One clinical psychologist in Atlanta recently wrote a call to action (PDF) saying money has become an unhealthy taboo in psychotherapy.
The main point of the essay was to say that financial troubles, especially in a rough economy, can become great sources of stress, anxiety, and depression for many individuals; and this can often be an overlooked aspect of mental health. In addition to stresses and anxieties, many individuals develop dysfunctional attitudes toward money, some of which could be considered forms of mental disorders, now coined “money disorders.”
Klontz and Klontz suggested a range of possible money-related disorders in their book Money Over Mind. These included money-worshiping, rooted in the belief that more money provides the answers, which can lead to such behaviors as overspending, compulsive buying, unreasonable risk-taking with money, pathological gambling, hoarding, and workaholism; and money-avoidance, which includes “behaviors such as financial denial, where denial is used to defend against or minimize money problems, or financial rejection where feelings of guilt or unworthiness are associated with money.” Avoidance disorders can also include under spending and excessive risk-aversion.
So often I hear people say the phrase “This is just who I am.” I have to admit I have a love-hate relationship with this idea. On one end of the spectrum, it is an act of acceptance, which can be incredibly useful for acknowledging those aspects of our life that we have no direct control over.
Say you have a chronic illness that there is no known cure for, it is important to acknowledge such conditions without having unrealistic expectations, which can often only lead to more unnecessary suffering.
At the same time, recognizing the limitations we have to deal with doesn’t mean we need to identify with these limitations completely. I was recently browsing a forum for individuals with bipolar disorder and someone commented on how they hate people who say “I’m bipolar,” because it’s too identifying (“I am bipolar.”) He felt that it would be more accurate to say, “I’m a human being with bipolar.” It is important to be cautious not to let one attribute of our lives define our whole being. Remember, if you have life-long condition like bipolar disorder, you aren’t just “bipolar,” you are also a human being, a friend, a husband, a painter, or whatever.
On the other hand, many of us who say “this is just who I am” don’t say so because we have some intrinsic condition. We only say so because we have a poor track record with certain habits or patterns. When something seems to be happening again and again to us, it can often feel as if it is an intrinsic part of our existence, even if it isn’t.
The truth is we are always changing. When I look back on my life, I am not the same person today as I was 10 years ago. Furthermore, I doubt I will be the same person 10 years in the future as I am today.
It’s misleading to say “this is just who I am” after I recognize that my life is multidimensional and in a constant state of flux.
As the philosopher Heraclitus once said “You can never step into the same river twice.” And the same is true for our experience. We can never duplicate an experience, because conditions are always changing and we are always adapting in new ways.
I personally find this belief empowering. Because once we acknowledge the idea that change is an intrinsic aspect of existence itself, we are in a much better position to influence that change in positive and effective ways. The same cannot be said if we only identify to a static state of conditions.
So my big point here is to be more mindful when you think or say things like “this is just who I am,” as many times it can be a very limiting belief. Instead, embrace self growth and change. Look at the evidence of change that has already occurred in your life, and use that as a motivation to propel future personal development.
Yesterday I was walking home from the grocery store and two young guys ran from behind me and tackled me to the ground. They immediately started hitting me, kicking me, and yelling at me to give them my money. My first thought was, “Holy shit, I’m being robbed. This has never happened to me before, so I better cooperate.” Then I noticed that their hits and kicks were really “weak.” I no longer wanted to cooperate, I wanted to fight them off. Immediately I yelled “Fuck this!” and got to my feet, ready to fight. But by the time I could look up they were already bolting away toward a car down the road. I checked all my pockets – they didn’t get anything.
Steven = 1
Young Thugs = 0.
Upon reflection, I figured that the robbers didn’t really want to hurt me, they just wanted to intimidate me; they expected me to feel overwhelmed and just give in, taking the path of least resistance.
I thought more and realized that actually describes a lot about the obstacles we face in life. So often I find people quitting or selling themselves short when the going gets tough. Maybe they are writing a book and they can’t think of how to end it, or they are trying to build something and they find they made a lot of mistakes. Some people give in whenever they are met with the slightest bit of resistance or uncertainty, and that can stop many from achieving really great things.
Self-efficacy, feeling capable of overcoming obstacles, is key to facing resistance. If we are met with a challenge and think we are powerless, then we automatically submit any control we have over the situation. You can only take action once you think your actions have an effect. Having self-efficacy doesn’t mean we don’t ever face challenges, just as courage doesn’t mean we don’t ever have fear; in fact, both are required. The point is that you try to do your best in spite of whatever resistance that arises.
So I want you to take a moment and reflect on some of the resistance in your life, whatever it may be – work, health, relationships, etc. And I want you to try and find how resistance can be a necessary part of life, growth, and self-improvement. You can’t avoid it in all situations, and you can’t avoid it forever, so you need to learn how to face it head-on, perhaps even embrace it. Whatever you do, don’t give up so easily.
Truth be told I could probably write my own “Top 50 in Wellness” but I’ll save you guys. I’m sure the last thing many of you need is more sites to distract you from actually going out into the world and making things happen. Don’t become a “keyboard jockey” like me…
…but, if you have the time, definitely take a browse through some of the sites listed above.