What if the state of our economy is not due solely to some harmful people making some horribly destructive moves with their wallets and ours?
Evocative question, I know.
It is not intended to, nor does it, let off the hook those who did purposefully seduce and scam people into buying houses, investing their money, spending money they didn’t have or couldn’t afford to spend. Nor does it give a free pass to Ponzi schemers and others like them.
However … what if the real cause of the world economy right now is broader and deeper than most people realize? What if the real cause is massive unawareness? What if it’s utter unconsciousness on the part of ordinary citizens, most financial professionals, most financial magazines and other resources that people depend upon for information, much if not most of the media, perhaps all government officials, politicians and political candidates, too?
Recently I read an article in a popular financial magazine that reaches hundreds of thousands of readers per month. The article was called “Why Debt Won’t Die.” The answer they gave was that debt won’t die because we don’t know how to pay off our credit card debt. This is complete misinformation. Not, perhaps, the suggestions about how to pay off credit card debt most efficiently. But the author’s answer to the promise posed in the title—why debt won’t die. This is misinformation. It is horribly misleading. It is not the truth. And it actively interferes with people finding out the real reason debt won’t die. What makes matters worse—as a depth psychotherapist, a financial therapy professional, and a financial services affiliate of a professional financial organization—I have written to this magazine several times since the recession began in 2008, offering to help inform their readers of the real underlying problem, with no response.
I didn’t take it personally. It just demonstrated to me all the more how unconscious most people are of the real roots of our relationships with money . . . and probably how scared they are of knowing. It is shocking, actually. Even most financial planners and most psychotherapists are unaware of how deeply our connection with money is rooted in not just our beliefs, but also our emotions, and the meaning, the symbolism, the primal representation money has for us, without our knowing it at all.
Fortunately there are some people who do know this, who are working to help bring this truth into consciousness for everyone. But in the meantime, the evolution of the healing that is truly possible for each one of us in our relationship with money and for our country and our world . . . the evolution is painfully slow.
The evolution needs to be not just in our heads but also experiential. And it needs to be spread safely but with the speed of wildfire. In other words, it needs to go viral. Here are some examples that can help us individually, and if members of the media want to truly help, they can help us all on a much wider basis.
Let me make this clear as we prepare for the examples . . . this doesn’t just apply to people in debt. It also applies to people not in debt, to very wealthy people, even the 1% as it is called. It applies to everyone’s relationship to money. And this needs to be clarified, too: I’m not blaming anybody. And I’m not in any way saying, like some have said, that the 99% or the poor have only themselves to blame. This is not about blame. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m helping people become aware and hopefully, intrigued, inspired, and open enough to explore within themselves. I’m not “in favor” of the 1%. I’m in favor of our all healing our relationship with money.
What I’m saying is this: Just like everyone else, they are human beings with deep wounds—often deep wounds that they, like everyone else, are not even aware of. On the outside, it may appear that the 1% “have it all together” regarding their relationship with money . . . because they possess so many financial resources. But don’t be deceived by the appearances. You have no idea how or why they accumulated their wealth. You have no idea the wounds and traumas that drove their wealth accumulation. You have absolutely no idea the wounds they caused to themselves and others as they did. You can’t possibly know how money is an overcompensation for them—for something other than money. You cannot imagine (and perhaps they can’t either) how much pain they experience inside themselves, in spite of their money. And you don’t know at all the little boy or girl still alive within them, staving off fear and pain with money . . . and wreaking havoc on people’s lives, the life of our national economy, and the life of our world economy.
Still, I am not letting them off the hook. Still, I am holding them accountable in part . . . for their part. But even more than that . . . I am simply asserting that people—both the 99% and the 1%—have so many unconscious feelings, thoughts, and memories, rooted in their childhoods about money and are so unaware of all that is hidden in their unconscious, driving their lives and the life of our economy.
So … here’s an example of someone’s relationship with money . . . an average American citizen.
Martin is a 43-year-old man. He’s worked hard all his life in a career he’s loved—fighting for justice. He’s got a loving family—a wife, recently in remission from breast cancer, and two children, one entering college this year and one the following year. He’s saved and saved his money as much as possible. When the recession hit in 2008, Martin, like others, was in shock and very scared. He lost most of his life savings. His first thought—I’ll never have enough. No matter how hard I work, I’ll never have enough. His first feeling—terror. Since millions of Americans probably felt the same way at that time, everyone who did would likely just agree with Martin, claiming that was an expected and natural reaction.
It was an expected reaction if . . . as a child he (and the millions of others) had decided, without even realizing it, that he would never have enough. Enough of what? It could vary depending upon the child’s experience in life by the time s/he made that early decision. Enough of mommy’s love? Enough connection with daddy? Enough comfort? Enough help? Enough safety? Or on another level, enough food, for example if he was a colicky baby?
If you make an early decision like this—or any early decision, for that matter—it drives your life, from your unconscious. Without even being aware of it, you start creating your life to prove that your early decision is accurate. Maybe you’ll become anorexic and not give yourself enough food. Maybe you’ll isolate from people and not give yourself enough contact. Maybe you’ll work really hard and make a lot of money but spend it and invest it impulsively. And then . . . you can say—aloud and consciously or even silently and unconsciously—See! That proves it. I’ll never have enough.
