Balancing the Elements

In this article we are going to talk about the Elements within the human psyche, and their correspondences to the four temperaments. Mainly, we are interested in deepening the way we can balance them in order to achieve a healthy equilibrium in our personality. We are going to consider their imbalances as well, to better understand how each element is able to lead us astray.

As you may know, in ancient medicine illness was caused by the imbalance of the humors—fluids of the human body which carry specific qualities. In Western medicine, they were related to the four elements: yellow bile carries fire; the blood, air; phlegm carries water; black bile, earth. According to this school of thought, the excess of each humor in the body determines a different temperament in the psyche.

So, what is a temperament? We can think of it as a basic personality type which is able to connect the psyche to the body. In fact humors affect not only the physical body but also the ancestral part of the psyche—the part connected to our basal instincts—through hormones and other psychosomatic mechanisms. In other words it is the foundation of the personality on which everything else is built. In this way, a dominant temperament is determined.

We can say that every person has a dominant temperament, and a possible secondary temperament. Reading this list you are probably going to easily recognize yours:

temp_fireCholeric It’s the temperament produced by yellow bile, related to the fire element. Choleric people are strong, fiery, proud, prone to anger, easily provoked, stubborn, cocky, reactive, loyal, and generous; they always speak their mind, they are natural leaders, and they want things to go their way.
temp_airSanguine It’s the temperament produced by the blood, related to the air element. Sanguine people are lively, funny, sociable, talkative, always smiling, carefree, fickle, prone to laugh, joke and gossip. They get bored easily, so they are always looking for new ideas and stimuli.
temp_waterPhlegmatic It’s the temperament produced by phlegm, related to the water element. Phlegmatic people are good hearted, calm, compassionate, sensitive, emotional, patient, silent, good listeners, lazy; they love to stay in their comfort zone, enjoying good food and company; they are creatures of habit.
temp_earthMelancholic It’s the temperament produced by black bile, related to the earth element. Melancholic people are serious, responsible, pessimistic, realistic, negative, cautious, reliable, efficient, and steady. They are easily discouraged and they tend to be conservative.

Too much, too little

Problems come when we’ve got too much, or too little, of an element. The point is that you can’t have too much fire without having too little water; and you can’t have too much air without having too little earth (and vice versa). This because opposite elements naturally balance each other.

Since we talked about temperaments as the result of a natural excess of an element in the body, we are going to discuss the matter from this perspective. This means that choleric people are mainly going to face issues coming from an excess of Fire; Sanguine people, from an excess of Air, and so on.

Also consider the other side of the coin: choleric people tend to lack water; sanguine people, earth; phlegmatic people lack fire; melancholic people, air. In addition, your secondary temperament might naturally balance the main one.

el_fireAnger Too much Fire leads to anger issues. The dominant thought here is: “nothing is as it should be”. You are easily irritated, and you are not able to restrain yourself. The result is a cocky temper which is unable to relate peacefully with others. You may also experience heartburn and blurred vision.
el_airAnxiety Too much Air causes anxiety. Your thoughts are chaotic and you bounce around from one thing to another. You are overstimulated and stressed—you can’t catch your breath. This slowly wears you down until you burn out. You may experience anxiety attacks or worse: panic attacks.
el_waterApathy Too much Water leads to apathy. You don’t feel like doing anything, and nothing really interests you. You feel stuck and isolated in this stagnant and boring feeling. You passively contemplate the world around you with a hypnotized gaze. You feel like a zombie and nothing really makes sense.
el_earth_Melancholy Too much Earth causes “melancholy”. It is a sad feeling of being trapped in a world of duty and responsibility. You are efficient—you do our job—but you are not able to find joy in life anymore. You feel like a robot: you work rather than live. Together, apathy and melancholy leads to depression.

Let’s see now what we can do to balance the elements within.

Tempering the Temperament

First of all, you can’t simply get rid of an element. Statements such as “don’t be angry!” or “cheer up!” are useless—they are only proving that people around you don’t understand how you feel. Actually they are a form of denial; we don’t want to go that way. Instead we want to recognize our dysfunctional mood as a form of elemental imbalance.

Let’s say for example you have a sanguine temperament and you face anxiety on a regular basis. This means you are not able to balance the air element. Actually you have so much air energy that even your body inhales much more (physical) air than it exhales (hyperventilation is an interesting physiological reaction related to air and anxiety issues).

The first thing you want to do is to “consume” the element in excess; then—and only then—you can proceed by introducing balancing activities related to the opposite element.

So, in the case of anxiety you want to use your air, to consume it. A good way to do that is to go outside, hang out with your friends, chatting and laughing (social interaction belongs to the air element). This is going to dispel the air in excess. Instead, sitting still at home is only going to bring that air energy totally in the head—as a result you are going to be overwhelmed by thoughts. Don’t even try to say to yourself “don’t think about it” because that air energy has to go somewhere. If you can’t go outside you may want to consider Mantra Repetition, which is also a good way to dispel that kind of energy.

The opposite element of air is earth, so any grounding activity will work. In fact, many people instinctively overeat or work hard to overcome their anxiety. Instead of doing that unconsciously, you can choose the grounding technique you prefer.

Here’s a list of consuming and balancing activities related to each element. Obviously any balancing activity will be element-consuming for the opposite one, and vice versa:

 

el_fire

Fire / Choleric / Anger

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Sports / Going to the gym
  • Sunbathing
  • Challenges
  • Making Love
  • Spiritual Development
  • Sleeping / Resting
  • Cocooning
  • Intimacy / Emotional interaction
  • Arts / Crafts
  • Escapism

el_air

Air / Sanguine / Anxiety

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Shopping
  • Chatting / Social interaction
  • News / Social Media
  • Reading / Writing
  • Laughing
  • Gardening
  • Walking in Nature
  • Eating
  • Manual labor
  • Planning

el_water

Water / Phlegmatic / Apathy

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Sleeping / Resting
  • Cocooning
  • Intimacy / Emotional interaction
  • Arts / Crafts
  • Escapism
  • Sports / Going to the gym
  • Sunbathing
  • Challenges
  • Making Love
  • Spiritual Development

el_earth_

Earth / Melancholic / Melancholy

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Gardening
  • Walking in Nature
  • Eating
  • Manual labor
  • Planning
  • Shopping
  • Chatting / Social interaction
  • News / Social Media
  • Reading / Writing
  • Laughing

Usually we tend to naturally express our temperament, so we find it hard to behave according to the opposite one. Choleric people for example are not able to rest: they have so much fire energy to funnel in their projects that they simply forget to do it, they even forget to eat sometimes! On the other hand, for phlegmatic people competitions or challenges are a pain in the neck. In the end it’s just a matter of perspectives: we can evolve only if we learn to look at things from another point of view.