13. Patterns of behaviour of Fire Constitutional Factors
Patterns of behaviour of a Fire CF96
The main issues for a Fire CF97
Responses to the issues97
This chapter describes some of the most important behavioural characteristics that are typical of a Fire CF. Some aspects of a person’s behaviour can be observed in the treatment room. Others can only be discerned from patients’ descriptions 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 CF diagnosis. 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 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 Fire the person experiences more frequent feelings of being unloved and she or he is responding to this.
Patterns of behaviour of a Fire CF
The balanced Element
People with a healthy Fire Element are able to give and receive love with appropriate degrees of emotional closeness. This enables them to cope with a wide range of differing relationships and to appreciate how and when to open up or close down to other people.
The variability and range of closeness in people’s relationships is enormous. Some relationships are usually extremely close, for example a spouse or ‘life partner’, in which case there is usually physical, emotional and spiritual closeness. Others are friendships which can be either with people of the same or a different sex, but which involve no physical intimacy. Some relationships are ones we don’t consciously choose, although they may be close. For instance, people become close to relatives because they are ‘family’ or to colleagues because they see them on a daily basis. Other relationships will be more distant and formal, such as with a doctor, shopkeeper or builder.
A healthy Fire Element enables people to know how and when it is appropriate to open up or shut down to people. It also helps them to decide how much to open up to others. This ability partly arises from experience, but if people have a well balanced Fire Element they cope with this aspect of life.
Formative events for a Fire CF
Because it is likely that people are born with their CF, many of their experiences, especially emotional ones, are coloured by it. If they are born with their Fire out of balance, then their ability to give and receive warmth becomes impaired. This can lead to many Fire CFs experiencing being rejected, abandoned or unloved at an early age. In comparison, people who have more balanced Fire Elements are less likely to have this experience.
Many Fire CFs feel this rejection strongly and a vicious circle develops. Children who easily feel hurt or rejected can over-compensate and protect themselves by keeping their heart closed off from other people. They may then find it difficult to take in warmth and respond to intimacy. As a result they start to feel that others do not like them or that they are unloveable. The more this occurs, the more their Fire Element becomes out of balance. This results in them becoming more and more desperate for love and attention to compensate for their feelings of not being loved.
When the Heart or Heart-Protector is imbalanced the Fire CF may not know when to open up or shut down to others. When these Organs are stuck open, the smallest offence, for example, being let down, ignored momentarily or mistakenly left out, causes hurt and pain. When these Organs are kept closed, intimacy is not achievable and the Fire CF will be unable to get close to others. Sometimes the Fire CF may swing between these two extremes and alternate between being too open and too closed. Fire CFs often feel very changeable, swinging from happiness to misery and back again.
A Fire CF told her practitioner that she was the third child and her mother had only wanted two children. She had always known that she was unwanted and had often felt rejected by her brother and sister as well as by her mother. When young she would often cry because her brother made fun of her. But she felt that her mother would always stick up for her brother and tell her off. She responded by learning to hide her feelings of unhappiness and pretend to feel happy all of the time. She succeeded so well that people often made remarks about what a happy child she was. After having acupuncture treatment she began to feel better about herself. ‘I think I was ashamed for much of my life because I thought I was not a very loveable person.’
The main issues for a Fire CF
For the Fire CF certain needs are not fully met. This situation creates issues that centre on these areas:
• love and warmth
• emotional volatility
• closeness and intimacy
• clarity and confusion
The extent to which someone is affected in these areas varies according to the person’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Relatively healthy Fire 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:
• Am I loveable?
• Why do I go up and down so much?
• How can I truly relate to others?
• How can I find true happiness?
• Why can’t I sort things out?
