When you feel fear or anxiety around your money, it’s important to distinguish between the manufactured fear and anxiety your brain generates because of disappointment over your cash flow, portfolio or home value, versus the fear and anxiety you feel because you need to take (or avoid) action.
People’s fear and anxiety become a constant inner monologue; reviewing and rehashing the source of their worry until they feel stressed all of the time. Then their bodies can’t tell the difference between what is ACTUALLY happening and what they are only imagining. This makes it especially hard to distinguish what issues need action and what is just directionless worrying or shame over things you can’t control. The source might be a fundamental thinking dysfunction.
The source of fear and anxiety around money is rarely about the facts or reality, but instead is the result of your projection into the future. You imagine all of the horrible things that will happen if X or Y doesn’t change. To escape that scary future, you take action that you hope will prevent that imagined scenario.
People make preventative decisions all of the time; the difference between knowing when it’s ultimately bad or good for you is understanding motivation: are you running away from something scary, or running toward something happy? To help you identify your underlying thoughts around a situation you can ask: Through my actions, am I trying to . . .
- Avoid a negative consequence?
- Avoid the ambiguity of my existing situation?
- Prevent people from thinking badly of me?
- Guard against a situation playing out in a certain way?
You can’t implement a fear-based decision and expect to get satisfactory long-term results. Fear breeds more fear. You CAN confront your fear and examine the thoughts that got you there—and often find that your fear is unfounded.
Using Fear As A Tool
Once you rid yourself of any ongoing anxiety, then your fear starts to become a valuable tool that you can use to help you guide decisions. There are many instances where people regret getting into a specific investment products or buying real estate, and they KNEW it was a mistake, but did it anyway.
Humans tend to ignore internal reactions to their situation—which is usually much more reliable than our brains when telling us to be cautious! When animals in the wild sense something is off, they run in response to their fear. We are the only animal that doesn’t run in the opposite direction when our Spidey senses start tingling, because we override it with our big intellectual brain.
When you are confronted with a financial dilemma, the best decision is NO decision if you don’t feel absolutely confident that you’re moving ahead with complete clarity. Listen to what your gut is telling you, and ask yourself:
Is someone trying to talk me into a course of action? Intimacy may be at odds with the money in your romantic relationships, but regardless of who is involved in the money discussion, you must understand the power dynamic. Persuasion means that someone else is trying to control you, so you have to ask yourself, what’s in it for them? What would the alternative options be if their solution wasn’t an option?
Is there artificial resource limitation (ARL)? ARL is when the commercial says, “We have only 5 mattresses left at this price, so hurry to claim yours!” Sales people make you think that you will never get a better home, interest rate, investment deal or mattress EVER AGAIN unless you act now. This is simply never true, but it’s a great way to stir up your anxiety and force a decision.
Do I understand all of the details? Never commit yourself to a financial decision unless you can explain it to someone else—what it is, and the advantages and disadvantages of taking action. If you can’t, then wait to make the decision until you can explain it.
Do I feel too ignorant or that I am missing something? Many people commit to financial decisions because they are embarrassed to admit they’re confused. They are afraid that they are not intelligent enough to understand, when in reality, it’s the explanation itself that needs clarification. There is always time to gain more understanding.
Am I delegating authority to someone to avoid taking full responsibility? Some people don’t like to deal with money or think about it, so they give away all of their power and authority to someone who takes care of it for them. This is true within couple dynamics, but also between clients and advisors. They hope this person will protect them and keep them safe; unfortunately, that strategy never works because it’s codependent. Relationships need to be a collaboration of partners who BOTH take responsibility. No one else can really protect you from anything just because you delegate responsibility.
Notice The Feeling
The feeling of fear or anxiety is always the first warning sign that something is wrong. This is your cue to stop whatever you are doing, take a step back and become fully conscious in the moment. Removing yourself from the situation might feel extreme, but it might be exactly what you need to think over your options carefully and gain perspective.
The next step is to understand: am I manufacturing my own anxiety because I am imagining a disastrous future? Or, am I developing anxiety because I am uncomfortable with an aspect in the present moment? The present moment is your key to knowing that you should immediately listen to your fear.
Intellect will talk you out of fear and anxiety. Intellect will tell you that you are wasting time or will miss an opportunity if you don’t stop dinking around. On top of that, women are culturally conditioned to be nice and acquiesce to others, and ALL of us are conditioned to place trust in people we believe are smarter or more educated than we are. However, a person’s level of niceness and intelligence does not correlate with our own best interests. So the next time you start to feel fear or anxiety over a financial decision, remember to stop and become fully present before taking action.
P.S. If you have strong emotions around your money, that could be the core issue with your money blocks. Check out my program which helps people address those, so you can eliminate those money blocks for good.