16. Patterns of behaviour of Earth Constitutional Factors
Patterns of behaviour of an Earth CF120
The main issues for an Earth CF121
Responses to the issues121
This chapter describes some of the most important behavioural characteristics that are typical of this CF. Some aspects of a person’s behaviour can be observed in the treatment room. Others can only be discerned from the patient’s description of themselves and their life. As stated in the previous chapters, behaviour can be an indicator of a patient’s diagnosis but it can only be used to confirm the CF. It should always be used in conjunction with colour, sound, emotion and odour, which are the four primary methods of diagnosis (these are described in greater depth in Chapters 2 and 25, this volume). Once the CF is confirmed the patterns of behaviour may, however, support the practitioner’s diagnosis.
The origin of the behaviours was described in Chapter 7. The imbalance of the Element of the CF creates instability or impairment of the associated emotion. Thus specific negative emotional experiences are more likely to occur to one CF as opposed to another. The behavioural traits described in this chapter are often the responses to these negative experiences. In the case of Earth the person experiences feelings of being unsupported and nurtured and she or he is responding to this.
Patterns of behaviour of an Earth CF
The balanced Element
Patients with a healthy Earth Element can easily give and receive emotional support and nurturing. The health of a person’s Earth Element is largely dependent on the quality of the relationship with the mother. As was stated earlier in Chapter 14, it is no coincidence that the earth is often referred to as ‘Mother Earth’. This is because the fruits of the earth nourish and support us, much as a person’s mother does.
In a healthy relationship a mother or main carer provides a child with support when it is young. The mother feeds, holds and comforts the child if it is distressed. If children fall and hurt themselves they usually run to their mothers for comfort. The mother will rub the wound better or do what is necessary to console the child. Once comforted the child feels safe enough to be independent again. She or he knows that when the going gets tough the mother will be at hand for more support. This external security in the early years enables children to create their own internal security and become independent later on in adult life. Research with monkeys shows that the young become independent more quickly and completely when they have received stable and supportive parenting in infancy (Harlow and Harlow, 1962).
Having been provided with this early support, people are usually capable of nourishing themselves. They learn to ask for help when they need it and take in nurturing and care offered by others. They are also able to give support and nourishment to others and to distinguish between when it is appropriate to look after their own needs and when to care for the needs of other people.
Formative events for an Earth CF
Although it is likely that people are born with their CF, many of their experiences, especially emotional ones, are also coloured by it. The need to feel supported or cared for when distressed is a very basic human need, that in itself is not pathological. When the person’s need for support goes out of balance, however, it becomes pathological.
Many Earth CFs feel that they never really bonded or received sufficient nurturing from their mother. This means that their Earth Element never received adequate nourishment to achieve good balance. Sometimes the mother or main carer was not available to give support when the need arose. Even if she was available, the manner in which it was given may have meant that the person was unable to take it in and felt deprived.
Others were dominated by their mothers and were overly dependent upon them for caring and intimacy. This can create significant problems when the time comes for the child to build a life independent from the family. It can also cause difficulties when the person’s mother dies.
A patient who is an Earth CF was the third child in a family of ten. She described to her practitioner that she didn’t get very much attention from her mother. ‘By the time I was eighteen months old another child had come along and after that they just kept coming. I never felt I got my needs met and was always left wanting more.’ As a result of this situation the patient struggled later on when it came to bringing up her own daughter. ‘I think I overcompensated and overfed her. I was so worried that she wasn’t getting enough from me. At some level I also didn’t let her in. She’s eighteen now and I’m still trying to get close to her.’
Many Earth CF children may have lost touch with their own needs. For some people it means that they only think of the needs of others. They have lost the ability to receive support when appropriate and act independently when it is called for. When having acupuncture they may feel uncomfortable about doing something for themselves and being supported. Others only think of themselves and don’t consider others’ needs. They feel so insecure inside that they may be oblivious if others are also having difficulties.
Sometimes the practitioner temporarily takes on the role of the mother or carer for the patient. This can be a difficult situation for physicians and carers. If patients become dependent they may be getting the support they need but an unhealthy dependency could develop that will be hard for the patient to transcend. The goal is to enhance the patient’s Earth Element sufficiently for the patient to be able to let go and care for her or himself.
