• Dr. Jill Bakke

Financial Issues: Rooted in More than Money

Change begins with awareness. It doesn’t matter what area we are looking at; the awareness of what is now and what we wish it to be must be addressed for change to occur. Otherwise, like the old saw says, “If we keep doing what we have been doing, we will get the same old results.”

How is your life working? Are you content with your life? Wanting to change is the beginning of change. Whatever you select, here are some important considerations.

  • Do you want your finances to improve? Think about how money affects your other relationships.

  • Do you dislike your job, leave work tired and irritable, and end up snapping at the children or your spouse?

  • Do you shop to relieve stress, only to become more stressed when the bills come in from your shopping sprees?

We can’t blame not knowing how to manage finances, as we might have been able to argue even 15 years ago. That knowledge is now available to us everywhere. And I am the first to admit that sometimes things happen like a job loss, divorce or health issues that create financial issues.

Regardless, the starting point in correcting all those money problems is addressing the relationship with self! That is the primary place from which our other problems arise. It affects our relationships in all other areas. Our relationship with money stems from what we think about our self, and it includes our programing, which we are often unaware of. What we are experiencing in our life is a reflection of our habitual thoughts.

I don’t believe we have to start by diving into an ocean of change. I believe we can start with small changes. Testing the water before jumping in has value. A starting point is to look at how much you have to spend, where you are spending it and considering if you might make wiser choices. This might not be evident right away because like most of us we have forgotten what makes our heart sing and our lives content.

I have been poor and I have been comfortably well off. I have been happy in both states. When I was young and born at the edge of the depression, I was my authentic self, finding joy in each moment and being aware of what pleasured me. I didn’t have a lot of responsibility, so it was easy to be happy then. Simple things like playing in the sunshine pleasured me. Books pleasured me. I loved playing with my dog. And I discovered these things pleasured me as an adult also, regardless of the money situation or what or how much I owned.

A full knowledge of what pleasured me didn’t occur overnight though. When I became aware of what I had packed way to gain my security and comfort, I began to unpack and incorporate those items. I started to carve out time for them by omitting some of what were then “shoulds” and “oughts” like making my bed each day and ironing the sheets. I left a job I disliked, even though my husband was afraid he couldn’t pay the mortgage without my paycheck, and found talents I didn’t know I had as a homemaker and mother.

After a while I added the next step, going to college, and doors opened to help me pay for this: scholarships, birthday money, work writing features for the local paper and Montana Magazine. It didn’t happen all at once. But as I squirrelled away money for my next college class, I spent less money on makeup and gifts for my children, which were formerly impulse buying of things that were unneeded and unappreciated after a short period. Bottom line: The classes made my heart sing, and I managed my money better to include them, earning three degrees in the process. What makes your heart sing? Things that make your heart sing are from your authentic self.

As we gain those things it becomes easier to get a handle on our money. We are less inclined to live up to the proverbial Jones Family. We have more patience and compassion. We find we have more control of our retail therapy for stress. In fact, we find less stress. We are happier.

Each person will have different steps to undertake in learning to be their authentic self and in seeking change. No one size fits all. You can’t judge your progress according to anyone else’s. But each day that you find more calmness and joy you are taking a step in the right direction. Some people cart along a lot more programing and baggage to paw through. Others have to taste what they THINK they want before they decide it is not what they want.

There are so many ways to begin your journey of awareness. Start where I did, looking for the pleasure sources that are missing. Or you can begin like a friend of mine who was in debt. The biggest pleasure he could think of was getting out of debt. But when he just about would reach that stage, he would fall back in. He had to learn to love himself and not to be concerned about what others thought of him. He didn’t need a Lexus or BMW in his garage; something more economical would do what he needed a car to do. He decided he didn’t need that big of a house that tied him to more maintenance, taxes and mortgage. He had to look at his ideas of what gave him value. Was it things? Prestige because he owned this or that? He had to learn to love himself, not the self he had created with possessions but the self he was born with.

One way to learn about your relationship to self is through journaling exercises. The exercises are a way of looking at self through a different lens. In my book THE MAGIC THEATER: YOUR PERSONAL JOURNAL I have an exercise that asks you to look at the messages you received growing up and accepted without consideration. I recall working with a young woman who believed she could fall in love with someone at the Country Club and be happier than meeting someone in a less elite setting. And, of course, this meant maintaining that imagine to capture her man and keep him. I had a friend tell me that men stayed married and monogamous only when the wife stayed beautiful. And she spent every dollar she could gather on plastic surgery to fit that belief. Another male friend let his family talk him into the career that the men in his family followed for generations when he wanted to do something totally different. He ended up bankrupt.

Once when I was doing bankruptcy counseling, I had a client who had a good job, had remodeled his newly purchased home and was filing for what he hoped would be a Chapter 7, the write off bankruptcy. He had money for extras like DVDs for his video collection, an outlandish food budget, and frankly told me he didn’t want to live like a pauper. His lack of knowledge of self lead him into writing off the contractors who made his home beautiful without concern that this put them in difficult financial situations.

These people never faced the reason for their spending. As a result, their spending yanked them around and in most cases created pain and suffering for others. In the case of the woman hung up on beauty, her marriage ended in divorce. The man eventually remarried someone not wearing size 3 clothing and obsessed with her image, but one that gave him warmth and affection. He’s happier than he ever was. What have you considered as truth? Have you really challenged that belief?

What part of you have you given away and yearn for? Even keeping a daily journal of “to-do” lists and what you did has great value if you go back and read it over, looking for patterns that can lead you to awareness of what you are doing. But journaling is only one way to get to know yourself better.

You have all the answers within. You just don’t know how to reach them. To start your Hero’s Journey, as mythologist Joseph Campbell calls it, begin with more insight. There are some wonderful books out there about the wisdom hidden myths. Look into the work of Campbell and Jung. Among my mentors you will find Clarissa Pinkola Estes, especially her WOMEN WHO RUN WITH WOLVES, and Gregg Levoy’s CALLINGS: FINDING AND FOLLOWING AN AUTHENTIC LIFE.

Finally, spend some time with the two noted humanistic psychologists, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, who have written a great deal about this process of becoming authentic, knowing and loving self. Rogers calls it “fully functioning and says that It isn’t for the faint of heart. However, I assure you it IS worth the effort. Maslow is so adamant on the process, that he has written:

And when we are at peace with our self, we become at peace with our money. If you feel stuck taking this journey on your own, look for a good life coach or counselor who can assist you in finding what you are probably avoiding on some level, one who will help you excavate your true self.

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