How To Find Freedom In Your Deeper Money Patterns

written by Bari Tessler October 12, 2020
How To Find Freedom In Your Deeper Money Patterns

Dear Money Journeyer,

Ahem…(in my best barista shout voice): There’s a hot Money Mocha on the bar for you!

I hope the last mocha brought you in touch with something in your relationship with money that’s a bit deeper than the typical “save 20% of what you earn and build up your 401k” kind of advice that tends to get attention in the personal finance world.

It’s not that I disagree with advice like that. Its just…there is SO MUCH more to creating a healthy relationship with money than the “spend less than you make” type of mainstream sound bites.

To be honest, while advice like that is helpful for things on the surface level (that tiny tip of the iceberg that sits above the water), the real work that creates lasting, profound transformations happens in the deeper levels of our psyche. Those quiet levels below the surface that are sometimes hard to get down to, and hard to put to words once you get down there.

That’s what today’s Money Mocha is about. Are you ready to do a little interior spelunking and see what might actually be going on under the surface of your money life?

That might sound a little scary, but it’s not. I pinky promise. I’ll be right next to you and I have a gigantic flashlight.

I want to give you some tools to get down there and find out what’s really causing some of the stronger emotions that come up for you around money. If you’re like most of us, when you get down to the deeper levels, you’ll most likely see themes of safety, responsibility, power, or your value in the world showing up in the beam of your flashlight. This is totally normal and totally okay.

Because I have an intimate, close connection with my husband of almost 20 years, I’ll start off with an example of something that used to happen to him every time we’d go grocery shopping, and what was really going on underneath those uncomfortable events.

I’ll then take you through some of my own challenges around my relationship to money and power. Whew, that was a doozy of an issue for me back in the day, but years ago I finally did my own spelunking into the deeper caves of my consciousness and I finally figured out what was causing the whole pattern. And when I figured it out, it was like a whole gaggle of butterflies flew out of the cave. (Yes, I think butterflies in a group should be called a “gaggle.”)

And the best part? I’ll show you how you can start your own caving adventure so you can discover some previously hidden causes of a money dynamic that you might have been struggling with for years, and release your own gaggle of butterflies.

Even just discovering what’s down there can lead to huge shifts in healing old wounds and getting you on a new trail…a new way to handle challenging situations without doing what you’ve always done in similar situations.

The effects can lead us to feel more depth, meaning, and color in every area of our life.

Listen to This Money Wisdom Below:



Recently, I was interviewed by another financial coach. She mentioned that her husband was having such a hard time understanding the concept of money stories. He said that when he read the chapter of my book called It’s Never Just About the Money, which highlights deeper themes that come up around money such as safety and enoughness and responsibility and power and value, he was finally able to get in touch with some new aspects of his money story, patterns and dynamics and they were able to have some brand new real money conversations that they had never, ever had before in their marriage.

I loved hearing this so much and it made me realize that I want to read an excerpt from my book It’s Never Just About the Money and I want to give you some prompts to help you explore these deeper money themes. Here we go:

It’s never just about the money. When my husband and I first moved in together, finances were tight. We were living in a tiny cottage in the Redwood Forest of Sebastopol, California. This was almost two decades ago. Combined, we made enough money to cover our rent and basic necessities, but not much more.

We both valued locally grown organic food enough that we agreed to prioritize this expense over anything else like attending concerts or dining out. Once a week, we made our pilgrimage to the coop in town. I will never forget how reverently we carried those precious paper bags back to the car each week. I will also never forget the look on my husband’s face as every week he sat in the car for a long moment staring at the astronomical receipts and spiraling into a dark place.

Sometimes, as he cycled between terror and numbness, I could reach him and pull him back to the present moment with me. Other times, it seemed he was spinning in his own private black hole with not hope for escape.

While those grocery trips were certainly a financial stress for us, they never put us at the edge of eviction. We could afford our organic produce by living extremely frugally in other areas of our life. Something deeper was going on here. My husband’s weekly freakouts in the store parking lot were directly connected to an old childhood trauma and his inability to feel safe in his financial world, in his body and in life at large. Sitting beside him, I felt heartbroken and helpless.

