Again it is worth trying to mimic Marilyn Monroe’s mouth. If I do this, I feel as though my face is saying, “gimme, gimme, please”, a kind of pleading to be looked after. Obviously Marilyn Monroe exaggerated this trademark expression of hers, for this was where her charm and her marketability lay, so it is emphasized to a greater extent than would occur in a more everyday world, rather than that of a film-star’s, but if properly observed on our part, this will lead us surprisingly unerringly to a five element diagnosis.
When we move on to Metal, the facial movements of eye and mouth grow much calmer and are stilled. Metal stands back, observes and judges. Its eyes and mouth demand nothing of us; they are not primarily concerned with trying to set up a relationship with us. The eyes do not appeal, but remain detached, requiring space from which to watch the world and weigh up how it judges it. Our eyes are therefore not drawn to Metal’s mouth, as we might be with Wood or Earth, for it is not asking anything of us. Instead we focus strongly on the eyes, the most observant of all the elements’ eyes. They observe, but they also have an added quality which is as though in looking at us they are at the same time looking past us, or perhaps, more accurately, looking beyond us. They echo Metal’s emotion, grief, a longing for what it has not been given, for what it has not achieved or failed to achieve, as though in that look there lies buried all Metal’s longing for those aspects of life towards which it tries to reach out, but which, sadly, often elude it. Being the element most acquainted with the transitory nature of things, Metal has the most serious eyes of all.
With Water we move from the comparative stillness of Metal’s face to a more mobile expression, as Water’s face reflects all the anxious messages this element sends out in its quest to survive. It wants to reassure itself that it is safe, that it will survive the harshness of winter come what may. Its eyes have none of the stillness of Metal’s eyes or the forcefulness behind Wood’s gaze. Instead they seem to flicker and dart around, as though constantly on the move, ready to perceive danger and avoid it. When we are unsure of what is going on, we will all tend to look nervously around. This is Water’s fall-back position, and the anxious look which their eyes often take on can express itself in the different ways Water has learnt to protect itself. One look is the rather unsettled and unsettling one akin to that of a rather frightened animal, with the eyes darting from side to side. The converse can also be true of Water. It can take on a very fixed stare, but not the challenging, direct look with which Wood may look at us, but a more rigid gaze, as if the face has become a frozen mask. If we draw in our breath as though in fear and hold ourselves still for a few moments, we can feel our whole body, including our face, becoming rigid, until we let our breath out and relax. This is how I imagine Water must react whenever it feels trapped in what is to it a frightening situation. And Water will find frightening some situations which other elements allow to pass harmlessly by.
It is the nature of each element to have an exaggerated relationship with the emotional sphere which is its home ground. For Water, here, it is any situation which might cause it anxiety or fear, for Earth any situation in which it feels it has lost its comforting position at the centre of things, for Metal any situation in which it it not given the space or time to detach itself and observe from afar, and finally for Fire, any situation in which its desire to relate warmly to other is threatened. It is one of the ironies of life that what causes distress to one element, as does uncertainty here for the Water element, may instead be stimulating for another. Fire, for example, might respond enthusiastically to some uncertain situations, enjoying the freedom to explore them which they present. Thus each element has specific challenges and specific fears which another element will be indifferent to. This, of course, is what makes for the rich diversity of human interactions.
It therefore helps us in our efforts to diagnose our patients’ elements to note how different parts of the face are emphasized for different elements. If we find that our eyes appear to be drawn to the mouth, this may be one way of perceiving Earth. The lips of a Wood mouth may remain firmly, if not tightly, closed until they open to talk. And it is to the eyes rather than the mouths of Fire, Metal and Water that we appear to look more closely, Fire’s eyes because they are trying to draw us into a relationship with them, Metal’s eyes because they seem to be looking beyond us and we wonder what they see, and Water’s eyes because they can constantly dart around as though startled.
If all else fails, therefore, and we are not at all sure which element our patient is, then we should see whether the rather basic signposts I have listed above help us in our diagnosis. I have found them to be a remarkably accurate way of supplementing what my senses are unable to tell me. Each practitioner will of course add their own pointers to this list. Maybe they will notice a characteristic way of walking, talking, holding a hand out for pulses to be taken or settling on the treatment couch. Since everything we do is the work of the elements within us, every part of body and soul will be showing characteristic pointers to our guardian element. We just need to be patient enough and give ourselves the time needed to develop our own individual stock of these diagnostic pointers.