How to Overcome Past Financial Trauma and Increase Your Wealth
Healing your past financial traumas is key to regaining financial stability. Psychotherapist, entrepreneur, author and speaker Joyce Marter shares strategies that can help you learn how to accept your past, conquer self-sabotage and build your mental wealth.
After 25 years as a psychotherapist, I’ve realized we all unconsciously repeat the familiar until we become aware and choose something better. We are shaped and molded by our families-of-origin and earlier life experiences, which impact everything from our career choices and relationships to our mental health and financial wellbeing.
When we go through financial hardships, we can discover so much about ourselves. The first step toward healing and surviving financial hardship is to honor your past financial traumas. By doing so, you can regain financial stability and improve your financial health.
Honoring Your Financial Traumas
Traumas are events that our minds and bodies can’t process like usual life experiences. The result is emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms that can make it difficult to function.
Although it may be painful to explore, it’s important to reflect on how you may have been impacted by intergenerational financial trauma, like slavery, genocide or major economic crises, such as the Great Depression. It's also crucial to understand the impact of the chronic stress of poverty, inadequate financial resources and traumatic financial losses.
Some of the most common traumatic financial losses are:
- Illness or disability
- Divorces or breakups
- Failed businesses
- Foreclosures or bankruptcies
Honor how these experiences have impacted your ancestors’, grandparents’ or parents’ belief systems about money — and subsequently, yours.
The pandemic caused a global financial trauma with skyrocketing unemployment and the closure of countless businesses. Even before the pandemic, a study showed 23% of adults and 36% of millennials experienced financial stress at levels that qualify as a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is critical to recognize if financial trauma has impacted you, and to take steps to heal and recover, mentally and financially.
Stopping Financial Self-Sabotage
Consider how cultural or religious teachings, gender messages, or traumatic experiences such as racism, sexism, marginalization and discrimination may have impacted your psychology of money — also known as the thoughts, belief systems and feelings you have about money.
Many of us have grown up with negative messages that money is bad, wanting more money is selfish, or we are not deserving or capable of having greater financial prosperity. These messages can lead to financial self-sabotage. Proven strategies from psychology can help you end self-sabotage and improve your financial health.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the most empirically supported therapeutic approaches, asserts that our thoughts precede our emotions and behaviors. We need to restructure our thoughts and beliefs to know we are each innately deserving of financial peace, financial freedom and an abundant life. When we have more wealth, we can also be of greater service to others through charity and philanthropy.
5 Strategies to Increase Your Mental Wealth
Having both mental wellness and financial health is what I call “mental wealth.” The following are financial healing strategies to recover from financial trauma and increase your mental wealth:
Honor your financial traumas and how they may have impacted you emotionally, spiritually and financially. Stop self-blame and harsh self-judgment. Forgive yourself and others for any past financial mistakes to free yourself from the shame and unhappiness that often accompanies financial struggle. View past challenges as opportunities for learning, growth, and fostering wisdom, strength and resilience.
Unplug from fear, uncertainty and doubt
Practice healthy detachment strategies such as compartmentalization to set financial fears and anxieties to the side so you can forge ahead with clarity and persistence. Appreciate the power of self-fulfilling prophecy and restructure fear-based or catastrophic thinking to positive and affirming messages that you can and will succeed financially.
Embrace your worth
In her book, Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny, Suze Orman said, “Lasting net worth comes only when you have a healthy and strong sense of self-worth.” Remember, your financial struggles are HOW you are, not WHO you are. You are not your job title, bank account or debt. You are your own beautiful and unique spirit with unique gifts and talents to offer the world. Connect with your deepest and highest self through mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga to separate from ego (your mind’s understanding of who you are). By doing so, you will discover you deserve financial peace and prosperity. This allows you to put yourself out in the world with more confidence, courage and assertiveness.
Shift from a scarcity mindset to abundant thinking
Financial trauma can make us focus on what we lack and worry about not having enough, which can make us feel we need to compete for resources, such as jobs or opportunities. A scarcity mindset breeds fear, which is never a good mode of operation. Instead, cultivate abundant thinking by confronting self-limiting beliefs like “I could never do that” or “This is the best it’s ever going to get.” An abundance mindset allows us to see there are enough resources and opportunities for all of us. It sees possibilities instead of roadblocks and encourages creativity, openness, collaboration, expansion and growth.
Due to the shame and stigma associated with mental health issues such as trauma and financial struggle, many people suffer in silence. Know that you are not alone, many of us have money problems, and help is available. According to a 2018 survey from the Federal Reserve, four in 10 Americans say they’d have difficulty covering a $400 unexpected expense. Talking about your financial challenges with friends, family, or professional therapists can lead to better problem-solving and more assistance, resources and opportunities.
“I am a financial planner, not a psychiatrist, but I do know that your net worth will rise to meet your self-worth only if your self-worth rises to accept what can be yours,” said Orman.
There are many resources available that can help you work through negative financial experiences and increase your wealth.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: This government agency gives you access to tools and resources that can help improve your financial literacy and make informed, empowered financial decisions.
- Financial Counseling Association of America: This member-supported association can connect you to financial counseling, debt counseling and various other financial services.
- Debtors Anonymous: This free, 12-step program can help people confronting their struggles with debt.
- Underearners Anonymous: This free, 12-step program is for individuals working to recover from underearning.
- Codependents Anonymous: This free, 12-step program is for people committed to developing healthy relationships.
About Joyce Marter
- Federal Reserve. "Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018 - May 2019." Accessed July 2, 2021.
- Forbes. "1 in 4 Americans Have PTSD-Like Symptoms from Financial Stress." Accessed June 24, 2021.
- Psychology Today. "Putting Your Feelings Where They Belong." Accessed July 2, 2021.