Money can be a complex thing.

So often, it’s about a lot more than just itself. Instead, it can roll a whole lot of other exchanges into the deal. It can be highly charged, imbued with meanings and values. (Perhaps especially so soon after the western world faced the recent financial crisis).

So what does money stand for in your life?

Maybe freedom. Or a burden of debt. Or something in between.
Maybe a sense of safety. Or risk. Or loss.
Maybe it’s connected to luxuries or fun or duty or regret.

Whatever money means for you, there’s a concept that might be worth investigating.
It’s the idea that we might carry our favourite ways of relating around with us and then re-create these patterns anew with others. That we might unconsciously craft opportunities to play these roles out over and over again.

If this is true, then each of our relationships provides a kind of miniature re-run of our preferred ‘script’ in relationships – a kind of ‘microcosm’ of the way we generally are in the world. A reflection of the way we see ourself fitting into the scheme of things.

And some suggest that if this can be said of our relationships with people, then perhaps it’s also true of our relationship with things. Including, perhaps, money.

So what’s your relationship with money like?

What kind of a set-up do you have with it?
How do you feel when you’re around it? (Or without it).

If you could personify money, what kind of person would it be for you? See if you can describe a few of its character traits…

Would it be male or female for you?
Old or young?
Kind? Miserly? Punishing? Generous?
What would money look like if it were a person in your life?

What might it have to say to you?
Would it speak in whispers or shouts?
Would it nag you?
Ignore you?

And how do you find yourself behaving in that relationship?

Do either of you typically hold a position of power?
Would you consider money a friend?
Or is it hard to know where you stand with it?
Do you have a love-hate thing? Or maybe a marriage of convenience?

Do you worry about it? Are you protective of it?
Do you feel like you have to work hard to convince it to stay?
Or are things more fluid between you?

What are you allowed to expect from money?

How much do you invest in this relationship?

And does any of this sort of ‘ring a bell’? Does it seem familiar to your typical ways of relating in the world?

Is this a position you know only too well in your relationships generally?

Finally, how would you like your relationship with money to be?… (And what steps might you take to get a little closer to that?)

There are so many different currencies in the world. The photo above captures a few of them, stuck to a wall in a local takeaway place. But some of them aren’t so easily photographed. For (as psychologist Valerie Wilson notes) money is not only financial tender, it’s also emotional tender. And maybe it’s even relational, too.


Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.