Responses to the issues
So far we have described how a weakness in the Fire Element leads to a lesser capacity to give and receive love and to cope with a wide range of different relationships. The issues that subsequently arise lead to a spectrum of ways that people typically respond to the world. These responses are common, but not exclusive to Fire CFs. If other CFs have seemingly similar patterns of behaviour it may indicate that there is a different set of motivations underlying the behaviour or that the person’s Fire Element is 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:
|2open and overly sociable||–––––––––||closed and isolated|
Compulsively cheerful – miserable
Fire CFs often swing between the two extremes of being joyful and sad. Many of them, however, only show the happier side of their personality to the world. Their sadness is often kept more private. Other people might describe them as having a sunny disposition, a cheerful nature or being a friendly person or a ‘nice guy’.
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A 56-year-old nurse who was a Fire CF worked in a care home for the elderly for over 30 years. Her nature was so bright that her boss nicknamed her ‘Susie sunshine’. She told her practitioner, ‘One of the patients says whenever I walk into the room it’s like a breath of fresh air and the sun’s shining. I have a laugh with people if I can and I try to get them to look on the bright side.’ Underneath her bright exterior, life had not always seemed as good for her. She was very tired when she first came for acupuncture treatment and often felt fed up and miserable but she rarely showed this side of herself.
When some Fire CFs are feeling joyful, they can have such enthusiasm that they fill everyone they meet with warmth and excitement. Their ability to ‘sparkle’ can be infectious and on a good day they can ‘light the fire’ of those around them. For example, a teacher who feels ‘fired up’ may bring a usually uninteresting subject to life and infect the students with this enthusiasm and passion. Other Fire CFs, like the patient described above, may have the ability to cheer others up when they are feeling a bit down. People naturally gravitate towards the cheerful Fire CF’s warmth and friendliness.
The habit of cheering others up can become compulsive, however, and the Fire CF may feel compelled to try to cheer others up. Fun can become the be-all and end-all. They often find it difficult to believe that anyone would rather be in any state other than a jolly one. The person they are ‘cheering up’ may prefer to stay with their feelings and in this case the Fire CF’s attitude of ‘looking on the bright side’ can be annoying rather than pleasing. If pushed away the Fire CF may end up feeling rejected.
Being happy is an important issue for many Fire CFs. Deep down they think that if they can make other people happy it will result in them being happy and contented too. If they are in a bad atmosphere, for example, if they think a person doesn’t like them, they may find it difficult to function well and may be unable to think clearly or to work.
Although they have this ability to be happy, many Fire CFs know that their joy does not run deep. When a Fire CF is asked ‘when did you last feel truly joyful?’ they will often find it hard to think of any time at all. They may have been ‘happy’, ‘playful’, ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘optimistic’, but real joy, joy that comes from an open and peaceful Heart, eludes them.
A Fire CF told her practitioner that she had difficulty finding joy in her life, ‘but that doesn’t mean I’m walking around feeling miserable all the time’. She also said that she liked to feel jolly and happy but underneath this she felt lonely. The loneliness was not because she was on her own, in fact the more people who were around the more isolated she would sometimes feel. ‘Sometimes I put the barriers up and I don’t want to let anyone in.’
At the extreme, Fire CFs can become too stimulated and over joyful. In this case they may seem to be on a ‘high’ for a period of time. When they are feeling ‘up’ they may be always on the go and constantly talking and laughing. In small amounts this can be stimulating but in larger doses it can become too much for others to be around. People who are ‘up’ in this way tend to be insensitive to other people’s difficulties or needs. One Fire CF described that she would go up ‘like being on a cloud’ and would float along feeling high, always knowing she might fall off. She did not mind this, however, because it was so good to be on top of the cloud, even if it was only for a while.
The Huainanzi, Chapter 1, describes how joy and sadness follow each other:
The great drum and bells are set up, the orchestra of flutists [sic] and lutinists [sic] are in position, the cushions and ivory-poled canopies are arranged and seductive courtesans take their places. Out come the wine flasks as goblets are passed round over the course of feasting which joins day to night. Soaring birds are downed with bow and arrow; hunting dogs flush hare and fox. This is called pleasure. Certainly excitement and violent agitation stir up our hearts and work their seductions upon us. But no sooner have the wagons been unhitched and the horses turned out to rest, the flasks emptied and the music ended, when suddenly the heart contracts as if in mourning. We feel the bereavement of great loss.
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