Today is the first day of our series that will help us take control of our finances from today on. We are going to evaluate how we've been relating to money as we think about it and how it makes us feel. Consider the following two questions:
- What comes to mind when you think about money?
- How do you feel about money?
Allow me to explain: The first question requires that you process your thought pattern about money. For instance, when I think about money, I think about freedom...freedom from stress and worry. My thoughts about money haven't made it to my emotions yet because I'm filtering those thoughts for whatever circumstance I'm in. Another example: I don't think about my financial situation when I have no bills due or any debt to be concerned with. When the bills roll in or I'm behind in paying something, my thoughts change. The second question asked relates to what happens after I start thinking of my financial situation. Adding to the example I gave above: I feel anxious and desperate when I'm uncertain about paying those bills, sometimes I panic especially when I don't know when my next paycheck will come in.
Do you get what I'm saying? If not, please leave a comment below so I could explain further.
The title for this post, "Processing Our Emotions about Money," can be simply translated to "thinking of our feelings about money." Processing is a brain function. We process data and information in our brain. Therefore, whatever we think, we are inclined to feel. For example, this statement, "I think I'm sad" pretty much states that if I tell myself I'm sad, I'm going to end up feeling sad about whatever I think is making me sad.
How does this relate to money or my situation?
Glad you asked. Whenever we think about money as it pertains to our individual situations, we tend to have a positive attitude, a negative attitude or an indifferent/neutral attitude. These attitudes manifest physically in our daily interactions. If we are expecting money, we feel happy and we act happy. If we lost money, we can get upset and behave that way (depends on the situation). If we have an indifferent /neutral attitude, we tend to not have much of a reaction to it or even use the following phrase on occasion, "if I have it, then I have it. If I don't, then I don't."
Alot of our notions about money came from our upbringing and somehow stayed with us as we entered adulthood. Here's a bit about me:
Growing up, I learned that my family "never" had enough money. We lived in public housing in NYC and were living off of welfare on top of receiving hand me down shoes and clothing from relatives. Fast forward into my adulthood, I joined the military and served for eight years straight. I was single, no children and many of the places I lived, I had no rent to pay because housing, gym memberships, medical and dental were all provided - not to mention, so were my meals. My paychecks were consistent at every two weeks. I was able to afford anything I wanted, so I did.
Amazing, right? So what happened?
I bought anything I wanted and many times fell behind on my bills. I opened numerous store cards and had one bank credit card. I remember having my cell phone cut off almost every other month. I applied for loans to help catch up on payments, but sometimes had trouble repaying those loans. As my paychecks got bigger, so did my financial woes. I attempted to do so many budgeting methods, savings techniques, etc., but continued to get into trouble. My mindset was that I didn't have enough money (does that sound familiar?). The problem wasn't the money, it was me. I certainly living above my means and had a bad spending habit. I had no framework on how to take care of my finances and I suffered for it.
This was truly one of the hardest lessons to learn. I couldn't talk to anyone in my family about it and I didn't know who I could go to. I was very prideful as well. I didn't want anyone in my inner circle to know I was struggling with money. This attitude went on for several years, even after I got out of the military.
I eventually was able to get my spending under control and knock out my debts one at a time, but that recovery take about 5 years and my credit suffered heavily. I can say I am in a better place, but I had to undergo years of trial and error and even to this day I am continually working towards managing my financial health.
Okay, so what does this have to do with me?
Well, as I've shared above, our background can definitely play a role in how we think and feel about money. I don't blame my mother because it was evident that she didn't have much of a foundation herself and winged it. However, I did remember witnessing how her emotions changed whenever money was involved and I can now see how I, too, was wrapped in anger, sadness, depression, etc. whenever I had issues with money. Anger impacted my relationships. Depression isolated me from enjoying my young life. Desperation engaged me into taking out unnecessary loans. I was in a constant cycle of thinking money to be the only thing I needed to survive. Its obvious I was so wrong.
We can definitely make a change in our current situation. I had to develop a new ideal regarding money's position in my life. Unfortunately, we can't forget about it because it is essential to our living - we've got to pay for our rent/mortgage, we got to eat (so does our family), we need gas or a metrocard to get work, etc. There is no way around it, so its best we begin to address it head on.
How do we do that?
Lets start by revising our thoughts about money and recognizing our emotions about it. Money is an object that we use to get what we need and what we want. Money should not determine who are or who we want to be. It is a means for us to get by. Each of us have a unique memory and that memory shaped our thought process in how we engage with or relate to money. Here's how we'll do this:
- What is your earliest memory of money in your life?
- Was it a positive or a negative memory?
- Can you make the connection from that memory to your present day life?
- Do you recognize a pattern in how you handled money?
- What was your earliest feelings about money in your life?
- How does money make you feel when you have it?
- How does it feel when you don't have money?
The questions above are meant to get you on the road of realization you can have a healthier relationship with money. If you feel there are deeper personal issues that need to be addressed, please feel free to contact a trained therapist or counselor in your area.
Once you have acknowledged your thoughts and emotions, lets begin to turn some of that around. Here some suggestions/ideas:
- Whenever you begin to feel a particular negative emotion bubble up inside you, try to remember that you are going to okay and the situation will be handled one step at a time. By allowing that negative emotion to set in, you unconsciously close yourself off to potential good advice or assistance. The emotion felt, usually does not help your situation, especially if it is anger.
- Whenever you share your financial issue with someone, think of a new way to describe your situation.
I'm sure there are many other suggestions and ideas, but those above are what I came up with that would be most practical. I hope this information is helpful to you. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.
Please make sure to read my post on my disclaimer, as well. Thanks!