Remember when we first started to shelter-in-place? We thought maybe two weeks. We looked at the newfound opportunity with time and after the initial panic subsided, we tried to do things to build emotional resilience.
Then weeks turned to months. We realized masks were going to be a permanent-ish part of our lives. Many businesses aren’t coming back at all. Many of us now work from home all the time, with very little hope of “returning” to anything normal anytime soon.
Do you think emotional resilience is even more important now?
Emotional resilience for each of the Five Archetypes
I’m Fire. As you can guess, I get pretty emotional. I need calm, joy, and predictability to feel a sense of balance. I had a realization over the summer that helped me feel less worried and frantic: If we’re going to survive this pandemic with our mental health intact and be stronger and better for it, we need to boost our emotional resilience, and we need to transform our relationship to others.
That’s what I can contribute: a way to help you be more emotionally grounded with yourself and with others. That’s what The Five Archetypes do.
What I need as a Fire person is different than what you may need as a Metal person, or as a Water person. By boosting my emotional resilience, I’m more capable to help see what you need and help you boost yours. As you can do for me. You know, the whole “put your own oxygen mask on first” analogy.
The ultimate lesson of the Five Archetypes is that it’s all about unconditional love. Right now, it’s the knowledge that we can embrace our best attributes and welcome those of others even in a time of isolation and social distance. Done correctly, the Five Archetypes help us grow empathy. This is at the core of emotional resilience.
The Five Archetypes approach
The Five Archetypes are nature’s code for helping us predict and avoid pitfalls in love, work, and personal well-being. Based in the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine, the Five Archetypes asserts that our personalities are tied to basic elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. These have been touted for millennia as the core forces of nature that help us master our relationships with others and ourselves. Just as they help us understand disease and healing and the impact of the changing seasons on farming and plant life, they help us understand ourselves and others.
I found it easiest to think of these elements as Archetypes. They are windows into our true selves.
We each have a mix of all five Archetypes in our nature, but one element that is primary. This main element helps us better understand how we interact with the world. It also reveals what we are likely to do in times of stress.
So, if you can understand your elemental makeup and your nature in a stressful time, you can better adapt. Likewise, if you can understand those around you, you can better care for them in their stressful states.
In this article, Seven Secrets to a Vibrant Life, Jennifer Margulis points out something that may at first seem counterintuitive. She argues that suffering is key to vibrant living.
Even if you’re not sick and not in a high-risk group, you are most likely suffering right now. But what you do with that, how you move out of this stressful suffering and into a state of resilience will help you weather this crisis. And we each experience this shift in different ways.
Since this method is rooted in an eastern health practice that teaches all aspects of our mind, body, spirit and environment are interconnected, the Archetypes can actually help us understand our physical health problems and the relationship we have to what is happening in the world around us. This knowledge can help us live a vibrant life even in the time of the pandemic.
Ultimately, building resilience using the Five Archetypes is about achieving harmonious balance. We need to balance all five of our archetypes to ensure flexibility and softness in the face of triggering experiences. For example, on the physical plane, Five Archetypes balance means we need to move our bodies (wood), connect with loved ones (fire), feed ourselves properly (earth), stay consistent with our goals (metal), and get good rest and stay hydrated (water).
Our element in resilience and in stress
One of the most powerful applications of the Five Archetypes is understanding how you respond in times of stress.
Coping with stress in a personalized way builds resilience. When you become more resilient, you become the best version of you. You need that version of you, your family needs that version of you, and we—the rest of the global community—need the best you in a time when everything around us feels like it’s crumbling.
Consider which element best applies to you:
Wood: When feeling resilient, Wood is a survivor, pushing forward to reach goals, regardless of obstacles, and encouraging those around her to do the same. When feeling insecure, the Wood type experiences strong feelings of frustration and anger and becomes acutely sensitive to criticism.
Fire: When feeling resilient, Fire serves as a source of optimism and hope for their own life trajectory and for that of those around them. When feeling insecure, Fire becomes over-sensitive and tends toward panic and anxiety.
Earth: When feeling resilient, Earth is driven to create a sense of togetherness and comfort that benefits both themselves and those around them. When feeling insecure, Earth experiences strong feelings of overwhelm and becomes preoccupied with fitting in.
Metal: When feeling resilient, Metal builds a sense of beauty, function, and standards that set the stage for the comfort of their own environment and that of those around them. When feeling insecure, Metal becomes overly critical and judgmental of self and others, worrying too much about making mistakes.
Water: When feeling resilient, Water solves complex problems with ease, avoiding the trap of becoming entangled in other people’s emotions and ensnared in human drama. When feeling insecure, Water lacks that usual sense of tenacity and willpower, retreating into inner thoughts and believing they don’t have anything of value to add.
Embracing others for strength and immunity
Our task is to embrace these differences in ourselves and others with compassion. We can achieve balance by practicing helpful traits that are not of our natural primary element.
For example, my fiery joy can cheer people up when they become stuck in grief. But Fire can become overly optimistic and avoid thinking about the fear of the unknown so they can plan an effective future. As a Fire, I need to access my own Water skills to sit quietly and consider the profoundness of the moment, which will both soothe my fear of the unknown and help me make better decisions. Water skills I can call upon include staying well hydrated, getting good sleep, and practicing meditation and other techniques to calm my mind and spirit.
Here’s another example: Metal can get stuck on the details of the news cycle, the right and wrong, and the one cause of all this chaos. Even if you’re not Metal, you may be spending way too much time fear-scrolling on Facebook and reading COVID-19 news. But here again, Water can offer us a solution. Water asks us to stay open. It invites us to imagine what else can be, what else is.
Close your eyes. Conjure up a happy moment from your past. Now imagine a happy moment in the future. See yourself healthy and surrounded by loved ones, doing something that brings you joy and helps others. As you imagine a different outcome rather than a calamitous end, you’ll notice the tension leaving your body and your breathing becoming more regular. When we immerse our Metal thinking in calm waters, we allow for the fact that there are endless possibilities. And peace finds us, anchoring us in a resilient way where uncertainty and stress had settled before.
By tuning in—instead of, say, tuning out on Netflix binging, or toilet paper hoarding—we can release grief and fear. We can stop the brain spin, leaving aside the hard questions about why all this is happening. Then we make space to find balance. In balance, we have greater access to our abilities to weather this storm.