Thursday, August 21, 2008

Financial Metaphor

Managing your emotional life can be compared to managing finances.

"Investments" need to be made. Investments of emotion, attachment, time, energy. And money too.

It is much easier to "invest" when you have a bunch extra to work with. Wealthy people have an easier time putting money aside into new profitable ventures.

When you are using all your resources just to survive, it can be insulting and frustrating to be asked to "invest".

Sometimes, especially in depressive states, people are operating in a state of continuing, advancing debt. Emotional debt. Energy debt. Time debt. Relationship debt.

In addictive states, there is a neurophysiological debt that has to be "paid off" in order to get out of the addiction -- the price is in the form of acute and chronic withdrawal symptoms.

There are books out there about how to invest or manage money wisely.

I don't tend to like these books, in part because I think our culture has a very unhealthy preoccupation with financial wealth. Those who manage the economies of nations also perhaps consider financial wealth or growth a higher priority than a more basic good, such as "well being".

But I think that economists, marketers, and business managers can have excellent ideas, and I have to remind myself to keep an open mind.

How IS it possible to "invest" when you don't have very much?

Most financial advisors would say to automatically squirrel away a little bit every month, and stick it in an RRSP or something like that.

The key is -- consistency, regularity, and automaticity. A little bit each month--or every day--wisely invested, can add up.

In depression, such investments might take the form of "automatically" spending a little bit of energy or time exercising every day (even a minute or two). Or working on relationship-building. Or looking into a new activity. Or meditating.

If there is a state of "indebtedness" then making a plan to pay off the debt in an organized way, and to make a budget, etc. is necessary. But sometimes, external "debt relief" is needed. This may require reliance on external help for a time.

Another thing most financial advisors would say is that one should "diversify". Investing in only one thing makes you vulnerable to having a huge loss if the market changes suddenly. Investing in several different areas protects you, and insulates you, from environmental change. This could apply to relationships, activities, and therapeutic resources. Of course, if you "diversify" too much, it leaves your energies so diluted that it can be hard to appreciate or grow from your involvement in any one thing.

A final note I would make in this analogy is to observe that most financial advisors are actually salespeople, and not true unbiased advocates. While they may be sharing good advice with you, they will also profit from you investing with them. This automatically biases their advice. Perhaps not everyone is interested in building a big RRSP fund to pay for their retirement years; perhaps not everyone cares if they miss out on "market growth opportunities". It may be more important for many individuals to put more of their resources into the here and now.

So I encourage you to be well-informed about your "investments". Receive advice, but also research your choices independently, then decide.

Sometimes the best time for "investment" is when you are already feeling better, when there is an abundance of emotional resources again. Remember then, to put aside a little bit each day, this may protect you during a future drought or famine. Things like CBT, exercise, etc. sometimes work better when you are already feeling better, and you are using them preventatively. Even medications may sometimes work better as preventative agents than as acute treatments.

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