This essay came about following a weekend game of ‘Game of Life’ with my two grandsons. If you have never played it, the Game of Life is a road map of an imaginary life where choices and decisions are rewarded financially by scarily high value toy money. “What career do you want Nan?” the boys shouted noisily across the table. “Which one would be the most satisfying?” I pondered, to their increasing frustration. “It is all about the money, Nan!” they exclaimed. Which house? The penthouse is worth more, but I chose the pretty cottage. “It is all about the money, Nan!” I was clearly not getting this game. In my attempt to demonstrate values and the importance of a meaningful life, I lost the game to my two flourishing mini billionaires.
In the same weekend I completed a course on Abundance, using Tarot as a tool to focus on my hopes, and blocks to getting what I want from life. The Tarot has a hard reputation for being too witchy, esoteric, and weird. Yet all over the world we are exposed to the language of symbolism that replicates the Tarot. The images merely help to identify patterns, aspirations and hidden motivations that are archetypical in our lives. To understand the Tarot is to enquire about the mystery contained within our unique blueprint. Carl Jung called this ‘the theory of synchronicity’ – meaningful coincidences that point towards a familiar consciousness that generate synchronous occurrences. This can be summed up in what Jung said:
The Tarot becomes a vessel in which to project the here and now, the present and your presence arising from unconscious thought.
In the course on Abundance, I could not reach the place I was being guided towards. The cards were not helping, and I felt confused and disengaged. Then in that moment of synchronicity, I realised the course was ‘all about the money, Nan!’ I was being guided by the course leader to consider my relationship with money, to wanting more, the freedom money would provide and what blocks were in place to prevent generating more money.
My relationship with money is an uneasy one. I have experienced financial anxiety that is a very real and frightening thing. Anything relating to money triggered an internal physical reaction similar to panic – spending, paying for something, being asked for money, the relationship with the bank and the bank account, even being paid money. It was not about having no money. Having money would provoke the same fight or flight response. I have worked through this awkward relationship and the propensity for money to provoke angst. In that journey to my deeper unconscious self through counselling, I was able make the link to being overwhelmed in my responsibility to make money balance. A prevailing feeling that having or not having money was disempowering. That those making demands on my money or giving me money even when I had earned and deserved it, had more power than I did. My unconscious contribution to the Game of Life was to push wealth away as a trap, to the boys’ annoyance.
In today’s society there does seem to be an inextricable link between the desire to live abundantly in the presence of money. Psychoanalyst Adam Philips dedicated a lengthy chapter in his book ‘Missing Out’ (2012), on “not getting it.” Not getting the joke, not getting the point, and not getting the rewards. He was pretty much describing naivety alongside scarcity. Philips was not the only famous psychotherapist to tell us that accurate recognition of ourselves is good for us and that being able to recognise our needs helps us to figure out whether we have the capacity to meet them. Consumer capitalism has educated us on the virtue of the easy pleasure of knowing and fulfilling ourselves. The prevailing approach to this is being translated into knowing what we want through knowing what we want to have (Philips, 2012:36). Knowing what we want to have requires money.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy, the physiological needs for food, clothing and shelter require money to achieve and to motivate a person off first base. From this lens, motivation is ego driven, striving to get what we want that is external to us, and that which we want to portray to the world. Money creates stereotypes – how differently would you view me if I lived in the penthouse rather than the cottage by the sea? Self-actualisation, in Maslow’s terms, is goal driven towards the idealistic place in life to get to. If you have no money to buy food or shelter then that is a very disempowering position and a spiral downwards, but to where? For some this is a very real position to be in.
In Carl Roger’s work the actualising tendency is something different. He uses words such as a trend, an urge, an expression that awaits the right conditions to be released. And once released ‘man can become all of his potentialities’ (Rogers, 1951:351). Rogers believed in something deeply within, an innate tendency, that propels each of us to figure out our individual needs and then to find the capacity to meet them creatively, organically, with or without money. His thinking forms the foundations of the humanistic approach to counselling.
Life seriously cannot get any better than feeling safe whilst facing, embracing, and loving that demon that showed up for me in the form of money. I have learned that living abundantly does not mean having more money. Abundance in this way is not the same as lavish, expensive, copious and plenty. These are ego attachments and, whilst enjoyable, oftentimes lack nourishment. For me, they were disempowering.
My life is abundant when I am safe, happy, social, healthy, creative, inspired, loved and laughing. I choose to live small rather than with too much. I see life rather like the luscious, luxurious, and nourishing sweet nut that is contained within a tight and secure shell.
And I would rather live there, in abundancy, than in wealth in the penthouse.
Have you ever explored your relationship to money? What is the underlying theme around money for you?
What does that theme drive you to do, or not to do? Either way, are those decisions nourishing you?
How has the current limitations to life and freedom affected the way you earn and spend money? How have your priorities changed in the last two years?
How are you living abundantly where money is not concerned?
What is your view of the Tarot?
Next time, more on living minimally and without ego attachment (Autumn becomes a time to de-clutter and live in a nut for the Winter).
Kathy Ellis 2021