With the global financial system teetering near the edge, there is plenty of fear running around the world. This is not the first such time, nor likely the last.
Besides calling on governments to change the way money is created (currently all out of debt) there is little we can do to change the financial crisis.
Having done all that I could do to prepare for this time has been a very good way to turn my anxiety into positive results. I have managed to buy a house with arable land, by renting out space in the house. I have upgraded it so that future energy price increases do not hurt as badly. I have tried to reduce my debt as much as was practical. I even bought some gold coins before the prices jumped.
But, honestly, I am just as scared at times as others likely are.
Likely one reason for our fear is the fact that money is a taboo subject. We would rather talk about our sex lives than talk about our financial situation. Shame and embarrassment seem to prevent us from unburdening ourselves by expressing our struggle about paying the credit card debt, keeping up payments on that new car, or the fact that most of us are only one or two paycheques away from going belly-up. This is not fun stuff.
No wonder finances are cited as the number one reason why couples split up. (Of course it isn’t money itself that does this, but rather how couples deal with financial challenges and differences in beliefs and values around money.) Too often fears around money problems put more stress on relationships than does the actual lack of money. Most of us can live on quite a bit less than we are used to. But how we work through our fears and anxieties is often harder to sort out.
One way I have reduced my anxiety around my current financial situation is to remember that money is not a god. It is only a bunch of digits on some computer, little more. This does not mean that I can be cavalier about the stuff, but that it is only a means of exchanging goods and services, not the ‘divine being’ economists and media portray it to be. Money has no value apart from what we give it; people have value regardless of how much money (how many digits) we have.
The most powerful way I reduce my financial anxiety is through having a sense that I belong to a circle of friends, family and more. Knowing that I am not alone gives me far more comfort than does anything else. Why? Because anything that might happen ‘out there’ will affect all of us; and so we can work together to overcome the obstacles, share our concerns and love each other.
I remember from my experiences of living in Central America that they are far wealthier than we are because the folks there live in true community. Not having individual wealth means that they have to depend more on each other. No wonder they typically express more joy, while suffer less from stress, anxiety, fears, heart problems, etc!
Beyond this temporal sense of belonging I enjoy, I also experience One who is far more powerful and gracious than is any government, monetary system or world condition. The inspiration, guidance and meaning I receive from my faith permeates the relationships I have with fellow human beings.
When I remind myself of all these, fear has little room to wreak havoc.
Ian Gartshore is a therapist, minister and energy consultant.