Money trauma, also referred to as financial trauma, money wounds or financial PTSD might seem like a new psychobabble trend, but for millions of people whose lives are affected, it is very real and can have devastating consequences.

For years I struggled with money. Not just literally, in as much as I didn’t have enough of it, but physically and emotionally too. Me and money had history. A love/hate relationship if you like. I wanted it and yet pushed it away. It made me happy and yet it caused me, and others, pain. I found money stuff deeply triggering to the point where I felt like a pathetic crying mess, but why was that and how did I start to uncover what was really happening?

If you’ve experienced trauma, some parts of this article might be triggering. Please be mindful of your own health and well-being. I am not a medical professional and am writing based on my own lived experience and continuing development as a Money Mindset Coach and EFT Tapping Practitioner.

Before we get stuck in, let’s define trauma.

Types of Trauma

Acute – This type of trauma is generally based on one incident in your life, such as being involved in a car accident, experiencing the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, or being diagnosed a terminal illness.Chronic – This type of trauma happens based on repetitive and prolonged trauma such as being in an abusive relationship, having a traumatic childhood, or being bullied, stalked or harassed.Complex – This type of trauma happens when someone experiences multiple and varied traumatic life events that are invasive and personal

It can feel like saying you have money trauma is somehow minimising of the above traumas, or that because it’s ‘not as bad’ as more commonly known traumas, then it’s not valid or real. I’m here to tell you that it is real and that your trauma is valid. People have ended their lives because of shame, helplessness and trauma around money; it’s a very serious issue. According to Money & Mental Health website, “a sudden financial problem can rapidly increase someone’s risk of suicide, or act as a trigger for a suicide attempt, particularly when someone is already struggling with other long term issues…”

Let’s remember that money = survival. Without money, our lives are at risk because we cannot pay for shelter and food. Lack of money often excludes us from society and isolates us. We tie money and success with our sense of self-worth. We are judged by what we do in terms of our career – what’s one of the first things people ask at parties? “What do you do for a living?”. Immediate judgements are made about a persons level of financial success according to their chosen career.

What Causes Money Trauma?

Prefer to watch rather than read? I explain what can cause money trauma in the video below:

There are many different negative life events which cause trauma, all of which affect your world-view and beliefs. Financial trauma can be complex because the money stuff is often interwoven with other traumas, but here are some examples:

Growing up with lack of money: When your safety needs aren’t met in childhood (housing, clothing, food etc.) and you know that’s something to do with money, your child brain automatically associates money as being scarce and hard to come by. Seeing a parent being upset, stressed or angry about money, leads a child thinking money, and sometimes even themselves “it’s my fault there’s not enough money”, are to blame. Beliefs: Money causes pain. Money is to be avoided.Parental addiction causing money issues: Looking again from a child’s viewpoint: child sees parent spending money on alcohol/drugs, child thinks drugs/alcohol are more important than me and my needs, therefore I am not enough. Beliefs: Money is an enemy. Money is more important than people’s feelings. Getting into unmanageable debt and/or filing for bankruptcy: If you’ve ever been in debt, you’ll know how scary it is when things get out of control. Both debt and bankruptcy can have a profound effect on your sense of self-worth and the trauma is often overshadowed by the many practicalities of getting out these situations. People often feel ashamed and embarrassed about discussing their financial circumstances, which can feel isolating in itself. Beliefs: I’m no good with money. I’m not in control of money. People can take money away from me. Financial domestic abuse: This is a common component of domestic abuse. The abusive partner uses money as a way to control their partner. They may limit money or berate/bully/belittle about poor money management, use their partners name to accrue debts or limit access to money/bank account. All of which has a devastating effect on self-worth. If you’re in this situation, please reach out for help regarding domestic financial abuse. Beliefs: Money is a weapon. Money hurts people. I’m worthless.Being made redundant or getting fired: This is in the top 10 most stressful life events and yet is often unintentionally minimised by well-meaning friends and relatives “you’ll find a new job, don’t worry”. Even the term ‘they lost their job’ somehow puts the onus on the individual – you had it and lost it…it’s your fault. Redundancy often causes acute financial stress and affects your sense of identity and self-esteem. Beliefs: I’m only as good as my status and what’s in my bank account. People can take money away from me. Insecure housing: With more and more people in private rental, this might seem like a trivial thing but remember, shelter is one of our most basic needs as humans, and is often threatened in insecure housing, particularly for rolling month-by-month renting. Never knowing if you’re going to get notice from your landlord can be extremely stressful, especially if you’ve experienced any kind of housing insecurity in the past. It can often feel like you’re living in limbo, never really feeling settled. This can be compounded by uncaring landlords who don’t address poor housing conditions such as damp or structural issues. Beliefs: People can control me with money. I don’t have financial autonomy and security.Self-funded infertility treatment which is unsuccessful: IVF and other infertility procedures are very expensive and don’t come with a guarantee of a baby. The success rate is around 30% but there are variables such as age, sperm/egg quality and health of the patients. When thousands of dollars are spent on treatment which is unsuccessful, it can feel like money has been thrown down the drain and instead of being left with a baby, all you’re left with is a broken heart, bruises and an empty bank account (or debt). You may want to continue with more cycles, but the high cost means sacrifices and in some cases preclude you from treatment (and your dream of a baby) completely. Beliefs: I am at the mercy of money. Money causes pain. Money is in the way of me living a happy life.

