25 Jun Money Money Money … Part 1
……..and the power of narrative inquiry and coaching
Almost everything today is measured. From credit ratings to education, our performance to our physical condition. We measure ourselves against figures, statistics, and quantities, against others and what is considered the norm every day. One of the most powerful measuring tools is money. It can often guide us each day in what we do, how we feel and how we respond to life. You could say it almost constitutes part of who we are. We relate to our bank balances as a measure of how well we are doing in this world of measurement. Money is all-pervasive and can drive people to do things against their standards, values and beliefs.
It can often cause them to compromise their integrity. Our own insecurities and stories around money mean we hide and protect it from others. Let’s face it, how many people are truly authentic about their financial situation? It’s likely there are many millions of people in the UK with financial difficulties and we carry on our daily lives with the pretence that it’s all ok. It is very often the one thing we don’t share with others.
When people do share about their financial situation, the standard response is ‘if I had more money that would solve the problem, my life would then be okay, I’d be okay’, almost as if one’s level of happiness, contentment or success can be satisfied with having money or more money. To quote Benjamin Franklin….
Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants
There are many wise and wonderful quotes, such as ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ etc. However, while people often acknowledge that this is true, in reality they actually don’t believe it. It’s almost like we relate to money in the same way we relate to our actual survival, a matter of life or death. We’ve constructed a world which is based upon money, determined by money and ultimately “given” by money. In order to survive we must have money to buy food, clothing and a roof over our heads. It’s a universal paradox.
So, how can we BE with this conundrum of knowing or at least having a sense that money can’t buy us happiness, peace of mind or love and yet accept that it is a necessity? How can we learn to be okay with this apparent contradiction?
Did you know that you could be okay with however your bank balance is?
We can do this using the fundamental principles of a narrative approach. This approach says that we all have stories (personal and family narratives) that shape how we see ourselves, how we experience the world and how we relate to others. In other words, our own identity is concluded through our stories.
It works something like this: things/events happen in our lives and we automatically attribute meaning to these events. The meaning we attribute constantly builds and shapes our identity and at the same time our experience of, in and with the world. We come to regard this meaning and identity conclusion as “the truth” but it is not, it is only our conclusion drawn through our perception of what happened. Hence why different people can experience the same event and have an entirely different perception of what happened. Some of the stories we tell ourselves become dominant in our lives – they become our “fundamental truths”, if you like.
Unknowingly, we search for more evidence to strengthen these stories as being true. We don’t really notice when something happens that is outside our dominant stories because we are so busy collecting the evidence of our “fundamental truths”. It’s like the brain sifts through billions of bits of information for what it recognises and disregards the rest. And so our stories become more and more powerful.
A client recently said:
‘I am being fearful, irresponsible, disempowered, chained down…
My money story has held me back throughout my adult life. It is the cause of endless arguments and it consistently undermines my confidence, creativity and peace of mind. It is a big ask to try and change it because nothing I have done up to now (and I have tried lots of different things, from self-help books and courses to hypnotherapy) has made any difference. But, that is what I am asking for help with from Narrative Coaching right now.’
Through our own narrative inquiry we can understand and therefore embody the principle that life appears to us in a certain way as a result of our own perspective. This is given by our stories or filters. This applies to everything we engage with in our lives. From relationships to events, these all occur though our own stories giving us meaning to our lives. Money is no exception to this rule, and therefore through this understanding we can create choice.
It’s pretty outrageous to suggest that how money occurs to us is only a story isn’t it? Just imagine that, in the same way you’ve created your existing story you could also create an alternative, maybe something more empowering, abundant and fulfilling for yourself.
Next week, we will post something about how you might start to do this and how, no matter what your money story, you can begin here and now to shape a different outcome simply by telling a different story.