Have you gone through a bankruptcy, had to short-sale your home or have it foreclosed? How about a job loss or downsizing? Been re-hired at vastly lower pay and had to adjust your lifestyle drastically? Lost retirement savings or had to use to survive? How about the current global financial situation? If so, you may be feeling financially traumatized. Trauma can be defined as any event that "...causes emotional distress and pain." (Klontz, Mind Over Money)
Here's what happens in the brain when you experience a trauma. The amygdala (pair of almond shaped bundles of neurons in the animal part of our brain) flash the warning alarm- something bad is happening, get ready to take action or FREEZE - shut down. The amygdala also causes the trauma to be stored in the brain (or not) and that's where problems occur. A child that went through the frightening divorce of his parents may have that memory triggered when he and his wife fight.
How does financial trauma translate into money problems? Klontz worked with researcher Lee Gerdes, founder of Brain State Technologies to measure brain activity of those who reported money behavior problems. This question: "At any time, does your spending or gambling endanger the financial well-being of you and/or your household? Those that answered "very true" showed brain patterns of a lack of connection to self and others. (Klontz) Now we we don't know WHERE or HOW the pattern around spending or gambling may have started.
In order to get past a financial trauma the first step of healing is facing what's happened consciously and gently. I talk to people every week that are putting a brave face on the fact that any minute they may lose their home, they can't pay their bills and they're trying to keep their business afloat. That's traumatic and stressful. You're not alone.
1) Take 10 deep slow breaths and feel your body - it doesn't change the situation, but does lower the flight/fight stress response - do this throughout each day every hour. Stress & trauma drain your energy and resilience.
2) Don't wait too long to talk to a bankruptcy attorney or seek professional help about your situation. Get support from friends, pastor, colleagues - they're probably going through similar struggles.
3) Let go and start over if you have to. I hear over and over from people that finally let go of their upside down house - "I should have done that a year ago." If your house is upside down by over $100,000 and you're in your late 40s or 50s do you really think the market's going to come back in time?
4) Grieve - I know, this is no fun. Actively feeling the sadness, loss, anger, upset moves you THROUGH the pain so it doesn't get stuck inside and cause triggers later, or even health concerns. Write out your feelings, talk, stomp your feet, write your legislators.