In traditional Chinese Medicine the material world is seen to be made up of five elements:
The five elements interact and have specific relationships with each other. Each element also has a relationship with a season, a stage in the life cycle of humans and animals. Particular elements are more prominent at particular times of the year and at particular times of our lives. Each element also has specific emotions, sounds, colours, tastes, parts of the body, etc. associated with it. There are particular questions associated with each element. An individual can have too much or too little of an element within their life and their body. An imbalance in a particular element is likely to result in specific types of illnesses.
The wood element is associated with spring, with birth and the early years of life. It is also associated with the colour green and with rancidity, sourness and anger. A wood-type question is: Do you have enough roots to sustain your growth; and enough fuel to sustain your passions? People suffering from repeated imbalances in the wood element are likely to suffer from headaches, conjunctivitis and angry outbursts.
By contrast the fire element is associated with summer, the colour red, bitterness (both as a taste and an emotion) and joy. Once again it is possible to have too much or too little of this element in your life. Fire questions include: Are you too cold, unable to be passionate? Fire element imbalances can lead to insomnia, hearing problems and a lack of joy in life.
Earth is the element associated with late summer, the colour yellow, dampness, humidity, sweetness and the emotions of sympathy and empathy. People who have too little of the earth element in their life are selfish and focused solely on what they want. People who have too much are constantly at the beck and call of others, putting others needs before their own in an unhealthy way.
The metal element is associated with grief, white, autumn, dryness and pungency. Questions associated with this element include: Are you too hard on yourself? and What have you lost? It is also associated with rationality, precision, self-control and a tendency to pessimism.
The water element is associated with decline and the end of life. It is also associated with the winter months. This element is associated with fear. It is important to have a certain amount of fear in life, otherwise we would put ourselves into unnecessary danger, but too much fear and anxiety can be stifling. The colour blue is associated with the water element, so wearing more blue may bring this element back into balance. However, if there is too much energy in water, reducing the amount of blue worn is likely to be beneficial. A cool climate is associated with this element too.
Each element is said to be the mother of (or the creator of) the one that follows. So, wood creates fire, which creates earth which creates metal which creates water which creates wood. The cycle continues and continues with no element being any more important than any other element. This is known as the creation cycle. There is another important cycle known as the control cycle:
- Wood controls earth
- Earth controls water
- Water controls fire
- Fire controls metal
- Metal controls wood
These two cycles are used by many kinesiologists in the work they do to help rebalance the energy system. See also 5 Elements Theory.