A friend of mine is struggling with debt and asked for some advice. This was the response, edited for the medium.
First, it’s useful to understand a few things. For one, the nature of money. Money is just a symbol. A medium of exchange. A form of energy, in a way, as it’s the ability to do work. But it has no meaning in and of itself, other that what value we give it. This plays in the stock market all the time as the fortunes of companies are made and lost largely on how the company is perceived. Economies run much the same way – it’s more about perceived value than actual.
We live in a culture that pushes the value of stuff on us constantly, so it’s easy to think our value depends on what we have and that we should want lots of stuff. The most heavily advertised stuff often has little real value. At the same time, we receive very mixed messages about money and wealth. It’s one of the reasons money is such a major issue in many lives and relationships.
It’s also important to recognize that each of us has our blind spots, the places where we resist, where our karma shows up. If much of your life is working really well, except with money, you’ve made really good progress.
Next thing to understand is the mechanics of what I call the story. The internal messages we have running on autopilot, coming from habit mind. No matter how well you understand consciously, as long as the sub-conscious drivers remain, your efforts will be thwarted. It only takes one moment of lost insight to blow a budget.
The story runs on what might be called the identity construct. It has 3 primary layers – the core identity which is sub-conscious. The emotional drivers of that. And the conscious mind that hears the stories and seeks to understand, justify, and otherwise respond. And it has the silliness to think it’s in control. (laughs)
There’s a couple of key points:
– you can’t solve a problem on the level of the problem. You remain part of the problem. You have to, as Einstein suggested, take a step back out of it. Only then can you have perspective. As long as you are in the problem, it will remain a blind spot and apparently unsolvable.
– as the identity above notes, the energy drivers of the story are the emotions. So if you want to nip the behavior in the bud, you need to pay attention to how you feel. Then you will see the story while it’s coming up. This is what is driving the behavior, not your understanding. Not the thoughts. As it becomes more recognized, you can see it arising and nip it in the bud.
It’s also worth noting that you cannot change your thoughts. It’s a pointless exercise to even try. Your thoughts arise spontaneously. Same with the emotions. What you can change is how you respond to them. What you believe. What you give attention to. As you begin to see through the story as just some drama, it begins to be diffused and dissipates. Without energy to drive it, it stops arising.
Congrats for facing your demons. Remember that they are boogie men and our fears far outweigh that actual danger.
Asking for help is a great first step. Beware the quick fix artists and legal loophole promoters. Who’s credit are we playing with? Are they asking you to pay for advice? Not necessary – there are free credit counselors all over North America. With options that may surprise you. Just Google ‘free credit counselors’ with the name of your area.
There is no shame in being human. This is really common and facing it clearly allows you to make choices and change. Being unwilling puts you at the mercy of other forces. You become a victim of yourself.
One of the reasons the current economic troubles are as challenging as they are is the debt load that the majority of people carry. Debt they were invited to take over and over. But the economy goes in cycles and if people depend on income and investments to keep climbing, at some point, there will be a correction. And if people are living on the edge of a paycheck, it doesn’t take much to push the house of cards down.
There is some facts about money that are not taught in schools. Even in University economics classes. We use a financial system in much of the developed world based on fiat currency. Our money has no actual value. It’s just fancy paper, ever since we left the gold standard. The nominal value printed on the front is completely relative to demand. Currency markets are constantly adjusting the perceived value. It only has value if people think it does. History teaches us this lesson.
The key detail is that when you make a loan or use your charge card, you are creating money with your signature. That cash did not exist until that moment. With that money, you then purchase goods, stimulating the economy. If you have debt, you pay interest on that spending. Everyone has profited from your money creation.
If you are then not able to repay all those funds, who has lost? Where did the money come from? You created it. Certainly there are consequences to failure but they are temporary setbacks. There are no debtors prisons. Nothing is lost that you actually owned, unless you put it on the line. It’s much like a chess game. Pieces may be lost but only until the next game.
Put another way, it’s only a problem because you see it is a problem. It is only a problem of perception. A challenge perhaps, but not a problem. It’s the nature of being human to fall down a few times on the journey.
It’s not appropriate to share others examples here, but suffice to say, when you are willing to be with it as it is, to allow what is present and be OK with it, then you can begin to move towards a resolution. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it. Just stop pretending it’s anything other than what it is. No boogey man. No end of the world.
You don’t have to find a solution, you just need to step out of it and begin moving towards a solution. It’s remarkable what can arise.
And here is the best part. Through this process, we can learn a HUGE lesson in allowing, in being OK with what is. This can take us way ahead emotionally and spiritually. A lesson that will serve us very well long term. It may not have been the end of the chapter you planned, but the next chapter may really surprise you.
The key is commitment to see it through and allowing what is to be as it is. Blame, shame, fear and all that trash is just arising from a resistance to what is. And that is a resistance to your happiness.
Remember, there is no alone here. We’re in this together.