The main theme running through all the above is that money is somehow to blame and a sense of “I’m not safe around money”. It’s worth noting here that many of the beliefs I’ve included are subconscious, so you might not yet be fully aware of them. Your beliefs and thoughts affect your actions and behaviours, and ultimately, your results. So if you’re not getting the results you want financially, in your business or otherwise, and can relate to some of the above, money trauma could be a contributing factor.

Entrepreneurs and business owners are well-versed in the importance of mindset. Indeed, there are articles aplenty about the importance of keeping positive; how you should have grit and resilience, how you need to overcome challenges, think outside the box to solve problems and work on personal development as a life-long commitment. I don’t disagree with that at all, BUT I do believe the impact of trauma, especially money trauma, shouldn’t be underestimated and needs to be recognised as a ‘thing’ many business owners struggle with. I know that my reaction to money stuff was visceral and whilst mindset work was helpful with some aspects, it didn’t address my physical reaction.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”Bessel A. van der Kolk, from the book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’

Trauma can cause crushing self-doubt and sabotage your chance of success if you don’t address it – it’s not just a mindset issue, it’s a mind, body issue and it needs care and compassion.

Overcoming & Healing from Money Trauma – 7 Steps

Prefer to watch rather than read? No problem! I recorded the steps as a video for you. Watch below:

If all this is resonating and you’ve realised you have money trauma, the first thing to say is that you’re not alone. I know it can feel really isolating and, like me, you may have even thought there’s something fundamentally broken when it comes to your relationship with money.

One thing which really helped me was understanding neuroplasticity, meaning that the brain has the ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Once I knew I could heal my mind and my body, it felt so much more doable and I was hopeful that things could change for me.

Acceptance and awareness are a great first step, and if you’re here reading this, great! You’re on the right track. Once you accept your situation and take steps to get better, your healing will truly start.

Step 1: Be Willing

Willingness is a great vibration to be in. If you really want to heal from your trauma, you can. That’s not to say it’s going to be easy and there will be roadblocks along the way, but it is possible. Life may not go back to the exact same way it was before, but you can have a happy and abundant life and business where the trauma doesn’t continue to impact your well-being and success.

Be open and willing to trying new things. I know personally that I didn’t want to try talking therapies again (such as counselling or CBT), because I felt like they had served their purpose in the past. That’s not to put them down in any way because they definitely have their place, but for me, I knew that I needed to address the very visceral reaction I had to money, and somatic healing seemed like the best thing for me.

Take time to explore different healing modalities to see which one suits you best.

Step 2: Talk to Someone You Trust

As I’ve already mentioned, this can all feel really isolating. Pair that with being a solopreneur in business and the shame of admitting you don’t have it all together, and you have a really lonely situation where you’re scared to tell anyone what you’ve been going through.

You might not want to talk about trauma; it can be hard both for you and the person hearing about it but it’s important to talk to someone you trust about your thoughts, feelings, and struggles. Depending on the situation, you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them about your difficulties before you share what’s happened. It would be wise to check they’re in a good place and able to hold space for you before you offload. Reassure them that you’re taking steps to heal and that you’re not expecting them to do anything other than listen, and that you’ll do the same for them if they need support.

Step 3: Find Community Support

There’s a quote I love…

We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.S. Kelley Harrell

As someone who had a great deal of shame, I used to keep it all to myself. I felt like I must be the only person going through this kind of weird thing with money. Joining online groups for people with complex PTSD and trauma was really helpful because I started to realise how many other people were experiencing the same kind of issues.

Depending on your needs, you can find numerous support groups online and offline; from mutual informal support groups to more formal therapy groups. If you’re looking for a heart-centered business community, you’re most welcome to join mine at calmpreneur.com

Sharing your story with those who understand and listening to other people’s stories can be extremely helpful in desensitizing your reaction to your own story. Don’t be afraid to just lurk if you don’t want to go all in straightaway. Take things at a pace which feels safe and comfortable for you.

