Monday, October 1, 2012

How to be Happy Again After Financial Loss

My sweet mountain cabin is in escrow. I welcome a smooth closing. Losing more money than I ever imagined having at one point. Having traded up through 4 fixer houses and 2 condos over 35 years to achieve this monumental loss, I hope the new owners enjoy it and thrive in it.

It reminds me of the old saying "There is no greater burden than a tool that is no longer useful." I'll be relieved to let it go and move on more freely.

Some of my friends express surprise that I am not really upset about all of this money going down the drain, or wherever it goes. Indeed psychological studies show the we humans will give up multiple opportunities for profit in order to avoid taking a loss. Why?

This brings up a bunch of questions. The answers have helped me and my students cut a lot of losses and a lot of unhappiness. See if they are useful for you.

Does losing money have to be painful?
No. I think the pain is in the meaning. Different losses mean various things to different people at different times in their lives.

This loss of money doesn't hurt a bit. Whatever I have lost is already gone. I want to be free from the burden of an unwanted cabin in the mountains more than I want to keep the hope that someday prices may come back up. It is a loss I can afford and maybe that is a factor. Usually the pain we feel is in proportion to the perceived importance of what we lose.

Is losing money shameful? In my work I've noticed that deep feelings of shame often accompany financial losses. That one mystifies me. Do you think losing money needs to generate shame? I fail to see anything shameful in losing money. Lessons to learn, yes. Shame, no. Unless there is wrong-doing involved, like a Bernie Madoff scheme. But then, I'm not a fan of shame anyway. It only takes a moment to recognize wrong-doing and shame blocks creative energy that could be used to set things right, or improve them as best we can.

Is a finding the positive the only way to avoid the pain? I am not wild about positive thinking. Positive is pretty. Negative is depressing. The truth is beautiful. The truth is that buying that cute little cabin is on the top of my "What Was I Thinking?!?" list. It brought a bunch of problems and disasters from day one, though things have been pretty peaceful for the last couple of years. 

Do we need to feel pain in order to learn from our experience? Why would that be true? Although we can learn from pain, we can also learn from curiosity, insight, delight, discovering new information and inspiration -- to name just a few other powerful ways to learn.

Does losing money mean you are stupid? A loser? Careless? Sometimes the most well-thought-out decisions come with unintended consequences. Often you just can't tell until you get there.

What are you concerned would happen if you lost a lot of money and felt just fine -- not because you lost money, just fine anyway? Over the years people have answered with many of the concerns above. They believed they would be a little crazy if they didn't feel bad, or that they would then be shameful and unconcerned. Some thought if they didn't feel bad, it would mean they didn't care. When we explored those limiting beliefs they proved false every time.

Does losing money make you angry? Events by themselves do not govern our emotions. Limiting, self-defeating beliefs about what happens and ourselves determine our reactions.

Does losing money decrease your hopes for happiness? In the great mysterious unknown of life we encounter infinite opportunities to be happy. Since I have a great deal to learn before I achieve enlightenment, I confess to some doubts on this one. For example, if I had only enough money to feed my children and did not know another way to provide for them, and I lost it. If they were hungry, or even perished because of the loss, the idea of being happy is a big stretch. It would rank at the top of the perceived importance of the loss scale. Still, no matter what, I would want to be happy again as soon as I could.

Are you willing to be happy? Did you, like so many people in these last years, lose money, maybe lots of it? Would it be OK with you to fill your life with happiness, creativity and new prospects for prosperity? Could you recover from your loss and break out to happiness right now?

I hope your answer is yes, because the choices we make when we are happy and at peace send us down a different path from the ones we take when we feel sad, stupid, ashamed and angry.

Cheering you on to happily cutting your losses if you want to -- great success and prosperity.


Recommended Resource:
"Travelling Free: How to Recover From the Past by Changing Your Beliefs"

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