As summer comes to an end and fall begins, the inner beauty of nature is revealed in bright colors and clear skies. At the same time, having peaked, flowers and trees begin to outwardly die as their energy returns to the earth for restoration over the winter. The beauty of fall is tied to its fleeting nature. Experiencing the beauty as complete in the moment is the virtue of Metal called preciousness (precious – highly refined; of great value). Experiencing the loss is the emotion of Metal called sadness.
The Lungs engender value. They teach that that which is most valuable lies untarnished inside, like the colors of the leaves we cannot see but are always there. Metal imbalances imply a lack of capacity to contact inner value. This may result in a clinging that can be experienced habitually as loss, grief, sadness, or nostalgia. Lack of self-worth arises from the loss of sense of inner value. Weighed against the external appearance of beauty in others, this perceived lack of justice may result, as compensation, in indignation (anger aroused by something unjust). The outward behavior displayed is rectification, or correction. The lesson, of course, is that justice arises through rectification of the self, not others, and that in fact there is nothing to rectify at all if one’s true value is understood. This is implied by the term righteousness, the second virtue of the metal element. Unlearned, this manifests as vulgarity.
Self-esteem is engendered by the Wood element. It arises from inner vision of who we are. The Earth element engenders the capacity for unconditional love and nourishment, and is taught by the mother. As we are born, have the umbilical cord cut, and are weaned, this capacity for nourishment becomes internalized. As we move into the realm of larger social interaction, the Metal element is cultivated. Transmitted and taught by the father (though inherent within us), self-worth involves the development of an autonomous sense of self and the value we learn to place on it. This correlates strongly with the western notion of the anal phase of development, occurring around the age of 2 when children begin to say “no” as they develop and experience a personal ego.
Perfectionism can arise from a Metal imbalance, in an attempt to correct the sense of a flawed inner-self by polishing up the exterior. Many people confuse this with imperfectionism, which is an Earth imbalance. In this case, an inherent sense of never being enough prohibits the expression of perfection which Metal people may temporarily achieve. While Metal people genuinely wish to be perfect and flawless, Earth people are more prone towards self-loathing (as they have not internalized unconditional love for themselves) and are not really striving for perfection.
Finally, fall is the time when all that has occurred during the past year surfaces. As an organ of elimination, the Large Intestine is responsible for letting go of that which we no longer need, so that the Lungs may take in fresh energy. When people manifest cold and flu symptoms during the fall, as a reaction to weather changes and the penetration of external pernicious influences such as Cold, Damp, Dryness, and Wind, they are also cleansing the accumulations of the prior year. This is one of the benefits of illness, and why it is so necessary for human beings to be able to get sick occasionally. In relation to treatment, regardless of the illness, people will not experience the full range of changes in their health until they have gone through one full cycle of the year, including fall.