• Sally Turberville Smith Dipl. Psych, BA Hons,


    Counselling & Psychotherapy Nutritional/Lifestyle Coaching

    Willesden Green, NW2

  • Earth, Wind, Fire and Water

    28th June 2018
  • Earth Wind and Fire and don’t forget the blessed Water!

    Summer is in full swing.  The British countryside is looking its best and it’s the perfect time to appreciate the alchemy of air, fire, water and earth and learn from nature how to revitalise, energise, purify and centre ourselves.  

    On a recent alchemical silent dream retreat in rural Sussex I spent a lot of time ‘being’ in nature and really noticing and feeling how the four elements manifested and expressed themselves in my thoughts, feelings, sensations and intuitions. 

    These elements are present within our bodies and psyches and it was the Greek philosophers and physicians who first devised a model of the four humors connected to the four elements – bilious (fire), sanguine (earth), lymphatic (water) and nervous (air).  

    As a Transpersonal Integrative psychotherapist, I find ‘the elements model’ useful because it can help us maintain or restore our individual sense of harmony and balance.  It can guide us in retaining an inner coherence regardless of the turbulence around us.  

    Read on if you would like to find out more about the healing wisdom of nature.

    Air: giving space, helping us to facilitating decisions.

    Watching and being awed by huge amorphous white clouds gliding quickly and effortlessly across an expansive sky and feeling the lightness of the wind caressing my skin.

    Water: Tuning in to my emotions, appreciating relationships, appreciating my talents.

    Enjoying a refreshing outdoor shower and swimming in a freshwater pool that was ‘alive’ with the sound of running water. 

    Earth:  Providing security and a sense of belonging.  luxuriating in the sensation of my feet on the ground and eating together in appreciative silence delicious fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the garden.

    Fire: Keeping your spirits up, preventing you from getting too serious, maintaining ideals, willingness to risking confrontation.

    Appreciating the warmth, excitement and energy of a bonfire as its flames leapt powerfully upwards. Burning all the dross.  Enjoying a tribal feeling that involved a good old chant and dance too!


    Invariably we can remain ‘stuck’ in one element for too long.  We can feel bogged down (earth) or depressed (water) or too quick to anger (fire) or too caught up by repetitive or negative thoughts (air).  Similarly, we can find ourselves ‘blown off course’, ‘emeshed’ or de-stabilised by a person, relationship or situation and then we need to find out way back to our centre by way of one or more of the elements.  

    If a quality is used as a defence or used indiscriminately it becomes imbalanced and distorted. For example, if a person has become overly cautious (earth qualities) because of anxiety it will supress risk taking and iniative (fire qualities).  Speaking one’s truth (fire qualities) without sensitivity and empathy (water qualities) can become blunt hurtfulness and arrogance.    

    When we feel overwhelmed by anxiety or grief, or at a cross roads in our lives we can look to nature and the elements to help us heal.  Invariably I find it is the water element ‘our first mother’ that needs balancing.  We need to unburden ourselves of our sadness so that we can tread gently and playfully on the earth and this means allowing water ‘the voice of grief’ to express itself fully.  Compassion is a water quality and with many clients this is in short supply and needs to be applied generously particularly for example in the way we talk to ourselves.  Many of us are hyper critical and judgemental of ourselves as well as others and only by letting go of the ‘shoulds’, the ‘oughts’ or the desire for things to be the way we think they should be can we escape the prison of our minds and the illusion that we are in control.  Rigid black and white thinking needs to be softened by an acceptance that there is a middle way and we need to learn to breath more slowly and rhythmically from deep in the belly rather shallowly in the chest.  We need to expand our ribcages, contemplate the wealth of possibilities within our hearts and minds and fly like a powerful swan seeing the bigger picture, (a birds’ eye view) rather than the narrow range offered to us by our individual egos.  When we are consumed by anger, or by rage we need to uncover the sorrow beneath, and grieve for the love, attention or appreciation we didn’t get when we were children.  

    Very often the soul expresses itself in symbols, in dreams, in images and in the flowing of tears.  An essential task of the transpersonal psychotherapist is to recognise the innate unique nature of the client and ‘see’ the soul and understand its purpose and challenges in life

    This is where therapy comes in.  I don’t think we can do it alone – our pain needs to be witnessed within the container of therapy, by a compassionate therapist who sees who we really are, with all our beauty and uniqueness and who can also gently over time help us see our blind spots too.   If we don’t do this we often remain empty and unfulfilled searching everywhere but ourselves for happiness.

    I hope this gives you an alchemical flavour of the elements and the qualities represented by them.  We need to become fluent in their language and respect and embody the beauty, grace and power they offer us.  As the poet John O’ Donohue says ‘I would like to live like a river flows carried by the surprise of its own unfolding’.  We also need to take a leaf out of the earth element and sit down, slow down and try to be who we are!


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