“Dear Dr. Eve
This time of the year is forcing me to face a fact: I am so bad with
money. It has always led me into a dark pit of hell and my 2022 New
Year’s resolution is to get on top of my money problem.
What has happened is that my wife has finally left me – and it is because
I could not take care of our money. She told me she was tired of feeling
financially insecure and had lost trust in me altogether.
It’s not that I gamble, or waste money- I just avoid dealing with it. I let
bills pile up and of course, create debt, and then I cannot negotiate with
the bank or my debtors.
I saw the same thing in my family and I vowed to never let this happen to
Please help me get my wife back.
DR EVE REPLIES :
It sounds like you are experiencing Money Shame. Shame that you are
unable to control your finances. Set aside your shame part, for a
moment, and let’s be curious about this “money part” of you.
This kind of money shame commonly occurs in people who have
experienced trauma- either your own individual trauma, generational
trauma, intergenerational, societal, relational, systemic trauma.
What trauma does is it shapes beliefs around yourself and around money.
Trauma creates scripts that drive behavior – and your financial behavior
of avoidance is a common money trauma. Just as trauma impacts on
intimate relationships so it impacts one’s relationship with money.
Some other common money traumas include overspending, inability to
save, undercharging for one’s services.
Let us consider what purpose this “money shame part” of you serves. You
would imagine that by now as an adult you would have got this part of
101 adulting right .. so let’s look at the roots of this money part of you.
As children, we respond to our parents’ relationship to money. It can be a
traumatic experience growing up in a family where there is a lack of
For example .childhood poverty causes long-lasting financial trauma –
which erodes your relationship with money and your sense of self-worth.
Living in a financially unstable environment can threaten a child’s sense of
safety because it may mean they can’t access basic needs—like food,
shelter, and healthy relationships—on a consistent basis. Whether such
instability is experienced for a short period, such as after a parent’s job
loss, or is chronic, as in the case of generational poverty, financial trauma
can result in a host of additional traumatic experiences.
Food insecurity is a trauma, absent parents working three jobs a day is a
trauma. The brain in a child is still developing so when basic needs are
not met consistently due to financial instability or poverty, neurological
changes occur in the brain. The brain is primed to be in an alert state
24/7 which over time results in anxiety, depression, emotional
dysregulation, feeling out of control of one’s life.
As an adult, this trauma continues and makes it more difficult for you to
make and hold onto financial stability due to a brain that is on fire.
Another aspect of money trauma is the shame many people suffer of
being low income which in turn can make one feel self-loathing, full of
despair, depressed and powerlessness.
This leads to further financial disorganization, such as your irrational
PTSD symptoms set in:
Physical symptoms: Nervous energy, jitteriness, insomnia,
hyperreactive to situations that remind one of the financial
problems, such as ringing phones that may call from debt
collectors. Diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety.
Emotional symptoms: Inability to feel close to friends and
significant other, difficulty enjoying things that were enjoyable, a
sense that bad things are inevitable and that life will be cut
Cognitive symptoms: Persistent negative thoughts about self and
the environment, difficulty concentrating.
Reflections: “Was money talked about—or was the
way it was talked about the negative? What did your
family associate with money? [Are] the ideas
behind that about never having enough, or does
money equal success and happiness?”
“Trauma is not what happens to a person, but what happens within them. In
line with its Greek origins, trauma means a wound—an unhealed one, and one
the person is compelled to defend against by means of constricting his/her
own ability to feel, to be present, to respond flexibly to situations.”
Dr Gabor Mate