Since then I’ve learned not only how to support others through situations like this, but also just how common such feelings of unsafety are around money. Even for people who have all of their basic needs met or even all of their comfortable needs met. Money is directly tied to our most primal survival needs: food in our bellies and roofs over our heads. This is why money can be such a vulnerable part of life.

But safety is only one of the deeper issues we may discover when we scratch the surface of our money stuff. Our money relationship brings us into direct contact with a whole range of deep, complex themes, including our relationship to pleasure, abundance and thriving, how we access feelings of enoughness and safety, our capacity to feel worthy and valuable, our self-confidence, self-reliance and resilience, our ability to get vulnerable and ask for help.

These themes are rolling just below the surface of our interactions with money. Though many people go their whole lives without recognizing the deeper issues fueling their money challenges, this is why a simple late fee can send us spiraling into catastrophic shame or why that spat with our honey about the vacation budget can make us feel so powerless or rageful.

This is also why money issues can make us feel like emotional quicksand. A simple evening of paying bills may trigger a confusing cascade of self-doubt, shame and memories of old trauma. It’s about the money, but it’s never just about the money.

We all have our own constellations of challenges, patters and essential inquiries associated with money. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, new and deeper things reveal themselves the longer we work with our money relationship.

Money usually mirrors our inner world. The unresolved issues, suppressed gifts and growing edges. When we get brave and bring love and mindfulness to our money relationship, it can become a sacred training ground where we unravel old knots, practice new skills and learn to tango with these tender, essential elements of life. This rich work is what continually fascinates and excites me about money work. It is utterly life changing.

Over the years, I’ve seen the themes emerge for people in their money work again and again. Five of the most common are safety, enoughness, responsibility, value and power. You may identify closely with one or two or three of these themes and you will find practices here to support their unfolding. But even simply acknowledging some of these deeper currents in your money relationships can help you relax into a healing process. As long as you keep bringing gentle, loving awareness to whatever you find within yourself.

Let’s talk about the concept of safety for a moment. Here’s the truth. We all go through different phases and cycles in life: ups and downs, ebbs and flows; some years we’re earning more, some years we’re earning less, some years we’re in a big transition or we’re paying down debt or we’re just trying to keep our head above water. In a long life, most of us go through many different phases and cycles. We can learn to cultivate a deep, inner sense of safety that can help us feel calm and secure no matter what’s happening around us, no matter what phase of life we’re in. This inner safety soothes the impact of challenging times, makes good times even more enjoyable and opens up our ability to imagine new, creative solutions in the challenging times.

My favorite approach to cultivating safety is somatic or body-based practices. These practices are often deceptively simple, but incredibly powerful and they help us self-regulate, self-soothe and find safety within ourselves no matter what. Here are two practices that you can do right now. One is doing a little body check-in and letting yourself slow down and check in to what is happening in your body in this moment on a physical level, on a sensation level, on an emotional level. Maybe if it helps you slow down to just be in the physical level, do that. If it helps you find a moment of slowing down your body by just letting yourself notice what your sensations are or letting yourself notice where your breathe is in your body and seeing if you can deepen it.

The first practice is asking yourself to pause, slow down and take notice of anything that’s happening in this moment, which I call a little body check in.

The second practice is called titration and it comes from Peter Levine’s work Somatic Experiencing. It’s asking yourself to take on a project or a money step in bite-sized baby chunks. We can get so overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done or learned around money. If we can ask ourselves to take a next step – a baby step instead of the next five steps. It’s to break down something into three little baby steps. The concept here in the practice is titration.

If you can take a moment, here’s your journal prompt. It’s asking you to either to give yourself a new practice – anything that I just named – or a new next step that would help you to begin to help you cultivate safety in your body around your relationship to money more. What is a practice that you can do? What is a next step that you can take? Or even just journaling about what safety feels like in your body.

Let’s talk about the concept of responsibility for a moment. In our secret, semi-conscious dreams, for some of us we may imagine someone else swooping in and saving the day and rescuing us from our money troubles. We might imagine someone gifting us a million dollars, paying off that credit card bill or handing us a winning lottery ticket. Perhaps we dream that someone will simply do this money thing for us so we don’t have to learn how to be financially literate and mature, a knight in shining armor or a queen might file those tax returns for us, negotiate a better interest rate in our home or set up a financial tracking system for us. Even if on one level we strive to become more responsible with money, there is often a deeper shadow area at which we shun this burden and wish someone would just take care of this for us so that we don’t have to do it ourselves.

