries regarding the details, I’d tell you that the answer depends.  On the other hand, if you told me more about the people involved, their Five Archetypes natures, how they usually deal with conflict, what else is going on in their social, emotional and physical lives, and if you told me more details about the problem, what are the specific circumstances, how long has it been going on, is anyone else involved, I would be able to offer the following:

  • Clear guidance on why the problem is an issue in the first place
  • What each party is feeling and thinking and why
  • A map for how to reach common ground and solve the problem in a way where everyone’s needs are humanized and met.  

Considering the “epigenetics” of the problem at hand helps you get out of your head and into your heart, which is where problems are solved with compassion, kindness and ease.

What about neuroplasticity? Neuroplasticity refers to our brain’s ability to adapt and grow in response to life experiences. With respect to the Five Archetypes method, we help you create new, more effective synapses in the brain by teaching activities that correspond to the archetypal nature(s) you need to grow in order to become more resilient to your stress triggers. The neuroplasticity exercises that are most effective for you are directly dependent upon the balance of the Five Archetypes within your nature as determined by taking our online quiz. By following the Five Archetypes method for self-mastery, you’ll have a highly personalized roadmap to a more fulfilling life that offers several neuroplasticity exercises.

Communicate better through understanding personalities

The Archetypes represent five different interactive styles and ways we grow through challenge. When we understand these five ways, which are represented by elements in nature; Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood, we can predict and overcome our common pitfalls in all relationships, love, at work and even in self-care.  We can start to understand ourselves and others and begin to communicate better.

The five interactive styles can be summed up in basic terms as:

  • Wood— The Trailblazer who is a visionary and is goal oriented.
  • Fire— The Optimist who is an inspiring leader and a hopeful leader.
  • Earth— The Caregiver who is nurturing and attentive.
  • Metal–The Architect who is graceful and meticulous.
  •  Water–The Philosopher who is introspective and poetic.

It’s important to remember that we all possess traits from all five archetypes, but it is our primary or dominant archetype that reveals our interactive style and how we can communicate better with each other.

Each of the archetypes is represented by a spectrum of personality traits that range from our extreme strengths to our extreme manifestations of stress.  When we are feeling empowered, centered and secure we are more likely to demonstrate our strengths in our interactions with ourselves and others.  When we are feeling insecure and otherwise distressed, we are going to exhibit our more rigid and panicky behaviors that thwart the growth of relationships and progress.

When you master your Five Archetypes and become proficient at discerning the archetypes within others, you have access to creative problem-solving skills including astoundingly deeper insight, intuition, empathy, vision and grace.

Scroll through some characteristics of each of the five and their correspondences.  See if you recognize yourself or your friends within these descriptions.  If you want to dive deeper into your own archetypes, take our free quiz here.

Strengths and stressors for each archetype…


Wood’s Force exists on a spectrum from Bold Vision and Action, its greatest strengths, to Frustration and Anger, its most prominent displays of stress. When Wood is well nourished and gently and consistently modulated, it nimbly leads those around it toward success.  On the other hand, when Wood feels insecure, it can push its agenda too aggressively, not able to encourage those around it to reach their potential.  

Wood’s biggest fear is the possibility of confinement. A Wood person believes being a brave risk-taker and a naturally hard worker ensures he’ll avoid facing what causes him the most acute frustration – that someone will keep him from doing or saying what he knows is right and is on a path to achieve right now. 

After all, if you’re the bold visionary in the room, why would anyone have the audacity to ask you to slow down, reevaluate, or explain how you reached your decision? This is the question that sits subconsciously below the surface for Wood people and drives much of their thought and behavior patterns as well as their stress responses.


Fire’s Force exists on a spectrum from Joy, its greatest strength, to Panic, its most prominent display of stress. When fire is well nurtured and lovingly confined, it warms you and those who come into contact with you.  On the other hand, when fire burns too low, or becomes too unruly, it either isn’t able to provide warmth or burns too brightly and scorches everything in its path.  

Fire’s biggest fear revolves around not being connected or loved. A fire person believes her natural gifts of joy and optimism insure that she’ll avoid experiencing her biggest fear – losing the love and adoration of those around her. After all, why would anyone not love a person who injected a constant dose of eternal optimism into their world, right? This question sits subconsciously just below the surface for Fire people and drives much of Fire’s thought and behavior patterns and reactions to stress.


Earth’s Force exists on a spectrum from Empathy, its greatest strength, to Worry and Overwhelm, its most prominent displays of stress. When Earth is well nurtured and lovingly confined, it compassionately supports those around it. On the other hand, when Earth feels insecure, it sacrifices its own needs for the needs of others, becoming overburdened and stuck.  

