Making Peace with Money (or, how to live with what you can’t live without)

Money is the root of all evil. Money can’t buy you love. Money makes the world go around.

Poor money! All these expectations placed on an object that, at this point, doesn’t even have any inherent value. A piece of paper with some ink and a strip of special metallic material. Actually, not even that…just databits in a vast virtual world.

Where did it all go so wrong?

It was good at first. When caveperson #1 wanted something from caveperson #2, s/he would look to trade. If #2 also wanted something from #1, all good! But what would happen if there wasn’t a mutual wanting? Someone would get hurt, even killed; and given our dependency on our tribe, if the failed trade was between clans, a major wipe-out could occur.

In a moment of genius, an alternative to direct trade was introduced.  Something EVERYONE could agree on as valuable  came in as a third party to make the peace. I want your pots but you don’t want my weavings, here, take some wampum instead. Or gold, or sheckles… Great idea!

Money, though, is a little like tofu. I think this is what happened. Once an actual substance that was universally desireable, money instead became representative — the gold in Fort Knox is represented by the cash in your pocket, and the cash in your pocket was replaced ten years ago by those pesky credit cards — and therefore increasingly intangible. The intangible lacks a flavor of its own, and is much more prone to taking on whatever fears and beliefs the user has.

If austerity is my goal, then money is evil. If I’m living paycheck to paycheck, it’s my master. And if I’m a wealthy investor, it’s my bitch.

It’s not that greed started being a problem with more intangible forms of exchange, but our specific beliefs around money became increasingly magical with time.

And that magic can be very, very dark.

How can we feel truly healthy if we’re in an adversative relationship with something we use on a daily basis? Sooner or later, in my work with clients, the money issue comes up, and when it does, I get excited. Rolled up in the dollars and cents strewn between us (yes, that’s how I sometimes work with money issues, I get quite literal), are family issues around work and self-actualization, religious and spiritual beliefs around what is good and evil, and our daily material experience, given that we are physical beings, around scarcity and practicality. Some of my clients even become confused around whether or not I care, given that I charge for my time.

And while resolving money issues internally, if not in your bank account, doesn’t alone lead to wellness, it more than plays its part.

This month, I’ve got some help from others who, on a daily basis, help with the money issue, including financial advisors who run into all kinds of unhealthy dynamics when they talk to clients and potential clients around long range planning. I’ll explore the paradigm of money as addiction for some of us, and the curious way in which we treat money addicts as opposed to the addicts of other substances, even though the effect is quite a bit more damaging. I’ll expand on some of the ways our families and our religions have muddied the waters around a simple tool, making it the heartless and jilting lover/temptress of universal desire. And we’ll also step outside the box many of us are stuck in, as we equate money with the much larger issue of prosperity.

So here’s what I suggest, as we’re priming for the discussion: lay something out before you that represents money. Your checkbook, monthly rent or mortgage statement, or actual cash. Just sit there, and notice what comes up. Write down some notes, and send them to me.

Happy tax day, everyone. And may the odds be ever in your favor.


Glad you did this.  In reading, this is what jumps out:
How can we feel truly healthy if we’re in an adversative relationship with something we use on a daily basis?  Odd that single word is what grabs me.  Use is a word that sometimes has negative implication i.e. taking unfair advantage.  I’m wondering what result might ensue by shifting my thinking of it as something that I allow to:  provide, sustain, support, supply, nuture.   Thanks for giving me tools to rethink my perspective/relationship with the green energy.  :)– Bonnie C., 4/25/14

“Allowing.” I like it — Inga

taking the money challenge.  laid out a handful of these silly green bills and various plastic cards – credit, debit (which I sort of know how to use) food stamp (which tells you a bit about my relationship to money!)
random thoughts – I’m doing lots of collage these days, what about doing a piece incorporating money.  YIKES  NO NO NO NONONO.  Its just paper . .  . ran headon into all my fears abt scarcity/survival and I could literally feel my heart clench up.  Poor sweet heart.  It occurs to me that to hurt my heart in the name of ‘freedom from money’ is pretty disrepectful.   Ok so whatever these bills represent to me is pretty powerful and needs to be respected.  Tho not feared.
so approach this another way – recognizing the very scared child that has appeared I begin to talk with her, reassure her, remind her of all the times we’ve been at the (perceived) bottom of the barrel and yet here we are: well fed, housed, a confortable life full of birds, flowers, most of what we want and all of what we need in this moment (that part is important) as a wise woman once described prosperity to me.
I remind this child how we make a monthly commitment to donate what we can to people with less and how good that makes us feel to be wealthy enough to share.  I remind her of the miracles we’ve seen – that giving really does come back around and with a much higher interest rate (interestingly choice of words!) than banks offer.
I remind both of us to be grateful for credit – that the universe trusts us to pay back what we are loaned and for bills, ditto.  I remind her how big expenses like property taxes are such a good deal once we examine all we get in exchange: library, schools, roads and bridges, fire dept, ems and sheriffs dept.
We smile at the thought of all the conversations we’ve had with interesting people at intersections once we got past our horror that they were standing there asking for something.  Maybe money or food or work or maybe just to be noticed.
I notice how our heart is relaxing, opening, smiling again and I promise to be respectful of her fears and clinging as we gently untangle these feelings/beliefs.
maybe a collage is in order, — Nancy W, 4/26/14
And from a reader who did the exercise, Jill W.,
Three things (at least) came up for me.  I know you’re shocked right now, but you’ll get over it.
1.  People are always trying to acquire/talk me out of as much of my money as they can with stressful/compelling reasons, i.e., telemarketers, insurance sales people, extended warranty, donations, car salesmen, buy 2/get 1 free, etc., etc., gotta do it now, offer will be gone, $10,000 depression treatment.  Hate it, hate it, hate it!  I want to choose my purchases rather than be talked into or guilted into something.  It’s that feeling of people only want my money and I’m constantly under attack and feeling suckered into something if you bought something.
2. There will never be enough money in the pile for Eric to be able to retire, mostly because of my medical situation and the uncertainty of what is “enough” in this wacky economy.
3.  After diligently trying to save my little nest egg, will my money be worthless when the bottom drops out of the market or will identity thieves make off with it all, leaving us with nothing.
Truth be told they are in reverse order.