As a psychotherapist, I have been troubled by the lack of discussion in the financial world, the business arena, the therapeutic community, and the media about the effects of our emotional lives on our relationships with money and, as a result, on the economy, our country, and our world.
In this tough economic time, many people in all walks of life are reassessing their priorities, and making major changes in their spending habits, and their lives. One area rarely covered or discussed in relation to these changes is the vast opportunity we now have to explore and heal the wounds all of us have in our relationship with money…probably the most crucial step we can take as we navigate these tough economic times.
The anxiety people have in their relationships with money preceded the current market turmoil by a long, long time. It will be here after the chaos has been calmed and we are on seemingly solid ground again in the national and world economy. For many people that anxiety exists all the time. It’s not going to go away, certainly not any time soon. And not as a result of things we do on the practical level in the outer world, either – not by selling our assets, protecting our savings, getting another job, cashing in an IRA, buying lottery tickets.
The only thing that can help resolve that anxiety is for us to do the work in our inner world, the world of our psyche and soul, to discover, explore, heal, improve our relationship with money. In other words, we may make many changes in our lives right now. We may make the simple things most important; we may expand our attention to our relationships; we may make savings an even more important priority; we may become clearer than ever before about the distinction between investing and saving. But the things we do in the outer world cannot be sustained without our also doing things in our inner world that bring about healing and transformation. In fact, without our even realizing it, the things in our unconscious that we ignore, discount, don’t tend to, will drive us and even undermine us. This is why healing our relationships with money is the most crucial step right now . . . because sustaining the changes we make in the outer world depends upon our healing in the world within us.
In my 30 plus years as a psychotherapist, I have seen again and again that people’s relationship with money, at the root – beneath their awareness – is based on a young child’s thoughts, feelings, and decisions about money and about the things money symbolizes for them.
I have also seen repeatedly that when people are under stress, they regress to the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of a child . . . even though they are not aware of it. They may not completely regress. They may not act on the regression. But they might.
If they act on the regression it may be blatant, or it may be very subtle. The most important thing to realize is that this happens in all of us, and it happens without our awareness. And whatever we do from the regressed place inside us – no matter how unconscious it is – has a huge impact on us individually and communally.
How many times have you seen a 6’2″ 250-pound CEO of a company fly into a rage at his employees when the business he owns and loves is losing money? How often in that situation have you – or has anyone else on the scene – realized that you were watching a “tantruming” two-year-old or even a raging baby in the body of a 42-year-old man?
So, here we are in a recession. People are under stress. They are regressing without even knowing it. The things they do may look adult, but they are often coming from the regressed child in them. They panic in response to the economic chaos, make poor decisions in relation to their resources – decisions that affect them personally and also the economy of our country and our world. This feeds a vicious cycle . . . because when things get worse, people panic and regress even further.
If the CEO above were to come to my office to work with this, one of the paths I would take with him would be to explore his relationship with money. It obviously isn’t that of an adult.
Let’s walk through a shortened version so you get a taste of the depth and breadth of the potential in this work. *
John comes to my office with $1,000 in cash. After preparing him for the work – in both previous sessions and at the start today – I ask him to hold the money in his hands and talk to it. He begins.
“I want you. I need you. I can’t get enough of you. I’m starving for you. I’m desperate for you. I’ll never have enough of you. Never. There’s no way out.”
He stops, turns and looks at me, and starts crying.
He looks away. Covers his
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Judith Barr has been a depth psychotherapist in private practice since 1975, now practices in Brookfield, CT, and has earned an M.S. in Counseling and licensure as a Mental Health Counselor in Florida, New York, and Connecticut. She is an affiliate member of NAPFA (The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors), and has written for the NAPFA professional journal. In addition to sessions, consultations, and workshops, Judith informs, inspires, and invites people into their own awareness and healing through her book, Power Abused, Power Healed , her speaking engagements, media interviews, and many articles in print online and off. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.