Similar to people’s relationships with other people their relationship with money can be complicated, confusing, and inconsistent. There are numerous ingredients and influences that work together that result in the matrix of attitudes, emotions, and behaviors related to money.
Actually becoming aware of what pulls you to behave the way you do can have an effect on how you proceed. It is like knowing where the undertows are, how strong the tides are, when they are coming in, and which way the wind will be blowing so you can navigate safely to your destination.
People are hesitant to look at their relationship with money as well as discuss it with other people. Some of this is due to shame, guilt, and anxiety. This avoidance and silence gives it more power and you less power. Our fears of many things are greater than the actual situation warrants. Our abilities to cope and problem solve are often better than we estimate. Discussing concerns about money with friends, family, and appropriately with kids can lessen the shame and invite problem solving. My clients have expressed concerns that admitting to their kids that there is less money will worry them. Discussing money matters and solutions teaches them to pay attention to problems and deal with them in general. It also encourages in their children the development of skills in discussing and managing money in particular. Many families are lacking in this area.
There is the universally understood logical meaning that we all share but everyone has their own private meanings based on a lifetime of experiences, messages from parents, needs that were met, and needs that were unmet. Hence they can permeate to the core of the person activating fears and resentments. When you make the list of words that finish the sentence “Money is ______________, you give yourself a window into the constellation of meanings that money has for you. There can be positive or negative associations or more often both. Intense anger or fear can interfere with taking reasonable risks, or might be distracting and use up valuable energy needed to be productive.
Money can mean love, security, power, potency, freedom, independence, dependence etc. When money is relied on to meet these needs in an excessive way it can be self sabotaging and frustrating. Many feel that if they had a significant amount of money that it would solve a lot of their everyday problems. However there are a number of ingredients that contribute to overall happiness including the quality of their relationships, feeling respected, and having an opportunity to engage in activities one enjoys. Interestingly, as income increases there is a point at which happiness decreases as stressors, responsibilities, and demands on time detract from everyday enjoyments in life.
There is the perception however that large increases in income only solve problems and do not create new ones. Perhaps this is part of the insatiable nature of mankind always longing for more. How difficult it is to take inventory of what we have and experience satisfaction and joy. “Happiness is not getting what you want but wanting what you have”. This does not negate that there is real misery when there is not enough money to pay bills and have a basic sense of security. Certainly lacking enough funds to provide for basic needs contributes to unhappiness.
There is much acknowledgement of the intrinsic motivations that contribute to job satisfaction such as self determination, variety of tasks, achievement, recognition, opportunity for personal growth, and challenge. These aspects do contribute to fulfillment at work but there is a decrease in job satisfaction if people do not feel as adequately compensated as their peers with comparable skills. There can be an attempt to balance the inequities by absenteeism or other means of lower productivity.
A healthy relationship with money entails knowing what it can give you and what it cannot. You control your money as opposed to it controls you. Thus you are freed up to conduct business in a way that is not self sabotaging.