I know very few people who have an active, thriving relationship with their inner child. It’s as if the child we were, becomes replaced by the adult we become, without leaving a trace. But, is it possible that we are mistaken? At what point in our transition from childhood to adult do we transform from rebellious or timid teenager and turn into responsible, grounded grown ups?
I think for most of us, it isn’t so clear-cut. It’s interesting how as our children grow, we become aware of our own unresolved issues mirrored in their behaviors. That’s what makes raising kids into teenagers such a challenge. Perhaps many of us are still grappling with beliefs we never fully resolved at that age and we stand by feeling helpless as we watch our children go through the same trials and tribulations.
So why are we so disconnected from our inner child? When people are asked to describe in detail their closest childhood friends, they smile and without hesitation, launch into colorful descriptions of fond memories sharing lively stories of when they were kids together. Yet, when it comes to identifying a connection with one’s own inner child, people are perplexed by this, finding the idea of her existence very challenging. The reason I mention this, is that often there can be a critical and painful disconnect between our “selves” and the child within. And it is this same child who may be wreaking havoc on your adult life!
How does this relate to our personal relationship with money? During childhood, we learn lessons about money from all types of experiences some healthy, others confusing or even detrimental. For example, the child who is given gifts as a substitute for quality time with a parent may, as an adult, spend money without limits as a means of comforting oneself against pain and disappointment, with little concern for the financial devastation it may cause. I had a client who thought nothing of spending $2000 on a handbag and then proceeded to burst into tears when the credit card bill arrived! This is a poignant example of one’s inner child wreaking havoc on her adult’s life. Another example is that many people are concerned about credit card debt yet when they take a closer look at where their money is flowing out, they realize they may be spending some of their hard earned wages on things they don’t truly value. Upon closer inspection of their monthly statement, there are often charges that provide the inner child immediate relief or gratification but end up costing the adult much more in terms of increased financial stress when the bill comes in. How are these buying decisions being influenced by our inner child?
Confusing messages about money are internalized at a young age. It’s much easier to suppress uncomfortable feelings or distort their meaning to make ourselves feel better. We use strategies to compensate for feelings of inadequacy or implement coping mechanisms to deal with harsh judgments from parents, relatives and even the annoying kid who lived down the block! When we unconsciously absorb warped beliefs and behaviors around money, we carry these forward creating patterns that continue throughout our adult lives.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from being fiscally irresponsible by overspending, is a person who earns a considerable income yet denies herself simple pleasures out of an irrational fear there won’t be enough. When we trace their beliefs back to childhood, they often uncover shame around growing up with not enough to eat or dressing in hand me down clothes. Others share memories of having their allowance or part time job money turned over to parents without any say in how it was spent. These individuals internalize a sense of powerlessness and deprivation only to recreate this pattern through punishing spending habits as adults. Denying oneself a new car when the old one is falling apart, making excuses not to join friends for dinner to forego treating yourself to a night out or passing on a gym membership may be signs of deprivation that need recalibrating.
All of these personal discoveries are “gold” in that they lead straight to one’s inner child who though hidden, is still alive inside each of us dictating the actions we take. Often times these choices do not accurately reflect a person’s current financial situation. The real challenge is to uncover these patterns as the first step towards changing one’s paradigm around money.
Decisions relating to money can be very fraught with intense emotion, making it difficult to act rationally. Once the connection between inner child and adult is established, a healthy compromise can be struck between the two, thereby permitting both “childlike” needs and “adult” reasoning to create a balance. Ignoring one’s inner child can come at a huge cost. It is important to have someone you trust help work out these feelings so you can move ahead with your life in a healthier relationship with your money.