Thursday, June 17, 2010

A little lesson in the difference between the Earth and Fire elements from today’s practice

It is in small differences, and in our ability to pick them up, that much of the secret of our capacity to understand the distinctions between the characteristics of the different elements lies. When we realise this, we can use this knowledge to test ourselves and widen our understanding.

I will give an example of this from my practice today. An Earth patient told me of the feeling of mental confusion she often experiences. As she did so, she lifted her hand and pressed it close to her head as if trying to still the thoughts she said churned around inside her. I asked myself whether this gesture could be considered significant as pointing to something particular to Earth. Would I, of the Fire element, ever make a similar movement with my hand? I tried to mimic this movement and realised that I was using a gesture which was totally alien to me. I wondered why this was, and came to the conclusion that, even if my thoughts become confused, which they often do, I clear my mind by talking, as if translating them into a verbal form is what I need to do before I can develop my thinking.* (See footnote added on 24 July 2010 below) By contrast, what my Earth patient apparently cannot do when she is out of balance is put her thoughts into words. Her hand movement was in effect telling me that her thoughts had somehow got stuck inside her head, and the movement could therefore be seen as an attempt to dislodge them.

When I translated this into the kind of treatment that might help her, I came up with the lovely point, St 8 (Head Tied!), located on her head exactly where she had placed her hand, and with a function we could say perfectly fitted what she needed, which was to disentangle the thoughts tied up in her head. Whereas these thoughts of hers had not yet been processed sufficiently to emerge as words, mine, by contrast, never seem to need this kind of help. Rather it is the words themselves which I speak which have to act as sieves for my thoughts, a completely different process, which highlights one of the differences between Fire and Earth.

Such distinctions may seem very slight, but they are significant as pointing to one element or another, as everything is that we do. And one of the best things to do is to mimic the words or the movements of another person to see how far the feeling this mimicry evokes in us can lead us to some new discovery about a particular element. Certainly my experience with my Earth patient today has taught me something both about her and about myself, and thus at a subtle level helped me to a deeper understanding of the contrasting thought processes employed by Earth and Fire.

*Footnote to this, posted on 24 July 2010
I have just read the obituary to Edna Healey in the Guardian of 23 July 2010. They quote her as saying. "Somehow the thing that's in my head is never matched by what's on paper....If only I could write what's in my head I might never have wanted to do anything else. But sometimes, it seems, I only really know what I think when I've heard what I've said."


  1. Dear Nora,

    This is very interesting. People get stuck in different parts of processing information.
    I thought you could even pinpoint the difference more, as being a difference between Earth and Inner Fire. I doubt if Outer Fire would be so busy 'sieving' and verbalizing. What I see in people with Outer Fire as their Element is a difficulty expressing what they feel inside (either too much or too little). It seems to be the seriousness of Inner Fire that wants to make sure everything is in the right place (and using words, often backtracking, trying alternatives etc. - look at me doing exactly what I try to describe...) before deciding what is correct.

    Could you comment on this? The difference between Inner and Outer Fire is puzzling lots of people...


  2. Koos: You are quite right in pointing out that what I say in my blog may relate more to Inner Fire than to Outer Fire. We all find the distinction between these two Fire aspects difficult to make, because both sides have Fire as their guardian element. But there are quite clear distinctions, when one knows where to look, and some of these concern the relationship of thought to speech. So here goes: I am Inner Fire, and speech for me is a way of giving expression to my thoughts, often in incomplete form, a kind of first draft which my mind then works on in full public view, or rather, in full public hearing, as I hone it down in successive stages until I am sure that the words express accurately what I am trying to say. In other words, I talk myself through to the final version, or as near to that as I can get.

    By contrast, Outer Fire will take longer to consider what they want to put into words, and once satisfied with these words, then utter them, not as one stage along the path of a series of almost-but-not-quite-right versions of what they want to say, but as a statement in its final form. This necessarily involves some lapse in time, as the thoughts are put in the correct order to make coherent speech possible. Outer Fire’s speech will therefore tend to be more measured and more clearly articulated.

    I hope this pinpoints one aspect of the differences between the two sides of Fire for you, Koos. There are, of course, many others, but all of them are very subtle.