I give my reply to her at the end of her email below.
I have two patients recently, who make me think a lot about Fire. They came to me a couple of months ago, both with family problems, one of them was even trying to get divorce with her husband. What impressed me the most was how they hate their husband! I was very confused about their elements at first, but recently I changed both of their diagnosis into Fire, because they both smile when talking about sad things, and their scorched smell. Now I’m getting positive feedback from both of them.
Now here comes my question. When we mention about Fire, we always think about all the good words, love, joy, kindness, forgiveness, and so on. However I could hardly feel the words from them sometimes, but the word “hate”. Then I realized that the obverse of love is hate, when the element is imbalanced, it can turn to the opposite, for example, a hopeful Wood person can be hopeless; a devoted Earth person can become rather selfish; a Metal person who keeps pursuing self-value can feel completely worthless; a brave Water person can become a coward, so fearful to move forward, or a person who always has fear in his/her heart can lose the ability of estimating risks and may put himself/herself into danger by taking too many adventures. I suddenly had a picture before me that although Fire can go out quietly with nothing to give anymore, the raging flame can burn so fierce and almost destroy everything. So I think it is possible that if some Fire people are very imbalanced, they may get so resentful to hurt people they have problem with.
When I first started to learn Five Element Acupuncture (including almost like every other student in China), Fire was considered as the “perfect” element--- easy to be with, humorous, kind-hearted, passionate, and so on, so if we met some one who could not fit into these words, we might think this one could never be Fire. But as I saw more Fire people, I gradually realized that most Fire people who came for treatment, as you’d told us, were people who were “lack of Fire”. And the feeling being with them was exactly as you’d written in your book KEEPERS OF THE SOUL, “There is an expectation of the sun’s presence throughout our summers, and then a disappointment when it fails to appear. We experience a lack of something that should be there that is not, a feeling no other season evokes in quite the same way…”
And I started to see some sides which were not so “perfect” (and no element is perfect, each element has its advantages and defects ). I could remember one sultry summer afternoon, when I left my clinic it was still sunny, but after less than ten minutes, the weather changed so quickly and started to rain heavily, I got wet in the rain and suddenly felt cold. And I thought, well, this kind of weather was very common in the summer, so, were Fire people like this? In your book KEEPERS OF THE SOUL, you described Fire as “the most volatile of all elements”, which reminded me of my mother, whom I thought may be the Fire element, who could be very strictly scolding us, then the next second smiling at other people, just like the changeable weather in the summer.
I’m not sure if it is right to understand Fire this way. I will try my best to continue observing my Fire patients and friends to develop a deeper and comprehensive understanding of Fire.
Here is my reply:
I am very impressed by how much work you are doing to deepen your understanding of the elements. I would emphasize, though, that there is no “perfect “element, as you yourself say. As you realise, all elements can offer all the good things they are able to offer when they are balanced, and hide them when they are out of balance. In other words, they all have their negative and their positive sides to them, and that definitely includes Fire.
I think you are right to think that the negative sides of Fire are a lack of all the “love, joy and kindness” which you mention as being its positive qualities. But I don’t think I would describe the negative qualities using such a strong word as “hate”. It’s much more that they appear as an inability to show love, joy or kindness. It is true that when there is a lack of Fire, “the raging flame can burn so fiercely and almost destroy everything”. That is when the negative qualities can hurt other people rather than bring them warmth and joy.
I think you are developing a very good understanding of the Fire element, as well as of the other elements, so carry on continuing to look for the traces of the different elements as you treat more and more people.