by Mary Young, Ph.D.
Perhaps you already know the punchline, but I grew up believing that the way I’ve stated the question above was the accurate depiction of the biblical statement. About 15 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be seeing a Minister, who taught me a number of lessons, as many of my patients do. This lesson in particular, was the correction that the bible actually says “The love of money is the root of all evil.” That’s a pretty big difference of what I originally thought and often heard people say. And I have certainly seen many examples in my years on the job where, people’s attachment to things that require money can, and often does, create a host of maladies in their lives.
But I would venture to say there is another set of circumstances that may be highly problematic in addition to the love of money, and that is the fear of money. Many, many people are AFRAID of money when you dig down deep underneath their actions. They may be afraid of how people treat them if they have money, afraid of having responsibilities they don’t currently possess if they had money. They may be afraid they don’t have the skills to manage money properly. Probably the most substantial angst that can plague folks is the fear that, either they won’t have enough money, or it will never seem like enough to bring them the satisfaction, peace, stability, community or whatever they are seeking, even if they have the money. And all of these lead to shame, and a sense of inadequacy.
When a person who feels sad eats a chocolate bar instead of tending to their feelings, they may in fact, feel better, but only temporarily. While some foods do have medicinal benefits, chocolate doesn’t fulfill the experience of sadness. It’s short lived relief. And when a person craves companionship, they can certainly use monetary funds to connect them to another person. But if money is the only connector, it’s not a relationship, but rather, a transaction.
As a therapist, I find people are often very willing to talk with me about intimate details of their lives, including sexual ones. But a discussion about money can send many people into an anxious state. I attribute this to a couple of factors. Sometimes, it’s due to shame, particularly if they have made some poor financial decisions in the past. They may anticipate that I will judge them, as either others have in the past, or how they judge themselves. I believe another plausible explanation for this reluctance, is fear that somehow they will become more vulnerable to me if I know their salary or net worth. And I find this somewhat intriguing because it shows the irrationality that comes from fear motivated thinking.
For example, I can’t charge them more money. My fee is what it is, both before and after a disclosure of any type and is stated prior to the start of my service.
I can’t tell it to someone else as all information is confidentially protected by law.
I can’t spend it or benefit by their money. It’s not mine.
So the reasons for their fear have nothing to do with me.
As for my judgment, I view a person’s behavior with money, very similar to how a person expresses themselves through most, if not all, other commodities. I find that, we all tend to demonstrate patterns based on our general stance in life about abundance and deprivation. We tend to be generous or miserly in our regulation of our commodities of food, time and money in similar patterns as an expression of our ability to regulate ourselves.
Perhaps the first step towards achieving financial serenity versus financial security is to identify one’s relationship to money. Developing a solid financial plan should include not only ways to ensure one’s financial needs can be met, but thorough review of whether those needs are rooted in a realistic approach to living comfortably, versus a fearful approach that knowingly or unknowingly, tries to avoid all vulnerable situations going forward.
Mary Young Ph.D. has maintained a full time private practice for over 20 years. She works both with adolescents and adults, male and female. Her areas of expertise include marriage and relationship issues, eating disorders, generalized anxiety, empowering parents to raise resilient kids and also, ADHD and Adult Aspergers. She is the author of Internet Dating: An Exploratory Study of Intimate Relationships Initiated On and Translated Through the Internet (2009).
A St. Louis native, Dr. Young holds a doctorate in Clinical Social Work and a Masters degree in Professional Counseling and is licensed in Missouri in both disciplines. Dedicated to ongoing training and research, Dr. Young has lectured both locally and nationally, and has served as a field supervisor for practicum students. She also provides supervision to other clinicians in the community. Dr. Young regularly attends conferences in order to integrate the most current research and treatment philosophies in her clinical practice.