Financial Fears: A Heart Dis-Ease

Practical Ideas to Find Relief From the Scarcity Mindset

By Kelly Bryson, MA, MFT

Lions and tigers and bills, oh my. Lions and tigers and bills, oh my. If you’ve ever felt anxiety about money, you’re certainly not alone. Money fear is like a heart attack. It attacks the “heart” of our trust in nature/life and in ourselves. It can cripple us into a self-fulfilling prophecy of financial paralysis, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

I was experiencing this loss of heart and total anxiety about money when a mentor of mine, Marshall Rosenberg, said to me: “Kelly so many of your students tell me how deeply their lives have changed after working with you. Can’t you see that you are serving life, and therefore life will take care of you?’”

That helped for a while but then the fear and distrust crept back in because like so many of us, I hadn’t healed from certain childhood realities that formulated my relationship to money.

Growing up, it was not familiar for me (not a part of my family experience) to feel secure. Up until the state social workers put us in a foster home when I was seven, if I ate, often my brothers and sister literally went hungry.

This experience triggered a loss of trust in the abundance and safety of my world. The anxiety created by the loss of trust either paralyzes you so your financial world starts to cave in on you, or it just kind of numbs you out into a la la limbo land of low-grade depression and meaninglessness. And from the state of depression it’s a long way back to creativity and productivity.

Thankfully, there is a short cut, and that is to give up looking for short cuts and start practicing principles of TRUE giving and receiving from the heart.

The Course in Miracles says that giving and receiving are the same things. And I believe they are related in the way breathing out is related to breathing in.

Stagnicity (the spell checker on my computer tells me that I just invented a new word) occurs when the fear of giving out stops the return flow of receiving in.

Giving from the heart, to ourselves or others, is a great Exlax for financial constipation. Giving out of obligation, duty, fear or shame is the great constipator. When stagnicity occurs there are a couple of ways to get the pump primed and flowing again. One is to allow ourselves to really be given to. The other is to allow ourselves to really give to other people. Either way can get the flow going again. It’s a type of psychofinancial (another new word) CPR.

Here’s an example of this type of CPR (Compassion Presence Resuscitation) from my own life:

Just a few weeks ago, everything I did was motivated by the fear of running out of money and becoming a homeless person. Suddenly shopping carts were starting to look good to me.

It is ironic that the stimulus for this sudden attack of survival/money anxiety was my buying a beautiful home on a big piece of land. I was overwhelmed by images of jackbooted government agents swooping down on me, seizing every thing because I had defaulted on my mortgage. The Wicked Witch of Wells Fargo Bank is screaming at me from atop of my refrigerator, “I am going to get that new house and that little relationship of yours too. Ha! Ha! Haaaa!“

I was in the middle of my frantic flurry of less-than-sufficient-money-making-activities (work) when I got the message that a client from Los Angeles had called me. I quickly called her back hoping she was wanting to schedule an appointment, which would provide me with some money.

It turns out that she was in crises because she had just been fired from her job of 25 years. As she continued talking about her anxiety and panic about how she was going to survive financially, I began to notice a gnawing twisting uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. I tried to just cope with it inside myself, but the longer she talked the more irritated I felt. I tried to understand where the stress was coming from by listening to what my inner Jackals (my inner critical voices) were saying to me:

“I can’t believe I’m wasting my precious time listening to someone else’s money problems for free! Worse than that I am paying for this long distance call. I am a licensed psychotherapist. I am supposed to be getting paid for this.”

I started thinking she should intuit my need to get off the phone or get paid for the time without my having to speak up for myself. Now there’s a formula for resentment and poverty. Then I remembered one of the maxims I’m always telling others to follow in my workshops: “Only give when it’s from your heart. And never listen to one more word than you want to hear. To do so is violence to the relationship with self and the other.”

“Jane,” I started hesitatingly and awkwardly. “I am aware you are in a lot of panic and crises right now, however I need to talk about what’s going on with me, OK? I am feeling some irritation and fear and I am not really clear what it is about.” I felt better immediately just saying that much.

“I shouldn’t be dumping all this on you. I am terribly sorry,” she said with the embarrassment that comes from thinking you’ve done something wrong and that your needs are burdens to others.

“No, I’m not in judgment of you. It’s more to do with my own fears about money right now.”

“Oh, do you want me to reassure you I am going to pay you for this call?” she said with some anxiety and embarrassment in her voice.

