We are in the midst of tax season. A time of refunds or owing money and going over earnings and expenses of the previous year. Calculating and comparing. Perhaps judging ourselves for not making enough or wondering where all that money went. Perhaps worrying about the coming year, paying off debts, paying for school, saving for retirement or emergencies. Perhaps feeling comfortable and satisfied with what we have. Or thankful for a large refund.
Talking and thinking about money can be hard and uncomfortable. In part because many of us were told it’s not okay to talk about money at some point in our lives. If you believe you don’t have or earn enough, you may feel shame. You may feel guilty about having too much - or feel pressure about how to best manage what you have. There may be a sense of fear surrounding money, fear of losing your savings or investments, fear of not being able to pay your bills or put food on the table. All of these are part of the emotions of money.
Let’s try an experiment. Take a few moments and focus on the idea of money. Maybe specific images come to mind of dollar bills or numbers in your bank account. Maybe you think of savings or debt. Whatever comes up for you, notice your body reaction. Do you feel tense? Relaxed? Constricted? Open? Would you rather not think about it all? Did you space out or become distracted?
Whatever you notice, simply make note of it. Your reactions to this simple experiment tell you something about how you learned to relate to money. And also point to something deeper.
Money has been a challenging thing for me to navigate in my adult life. I have experienced denial and wishful thinking. I have been known to fantasize about living in a time or place where money does not matter so much, such as some utopian, communal society. I go through fear, uncertainty and confusion. If money is only a number on a screen, does it really exist or matter how much I have? Sometimes I believe I have too much and should give it all away to people and causes who need it. Other times, I don’t know how I will make it to my next paycheck. On occasion, I feel truly satisfied. Perhaps you can relate to aspects of what I have shared. Perhaps your financial life has changed and shifted over time, too.
Living with your emotions
Remember the experiment from above and what you felt as you thought about money? What do you do with those feelings?
Step 1: Let your emotions be here. As uncomfortable as it can be to feel scared, uncertain, constricted or shameful, see if you can practice making room for your feelings. Fear (or any other emotion) is simply an experience you are having in this moment. It does not actually predict the future, as much as we may be convinced that it does.
Step 2: Get to know your emotions on a deeper level. This leads to understanding and awareness. It can be a way to hold your experience without getting swept away.
What does it mean to get to know your emotions? Spend time with them. Notice when they appear and when they leave. How do they shift and change? When you feel fill-in-the-blank, how old to you feel? Do you feel like a little kid? That’s telling you something about where these feelings originated and, again, helps you know they may be less about your current or future situation and more about the past.
As I live into the experience of my emotions, my awareness shifts. I begin to understand that my challenges around money have less to do with numbers in my bank account and more to do with an underlying sense of insecurity, not having enough and scarcity. In other words, no matter how much money I have, I may never feel like it is enough. And as continue to I work with this feeling, I may begin to believe/feel I have enough even if my bank account stays the same.
Step 3: Embody the opposite emotion. It can be powerful to step out of our habitual way of being and try on an alternative for periods of time.
In the case of feeling scarcity and not having enough, invite in a feeling of fullness. Can you feel that in your body? It may help to focus on something you have, which can be as simple as a bed to sleep in, shelter, family or friends, enough food to eat today. Can you feel the fullness of your inhale as you breathe? Can you feel the ground beneath you, a connection to the Earth?
This works for other emotions and feelings, too. Do you feel constricted? Imagine feeling open and relaxed. Do you feel shame? Invite in a feeling of love and respect. Explore. What do you notice? Does it feel scary or unfamiliar to open or feel full? Which feels better on a body level?
One of my recent money struggles played out as obsession over my earnings and my bills. The numbers would rattle around in my head and I was caught in trying to figure out if I had enough. Would I make it to the end of the month? Okay, well what about the next month? It was exhausting. And it was a way for me to avoid feeling a deeper place of fear and emptiness. As I sat in meditation one day, I heard the words “let go of the numbers” and felt myself relax for a moment. That became my practice. Whenever I noticed obsessing about the numbers, I would pause and breathe. I would notice the underlying fear and something began to shift. I had moments of feeling money as a flow of energy, giving and receiving, and letting myself be part of the flow, instead of obsessing and feeling constricted, blocked.
When I got stuck around a particular big purchase, I reached out for help and clarity. I was reminded that everything I was afraid of already happened; it was an old memory stored in my body. I felt my fear and took a chance. When we understand and allow for our emotions, we can include them in our daily decisions, but we don’t have to be ruled by them. And that feels like freedom.
Katherine Grigg, MPC, RSMT has a Master of Pastoral Counseling degree and is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist. She sees clients in Lenox, Massachusetts and over phone/video chat. Her approach is holistic, compassionate and intuitive. Appropriate for anyone seeking a deeper sense of connection to themselves, their spirituality and/or the world around them. LGBTQ+ Friendly. Contact her to learn more or connect with her on facebook.