A Matter of Money
by Susan Mann
It occurred to me after speaking to Dr Aaron Kipnis that he is to money what Masters & Johnson were to sex in the 60s and 70s. Core faculty member at Pacifica Graduate School, Clinical Psychotherapist and author of four books, including The Midas Complex: How Money Drives Us Crazy and What We Can Do About It, he has made it his business to understand the history of our pathology with money, and bring it into the light. He will be sharing his insights in a four class course. The Psychology of Money. More info about that course here.
After our fascinating chat I wanted to share some of his nuggets, a tiny taster of what we’ll glean in the course:
Money today, is what sex was in the 50s. A taboo topic. In fact people are happier revealing their sexual proclivities than confessing what they earn. A major source of discomfort in relationships, money is also the primary reason couples divorce today. While they tend to fight openly about other issues, such as childrearing and division of labor, research shows that it is finances that tend to be at the root of most divorces. Research also points out that as many as two out of three couples keep secrets about money from one another, whether it be a secret savings account, an expensive dress with the label cut off, an afternoon at the casino. (Online shopping, moi?)
But wait. Why has money overtaken sex as the biggest taboo I’m curious to know. Dr Kipnis explains. In the 50s, nobody spoke about sex. It was considered intensely private. By keeping it hidden, it was relegated to the shadows of society, a subterranean force driving the world. Then Masters & Johnson came along and opened up the discussion. They even adopted a scientific approach. And people started speaking far more freely about it – so freely that an era of sexual liberation ensued with Free Love following hot on its heels.
Society has not reached that space of openness when it comes to money, says Aaron Kipnis. Money makes us feel awkward. We project all kinds of secret shadow issues on to it, such as shame, failure, guilt, greed, envy. Dr Kipnis tells me that this is what happens with anything we don’t understand. From an archetypal perspective it makes perfect sense. That which we fail to come to grips with, tends to possess us, operating in our unconscious and driving us without us even knowing. This means that until we understand both money, and the depth of our relationship with it, an uneasy struggle continues.
It is also why the Jung Platform decided to ask Aaron Kipnis to teach a course on the Psychology of Money, to flip the light switch in our unconscious. To open the conversation.
Money on the one hand is straightforward and numeric, he points out. But on the other, it is deeply psychological and complex. A loaded topic. Jung was convinced that money was intrinsically linked to the mother complex. He pointed out that ‘mother’, ‘matter’ and ‘money’ share the same Indo-European root, ‘ma’, and claims that our physical and material security is rooted in our early experiences of ‘Mother’.
Society itself has significantly influenced its complexity. Initially, the bartering of goods had its roots in the earth – first produce, then cows, then precious metals, then paper. But as the world started getting faster and faster, with more and more trade, so people needed money to be easier to transport. Bank notes became cheques, which became credit cards, which became online banking. The first advertisement for a credit card read: It takes the wait out of wanting. What began as the exchange of real objects from the earth, has become more and more abstract, with gratification more instant as we go on. ‘Now I wave my cell phone at a machine in a coffee shop and get a latte’, says Aaron Kipnis. ‘It makes me feel slightly magical.’
But money makes us happy, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what society suggests? The more the better? Not necessarily, he says. More is better is a spell, frequently driving us to work far longer and harder than we need to, often compromising the well-being of our health, our family lives and relationships. In fact, studies conclude that there is indeed a sweet spot, an ideal balance between work and remuneration, and beyond which money ceases to be a tool, providing safety and security for you and your family, and instead becomes a drug. And as with any addiction, more is never enough. In fact, once you pass that tipping point, money can make you miserable.
Getting into right relationship with money can be learned with understanding. The Psychology of Money is not a get rich quick program, but a fascinating exploration of our complexes surrounding this core issue. At very least it will coax our phobias out from the shadows, and encourage the Icarus in all of us to come gently back to earth.
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