I was touched by her offer and it helped me become aware that I had a choice. To give from my heart or ask her to give to me. I also was able to see how my fear that there wasn’t going to be enough money for me was preventing me from enjoying the opportunity to give my attention to her.

It became clear for me that I wanted to give her my time/presence because I knew how grateful and relieved she would be. I came to a crossroads within myself. Do I want to trust that if I feel like giving something from my heart I will still survive financially? Or do I choose to believe in a dog-eat-dog world where fear is constantly monitoring every expression? Then it hit me:

I’d prefer to live out of a shopping cart, 
Than to give up giving from my heart. 
If I want a giving living, I need to start living giving. 
When I give up giving, I give up living. 
When I am drivin’, I am not livin’.

I had traded living for panicking. I wasn’t enjoying my life because I was always running from the dread doom of Damocles’ sword of financial ruin about to chop my head off. And I was sick of it.

I choose to believe if I put my money (time or other resources) where my heart is, I will start a cycle that will provide me rich returns. I started to realize that what Louis Agassiz the Swiss Naturalist had said was also true for me: “I can’t afford to waste my time making money.” This certainly isn’t anything new but it’s hard to believe when it looks like only the “greed is good,” bust your ass, Wall Street lawyer types get all the babes in Toyland and the toys too.

Now I don’t want to get too airy fairy here, but it was quite a bit of synchronicity that after I had this realization and while I was still on the phone with Jane, two calls came in telling me of really big and good financial news.

“Warning…Warning…! Do not get Lost in Space, Will Robinson.” This doesn’t mean that the key to happiness is to become an all giving Mother Teresa. I already burned out on that one. I spent many years living in an ashram and giving ALL my money and time to the World Welfare Organization to try to bring meditation to the world.

I ended up resentful, disillusioned and ignorant about how to take care of me. I had never learned that my needs were gifts; precious opportunities to serve the life in me. I know all kinds of techniques for “motivating” myself, but none for just giving to myself.

But why do we have to motivate ourselves? Because we don’t enjoy what we are doing. As a child did you ever need to be coerced or motivated to go out to recess? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we gave the same kind and quantity of energy to our work as we did to recess? Yes! Yes! Yes! I want to let myself out on permanent recess and find a way to play and get paid for it. Like by brother Jim who always loved to play dump truck in the dirt. Now he owns a couple of dump trucks and just plays all day.

If I want to leave the “adult detention hall” of have-to and should and must, and get back to recess, I need to learn to think and speak to myself in non-authoritarian, nonstatic language.

For example: You are a shy, lazy, too old, uneducated, unassertive, disorganized, untalented, depressed, dysfunctional, nervous, angry person and a financial failure. Notice the finality and stagnicity of those judgmental concepts. Nothing in life is like that. Life is fluid and constantly changing.

Rather than swirl in the overwhelm of static judgmental thinking I choose to convert it into process thinking. For example: “Kelly, you are no good at making money” converts to, “Kelly are you feeling helpless because you need some guidance on financial matter and right now would you be willing to take the small step of calling that financial advisor?”

The other huge de-energizing dynamic is making demands on oneself. When we make demands on ourselves we paradoxically put ourselves into a position of submission or rebellion. When I tell myself I have to or should do something, I have no choice except to submit out of fear, shame or guilt or rebel in angry defiance. When I submit, I feel depleted and depressed and when I rebel I feel too guilty to enjoy whatever other activity I have chosen. I would prefer to do the inner processing it takes to transform my conflict into some form of giving to myself.

I don’t want to portray this process as quick and easy. It takes time, lots of external support, practice, empathy and a deep commitment to connect with, instead of correct, oneself. It is a process, not an event.

Here are Some Final Thoughts:

Money will not give you security, but if you have security it’s easier to make money.

If I contribute I will be contributed to

Put your money where your heart is. Bet on YOU. One powerful act of faith in myself is spending money in the service of my self-development and my dreams.

Money is energy, as are our other resources like time and attention. I need to choose what force I am going to allow to determine where I invest those resources. Do I always allow fear, anxiety, shame or guilt to determine how I spend my time or money? Or am I going to allow my heart and the pull of compassion to lead the way?

Kelly Bryson MA, MFT, is a CNVC certified trainer and the author of the best selling book, Don’t be Nice, Be Real: Balancing Passion for Self with Compassion for Others. Kelly is a humorist, singer, inspirational speaker, and licensed therapist in private practice. Learn more about his work, find about his private or phone-based sessions, and buy his book at or by phone 831-462-EARS (3277) (most insurance accepted).