I have been giving a lot of thought to how each element experiences regret. We feel regret at doing or not doing something that we wish now that we had done or not done. Each element has its own special relationship to the past, none more so than Metal, where the past is its special domain. It is here that it gets its most important work done, for it is its task to weigh up and evaluate past actions. The burden of regret will therefore weigh heaviest upon it, for Metal people want to be able to say to themselves, “I have done this well”. It is not surprising to note how often a Metal person will say, “if only I had done this…” or “what if I had done that”.
Other elements will feel the weight of regret less keenly, because for them what is past and gone will represent something different. Wood must plan for a hopeful future, and will have the least time to regret what is past. Fire experiences regret most strongly where it involves hurt it may have done to others, and will try to use this to make the present better. Earth is turned more towards itself, and may not have time to indulge in the luxury of going over the past. Water, the great survivor, may have the least interest of all in thinking of its past in its struggles to stay afloat in the present. For Metal, as we have seen, the past represents the place where it must do its work. The “if only’s” and “what if’s” of life will therefore place upon it the deepest cuts.
We can find a helpful pointer to these different approaches if we listen carefully to the tense in which we describe the most important events in our lives. I have found that whether somebody talks most in the present, future or past tense is therefore a simple, but often effective, way of helping me reach a diagnosis, to be added to all the many other little signs by which an element reveals itself. The present tense is about things happening now, the future about things to come and the past about things that have already happened, the tense in which Metal often expresses itself. Wood will be happiest saying, “I will be doing this”, Fire, “I am doing this”, and Metal “if only I had done this”. Somewhere in between lie Earth and Water.
Our guardian element leaves traces of itself in all that we do and say. I have found different modes of speech to be another simple way of tracking its footprints.