What Element Are You?
Do you know which element governs you? Together with the concepts of Yin and Yang, the theory of Five Elements forms the basis of Classical Chinese medicine theory, diagnosis, and treatment. The five elements of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal show us how our internal organs, personalities, and even body types are categorized and connected.
People are governed by one, or sometimes two, element(s). If you’ve ever heard of the Ayurvedic concept of ‘dosha’ -or constitutional body/personality type, Five Element theory is along the same vein.
The Five Elements and our Bodies
There is a strong relationship between your governing element, your physical and emotional characteristics, and the unique ways to keep your element in balance. There is also a pair of internal organs that correlate with each element (note that this is different than the anatomical organs we know from Western medicine). These element correlations are as follows:
The Water element is related to Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. The Kidneys are responsible for growth, development, and reproduction. The Kidneys also produce marrow, form the brain and spinal cord, control bones, open to the ears, and balance body fluid metabolism. The related emotion is fear. The Urinary Bladder stores and excretes urine.
The Wood element is related to the Liver and Gall Bladder. The Liver houses the soul, controls tendons, and is responsible for keeping the energy flowing. The Liver stores Blood and manifests externally in the eyes. Anger is the emotion of the liver. The Gall Bladder stores and excretes bile, protects the nervous system from overreaction, and helps to normalize a person emotionally.
The Fire element corresponds to the Heart and Small Intestine. The Heart houses the Shen (spirit), governs Blood, externally manifests in the tongue, has taste as its sensory function, and joy as its related emotion. The Small Intestine absorb fluids and is responsible for the transporting of excretions.
The Earth element relates to the Spleen and Stomach. The Spleen transforms and transports food into usable food essence (the waste is transported to the intestines), produces Blood, and opens to the mouth. The Spleen controls muscles and is responsible for keeping the Blood in the vessels (thus, bruising easily is a sign of weak spleen function). The related emotion is worry (also excessive thinking). The Stomach breaks down and ripens the food and transports it downward.
The Metal element is related to the Lung and Large Intestine. The main functions of the Lungs are breathing, regulating water metabolism, and to disperse and descend energy throughout the body. Lungs open out to the nose, and control the skin, pores, and skin hair. Sadness is the related emotion. The Large Intestine excrete wastes from the body and absorb water.
As you can see, each element relates to a comprehensive system of physical and emotional balance. It gives us information about how to diagnose and treat according to which element is out of balance. For example, stress may be a way of telling you that your Wood element is out of balance, or digestive issues may point to imbalance of the Earth element.
Determining Your Element
I know you are eager to find out what your governing element is, so let’s get into that! In subsequent posts, we will look more deeply into the characteristics of each element, how to asses signs of imbalance, as well as appropriate lifestyle choices for each type.
Take a look at the following chart. Read the questions in the left column, then select the answer in the following rows that resonates with you. It is normal to feel drawn to more than one answer. If so, you can fill it out twice. First, base your choices on that is most consistently true about your life as a whole, over many years. This indicates your long-term, overarching constitution. Second, fill it out again, this time considering how you have been feeling recently, in the last month or two. This indicates your present condition and how it may deviate from your long-term constitution.
Sometimes, it helps to have a partner or friend verify your answers, as they may have good insight or objectivity to offer!
After filling out the chart, add up the number of marks under each constitutional type - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood - to discover your own governing element.
What Does My Element Mean?
Most people will have one element that is dominant with a secondary influential type. In some cases, people will have more that one that are approximately equal. Now that you have determined your predominant constitutional type, we will in the following weeks discuss characteristics of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood types will help you gain a more comprehensive understanding of your unique governing element.
Please know that this chart is only a starting point; the subtleties of each person’s mental, emotional, and physical makeup and characteristics can be accurately assessed only by a practitioner trained and experienced in Chinese medical theory. It is best, therefore, not to draw absolute conclusions about yourself based on the self-assessment, but instead to use this information to help you grow in self-understanding and as a guide to help you plan your diet, exercise, and other aspects of your self-care and lifestyle.