Understanding the Emotional Side of Money


At some point in life we experience something or are offered some piece of wisdom that ensures that we will never think of the world and our place in it in exactly the same way again. It’s an obvious division between the before and after.

When I was in the process of finding a way to shift certain patterns and unfavorable life circumstances that I was continuing to experience, I came across an idea in a book (title and author have long since been forgotten), that pinpointed one of those points in time – my before and after.

The idea? Everything in our experience is neutral; it is we who impart on it this concept of good or bad, positive or negative. And once we’ve made a determination of what something “is,” we begin to experience it in that way, thus helping to create more “good” or “bad” circumstances surrounding that thing in our lives.

Powerful, right?

While this concept can help shift the way you think about a wide variety of things in your life, I found it particularly powerful when it came to money.

Money in and of itself is nothing more than a piece of paper manufactured so that we have something to exchange for goods and services. For all intents and purposes, its job is relatively simple. But its role in our lives – and the array of feelings we have towards it — is nothing short of complicated.

Getting to the Root of Your Money Feelings

For a large portion of my adult life I’ve labeled money as “scary” and “intimidating,” and seen it as an emotional trigger. Even at times when I’ve been relatively well off, there has always been a feeling of dread when I would see a bill in my mailbox and pure upset when I had to deal with a money matter that I wasn’t expecting.

The labels and overarching feelings I had towards money were driving my decisions I made regarding my finances and thus dictating my situational reality.

I wasn’t prepared because I didn’t want to think about what I needed to do to get prepared, I wasn’t empowered because in all money transactions I saw the other person as the one in power. This, I realized after some careful and lengthy self-reflection.

It might be strange to thing of something as seemingly practical and pragmatic as money as tied to emotion of any sort. But we are, by nature, emotional beings, therefore, everything we deal with has some type of emotional component tied to it.

So if you stop to really examine the relationship you’ve constructed with money, what does it look like? What feelings arise when you have to deal with money issues? What kinds of words do you tie to the subject of money – what are the labels you use to turn a neutral thing into something leaning one way or the other?

Now, are you able to make a connection between those thoughts and feelings and how you handle money as a result? And, in turn, how that money management has impacted your financial reality?

Reconstructing How You Feel About Money

In my attempt to reconstruct how I feel about money, I realize that the first step – recognition – is one of the most powerful. Instead of reacting to something on a visceral level and not feeling in control, I can recognize those common money feelings – those times when I immediately paint a money situation as bad – and diffuse it from the start.

Despite how unnatural it seemed, I tried to switch my fear and worry to gratitude – especially when it came to paying bills. I expressed my gratitude for the service rendered that I was paying for, that I had the means to pay for the service or good, and that I was in turn helping someone else pay for what they needed to pay for.

Even just being able to switch from emotion to logic – through this feeling recognition – can create small shifts in how you react to money and, in turn, your ability to make sound financial decisions.

Changing the way you feel about money can also occur once you recognize the why of your feelings. If you grew up in a household that was seriously lacking in being able to provide the basics, money might bring up feelings of scarcity and lack.

Do those feelings of scarcity and lack actually match your current situation? Often times we are reacting to a circumstance that isn’t even present in our lives in anymore. Realizing that can be a huge part of the shift.

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Learning to See Money Situations With Clarity

How are you taking the neutrality of money and shifting it in a way that’s not really serving you?

Money wasn’t scary, my experience of the handling of money had been scary. Monetary transactions weren’t meant to shift my power to someone else, it was I who had painted them that way.

One of the hugest game changers in my life was recognizing how intricately tied together so many areas of my life are. How I feel about money affects my relationships, my career, my day-to-day life. But even more importantly, I have the ability to change my relationship with money and positively affect all of these other areas of my life that it’s tied to.

What are the emotions that you have tied to money? 

Image by *Seth

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  • Brandi

    This is an outstanding article. Thank you for the insight.

  • Valerie

    Thank you for the fabulous insights. I love this article.