“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
– Helen Keller
If we’ve learned anything in our years of working with clients, the markets, and our own personal lives, it’s that we cannot avoid emotions; they need to be managed. The first approach can be to try and focus on positive emotions (the perception of feeling good) and avoid negative emotions (the perception of feeling bad).
However, this initial strategy still assumes emotions can be avoided (even if it’s only the bad ones) and considers emotions as good or bad. Elizabeth Scott, PhD, says that emotions aren’t necessarily good or bad, they are just states and signals that allow us to pay more attention to the events that create them. She offers a helpful way to begin to categorise our emotions: comfortable and uncomfortable.
Instead of seeing emotions as good or bad, we can understand them in terms of whether they make us feel comfortable and uncomfortable or leave us with a sense of peace or conflict. When we can use different words to name our feelings, we can start to see all emotions as helpful and not see some to be venerated and others to be avoided. Then, the best money emotions are the ones that spark us into a positive action that is in line with the future we’ve planned.
As an exercise, we can think about emotions that we currently consider to be negative, write them down and then explore what other information we can glean from these feelings. For example, many of us can feel anger, anxiety, fear, frustration or resentment around money. It’s too easy to think of these as bad emotions and avoid them, so let’s give them some better connotations.
More than simply making us uncomfortable, what else could these emotions be telling us?
- Anger and anxiety could be waving red flags that we’re being unfairly treated, and we need to take action. Perhaps our well-being is threatened, and we need to stand up for ourselves or move to a healthier situation.
- Fear could simply be an appeal to increase our security and reassess our current risk analysis.
- Frustration or resentment motivates us to change something in a relationship or relook at our habits and choices. Change can only happen when we’re willing to make it happen.
Negative emotions alert us that something needs to change and motivate us to make that change. Negative emotions are designed to keep us safe and encourage us to improve our lives, just as positive emotions are.
If you’d like help with reframing how you think and feel about your money, let’s chat.