Question 11/3 from Jonathan:

With the current state of the economy, it has become a challenge to remain calm.  Each time I turn on the TV, click on the radio, or look at my bank account, all efforts to de-stress and remain balance seem to just wash down the drain.  How can anyone remain balanced during such a high-stressed time?


Answer from SkillfulDoc:

In my upcoming book, Skillful Living, Chapter 8 is entitled: Money and Fear.  In this chapter I have written: “Whatever the impetus, there is little doubt that our modern society is overrun by fear. It is perhaps one of life’s greatest ironies that the more secure we have become physically, the more insecure we have become psychologically.”

Notwithstanding its many uses, money is really just a means to an end: it is a way to secure adequate food, clothing and shelter. Yet, we have imbued money with additional powers. For this reason we risk losing our minds over it.

The answer to remaining balanced at a time of increased financial stress is to concentrate on the aspects of our life that we can control.  A life of physical and mental health is not something that we can just acquire, but rather we have to practice as if we were trying to bake the perfect soufflé or shoot the perfect three-pointer.  Through intention, focus and purpose, viewing and addressing our life as a skill that demands practice is the key to a healthy, happy and authentic existence.  This is the healthy living concept that I refer to as Skillful Living.  Those who practice Skillful Living view health and well-being as a wholly singular unit, employing a holistic approach to living that encompasses everything, from the food we eat to the careers we choose, and to how we each develop our relationship with money.

In this regard, I would consider applying the Taoist model on how to balance our reaction to the loss of money and security, and our fear in loosing control of our lives through the sudden loss of financial security.  The Taoists model’s distinct but interconnected principles of yin and yang yields are an additional clue. Conventional views of money are based almost solely on extreme yang constructs: competition, pecking order, and central authority. What has been omitted, except in isolated circumstances, are money’s yin qualities: co-operation, community, and giving, evidence of which we often see in earthbound societies or in the work of philanthropists.

A term borrowed from Carl Jung’s view of the “shadow” –a pattern that embodies all the energies in ourselves that we consciously despise, reject, repress, or ignore – the yang view of money carries with it a “shadow” quality.  Without good guidance, all of us risk becoming what we oppose.  The answer, as Jung saw it, was not to avoid one or the other, but to push the two opposites—yin and yang—side by side in the service of the whole, ultimately transforming and redeeming it.

Our problem, then, is not that we have a yang view of money. It is not that we seek money to provide us with reliable food, clothing and shelter. Rather, we are so terrified that we have allowed a single view to predominate. Unwittingly, we have fostered a climate where fear is paramount and runs amok.

At best, money’s benefit is temporary. Money engenders fear unless we change as we acquire it or transform our view and use of it into something other than commodities for our own adornment and amusement. We must serve others with our good fortune or risk getting caught in a vicious cycle. All the world’s riches have no purpose if they are not put to good use. If we constantly spend money on “toys,” we will remain empty and essentially unhappy. Happiness purchased in this way evaporates quickly.

While it is uncomfortable when the timing of substantial change is not of our choosing, it nevertheless provides us with an opportunity. There is a silver lining to be found, however we need to take the initiative to find it. Dwelling on the past or the “should haves” will not provide relief. Instead, this is a time for us to reorganize our thinking and our priorities. Only with a new view will find what we seek.


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