Yet, ultimately, this is up to us. Money is a personal initiation. We are the only ones who can step through it. But we can get people to help us and to get great financial support from financial team members like a bookkeeper, accountant, financial coach or financial planner. There are so many ways that you might embrace more financial responsibility in your life.

Whatever practices you take on to grow your financial responsibility, remember, it takes time, it takes a lot of baby steps. It’s really a journey of baby steps.

Let’s take a moment. I would love you to journal about what is one or two next steps that would help you feel more financially responsible. Is it taking a bookkeeping class? Is it hiring a bookkeeper to metaphorically hold your hand and show you how to use a bookkeeping system? Is it getting a new accountant? Is it finding a money blog that you love and reading that every week? What is one next step here that would allow you to feel more financially responsible? What does financial responsibility mean to you? Please journal about that.

Let’s talk about the concept of power. Power was one of those things that really surprised me when I was writing this book. I didn’t talk about the concept of power, even though as I was writing this chapter I realized it was really the motivating factor or it was some of my own trauma in growing up in my household and my own relationship with my father. When I look back on my childhood, I realize that there was a lot of power over/power under dynamics. That’s how I felt money was being used.

I grew up in a middle class family. There was a lot of generosity and there was a lot of rules and strings attached. That’s okay, but they were never clearly articulated or spoken and no real direct money teachings because my parents didn’t receive them. They didn’t necessarily know how to pass them on to me.

I just felt so much power over. I felt my father was really using that as a tool. I had to do a lot of work around that unraveling the power over/power under and learning how to become more empowered. Here’s a little excerpt in the book about that.

In the years since growing up in the family that I did, I have done volumes of inner work around power. Now I can experience power as something more than power over/power under something or something. I can relax, soften and allow creative power to surge through me. Power is a journey. It’s made up of small moments where we take action in our best interest. It is built brick by brick from decisions and choices, insights and intentions.

For many, this may include battling or simply acknowledging institutional or societal power structures. It may also ask us to acknowledge or admit that we grew up in some pretty strong power dynamics that were challenging. I have seen my community members claim and fortify financial empowerment by simply getting brave and checking their credit score, choosing a bookkeeping system and learning how to use it, hiring a bookkeeper or financial planner, saying an elegant no when someone asks to pick their brain for free, having new honest money conversations with their honey or child, spontaneously donating to a political campaign that inspires them and learning to negotiate better and on and on.

In my own life, feeling empowered with money has been more of a personal journey. It has meant forgiving my father for the sometimes harsh ways he taught me lessons. It has meant choosing a husband that felt like my equal partner around money. It has meant creating work in the world that feels deeply meaningful to me and sharing my gifts in ways that serves others. It has meant charging rates that feel good to me and creating business models that provide a sustainable, creative and joyful lifestyle. It has meant honing and trusting my own financial competency more and more. It has meant finding my own truth and establishing boundaries to honor what’s authentic and meaningful to me.

Power has been a journey of softening, opening, releasing fears and claiming my own value more and more in small ways and huge every day.

I want to invite you to journal for a moment on the concept of power and where has power over/power under come up in your own money relationship when you were growing up, in the culture. Please journal a little bit about that.

Then, also journal a few steps or ways that you can add in more empowerment in your relationship to money or ways that you already feel empowered.

I like reclaiming that word from power over/power under to more empowerment.

May this process of looking into the deeper levels of your relationship with money bring you ever greater levels of lightness and freedom. 

Your friend on the money healing journey,

P.S. If you like these Money Mochas, they’re tiny little sips of what we offer in the full Art of Money program, which is open for registration for a few days right now.

And this year, we’re doing something we’ve never done, and something we may never do again: you can join the program with a buddy at the lower couple’s rate, and then you can split the cost with your Art of Money buddy.  

It could be your mom, your sister, your dear old friend in Spain, anyone. So if you want to join the program at the lowest price point it’s ever been offered for, now’s the time to grab a buddy and join us in the Art of Money community.

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