Are you numbing your emotions by spending money?

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Recently I attended a retreat called BeWealth run by One of Many and Dr Joanna Martin. During this weekend, I attended a session on leadership, and learnt about vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be a leader, and it was through this that I had a valuable insight that I wanted to share with you.

It is interesting to me that this very topic relates directly to the way we spend money!

Vulnerability and Brene brown

In the session, we were shown that amazing TED talk by Brene Brown – the one about her research on vulnerability. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch. She is absolutely incredible!

In this session she talks about the UNIVERSAL issue we all face, and that is avoidance of vulnerability. We fear being open and vulnerable because on some level we fear that if we show the bits we don’t like about ourselves to others we will be rejected.

And to be rejected goes against our very human nature- we all long for connection with others.

To be vulnerable is to bare yourself in a way that feels scary. It’s being tearful and sad about a situation such as a heartbreak or a bereavement or it’s acknowledging that you’ve been hurt by someone. It’s not as Brene Brown puts it in her Netflix special- an “over share” about a bikini wax.

You might wonder what the point is of being vulnerable. Why the need?

The problem with not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to each other is that we also cut off other emotions like joy, deep connection and love.

To be vulnerable is to be ok with ALL emotions, including the uncomfortable ones.

It’s about leaving the “stiff upper lip” at the door.

Emotions

The problem with baring our emotions is that we don’t tend to like doing it- especially the English! We’d rather do ANYTHING ELSE than be vulnerable to each other like talk about sex, the weather or how we take our tea.

ANYTHING rather than admit we feel something for fear of being seen as messy and weak.

And it’s so true- emotions are uncomfortable! It’s hard to admit when we don’t feel “good enough” or we’re jealous of someone close to us. We don’t want to feel like a failure or a bad partner/mother/friend. It’s horrible to admit these things to ourselves, let alone others.

But we ALL feel emotion. We ALL have that little voice in our heads being critical or doubtful or just plain rude!

How we numb emotions

So what do we do when we feel something we don’t like? Rather than lean into it and feel it, we tend to numb it.

This can be with alcohol, drugs, sex, medication, overeating or even spending money.

By doing these things/using drugs etc we paper over the feelings we don’t want to feel. The pain, the despair and the downright uncomfortable.

And yes that’s right- one of our tactics to do this is to spend money.

Think about the times you’ve spent money that you didn’t really need to?

How about that time you didn’t feel good enough at work so you went clothes shopping to “power dress” and feel better about yourself?

What about the time you hadn’t seen the kids all week so you spent money to make up for it?

Or when you felt lonely or bored and visited amazon to entertain yourself?

Adverts are primed to make us feel bad about ourselves by the way. That’s how they are so effective- they play into this emotional connection.

Like a pandora advert I saw around Mother’s Day showing a bonding moment over a piece of jewellery, or the numerous clothing/make up/ cosmetic surgery adverts that make us feel crap about the way we look.

It’s all bullshit, and it’s all designed to tap into our human psychology and longing for connection with others.

The temporary fix you get from spending money is cancelled out after a short period of time, and then the feelings you had just come back again, and then the compulsion to spend comes back again too.

I hope you can see that spending money is not really then a fix- it’s a sticky plaster over a gaping wound.

So what’s the solution?

There isn’t anything special on how to deal with this. It comes down to realising when you do it/ feel like you’re going to do it, and catch yourself.

Ask yourself what you’re feeling right now?

Bored?

Sad?

Lonely?

Angry?

Less than?

If there is something particularly difficult or traumatic that is happening to you/happened to you, then it might help you to get some professional help, but spending money on pointless stuff/another course/more shoes or whatever is not the answer.

And it’s interesting to see how we all use money to numb our emotions in different ways.

We are made up of 8 money personality types, and we express them in different ways which makes it unique to us.

Overspending is especially true when a personality is being expressed in an unhealthy way.

It’s fascinating and once you discover what yours is, it gives you insight and a clear path towards working out how to overcome it and stop stressing about money!

Do you know yours yet? First do the free quiz and then have a 1:1 session with me after to take a deep dive and uncover what’s going on for you!

Self-awareness is the first step to change, so find out who you are by taking part!!

So remember the next time you feel a compulsion to spend- what are you trying to escape from or manage?

Let’s start to feel ok with being vulnerable and stop spending to cover it up.

Until next time,

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