In a part 2, I described why the Elemental Living™ Model works. In part 3, I will describe how the model works. Happily, the model’s intuitive nature (no pun intended) brings with it clear insights about the ways in which the elements can be used to balance our emotions, actions, relationships, and households. Before I nose-dive into that, I will describe a key but often misunderstood component to Elemental LivingTM.
Balance is often spoken about as if it is a state we reach and attempt to maintain. When we’re stressed we say, “my life is so unbalanced!” and when things feel good we say we’ve “struck the perfect balance.” The truth is that we’re always in a state of balance; that’s just the way nature works, though it may not always seem that way. For instance, tsunamis and hurricanes feel chaotic and non-sensical; however, when we view them from a more distanced perspective, we realize that they are both natures way of balancing by shifting the earth or adjusting atmospheric pressure, respectively. Looking at the end result of devastation and tragic loss of life makes it *seem* chaotic, but nothing could be further from the truth. Let me explain…
As Above, So Below
Our internal and external lives mimic nature in so many beautiful ways. Just like the balancing nature of hurricanes and tsunamis don’t *feel* good, the balance we’re currently living may not *feel* good or help us to function optimally. However, there IS a balance and thus a reason for what we’re feeling. More specifically, our emotions are not “good” or “bad” they just are. However, though we don’t take down or hide thermometers for displaying temperatures that lead us to feel uncomfortable, we will often shove down or hide from difficult emotions that are only there to let us know that our situation, choices, or thoughts are serving us in unhelpful ways.
A mentor of mine used to say, “when we bury our emotions, we bury them alive.” In other words, when we choose to numb or distract ourselves (often with ‘unhealthy’ behaviors) away from difficult emotions, then the moment we stop numbing and distracting, the emotions we’ve tried to bury re-emerge full force as floods, hurricanes, or tsunamis! This happens because instead of feeling the natural flow of emotions, we bury them which creates pressure that our system must release – even if it hurts. In other words, our system’s natural tendency is to flow. When we stop it from flowing, something’s gotta give.
Example: Softening Backtalking Rocks
I recently worked with a mom who described her teen daughter as consistently “defiant.” To every request that mom asked the answer was, “no…why?…later…I don’t want to…” In these instances, mom said that her daughter wasn’t angry and out of control like a fire or sad like stagnant water but more hard and firm, like hard earth. Mom, on the other hand, felt disempowered and sad, which didn’t feel good. When we don’t feel ‘good’ on the inside we attempt to re-balance or compensate for these ‘bad’ feelings. Mom did this by matching her daughter’s hard earth energy. She would make demands that would lead her daughter to become more solid (obstinate) or fiery with anger. Throwing hard earth at hard earth was causing an imbalance in their dynamic – which clearly wasn’t working.
As I coached mom, she saw that her external attempts to balance her “bad” feelings were having the opposite desired impact on her daughter. Using the Elemental LivingTM Model, we honed mom’s needs (to be heard and at peace with her daughter) and brainstormed her daughter’s *possible* needs: 1. to be heard and 2. to have time to complete her tasks before moving into what mom wanted her to do. Having a better perspective on herself, the potential purpose behind her daughter’s behavior, and the situation, mom realized that rebalancing in a way that may soften (vs harden) her daughters earth may be more productive. The next time I heard from mom, she was SO excited to fill me in:
Mom: She did it again! I asked her to do the dishes and got a loud sigh and a grunt. I remembered what we talked about. I still felt sad and hopeless BUT I closed my eyes and saw water pouring over hard brittle earth. I remembered her need for transition time and instead of saying my usual, “as long as you live in my house, you’ll do as I say!” I brought water!!!! I empathized and said, ‘Honey, I see you’re finishing up some important work, is that right? Okay, the dishes need to be washed but I get how important it is to finish something when you’re flowing; so you tell me, how much time do you need to finish that up before you wash the dishes?’ OMG, she looked at me surprised and said, ‘um, 10 minutes?’ I agreed, walked around the corner and almost threw my shoulder out doing fist pumps in the air. Ten minutes later I heard her running the water in the kitchen sink…WOOHOO!”
This mom’s experience is the perfect example of how we can use the Elemental LivingTM Parenting and Personal Leadership Model and the power of metaphors to transform our reactions into intuitive actions. Through self-awareness and imagery, mom was able to calm her internal storm, bring “flowing water” energy to her daughter’s “hard earth” energy. Ultimately, mom traded her usual unskilled reaction, into a more skillful response. Bonus! She ultimately helped her daughter avoid her own flood of triggered emotions. Will this always move so smoothly? Likely not. We cannot completely control how others respond (Newsflash! This includes our kiddos), but when we gain confidence and skill in our responses, we’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by the reactions of others (yes, even our kiddos).
The next time your kiddos express hard earth or trigger hard earth within you, stop and see what emotion are you may be avoiding through your response– sadness, overwhelm? What would bringing flowing water to yourself look like? What would bringing flowing water to the situation look like? Using imagery and planning for situations such as the one above before they occur, the more likely we’ll be able to access that imagery and our ideal response when we need them most.
Comment below! What thoughts or questions do you have about the Elemental LivingTM model? Is there a situation you’re facing in your family that it would be helpful to see how the model applies? Want more information on how to use the model’s simple four step approach to deal with the most frustrating moments in your family? Download a copy of 3 Tantrum Types: Dealing with Tantrums the Elemental LivingTM Way!”