In Part 1 of this post, I talked about how it happens that people continually recreate the situation where they have no money, despite possibly earning enough (or how it might be a struggle to create a situation where they do earn enough). I talked about some of the unconscious forces that might be at work that perpetuate the situation of deprivation and lack that one experienced during childhood – whether that was a literal deprivation (poverty, hunger, lack of resources), or an emotional one (neglect, abuse).
First, I’d like to address the fact that Part 1 of the blog received some very powerful responses, both on the blog itself and on social media. The most powerful responses came from people who immigrated to the US from other countries where they lived in poverty and have had to teach themselves how to save money, how to go beyond surviving and begin to thrive financially. Some of my own family members have done just that, either rising through the corporate hierarchies or bettering themselves through education in order to get better-paying jobs. For these people, the experience of poverty and oppression was so dreadful, that they courageously fought to change their circumstances and their financial situations. So, for them, the unconscious forces were quite different than what I described in my post. One dynamic at work there is the fear of reliving those dreadful conditions – to the point where one is compelled to do whatever it takes to avoid them in the future. There is much more to this, and I want to be sure to emphasize that everyone is different and I cannot hope to describe every possible unconscious constellation here. However, I do welcome responses to this post to share your own experiences and insights.
And now I will return to the task at hand – addressing the situation where one recreates the deprivation and lack in her or his life through lack of money. While consciously one might be constantly wishing to make more money, dreaming about hitting the lottery, or even being magically rescued by someone with a lot of cash to spare, unconsciously, something altogether different is playing out. Getting to the understanding of unconscious forces at work is the stuff of psychoanalysis and a challenging task indeed. It took me years to recognize it for myself, to piece together the many facets of my life and childhood experience before I could see, clear as day, that for a long time I was unconsciously literally trying to avoid having money. Realizing that on some level money has been tainted with the deprivation, neglect, or abuse of power is an enormous step in the direction of shifting one’s relationship with money. It’s a process that takes time and is very much worth that time.
Now what? When am I going to get to the way out of this mess already? Isn’t that why you’ve made it this far into the article? In terms of solutions, lots and lots has been written about it. I’ve listed the tiniest selection below. But while as an analyst, I might suggest a resource I think could be useful, my work with clients is not about prescribing solutions – my work is to help empower and support the person to find their own way through self-knowledge. And what I’ve experienced, both in my own analysis and in my work with clients, is that that empowerment emerges naturally as these unconscious dynamics are recognized and worked through on an emotional level.
Some questions that might come up around working through money issues are:
- What is it that might feel dangerous (on an emotional level) about having money (or having anything else, for that matter)? This may seem like a silly question, but it might have some very, very serious answers.
- Conversely, how might staying broke keep things “simple” (i.e., No Money, No Problem! Again, this is a question that sounds silly on the surface but is actually quite challenging.)
- How is money tied up in important relationships?
- How might having money disrupt those relationships, and why might that feel too dangerous to do?
- Conversely, how might staying poor/broke maintain some important, needed relationships?
- How might doing better than your family be somehow dangerous as well?
- What might you have to lose – or fear you might lose – if you were to change your financial situation?
I could keep going, but I think this is a good-enough sampling of what might need to be worked through, and also illustrative of how deeply money issues go.
Money itself is both literal and symbolic on many levels, representing as well as intertwining with other means of support, nourishment, connection, and so much more. If these experiences are tainted, money can become tainted as well, with manipulation, sadism, control, and other toxic ways of relating. Therefore, in my experience and opinion, to truly work through one’s relationship with money is to work on all of these issues simultaneously – and this is why that work is so challenging and at the same time truly, truly worth the effort (pun intended!).
The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
… and literally thousands of others.