As we wake up to another week of pandemic breaking news and global uncertainty, we attempt to find solid ground for a fluid new normal. While the unknowns loom, chief among them are our family and friends’ physical and mental health. The depth of our economic uncertainties are just beginning to come into view as the national economic second quarter launches.
In August 2017, the American Psychological Association (APA), conducted its annual Stress in AmericaTM survey to find out what kept us up at night, what topped that list of stressors and how we handled stress?
Three years ago when life seemed much simpler and just one pandemic less complicated, 63% said the future of our nation was their chief stressor, followed by money (62%) and work (61%). Counter intuitively some might have thought that violence, crime or marital strife would have topped the list; they didn’t then, but they may now. The survey’s respondents’ money and work concerns have certainly increased in these current times.
When the pandemic runs its course and the most emergent threat is no longer to our physical health what is waiting down the happy road of destiny is a mental health concern; how to cope with underlying money fears or worry about financial insecurity. Perhaps more pressing is how best to navigate our current emotional upset about our financial well being. This therapeutic journey is likely to be a rough and rocky one.
Financial Therapy Can Help
Beyond our most emergent physical health is our personal financial health. Financial stressors are front of mind, but in ways that we never previously imagined. Our conscious and unconscious childhood and past experiences can influence current beliefs and behaviors. Financial stress, domestic violence, relationship distress, addiction and depression are all deeply impacted for example, by our learned and observed earlier life experiences.
What isn’t always obvious is how underlying and unconscious memories involving money and work drive our current perceptions, feelings and behaviors. Inter-generational experiences involving money and work factor into our current emotional well-being or anxiety regarding money. Consider the following:
- Individuals who have an unrealistic fear of becoming financially impoverished after reading about financial stressors because they grew up with a family member who spoke often of their own childhood deprivation.
- Adults, who in childhood, lived without enough food to eat and who are experiencing a PTSD reaction to current temporary food shortages.
- An adult, who as a child, moved often with their family to avoid eviction and lives with an irrational fear of losing their own home in the wake of current financial stress.
Current day stressors can bring forward old and buried traumatic wounds. Under the best of circumstances we may have enough emotional bandwidth to manage any self defeating narratives. Given that there is no playbook for what normal will be let alone what the normal is now, how can we best understand our financial insecurities and address them?
Our Lives in Context
We can better understand ourselves as individuals and partners in context to a larger system, say for example, our own childhood. While we are unique in our own ways we are part of a family system that includes cultural, religious, spiritual and inter-generational beliefs. Our current emotional and behavioral symptoms about money and work when viewed in context to our past may make more sense based on what we learned or experienced.
Past monetary or work beliefs and behaviors offer us a hidden tapestry to better manage our emotional distress and personal perceptions. Why might one spouse in a marriage feel appropriately concerned about their finances, but without doom and gloom— while the other spouse fears imminent financial Armageddon?
A glance into each of their pasts and their family’s looking glass helps each see that their emotions and perceptions about financial security or uncertainty are framed within their personal experiences. The past may not be past and negative beliefs; people’s words or their image might be alive and well, creating havoc in the here and now.
We are influenced by our past experiences. For some, these known influences or drivers are self evident. For others, their past experiences are buried disruptive emotional aquifers that drive anxiety. As a financial therapist, I help people navigate those choppy emotional and financial waters by connecting their unconscious and conscious past with their current beliefs and behaviors. In addition, Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective tool to lower distress or resolve traumatic memories.
Without doubt we are experiencing and will continue to feel an increase in psychological and emotional distress as it concerns our money and work. Few people need a therapist to understand how the current pandemic is impacting their finances. Yet, a financial therapist can help individuals and couples make sense of their unresolved fears and hidden childhood beliefs that are driving their distress in the here and now.