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What Does Money Mean to You?

Think about money. What is the first word or words that come to mind? Does your word or words include power, success, protection, security, independence, love, or freedom? Or maybe oppression, control, manipulation, anxiety, stress, or avoidance? Many of us have a pretty strong reaction to money and the meaning it holds for us. It can be either positive or negative, or even possibly both depending on the situation, personal experiences, family history and what was taught to us, or dynamics due to others involved. Our opinions and beliefs about money can also play a significant role in the decisions we make in our lives, our behaviors, and our thought processes.

Negative views or opinions about money can lead to negative behaviors or habits, which can have a detrimental impact on our well-being, mental and/or physical health, relationships, professional lives, and finances. If we hold negative views about money, we may avoid looking at bills, checking our financial situation, avoiding conversations about money, or disregarding anything related to it. We may be afraid to spend money, even on basic necessities, or want to avoid it at all costs and give it away or spend it all on others. It can cause us significant worry or distress, lead to conflicts with significant others in our lives, impair progress, promotions, or raises in our careers, or create or increase debt and poor financial situations. Say for example if we view money as a source of power or control. We may overspend or use money in ways that will create an image or lifestyle to represent the power or control we want to project. We may become workaholics, fixated on earning more, and overly concerned with our net worth to the detriment of ourselves and those in our lives.

Positive views or opinions about money can help to motivate, create or increase positive behaviors or habits, and improve quality of life. If we are able to maintain good spending and saving behaviors, discuss money in an open and honest way, be economically savvy and informed, and have a positive relationship with money, we will better be able to be financially stable, progress in our careers, maintain good relationships with others, and have less anxiety and stress about our financial situations. But a word of caution: what we may perceive as positive views and behaviors can sometimes in fact be harmful. If we view money as a symbol of love, for example, we may spend beyond our means to give to or take care of others, which may lead to enabling others or creating dependent relationships. Although the intent would be positive, the impact it could have on the others involved and our own financial situation and future could be negative.

Regardless of which category we fall, in terms of our views and opinions about money, it is important to be able to identify and acknowledge what our views are and the impact, positive or negative, they have on us and our lives. If we find that we have a negative relationship with money, bad spending or savings habits, or excessive worry about our financial situation, financial therapy may be beneficial to help correct the negative thought patterns and develop more positive behaviors and relationships with money. Financial therapy can be helpful to uncover and acknowledge the beliefs and ideas we hold about money, either consciously or unconsciously, the influence it has on our thoughts and behaviors, the impact it has on our mental health, the role it plays in the relationships in our lives, and ways to change or improve negative aspect of our behaviors or relationships with money. If you feel that your attitude, thoughts, behaviors, or relationship with money is in any way negative or distressful, it might be time to make some changes and give financial therapy a try.

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