A few things converged to help me see something that I haven’t seen before today.
I’ve been teaching my clients how to create a spending plan and then live by it. We talk about how to make friends with the details and leave the land of vagueness. We talk about making a weekly appointment to update our categories and replenish the cash in our wallet categories.
Well, it hit me today that there’s a pink elephant in the room (at least for me), and I would like to share it with you.
Part of my history has been recovering from various life-threatening addictions. I wouldn’t have designed my life story that way, to require that much pain for me to get the lesson of surrender, and yet it has worked out incredibly well. (All I had to do was survive myself!)
So, one of my addictions is around food. Sugar, mostly, but also high quantities of binge foods. Tons of emotional eating, and also equal parts boredom eating. Eating what I wanted to, when I wanted to, was my go-to “remedy” for anything in my teens and twenties.
I know good and well that YEARS of telling myself to stop it – “just eat less” – “just make a plan and follow it” – “just don’t do it again!” just led me to cycle through this viciousness that repeated and repeated. And, ironically, I would eat when the pain of feeling like a failure with my eating would grow. Yes, I would also eat to try and soothe the pain of feeling that my clothes were too tight.
Was this rational? Nope, not at all. Was this a case of my being mentally flawed, and not being able to make the connection between cause and effect? No way. I’m a smart cookie (pardon the pun). This was something bigger than just my existing ability to stop it because I wanted to.
So what has really dawned on me today in a new way, is to share with you and my future clients, that people are going to have different relationships with money based on what their internal makeup is doing.
Certainly there are some of us who could stop overspending, or could stop debting, and just aren’t ready to make the lifestyle changes necessary to do that. Then, I can teach people the tools, and we can look at the root causes of what blocks them from behaving how they want to with their money. We can set up rational ways for them to modify behavior.
I heard a cool podcast today – YNAB (You Need A Budget) interviewed a Stanford behavior researcher who has identified this theory of Tiny Habits. That we can’t make sweeping changes that last (like New Year’s resolutions), but that we can start with tiny little changes that are associated with a set routine each day, and grow from there. For example, this researcher does 1 pushup each time he goes to the bathroom. So that’s a strategy that would emanate from the conscious mind.
How I relate to these folks is my relationship with alcohol. I do have some history with binge drinking (also those stellar early twenties), but it was only ever for the sugar. I never found a beer I liked. And when I realized that drinking wine and sweet drinks was causing me weirdness with my food behavior, I just gave it up cold turkey and have never looked back. Never crave it, just feel better without it. There are people who can meet with me for 1 session, get the mechanics clarified, and then go off on their own for 3-6 months and “just do it”.
Team 1 terms: will power, conscious decisions, habits, internal strength
There are some of us who are “drunks” with money, whether we want to admit that or not. We say we’re going to stop racking up credit card debt, and then we buy something else that we just HAVE to have. It can’t wait!! Even though we’re getting this growing, gnawing feeling in our gut that something bad is waiting at the end of this line. You know what, enough thinking about that bad feeling, I need to go out and buy something else! Yeh, that’ll make me feel better! (Even though I was feeling bad from worrying about not having enough money.)
If I’ve learned anything from my experience with recovery from addictions, it’s that there’s no shame in it. In my experience, it is a sickness, and when we’re sick, we’d do well to take some medicine, right?
Those of us on Team 2 will probably not be able to JUST “spend less”, just because we decide we want to. Those of us with a deeper-down itch in the soul, in my experience, need to summon more universal and external-type resources, that we can only absorb internally. (I know, it’s not very straightforward! But that’s the nature of it for me.)
I apologize in front of the world of readers. To those of you on Team 2 who I have suggested some version of, “Just Do It”, I hope this will reach you, and that you know that there are deeper spiritual tools that are available to address the things you cannot seem to stop no matter how hard you try.
I know from my experiences with foodpain that no amount of people telling me to just eat less, or only eat dessert on the weekends, or to just love myself more, “fixed” my problems with food. I had to surrender to living differently from other folks. I had to start accepting, if I wanted to become more free, that I’d do well to identify some things that might work for others but just do not work for me. Was it hard? Hell yes. But it would have been even harder to keep following the patterns down the black hole of insanity.
If you are suspecting you might be “sick” when it comes to money, have you contemplated how bad it might have to get before you get help? Totally your choice, of course, but know that you don’t actually have to be alone with it.
Team 2 terms: surrender, internal growth, external accountability, recovering within community
Granted, many of us will display some flavors of each team.
Part of what I adore about the work I do, is our tailoring your plan and your commitments to what works for your willingness and lifestyle.
Thanks for reading this. I’m excited, as always, to deepen my truth with you, and to trust that those who want a teacher and an accountability partner in this area will find their way.