Step 4: Consider Therapy & Self-Healing

If trauma is impacting your mood and you’re feeling depressed or anxious, see your G.P. for support in the first instance.

For complex trauma, one to one therapy would be my recommended option. In the past I’ve benefited from Counselling, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Hypnosis and Energy Healing. If you can find someone who has experience of money trauma, that would be a great start – don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t find information on their website. Ask others for recommendations and always read reviews. During treatment, you will learn better coping strategies, get your sense of hope back, and start focusing on your self-care.

Self-healing is where you incorporate healing tools into your daily life and work through traumas gently and compassionately layer by layer. For my own self-healing over the past 3 years, I’ve used Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) ‘Tapping’, Journaling, Self-hypnosis, Breath work and Meditation.

If you’re interesting in self-healing, I’ve written a whole program based around money trauma to help you. Learn more here.

Step 5: Hire a Coach

Coaching is a great way to help you move forward. It’s not a substitute for therapy and I’d always advise you to heal from trauma before going down the coaching route, but it can be really helpful with improving your work/life balance, setting life/business goals and generally motivating and encouraging you.

A coach will not go over the past with you, but instead, they focus on the present and finding solutions to help you progress in life.

There are many different types of coaches, so you might want to consider finding someone who has experience of your particular needs. For example, some coaches like myself specialise in self-worth and money mindset coaching, some work with personal career or business strategy coaching, and others niche into things like spiritual, health or relationship coaching.

Again, get recommendations from others and find someone who you think you’ll work well with. Many coaches offer free discovery sessions over the telephone or zoom video call to see if you’re a good fit for each other.

Step 6: Love & Care For Yourself

This should actually be one of the first steps because it’s so important, but it’s often the most difficult. I sabotaged any form of self-care and would talk to myself in such mean and unhelpful ways. Going through self-healing encouraged me to start giving myself the gift of dedicated and uninterrupted time. As you begin to feel more valued by yourself, you also begin to start feeling more worthy and deserving. This has a beautiful ripple effect with money too, because you realise that you are worthy of earning well in your business.

Here are some examples of how to love and care for yourself:

Self-parent Yourself – According to Raleigh Psychotherapy, self-parenting helps the wounded child inside of you heal and grow. When you’ve experienced trauma in your early years, you miss out on a lot. It’s never too late to re-engage with your inner child through playfulness, curiosity and exploration. Practice Self-care – Take care of your physical, mental, emotional, environmental, spiritual, social and recreational self-care needs. Look after yourself as you would a child or a pet; with time, love and care. This includes things like getting plenty of exercise, eating nutritious foods, making and keeping healthcare appointments, managing stress, prioritising sleep and making time to do things you enjoy.Create a daily healing routine and stick to it – You might like to create your own version of Hal Elrod’s ‘Miracle Morning’ where he implements what he calls his SAVERS routine (Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading & Scribing). Small daily actions done consistently can create big shifts.

Step 7: Start Small With the Money Stuff

Okay, here comes the scary bit…I made the mistake of moving too fast and trying to do too much when it came to my money trauma, and that just sent my nervous system into overdrive! My best advice is to take it really slow…like REALLY slow…

So if opening financial/tax letters triggers you like crazy, you start by just looking at the letters, still in their envelopes, and taking some deep breaths, or using EFT tapping, until you feel calmer. Then you might choose to pick up one of the letters and feel the weight of it. When you feel ready, open the envelope and put the letter and envelope back on the table. Finally, you might choose to read the letter. Get my drift? Just break it down as much as possible so each step feels manageable and safe for you. You might decide to have a friend or partner present to support and encourage you. Keep reminding yourself that you’re safe in your body and you’re doing really positive work.

Summary

A final reminder that money trauma is not your fault. Life stuff happens and we’re only doing our best with the knowledge and experience we had at the time.

Realising you have money trauma is a positive thing and I’m really proud of you for reading this far! Having experienced all the traumas I’ve shared above, I really do understand how hard it is. The good news is that with time, commitment, willingness and patience, it’s possible to heal and have a positive, healthy relationship with money.

Working on your money trauma will help you leaps and bounds when it comes to business too. Imagine feeling calm, grounded and confident when it comes to chasing invoices, raising your prices and saving money?

If you’re looking for gentle, nurturing healing and coaching with someone who understands money trauma, I’d love to help you. You can view the services I offer in The Abundance Hub.

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