The Money Conversation – Investing in Another Type of Inquiry
We often survey a client’s family history, their sexual history, addiction history, and even their work history – but rarely do therapists ask about a client’s money history. And yet, the topic of money is a window into seeing and understanding ourselves as well. When we remain in the dark about our autobiographical money memories and how they shape our experiences in the present, it is difficult to know how to change our behavior. What are the metaphors about money that you learned from your family of origin, and from the culture in which you grew up? How do these beliefs affect your relationships in the present? When we explore this more deeply and understand money as energy, as emotional currency, we begin to see the ways these beliefs become a framework or scaffolding on which we hang all sorts of beliefs, values and attitudes. (To learn more about emotional currency see katelevinson.net)
We find we have an emotional relationship to money, linked, not surprisingly, to our attachment figures – usually our parents, but they also could be linked to others who met our most intimate needs as young, naïve and vulnerable children. These “money” events of our past will often impact our future and how we enter into the economy market to seek employment or as consumer or as leaseholder or owner. We may be in reaction when we approach designing our internal models for the future, including our aspirations for a career. They also may influence criteria for choosing who become our friends and whom we choose as our life partner. Quite often, not only significant others, but siblings will come into my therapy
office to work through their differences that have come between them in regard to their inheritance. This is their opportunity to lay down the old baggage they are carrying that is weighing on them and preventing them from sorting through their grief of losing their parents. Business partners too, come in to learn how to express their concerns before they enter into a contract or disassemble a contract between them.
Exploring your relationship to money from an emotional perspective that includes factors such as your first messages about money from your parents and grandparents, how it brought you closer or farther away from them, how it contributed to setting patterns of experience for trust and intimacy – are important factors that shape our decision making patterns and perhaps our confidence or sense of self. Surely we have multiple, shifting and complex emotions in response to money. There is no one right way to experience, nor right way to deal with our relationship to it. The emotions that arise around money shift based on the associations we make at any particular time.
The money conversation is often a taboo subject, a trigger point or raw spot in a relationship; frequently beliefs and attitudes about money are communicated subliminally or implicitly rather than explicitly. What if instead we approached these commonly challenging conversations from the perspective of unpacking complex, symbolic and relational aspects to money?
If an individual, couple or partnership is interested in pursuing along this line of thought, I am happy to share a collection of questions gathered and developed by many in the field of “financial intelligence” to promote deeper exploration. What is most fascinating is how you benefit from this frame of inquiry and how it enhances greater intimacy between you and others.