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|Negative Emotions Steal
Wealth & Happiness
© 2006, Don Mize
In the 1 February 2005 On Wall Street, Dr. Dennis
Pearne recounts the story of James, a young man
who inherited great wealth when both parents died in
an automobile accident. James, only nineteen when
they died, continued to put off signing documents
and checks years later. In despair, his financial
advisor dismissed him as a client. He considered
James irresponsible and too much trouble.
The article, "Emotional Rescue: An indecisive or
fickle client may be wrestling with serious personal
issues," finds in James a perfect example. Dr.
Pearne realized that James had never recovered from
his parents’ sudden death. The unexpected wealth
triggered remorse, guilt, and depression. To the
financial advisor, James appeared merely
In James we see how negative emotions can
overwhelm a rational approach to money. In fact,
negative emotions can destroy us financially as well
as steal our happiness. We all, like James, have a
past that intrudes into the present. Archaic negative
feelings often swallow the present and result in inner
pain as well as irrational actions.
In the same article, Dr. Pearne discusses Susan.
Susan approached a financial advisor to contribute to
charity. Her parents had suggested that contributions
to charity would gain some tax relief while doing
some good in the world. Susan handed the advisor a
list of charities but suffered an anxiety attack and left
abruptly before any decisions were made.
After consulting a counselor about her anxiety attack,
Susan returned to her financial advisor a few weeks
later. Susan, it seems, had not even looked at the list
of charities given her by her parents. As they went
over the list in the earlier session, Susan had
suddenly realized that she was not interested in many
of her family's usual charities. Also, some of the
charities actually violated her political views and
values. Thus, she had experienced overwhelming
After sorting out her emotional reaction, Susan
returned to her financial advisor with a rational
approach that expressed her values. As much as she
loved her family and wanted to please them, she also
needed to be her own person. Her past included the
blessing of wealthy and wise parents, but that same
past created anxiety as she rejected their charities.
Even blessings can become an emotional issue as we
move into new situations.
Not all of us have been blessed with wealth, but we
all must deal with basic factors like income,
expenses, and how we use our cash. On one hand,
nothing would seem more rational than working with
numbers. We have a certain income to balance with
certain expenses. If our expenses exceed our
income, we are headed for financial ruin. On the
other hand, if we take in more than we spend, we
have money to save or invest. Yet, emotions drown
Some excuse negative emotions by appealing to
genes. While genes are factors in our personal
equation, genes do not hopelessly predetermine our
behaviors. Identical twins (same genes, DNA, etc.)
brought up in the same environment may lose their
mother and respond differently. One twin may
move beyond the loss into a fulfilling life while the
other twin experiences a lifetime of depression. An
excellent article explaining the interaction of genes
and behavior was written by Robert Sapolsky in the
1 October 1997 issue of Discover entitled "A gene
for nothing." Even allowing for the advances in
research since 1997, the basic insights are sound.
Because our behaviors and reactions are not fixed in
some way beyond our control, we speak of genetic
predispositions, not genetic causes. We are neither
completely free nor completely determined.
Personal growth allows us to expand our locus of
freedom beyond past conditioning and/or genetic
Even allowing for a locus of freedom, emotional
reactions still interfere with our financial good
judgment. For example, some of us are impulsive.
If you are impulsive, you cannot do a task unless
you feel like doing it, you act without thinking, and
you are spontaneous. While you may be lots of fun,
you are probably poor (or soon will be). Money
slips through the fingers of the impulsive person.
Other negative emotions that hinder us financially are
anxiety, depression, or an excessive need-to-be-
needed. A need to control (a way of dealing with
anxiety) can trick us into using money as a weapon
and sour our relationships. In fact, the endless list
boils down to negative emotions trumping reason.
Negative emotions trump reason even for the
wealthy. Ellen Uzelac wrote an article for the 1
October 2002 issue of Research about Joan DiFuria
who, after a successful business career, fell into
becoming a counselor to the wealthy. The article is
entitled "Soft Skills: Joan DiFuria helps clients and
their advisors confront the emotional issues
surrounding money." DiFuria says that many of her
clients reach the end of the rainbow, but "see more
gold, not inner gold." She points out that in spite of
their wealth they continue to feel painful anxiety.
DiFuria says bluntly, "They're still scared."
The truth is that even people who have a strong faith
in God are not automatically happy. Anne Lamott
wrote an article entitled "The anxious woman's guide
to financial serenity…" for the 1 March 2005 issue
of O, The Oprah Magazine. In the article she tells
of going to an ATM to withdraw some cash for a cab
only to have her request denied. Her instant reaction
was that her money had been stolen, her bank had
failed, or someone had stolen her identity."
One may have a genuine faith in God and yet be
bombarded by automatic thoughts with attached
negative emotions (the flesh responses that war
against the Spirit cf. Galatians 5:17-25). Note the
automatic thoughts with attached feelings of panic
that bombarded Lamott: someone stole my identity;
my bank has failed, someone stole my money. The
truth is that most Christians never experience the
abundant life Christ promised: on one hand, we
know we are blessed; on the other hand, old
automatic thoughts and attached negative emotions
create inner pain.
Thus, negative emotions complicate discussions
about money and steal our happiness. People often
cannot resolve conflict about money because
outdated emotional reactions trump reason. These
emotional roots are deep, often beginning in
childhood. Only as we grow personally and
spiritually do we learn to move beyond past
conditioning, increase our coping skills, and live more
perfectly in the peace God promises in Christ.
|How To Have a Happy Marriage, How To Discipline Older
Children & Youth, Overcoming Depression, Dealing with Anger &
Other Negative Emotions, Overcoming Unhappiness, How To Help Your Child, Make Better Grades, Why Should Your Child Go To School?,The Game, Encountering God, The
Question, Forgiveness, He Came Loudly, He Was Crucified, He Is Risen, Too Busy to Pray
|How to Get Ahead Financially
Why Budgets Fail
Checking the Compass
Avoiding a Financial Crisis
Negative Emotions Steal
Wealth & Happiness
|Is Social Darwinism Still Alive?
Why Simple Answers Won't Work
The real problem won't go away,
Is Democracy Safe?
(Can a democracy become a dictatorship?)
Foreword, Finding a Finding a Place to Start,
Searching for Certainty, Escaping the Dark Closet of the Mind, Reading a Text,
Knowing God, Understanding Faith, Dealing with Moral Law, Discovering Love,
Valuing a Secular State, Unlocking Happiness,