The main issues for an Earth CF
For the Earth CF certain needs remain unmet. This situation creates certain issues which centre on these areas:
• feeling supported
• getting nourishment
• feeling centred and stable
• having mental clarity
• being understood
The extent to which someone is affected in these areas varies according to the person’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Relatively healthy Earth CFs will have less disturbance with these aspects of life, whilst those with greater problems end up with their personalities being strongly influenced by this imbalance.
Because of these issues they may consciously or unconsciously ask themselves various questions such as:
• Who will give me the support I need?
• How can I get nourished?
• How can I become centred and stable?
• How can I get what I want from the world?
• How can I feel I belong?
• Who will really understand me?
Responses to the issues
So far we have described how a weakness in the Earth Element leads to a lesser capacity to give and receive emotional support appropriately. The issues that subsequently arise lead to a spectrum of typical ways of responding to the world. These are common, but not exclusive to Earth CFs. If other CFs have patterns of behaviour that seem similar it may indicate that there is a different set of motivations underlying them or that the Earth Element is also imbalanced but is not the CF. Noticing these responses is therefore useful but does not replace colour, sound, emotion and odour as the principal way of diagnosing the Constitutional Factor.
The behavioural patterns are along a spectrum and can go between these extremes:
|2||feeling needy||––––––––––––||repressing needs|
|4||uncentred and dispersed||––––––––––––||stuck and heavy|
|5||over-dependent on the security of the home||––––––––––––||inability to put down roots|
These are discussed below.
Smothering/mothering – not supporting
Earth CFs who would like to receive more support and nurturing often start caring for and mothering others. For some Earth CFs this can be almost compulsive and they find it hard to resist any waif or stray who comes to them for help or whom they perceive to be in need of their assistance.
A patient came for treatment describing herself as feeling ‘worn out and depleted’. She had a busy counselling practice and said she had difficulty saying ‘no’ to people. ‘If I’m asked for anything I’ll automatically say “yes” and try and fit it in. My reason for existing is giving to others and for them to need me’. She also described that she could be so over-empathetic with her clients that she could completely lose herself in them and take on all of their problems. ‘Sometimes I’ll almost merge with people and lose a sense of who I am.’
Some Earth CFs may channel the tendency to ‘mother’ into their families and children. One Earth CF, for example, described knowing she ‘had a purpose in her life’ once she had become pregnant and this left her ‘deeply satisfied’. Unfortunately this also had a negative side and she felt desolate and depressed when her child-rearing days were over. She also found it difficult to let go of the children as they grew up and became independent.
Sometimes the person on the receiving end of this kind of mothering can find it excessive. What is perceived as supportive behaviour can turn into interference. An Earth CF who compulsively looks after others may forget to check whether the person they are caring for actually wants support from them. In this case the need to care can be so great that mothering becomes ‘smothering’.
A patient who was 35 continually complained about her mother’s meddling. Her mother would phone her every day to see if she was ‘all right’ and to find out every detail about what she had been doing that day. When the patient tried to assert her independence and said she’d rather not have so many calls, her mother became ill until the behaviour pattern had re-established itself.
Mothering and work
The compulsive need to care for others may lead Earth CFs to take jobs in caring professions such as nursing, counselling, social work or complementary medicine. Other caring jobs can be pastoral work, teaching or voluntary work, but the need to mother can be channelled into any work. The office worker that everyone turns to for support and sympathy, the hairdresser who listens to her clients’ troubles or the childminder who cares for everyone else’s children can all be using their mothering skills. People often find it easy to talk to them and tell them their troubles as they are adept at creating an atmosphere of acceptance and caring.
This extremely caring attitude can create difficulties for the person. Because the behaviour is compulsive and driven by the imbalance in their Earth Element, many people sublimate their own needs in order to be helping others. For example, they may continue to rush around supporting everyone when they are ill and needing to rest.
When Earth CFs find they are unable to make things better, they can start worrying excessively and can obsessively go over and over any of the smallest problems in fine detail. Watching suffering on the television news night after night can often be overwhelming for people who are excessively sympathetic.
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