Money hasn’t always been an easy subject for me.
And the truth is, it’s still a work in progress.
My life up until now is an example of how having money doesn’t buy happiness. Despite the fact that we grew up with money, and lived an “easy” life of world travel, 5-star hotels and lots of business class flights, my money anxiety never seemed to cease.
No matter how much money we had and spent, I was always trying to collect and save and felt highly anxious and guilty about spending.
In the same way that a recovering drug addict would feel if they relapsed, growing up and living on my own was filled with moments of shame. My recovery process was highlighted by moments of maxing out my credit card on clothes, only to come home and realise that I didn’t even want the items I had bought. It was a difficult time, mainly because I felt like I was constantly juggling between the opposite ends of control: mindlessly over-spending or hoarding, and never feeling at ease about finances.
I remember a few years ago, while I was in between throes of this control-and-lack-thereof rollercoaster, that I sent out a prayer: to finally learn what it was like to manage money properly, and even more, to feel the pressure to do so. The surface of my life seemed dandy and blissful—however, I knew deep down that this was no way to live and that money doesn’t last forever.
And so I found myself taking a different path, learning to empower myself (and others) on this journey.
Did you know that the way that you manage money is a direct correlation to and representation of who you are, underneath the surface? Imagine that by learning to have more awareness about who you are, you can actually begin to have a more positive relationship with money and live in abundance.
For illustration purposes, let’s rewind for a moment.
First, I am going to go back to one of my earliest memories of money. When I was around nine (or so), my parents had just dispersed after an argument and while my mother was downstairs playing piano, in an act of rebellion, I ran into her room to steal a few 20 ringgit bills (we were living in Malaysia at the time). This exhilarating moment was followed by deep guilt, confusion and anxiety.
Now, let’s fast forward. This time, I’m 16 years old. I’m sitting in our large family apartment in Malaysia, all on my own. (Dad was in Dubai, Mum was away and my brother was at university in Vancouver.) I had just told my boyfriend at the time that I had cheated on him on MSN chat. I remember feeling that all I wanted was to get as far away from that feeling as possible. Suddenly, I remembered a few prom dresses that I had been looking at online. Before I knew it, I had clicked submit and had two (or three) dresses being shipped to me in Malaysia, with many months left to go till prom. I used my Dad’s credit card, a number I had memorized.
One more time, we are going to fast forward. This time, we’re heading to just over two years ago. I’m sitting with my fiancé (now husband) and we are about to go over our finances together. I’ve tried to postpone this discussion many times. As my husband draws columns on a piece of paper and begins to ask questions, my heart races and my glands are sweating. How am I going to lie myself out of this situation? What if he sees who I truly am?
So the question is, what do these memories have in common?
Well, they’re all about “money archetypes.”
The term may or may not be ringing bells in your mind. If not, think of it as a motif of our human experience. Basically, they represent represent fundamental experiences and the deep emotions they evoke.
This work originated with Carl Jung, psychologist and father of analytical psychology. From the innocent, to the creator, to the rebel—each archetype represents a version of the human psyche and sheds light on the patterns we live in.
When you think about money and finances, you can begin to imagine why money might have archetypes too. After all, we are constantly using it, thinking about it, basing our life-value on it and even more, needing it for survival. Money represents a deep, dark space of human emotions and our relationship to it can in ways, dictate how we live our life and how we experience experiences.
For most of my life, I have been juggling between three of the eight money archetypes, the primary being the “innocent.”
My money relationship would be described as “head in the sand,” “easily overwhelmed” and “relying on the advice and opinions of others” to dictate the big money moves.
So how is it possible for an adult to be an innocent? In the same vein of an adult who grew up, as the saying goes, “living under a rock,” an innocent grows up with little to no education around money or financial responsibility. A lot of the time, an innocent comes from a wealthy background and has experienced a “care-free” life when it comes to worrying about money. Thus, when it comes to decisions involving money, an innocent will react emotionally, feeling helpless.
Great, so I’m an innocent, now what? Do I just accept this as my reality and spend my life looking to partner with non-innocents?
No way. Once we are aware of our primary money archetypes, we can turn to ways and methods of changing patterns and introducing new approaches. It all starts with awareness.
In my case, much like a child goes to school to learn about life, an innocent must begin to learn about finances. The key is incremental learning. From tax, to investments and stocks, to spending—a whole new world awaits an innocent to empower them to be self-sufficient. Much like you would teach a child through an understanding, non-judgmental approach, this same style must be adopted for an adult innocent, from the self and externally too.
So why all this talk of money and our relationship to it?
Well, here’s the thing—as you bring more awareness into your life and your money relationship, your archetypes will change. Ultimately, we all want to be in the space of a magician and warrior. When we can get to this point, money carries a different energy and attraction.
It’s like food: when food carries an attraction, we are too emotionally involved. That is when food and eating patterns are dictated by how we feel. This is when disordered eating can begin to enter our lives. When food is food, it comes and goes and it doesn’t represent how we feel emotionally (about ourselves), then we live and eat in so much more freedom.
The same goes for money. When you have less attachment to money, and money stops dictating how you feel about yourself and others, the channels are open for it to flow (in and out). “What we resist persists.” So if we are feeling negative emotions toward money (fear, shame, guilt, anxiety), then that emotion will manifest into a reality.
And why does this matter?
We all use money. Money is a part of our daily lives. How many times a day/week do you check your bank account? Whenever you make a transaction/payment, how do you feel? Do you feel freedom? Guilt? Satisfaction? Anxiety? Believe it or not, the way that we feel about money is actually a bigger picture of how we feel about ourselves. Do we need saving?
So what is your money history? What is your relationship with money like? My favorite part about this work is that when you begin to explore this, you not only feel freer, but you also begin to attract more abundance into your life. Also, you begin to practice more awareness with your partners, friends and family members and their money relationship.
As Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” For me, it really is about being humble and starting from the source of your impact: you. Every single time that I get overwhelmed and caught up in my ego, I remember that each person counts and I must turn to myself in order to make big changes in this world.
Author: Chloe Elgar
Image: Guian Bolisay/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman