Healing Your Relationship with Money

Money, Sex, Time and Food... these are four things that we think about all the time, yet we rarely actually consider our relationship with them. When you heal these four relationships, just imagine the ease and freedom that you will experience in your life. Think of them like the Four Quadrants of Personal Growth. Health in these four quadrants feels like a deep trust in yourself, and also in the Universe. It feels like personal mastery. Of these four, my healing journey with Money is the one that is easiest for me to share, because I now view Money as one of my favorite Imaginary Friends. I understand her now on some deep level. She makes me smile and I also know her shadow side. That's what today's insight was about... the shadow side, and how understanding it can help us to have a healthy relationship with Money. But first, some background.

What is your relationship with Money? When I ask people this question, here is what I hear: "I hate money." "Money is my nemesis." "Money? What money? I don't have any money." "Ugh. I am terrible with money." Money trauma is rampant, right?

Or, if I am asking someone who has a lot of it: "Money is everything." "Money is power." "Cash is king." "I love money." 

Everyone has a story that we tell ourselves about Money. Here's a little about mine... I grew up in a household where lack of money was our mantra, it was our identity. It was a reason to not associate with certain people. It kept us together as a family; we were special. Not having money felt like an unspoken agreement we had as a family. When I was about fourteen, I answered a knock at the door a few days before Thanksgiving. It was a volunteer from our church with a basket of food for needy families. I was embarrassed and shocked... how had our secret gotten out? 

As a business owner, I have learned that my relationship with money really impacts how the company performs, how we pay our employees, how much risk we take, how we pay our vendors, how we set prices, and how sustainable the company is. I watched myself every Friday for years when I sat down to pay bills. If I could pay everyone on time, I felt great about myself. I would run off to the rock gym, emanating a sense of confidence, able to flawlessly climb the same route that the day before had been insurmountably difficult. If we were behind, I would walk around for days, weeks, months, or even years, my heart heavy with this burdensome story of my ineptitude. It would be hard to get out of bed in the morning. Those were the days when I would look longingly at the bank teller's job and think that it seemed like a better idea to close the business and just get a regular paycheck, doing something, anything that did not involve carrying this financial burden. 

As far as my personal finances, when I got divorced, I learned that I was much better at taking care of "other people's money" than I was my own. As soon as my finances were really "my finances", it was a lot harder for me to care about them. I started overdrawing my checking account and neglecting bills, which was something I never did when I was managing "our" money. 

As a priestess in the Yoruba tradition of West Africa, one of the many initiations I received from my elders was "Aje" or the "Mystery of Money". The Yoruba treat her as a Force of Nature, or Orisha. I received a sacred worship object, a Money Pot. I kept it on my altar for years. 

I am not practicing the Yoruba tradition right now, although I still embody the mysteries that were shared with me during that very rich decade of my life. The way I have integrated this particular mystery is that I now think of Money as I would any important friendship. How do we cultivate friendships? We spend time on them. We are curious about our friends, we check on them. Think of Money as that person in your life that you can "win over". By giving them a little energy, care, attention, you can gradually feel a healthy and mutually beneficial connection with them. We have all had that person in our lives... the client or family member who used to be grumpy and now is our biggest fan. That's the transformation that can happen in your relationship with Money if you start treating it like a friendship and stop feeding your "enemy image" of her. Your bank account balance will not flourish if you continue to ignore it. Your bills will not get paid if you keep piling them in the same out-of-sight-out-of-mind place in your house.

When we think of Money as an Imaginary Friend, this also makes it clear that she is NOT us. She is not our self worth. She is not the solution to every problem. She has her own idiosyncrasies, imbalances and rules, all of which you will experience when you get to know her better. Your best ally when cultivating a friendship is your curiosity. What is the nature of this new friend? It's most powerful when you learn those things for yourself, but to facilitate your inquiry I will share a few things that I have found to be true about her qualities. Please let me know if you find them to be true also. 

The nature of Money's power is that she is unrelentingly, flawlessly responsive to purpose and direction. She will do anything you "tell" her to do. She is the ultimate servant. She can be honored and cared for, but she does not like to be put in charge, it is not her rightful place. When you put her in charge, or if you begin serving her, she will enter her shadow side, and may drag you into that place along with her. She does not like to take the lead on anything. If someone is paying you to do something, be very clear that this is not the main motivation for your behavior. Be clear that you are doing what you do out of love and contribution to your community, not out of fear or a sense that you need money. Yes, most of us work for a "living", but if you look more deeply, you are working to serve others, to contribute, and this comes from love, not fear or need. She is repelled from and will leave environments that do not have a clear sense of purpose or direction, like water seeping out of a bucket with small holes in it. 

Money likes to flow. She doesn't like to sit in dark corners or be stagnant. She is willing to be still for periods of time, if she is asked to do that in an intentional way. (Like when you invest in a CD or mutual fund)

Money doesn't like values conflicts. If you value two different things, and you aren't clear on that, and there is an ongoing tension between these two things, Money will not want to hang around that place. If you are spending money on something that is not really in alignment with your deepest values, this doesn't feel good. This will cause you to avoid spending time on your finances. 

What is one small step that you can do, today, to heal your relationship with money? Maybe it's just as simple as checking what's in your bank account. Maybe it's cancelling that recurring charge for the service that you don't use anymore. Think of these things like texting a friend you haven't seen in a while. You'll be glad you did. 

-Sarah Belzile