Many of our cultural beliefs about money are confusing and conflicted. In addition to cultural pressures, we have familial beliefs, that are unexamined, “hand me downs.” In the book “The Road Less Traveled”, Scott Peck alleges that parents give children a second hand God to worship, a God in keeping with their beliefs and practices. Money is another area where powerful beliefs, and myths are passed down. How many times have you heard; “well in our family we do it this way, or we do such and such,” as if it were the only way, with no room allowed for diverse ideas. We are young when we start absorbing such beliefs, without personal power, and unable to verbalize a rebuttal. Even when we are older, most families do not encourage questioning.

We long for money, we sacrifice for it, and we fight with those we love for more of it. Money is worshipped, a false god it may be, but a god nevertheless. People use money to boost a weak self- image, inflate low self- esteem, and control others dependent on their largess.

Money is a symbol of transformation and power, with an inherent power to turn one thing into something else. As money is exchanged, it is turned into food, clothing, shelter, and after the basics, pleasure, status and other symbols of financial success. We have many hidden and forbidden feelings and beliefs about money, usually we don’t talk about how much we have; and become uneasy if asked. I was at a gathering recently, when a successful realtor, aggressively asked a man new to the business, how much he cleared on a high profile sale. All of a sudden the room became ghostly quiet, as if everybody started eavesdropping hoping to get a juicy bit of information regarding the man’s financial status. The man turned red and coughed and I don’t know what he said, but I’m guessing he’d rather have answered a question about his sexual fantasies, than the one posed. Often those who have a lot of money feel uneasy or guilty. On the other hand people who have too little are likely to have shame. It’s as if less money makes them feel less adequate.

What are your beliefs about money? Trace your story. What beliefs did you accept without question around money issues? How did it influence you then? How does it influence you now? Are your current beliefs around the amount of money you have, negative and limiting, or positive and expansive. What you say is not as powerful, as how you live. Do you live with a philosophy of enoughness, and gratitude, or one of unworthiness, and limitation? Where do money beliefs have you by the scruff of the neck? It’s not a mystery that our relationship with money is a mixed bag of core beliefs from our culture and our families. We also have Madison Avenue giving us the illusion of what we should have and filling us with wants and desires.

I know a man who has become a millionaire, several times over in his life to date. He however is not able to hold on to his money. He’s a smart man, and at times has a generous spirit. Other times he squirrels things away, as if he cannot rely on himself, to be a resourceful, if the need arises. He had several emotional losses when he was very young. His mother and older sister were killed in a car crash, when he was about three years of age. His father in grief, and in ignorance of his son’s needs often left him with extended family. As a toddler he suppressed his feelings, took on a role in the family of being a “good boy” who was quite self-sufficient for his age and never was any trouble. The role he adapted to please his father, didn’t get him what he r needed to resolve his emotional pain, of losses and insecurities. Developmentally he didn’t gradually build his foundation, so he was ill prepared to function in the world at large. We have to own and process our feelings, not deny them. This little boy blocked out his confusion, hurts, and suppressed his bad feelings. He then acted “as if” he were older and was less needy. At some level he knew this role he adopted, made things easier for his father. (Many children rescue their parents). Unaware, this becomes a way of survival in the world, and such patterns get lodged in the unconscious, it doesn’t go away. We become then the sum total of all of our experiences.

So you ask what does this young boy’s experience have to do with his adult relationship to money, making it and losing it. Consciously he can set a goal and make a lot of money. Unconsciously he acts out of the scared, confused little one who has an imprint of losing that which he loves. When this man is flushed, he feels self-love, loved by others however it triggers a fear of loss within, and he sabotages his happiness. His anxiety pushes him to make unwise, bad investment decisions, leaving him feeling bewildered, confused, unhappy, and unloved however there is a familiarity to it. His is an example of the right hand not understanding what the left hand is doing. He alternates between spending unwisely, until he loses, then clings to what is left with a sense of desperation until it’s gone. So he has given money a power as if it can fill needs, which it cannot possibly do.

I know of a woman who was abandoned by her father at an early age. She grew up with her mother who never planned to work outside of the house. Not having much in the way of skills, her mother did waitress work. It was hard work, with long hours. The mother constantly worried about tomorrow, the bills, and what she couldn’t afford. She bombarded her daughter to become financially secure, to never depend on a man. The daughter strove to do things differently from her mother. She worked, often more than one job, didn’t take time to date and never married. She is now fifty-six years old with retirement due her from two careers, one in the military, and another post military. She continues to worry about having enough money so she doesn’t retire. She talks of wanting to travel one day, however the fear of not having enough keeps her from planning a trip. Whose life is she compensating for? How much will be enough for her to feel secure. Money problems often are a smoke screen for other real problems, however it can have such a tightfisted grip on a person that it keeps the real fears from becoming conscious.

Look closely at your money story, ignorance is not bliss, denial doesn’t help, avoidance doesn’t help. Although most of us know that money doesn’t guarantee happiness, we know if there is lack, or we are not managing that which we have, we can experience misery. You can, if you do not like your money story change it and have financial success. If we want to have more money in our lives, we must become aware of the negative, or limiting beliefs we have about it in order to increase the positive or expansive beliefs we want. Even though your situation may not be in anyway an extreme version as noted above, do not dismiss the examples, some part of them may resonant with your money behaviors. Take what helps and leave the rest.

Author's Bio: 

Laura Young is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist (CCH) devoted to helping people become more of what is possible for them. She draws on almost thirty years of clinical experience, with the last sixteen at Life Resource Center, a Private Practice, she established in 1992.

Over time Laura has specialized in Relationships; Life Transitions: Grief Resolution, Stress Management, and the Healing of Adult and Childhood Trauma .She has lead groups with a special emphasis on Women's Creativity Groups. Laura has given numerous presentations, as well as written many articles for local newspapers and regional magazines.

Laura's most recent venture has been her book, "The Nature Of Change". This book is the beginning of a dialogue to encourage, uplift and inform the reader. In it, she reaches out to others who may never choose to seek professional help, however they may appreciate having some tools and self-understanding to make necessary life changes.