What do we mean by the Five Elements?

Introduction to the Five Elements

The Five Elements in the Chinese system are:

  • Wood (Spring)
  • Fire (Summer)
  • Earth (Late Summer)
  • Metal (Autumn)
  • Water (Winter)

As you can see, each Element is associated with a particular season. Just as the natural world contains all these different Elements, each person has all five elements within them too.  They can be understood as different aspects of a person’s being.  Each Element describes a different quality in a person, just as each season brings a different quality to the natural world.  For example, Spring (the season associated with the Wood Element) is a time of rapid growth in nature.  In a person, the energy of the Wood Element may manifest as a strong ability to move forward in their life and generate change. 

The Five Elements in children

During the first years of life, the Five Elements within a child are slowly developing.  The circumstances of a child’s life, in combination with their innate nature, will influence how smoothly and strongly this development happens.  In an ideal world (if there were such a thing), the growth and development of each Element within a child would be wholly supported by the events and circumstances of their early life.  In reality, life is never quite ideal and the development of the Five Elements becomes distorted.  Big events or trauma, for example, prolonged separation from a parent or serious illness, will obviously have an impact on growth and development.  However, less obvious things influence the development of the Five Elements within a child too.  For example, subtle dynamics within the family or not getting enough downtime over a long period may be enough to create imbalance. 

Particular aspects of life tend to affect a particular Element.  For example, the quality of the relationships a child has in her life will predominantly (although not exclusively) impact her Fire Element.  The degree to which she gets the nurture she needs will predominantly impact her Earth Element.  

How do we know if one of the Elements within a child is struggling?

If your child went to see an acupuncturist, they would diagnose by observing subtle signs related to the child’s facial colour, the sound of their voice, the way they expressed certain emotions and even the specific quality of their odour.  However, it takes many years to train in this subtle art of diagnosis. 

Thankfully, there are easier ways to ascertain if something is going awry.  Certain behaviours may point towards a particular Element within a child struggling.  Looking at which emotions a child tends to get stuck in, or conversely avoids altogether, can also be useful.  This is because, just as there is a season associated with each Element, there is also an emotion.  The emotion resonates with the qi of the season.  For example, the emotion connected with summer is joy, and with autumn is sadness.  

Please have a look at the separate posts related to each Element to understand more about how each Element may manifest in a child.

What do we mean by the Five Elements?