I have, until now, chosen not to write about peoples’ present fears surrounding money. I am making a conscious decision not to hook into the energy of fear surrounding it. Yet, over and over, ironically, it keeps coming up like a bad penny. Certainly, it isn’t the first time that I have had so many people processing their anxiety about money and all that it represents. But the resounding atmosphere of uncertainty is triggering in my clients, and maybe you, more than fears of money. The insecurity is triggering their older fears about survival. And exploring those childhood fears is the key to resolving it.
If we were to remember our first days in this world, the simplicity of it would amaze us. We see it in the children we raise, but we often forget that we, too, were once those little ones. We were once those tiny balls of energy, eager to make their presence known, to leap into their place in the next generation.
As children, our primary function in the world is to explore it, all the while anticipating that our loved ones, our parents, will provide us with food, clothing, shelter, and protection from harm. And while it may seem simple, for many, that assurance, that security never came. For many, and perhaps even you, childhood meant being unable to depend on others to give them a sense of safety. Fear. Pain. Lack. Abuse. Dread. Sadness. Worry. The concept of being safe, and one’s basic needs being met, was inconceivable. At the same time, looking back, we often forget that it was reasonable to ask our parents to ensure our survival.
The Cost of Survival
For others, the security and survival came, but at an emotional cost. Like a price tag hanging on a guilt-ridden purchase, it may have been an unspoken contract that survival was conditional. Ignore mom’s drinking. Keep that a secret. Be a little adult. Whatever “that” contract was, was how the child’s survival was ensured.
Whatever our relationship to the idea of “survival,” it is the very thing that today’s financial struggles, or whatever you chose to call it, triggers. It’s not conscious. It’s not readily apparent. Perhaps you would even disagree. Nevertheless, the thoughts that “I can’t make it,” “I’m going to lose my house,” “I’ll lose my job,” “I’m afraid I’ll have no money,” all echo the primary panic of a child who is not sure that it will survive. That child is not sure that someone will be there. That child is uncertain that its basic needs will be met. And you may forget, that child is still you.
The Inner Child
As you may know from a previous article, I often use the image of a Russian nesting doll to demonstrate how we emotionally mature. Essentially, though we “grow up,” our emotional needs must have been met at each developmental stage. If not, it is as if one of the tiny dolls, an inner child, becomes “stuck” in that developmental stage and within the larger doll, the adult self. That inner child still “looks for” resolution of that developmental stage, even in the present.
It is the inner child still, desperately, needing to find safety that unabashedly shows up, triggered by today’s fears. It is that inner child who cries out and magnifies your adult self’s survival fears. Yes, you may be afraid of losing your stability, your security; that is, of course, a truly valid concern. Nevertheless, we often forget that our inner child, the once traumatized child, is triggered by today’s worries. Whatever traumas resulted in our inner child’s needs not being met, are magnified by the present.
Because of early childhood survival traumas, we unconsciously look to our partners, job, and the outside world to “resolve” them. We look to the outside world to provide us with the emotional, spiritual, or material needs that we didn’t get, or that came at a price. Of course, it is an unrealistic expectation. Instead, it is the original hope for our parents that we “project” on others instead of exploring the original hurt. It the original prospect that someone would ensure our survival, because we couldn’t. Current fears about being able to “survive” in “these times” trigger that original hurt. And perhaps it is showing up, now, for a reason. Maybe now is the time to explore it.
© Copyright 2009 by Sarah Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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