We are into day two of a Money and Life workshop and it is getting deeper. The group has bonded well, people are feeling safe and enjoying the rare opportunity to talk honestly and listen openly to stories about the tensions between their money and their lives. They are becoming more conscious of the gaps between their culturally inherited stories about money and the truth of their actual experience.
The relationship between power and money:
One woman speaks. It is her turn. She knows this because her heart is beating fast. She wants to share and is also afraid. This is not unusual. People are thirsty for the opportunity to talk honestly and openly about money, about what it does to them, about how it – the having of it and the not having of it, the thinking about it and the trying not to think about it – impacts so very much on their life. But they are also afraid – what will people think? How will I be judged? What will my money story reveal about parts of me I would rather keep in the dark?
The woman speaks movingly and powerfully (sic) about her sense of powerlessness. About how she feels weighed down, under pressure and stuck due to lack of money in her life. She gave up a regular salaried job 10 years ago. Even there she felt she was under earning. Now, though she does work that is meaningful to her, she is paid very little and is running through her savings, running out of money and feeling “crushed” by the pressure of it all. She would like to have money. But more than that she wants to feel in touch with her power, her freedom and her capacity to make choices. For her money represents these qualities. The work we are doing is to help her re-discover that these capacities are actually already in her, not in money.
As we finish our work another woman in the group is obviously moved. This often happens in Money workshops – the sharing of one person’s story resonates deeply with someone else. Their story may be similar or quite different, but something in the sharing and the exploration, maybe a particular word that comes into consciousness, or a particular interpretation of some family pattern unconsciously lived out, stirs emotion. They resonate and are now ready to share.
Obviously full of emotion, ready to go and yet very tentative the second lady speaks up, quietly at first. “I have 6 houses and half a yacht”, she says. There is a long pause. She is in touch with the emotion of simply having told us that she has 6 houses and half a yacht. She repeats this, a little more loudly this time, “I have 6 houses and half a yacht”.
There is shame, fear of judgement – what will we think. But mostly she feels very vulnerable. She is in touch – perhaps for the first time in a long while – with a deep inner sense of vulnerability and insecurity. She begins to unpick her story. She has spent her adult life accruing assets – houses, money. She is good at her job, and enjoys it. And it has allowed her to earn money and invest in property. In terms of assets and money she is what most would call a success. But she no longer wishes to stay in that job. The time has come in her life to explore beyond the job. She has ideas about doing art, sculpture, yoga and other experiments. We explore. Financially she can certainly afford to leave the job. The properties generate an income to live comfortably. Her rational mind knows this. She is organised and clever with finance and spreadsheets. She can see that there is no rational reason that compels her to keep working.
But despite the houses, the salary and the half a yacht, she too feels a great sense of powerlessness and vulnerability. She too feels stuck and limited in her choices because of this thing we call money.
It’s not about the money:
This sharing is a great gift to the group, as they always are. To witness another person’s truth about money and life is to see their unique and peculiar way of constraining and limiting their own life energy, the flow of life, due to unconscious hopes and fears. Each time we become a little more able to recognise our own projections onto money and our own self imposed constraints we can become a little more free. We start to see that it is we who limit the flow of life, never money – whether we have it or not. We become a little more able to step beyond the story about money that our culture passes on – about effort, independence, earning, deserving and about having to stave off a fundamental insecurity. Each time we witness this work we become a little more able to trust life, to trust the bigger picture of what inevitably unfolds once we place our life, our joy or our calling at the centre of things.
This particular sharing is a particular gift because we can all see how two women, of similar ages, but at entirely different ends of the financial asset scale are projecting similar qualities of power, choice and security onto money. One has almost no money and believes that with money will come the sense of power and security she seeks. The other has more money than she can rationally need, and yet still feels compelled to get more, because for her too – it represents power and security, something that intrinsically she feels she lacks. With this unconscious projection active she will never have enough (in her view) to take the next step. Her work today is to really acknowledge this inner insecurity as a perfectly valid, even a wonderful human experience. And also to recognise, as she does, that in essence, in her deeper nature she is intrinsically secure with and without money.
Finding our power and security with and without money:
Most of us tend to believe that money will lead to a sense of security and power. This is our culturally inherited money story that few of us ever question. But it doesn’t. We don’t have to make the point in any obvious way in this workshop. It is there for all to see in the contrasts and connections between these two generous women. One of the many paradoxes in this work is that the vulnerability becomes a powerful thing. We see the sense of lack becomes a gift to the group and the tears turn to laughter as we all find ourselves laughing at just how funny each of us is in living out these unconscious stories about money and life that so often give us the very opposite of what we say we really want.
NB: A short note to say that about a month after the workshop the first woman made contact to say that within a week of the workshop she had been offered a job with a salary of more than she had ever been paid before. While it is important to say that the Money work is in no way at all about getting more money, this new job and her obvious delight about it, did seem to be some sign that she had made a valuable reconnection with her own inner sense of power, confidence and worth.