My life unraveled when I was 58. I was at my own financial cliff; I was getting divorced, moving out of our too expensive beach house in LA, my favorite dog was dying, and I need gum surgery.
The intersection of denial and reality forced me to make a choice. I chose to save my own life, and the journey that ensured gave me insights that have now changed not only my life, but many others. I feel now that I am finally living my life and have financial stability. The following is in part what I have learned.
Some people at times feel as though they are living someone else’s life – what they say, how they feel, and what they do never seem to match in a way that makes them feel whole. I have had many clients lament that they feel like they’re in a dense fog and can’t even see where they are standing, much less the road ahead.
In a way, they are right. They are not really living their lives. The road ahead is unclear because they are not fully present in the moment.
When we are born, we are 100 percent present, and contact with our mothers continues the journey that started in the womb. Feeling connected will lead to a bond that becomes the foundation of trust, but if the mother is not emotionally present, the relationship can lead to mistrust.
As we mature, the emotional world is opened wide. Messages from family members and others influence how we think we should behave in order to get our needs met, so that we can survive. These messages get stored in two places: our bodies and our subconscious.
A five-year-old child is totally dependent on someone else to give her food, clothing, and shelter. If a child experiences rejection of her needs because they might not be convenient at the time, or constantly hears others telling her what she should want, dismissing her when she expresses what she truly wants, she starts to internalize the message that she must do as others tell her… or else.
When the girl begins to repress her real feelings and express the thoughts she thinks others want to hear, she closets her true identity form the outside world and eventually, from herself. I call this split the “adaptation track” versus the “authenticity track.” As we grow older, we may stop paying as much attention to our authentic needs and allow a false self to take over just to survive, but frequently that creates a breeding ground for depression, isolation, and a profound sense of emptiness.
As our lives move down this set of tracks, we find ourselves making decisions that later leave us baffled. We marry the wrong guy. We stay in toxic friendships. We take jobs that don’t really suit us, because it’s a living. Maybe we earn less than we deserve, but we’re afraid to demand more or work for bosses we don’t respect and know we can eclipse.
Then we hit 35 or 40, and the reality gong goes off in our heads. The questions we’ve been avoiding begin to stream into our thoughts: What am I doing? Why am I broke? What do I really want? The authentic track is starting to communicate louder and louder.
It reminds me of a scene in the film Network where Peter Finch, a TV newscaster, encourages listeners to lean out of their New York City apartment building windows to yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The authentic self is crying out in pain to be finally noticed, to finally have peace and be reconciled.
So how does all this fit into one’s financial world?
Everyone picks a different theater in which to express their angst with the adaptation version of themselves. Some pick weight, some alcohol, some have difficulty bonding with their children or establishing open communication with their spouse. All of these negative relationships with people or vices affect how we relate to money. If you could interview your money, what would it say to you? How do you think your five-year-old self would respond to money?
This is how and where the journey of healing starts – by examining your early childhood. That is where you find the footing to build self-awareness and the climb begins.
As you gain insights into your past, and connect it to the present, you will see how what you do with your money, the men in your life, your coworkers, your siblings, and your body all connect to the same source of pain. By healing that source, everything slowly responds to the effects of the recovery. You will find by not buying that latte, by turning down a glass of wine for a club soda instead, bringing lunch instead of buying lunch, you will feel more in control and have respect for yourself.
Your daily goal is to feel goal; feel in control, do things that gain self-respect, not lose it.
These little steps create your journey of reclaiming your hijacked childhood and regaining control of your finances and your life.
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