Kitty shared with us how this subject had become important to her personally and, in particular, professionally. In our small groups we were asked to look at, touch and move around the ‘play money’ she had put on each table whilst observing what feelings or questions arose and then to write down what money meant to each of us and how we used it in our lives. The responses had some similarities, but also differences mainly due to the unique relationship that each person has with money.
Kitty explained that money ‘is linked to complex emotions and behaviours. It may stimulate feelings of worry, guilt, anger, sadness, jealousy, power, love and stress’. Many people experience stress around money within their relationships that cause ripples of dissent, disagreement and occasionally, separation or divorce. We use it to illustrate who we are (even if we do not actually know we do) by where we live, how we dress, what occupation we have, what car we drive and so on.
After returning to the larger group and sharing our thoughts, Kitty asked us to identify the different meanings that can be given to the subject of money and these included:
‘Being worthy of being paid; it pays for holidays; our identify may be informed by it; validating; often used dishonestly; divisive; used in the control of others; keeps us feeling safe; security; gambling addiction; misuse of power; has a value; investment; to hold shared beliefs with others; it can be wasted; it’s necessary; can be used as a form of barter; highlights elements of difference and diversity particularly around those who have it and those who do not and it can be shared or it can used miserly’.
Our western culture seems to be built on the amassing of wealth and the status and power this is perceived to bring and to the spending of money on things we want, but may not actually need. An unfair society perhaps. It was agreed that money needs to be treated with care and respect, it is a tool of self-care and care of others, which if mis-used can prove to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice.
Our attitudes are often formed in early childhood just as we are developing our strongest emotions. And to unpick this a little deeper, we talked about what money had represented in our families as we grew up, how it was used to control or reward. Did we steal money. Did our grandparents live with us and how did they influence us about this subject. What conversations were had, or not had, about its impact on the family members. It was clear from Kitty’s comments that our families of upbringing do influence us in how we see and use money. Be it to comply or rebel!
Kitty said that this subject is always present somewhere in clients’ issues, but not necessarily named. Our relationship with money is often difficult and can be used or mis-used in all our dealings with others based, in part, on our experience of the feelings and influences on us growing up. She kindly gave us vignettes to discuss and so reflect on how we would work with those clients. This led to an interesting and informative discussion dependent upon therapists’ different methodologies and approaches, particularly to assessments and the use of time-lines, detailed histories etc.
We also talked about the influx of new technologies. Paying on-line for items and contactless payments in shops seemed to mean we were less connected to cash and, therefore, in danger of becoming emotionally detached from money in a physical sense. And so we began to explore the wider issues as we saw them around this topic which is a huge one with many different labyrinths or spiders’ webs within it. This evening’s talk was only the beginning of what we hoped might lead to more discussions, talks and workshops on this complex subject
The feedback included such comments as: ‘enjoyed the session, relaxed and free flowing, exciting – much to think about. I liked the encouragement to participate and interact with others, loved the group work – lots of food for thought, well prepared, ‘liked the mix of exercises. Plus, a request for more in-depth discussions around working with clients with such issues and especially if they offered exploration of therapists’ fees and the tricky subject of volunteering.
Thank you Kitty, for an interesting and thought-provoking evening. You certainly made us reflect in some depth on money and its impact on personal and professional lives.