This is how we create our own vicious cycles, spinning ourselves around and spiraling ourselves deeper and deeper into the cycle. So, Martin gets an additional job, works harder than ever and proves to himself yet again—No matter how hard I work, I’ll never have enough. Consciously—I’ll never have enough money. Unconsciously—I’ll never have enough of mommy.
Nothing he does in the outer world will resolve this. It’s an inside job . . . for the child still alive within him who never got enough of his mommy. Until he does the healing work on the feeling level—not just in his head—he will still be driven by not having had enough of mommy no matter what he did.
Martin’s experience is an example from the 99%. Now imagine if even 60%—it’s probably closer to 99.999% because it’s a human phenomenon—imagine if even 60% of the 99% had similar experiences in their childhoods. Similar experiences that they are also transferring onto money. Imagine the impact on their lives and the life of our country of those experiences, those early decisions, and the unconscious transference onto money of those feelings, thoughts, and perceptions from their childhoods. All those people trying to prove their early decision that they’ll never have enough!
Now imagine that 60% of the 1% had their own experiences in childhood that they also transferred onto money. Let’s look at Josephine as an example. Josephine is a 50-year-old CEO of one of the largest banks in the country, a job that came out of hard work and family connections. She’s really good at her job, using everything she’s got to succeed. When the recession hit, she also was scared, really scared. Would her bank fail? Would she still have a job? But those were only the questions on the surface. The here-and-now questions. The first thought she had, fleeting quickly through her mind—Oh, no! I’m gonna lose everything. And the first feeling—grief and terror and trembling in her body.
Josephine had no idea the roots of this thought, which was really an early decision she made and remade many times in her childhood, without realizing that decision would drive her life. Josephine was the oldest of 8 children. When her first sibling came along, she lost some of her mother’s attention. A lot of mom’s attention, actually. It was scary and painful to her that mommy wasn’t available much anymore. If she’d had words for it that first time, she would have said—I lost everything. And her early decision would have been—I lose everything. In fact, that’s what she decided again and again with each new baby.
In her mind and heart, the only way she could still have time with mommy was to help her with the baby. So Josephine became mommy’s big girl helper, did as much as she possibly could to take care of the baby (and then the babies), and worked really hard, hoping that time helping mommy would make up for the time she lost with mommy and fill her up again. It didn’t. And Josephine fell into a dark, scary place. Falling into that place was itself scary. So she tried to help more and more, attempting to get herself out of the dark place and get back what she’d lost—mommy.
Later her loss of mommy got transferred onto other people and things, including money. And her working hard and helping more and more became her defense against the grief and fear of the loss. No matter how high Josephine rose in the banking world, she consistently and constantly anticipated, even expected, and deeply feared losing everything—not just mommy on the young level, but also her money, her job, her status in the industry on the here-and-now transferential level.
Do you see how the wounded relationships with money apply to everyone? Not just the 99%. Not just the 1%. And not just 60% of each either. Everyone needs to do his/her own healing work with money. Every single one of us.
It’s like the coal miners who went into the underground caves, not knowing if there were dangerous build ups of toxic gases. Afraid undetected gasses would make them sick or kill them, the miners took tiny canaries into the underground with them. If the canaries died, it was a warning to the miners to get out fast!
Well, the undiscovered, unresolved, unconscious roots of our relationship with money is like a dangerous build up of poison for us. If we don’t dig our way into those caverns within, find what we’re unaware of that is having such a toxic effect on our relationship with money and heal it, we will continue to suffer just like the miners. We will continue to suffer individually, and we will continue to add to the suffering communally . . . without meaning to, without knowing we are.
Will you dig down into the underground caverns within you . . . to heal your own suffering and its impact on our world? Will you pass the word along to help others do the same? Will you find ways to help the evolution toward healing our relationships with money and our economies to the root?
*If you are a member of the media, Ask yourself: will you help let people know about this reality of our financial lives? Or will you help keep the reality hidden from people by not talking about it? Will you help teach people about the real root of our national and global economy? Every single person who knows and does his/her own inner exploration and healing will be able to better help him/herself and the larger community, as well. Down the road, will you be able to know you have been part of the solution, instead of being part of the continuing problem?
**If you have favorite media stations or hosts, you can let them know about this. Send them this article, even. It’s one of the many things you can do to help on a large scale. It’s a wonderful and powerful way to help grow the communal consciousness about the root of our relationships with money and the result on our economy.
*** As a member of the Financial Therapy Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Planners, and as a financial therapist, speaker, and author, I have helped people explore their relationships with money and its impact on our world in a multitude of ways: articles for the The NAPFA Advisor, GoodTherapy.org, The HuffingtonPost; broadcast and print interviews in venues such as The Boston Herald, Conscious Talk Radio, The Mary Jones Show, The Financial Crisis Talk Center, Talkin’ Money with Jeff Tarbell, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, and more; talks and web conferences with venues such as Sacred Heart University and GoodTherapy.org; and individual and group healing work.
Resolving the Debt Issues at the Root
The Spiral Path of Change
Letting Go of Our Fear of Loss
Please note: Friday April 20, 2012, Judith Barr, MS, LPC, LMHC, will present Transference: A Treasure in Disguise, a FREE CE teleconference for GoodTherapy.org members available with 1.5 CE Credits. We encourage you to join us for this exciting event, so if you have not already, register today!
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Judith Barr, MS, LPC, Power: Healing to the Root Topic Expert Contributor
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