Earth’s biggest fear is the possibility of abandonment. An Earth person believes her natural gifts of empathy and compassion ensure that she’ll avoid experiencing her biggest fear – that the community she’s worked so diligently over time to nurture around her will leave. After all, why would anyone abandon a person who took care of their every need, right? This is the question that sits subconsciously below the surface for Earth people and drives much of their thought and behavior patterns as well as their stress responses.


Metal’s Force exists on a spectrum from Virtue and Decorum, its greatest strengths, to Inflexible and Overcritical, its most prominent displays of stress. When Metal is well nurtured and lovingly encouraged, it provides a sense of beauty, logic and organization. On the other hand, when Metal feels insecure, she becomes over-focused on the details and may lose sight of the bigger picture. This stressed pattern of hyper-vigilance has the potential to leave the Metal person feeling sad and questioning her self-worth.   

Metal’s biggest fear is the possibility of making a mistake or being wrong. A Metal person believes her natural gifts of creating beauty and perfection in the world will keep her from experiencing what she most dreads – that she could make an error or be accused of a lapse in judgment. After all, if Metal is naturally aware of and practices the right way to be, there is little to no chance she’ll ever misstep. This is the awareness that rests subconsciously below the surface for Metal people and drives much of their thought and behavior patterns as well as their stress responses.


Water’s Force exists on a spectrum from Deep Insight, its greatest strength, to Fear and Hopelessness, its most prominent displays of stress. When Water is well nurtured and gently encouraged, she becomes a patiently devoted mentor to family and friends. On the other hand, when Water feels insecure, she over isolates, becoming deeply apprehensive and somber.  

Water’s biggest fears revolve around the possibility of making the wrong decision and becoming vulnerable, or unimportant. A Water person believes her natural ability to access and understand the secrets of how things come into being and how they work will naturally keep him from experiencing his biggest fear – that she may make the wrong decision that will render his opinion irrelevant. After all, why would she ever be at risk for making the wrong decision if she is so darned good at gathering knowledge and deep meaning? This is the question that sits subconsciously below the surface for Water people and drives much of their thought and behavior patterns as well as their stress responses.


Why have I devoted my life to studying and teaching the Five Archetypes? Well, I don’t like seeing people suffer. Especially when there is such an effective and simple method we can all be using to avoid it. Most conflict is usually from not understanding how each other thinks and not knowing how to communicate better with them.

Many people ask me what the difference is between other classification systems and the Five Archetypes. At its core, The Five Archetypes is a cure for our current epidemic of disconnect.  Look around.  Read the news (on second thought… maybe avoid that if you’re looking to avoid suffering).  

We are disconnected from our own emotional, spiritual and physical needs. We are disconnected from our needs and our partner’s needs in relationships. We are disconnected from our higher purpose in this very lifetime. How many times do you hear yourself or others contemplate why they are in a career, in a marriage, or a life they don’t love?

To decrease our suffering, we need to increase unity and communicate better.  We need to transform our impulse for separateness into a drive for wholeness.  My mentor, Dr. Stephen Cowan, world-renowned integrative developmental pediatrician teaches that we can achieve this by recognizing and honoring our natural archetypal inclinations and using them as a guide to fulfill completeness, wholeness instead of becoming attached to our inclinations as the only or best ways to interact.

For example:

  • Wood – the goal is to transform his desire for winning and ownership into the boundless freedom available in complete connectedness with self, others and the world
  • Fire – the goal is to transform his desire for momentary pleasure into the limitless joy inherent in complete connectedness with self, others and the world
  • Earth – the goal is to transform his desire for singular partnership into the inseparable harmony found in complete connectedness with self, others and the world
  • Metal – the goal is to transform his desire for orderliness and practice into the unconditional gratitude and forgiveness that accompanies complete connectedness with self, others and the world
  • Water – the goal is to transform his desire for truth or trust into the experience of endless peace available to him in complete connectedness with self, others and the world

On the other hand, when we choose to remain disconnected from ourselves and from each other, we perpetuate disunifying thoughts and beliefs over time, making relationships unpleasant and leaving us wondering why we can’t seem to see eye to eye with others.  

In this state of disconnect, we more easily fall back into our learned perceptions of ourselves as separate from others.

For example:

  • Wood – believes they shouldn’t ever have to lose or allow anyone to take what they’ve earned
  • Fire – believes they should never have to feel uncomfortable
  • Earth – believes they should never have to witness conflict
  • Metal – believes they should never have to be wrong
  • Water – believes they should never have to connect with others

I’m sure you can imagine that in these states of mind, it’s close to impossible to have fulfilling relationships and resilience to stress triggers.

The Five Archetypes method for becoming self-aware, resilient in the face of discomfort and empathetic to others leads to an experience of wholeness.  The method is easy to understand and follow and includes a natural process that is simple to implement into daily life and rewarding when you watch how your life improves.