Get out of the money trap in three easy steps
This is the second in my series on emotional spending. This time the focus is on the problem of not being able to spend money, even when we have plenty in the bank.
Overspending and its close cousin the debt mountain receive lots of attention, and there are debt counsellors available to support those who struggle. Those who are financially comfortable but unable to spend money, are the object of ridicule and dismissed as 'skinflints'. What is too often perceived as an unattractive character trait, is frequently rooted in an anxiety disorder. Spending money causes pain, so it is avoided.
If you have this issue or know of someone who does, you will be well aware of how distressing it is and recognise the rationalisation ways of covering up a fear of spending. People might refuse to eat out for example, because restaurant food is 'unhealthy', won't buy gifts because 'it is too materialistic', or wear a shabby outfit to a family wedding because 'recycling is so essential'.
Where do these habits come from?
These habits are often formed from early experiences where it was not money as such that mattered but what it represented. We may have grown up in relatively affluent circumstances but there might have been an underlying fear that the comfort and safety of being well off could vanish overnight, and money always had to be scrimped and saved, to the point of hoarding it.
Other people may have had more 'realistic' reasons for fearing a lack of money, and watched hard working parents struggle to feed, clothe and educate the family on very little. Both scenarios produce a horrible sense of insecurity in children. A child can assume unconsciously, 'Money is the magic which makes everyone safe'. Money seems super powerful, but it is scarce and so and we must preserve it no matter what.
This anxious perspective gets entrenched. we grow up reluctant to part with the cash, even when deep down we know it is the right thing to do. It becomes a controlling force, sustained by the power of the unconscious mind.
When we avoid spending money, we feel we have a achieved a victory. It creates an unhappy mindset which makes us hurt and deprive ourselves and it can alienate those who love us most.
How to change
Here are a few steps to break the spiral, targeting those sore money spots. Take it gently and plan to start in small ways, as dramatic changes will trigger a backlash from the unconscious mind which will be counterproductive. First relax, and allow yourself to meditate on your desired outcome: to expand your comfort zone around money and let more joy into your life because it is safe to do so and you deserve it.
1. Eating out
If you always refuse invitations to join a friends in a restaurant and miss out on good company as a result, permit yourself the pleasure of friendship and invite them back for dinner. Budget for an affordable, tasty meal which everyone can enjoy. There is no need for caviar and champagne. Let the focus be the fun and satisfaction of genuine friendship. Later on, you can experiment with eating with friends in a medium priced, good quality restaurant.
If you are uncomfortable receiving gifts, allow yourself to enjoy getting a present and tell yourself you are worthy of the kindness and thoughtfulness this gift represents. Begin to allow yourself to buy small gifts for others. Take it easy and start in small steps to minimise anxiety. Decide on a budget, think about the interests of the recipient carefully and make a short list of things they would enjoy. Then buy one of them and wrap it in attractive paper, add a personal note or card and give it to them.
3. New clothes
If family and friends are always nagging you to throw away the stained, sagging or patched clothing they tell you that you live in, now is the time to take a risk. Decide on a new outfit for the current or upcoming season, visualise yourself looking wonderful in the new clothes, and allocate a realistic budget per item. Choose a day when there is going to be plenty of time so there is no sense of rush or pressure. Go to a large, good quality store with a pleasant atmosphere and plenty of choice. Take your time, try things on and pick out the most flattering and comfortable garments. Do not leave until you have made your purchases. If necessary, take an understanding friend with you, as this will help control any stress.
If you still struggle to take good financial care of yourself, why not visit a hypnotherapist for some professional support? A good hypnotherapist will be very understanding and uses a wide range of techniques to access your powerful, unconscious resources, facilitating change at the right pace. Take care to choose just the right person for you.
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About Marian Barry
Marian Barry is an advanced clinical hypnotherapist practising at the Harley St Hypnotherapy Clinic London and Gt Abington, Cambridge. She has given talks at international conferences around the world specialising in personal change and confidence building. She is a best selling author of many popular works published by Cambridge University Press.