We’ve all encountered issues in our lives that would at one point or another serve to derail the plans we have for ourselves.  This can include deaths, breakups, divorces, medical issues, financial crises and anything that would normally cause us pause and question everything.

Then we battle feelings of regret, resentment and the inability to forgive ourselves for mistakes made in the past.

It’s totally OK to feel this way, especially about financial baggage.  You may have messed up royally, cried about it even – just don’t unpack and live there.

Unpacking and living there looks like this:

  • Constantly reliving feelings of regret around financial decisions made in the past
  • In spite of the pain associated with those past decisions – continuing to make the same decisions hoping for a different result.  We call that…insanity
  • Maintaining the same way of thinking that got you there in the first place
  • Do you spend money the moment you get it because you feel anxiety about having money?

Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing.  Most of us have been there.  I have.  And I’ve lived to tell about it.

First, it isn’t the end of the world.  You just have to admit to yourself, that what you’re currently doing isn’t working.  You can’t change the behavior without really understanding the driving forces behind it.

Then, take a look at your old money patterns which show up as money triggers today.  These triggers will often derail us unexpectedly because we’re really unaware of how they’re operating in our lives:

  • Are you spending impulsively to feel better after a bad day or argument with your partner?
  • Do you ignore the bills that come in the mail because of the anxiety you feel when thinking about opening them?
  • Are you hoarding money because you fear the tomorrow just might be a rainy day?
  • The fights with your partner around money are related to deeply held beliefs about how money should be handled – based on your past – not how the two of you have decided to handle it.

These are all signs of financial baggage littering your life and causing a hot mess.   

The key here is to admit to yourself that the current way of handling money isn’t working.  This is your first step in unpacking the baggage piece by piece.

I often tell my psychotherapy clients that finding and working with a therapist is about finding someone with whom you can unpack your life with – piece by piece.

After that process is complete, then you decide how you want to move forward.

  • Do you want to keep certain pieces because they’re useful (or have meaning?)
  • Do you want to toss others because they no longer serve you?
  • Are there pieces that you want to take along with you on your journey through life?

We go through this process because how we experienced the issues in our past is very different than how we experienced them today.

For example:

As a teenager, you may have seen your mom go on shopping sprees after a fight with your dad.  But what you didn’t know was that these shopping sprees were the source of many arguments in your home.

Now you’re an adult and find yourself doing the same thing – shopping when feeling anxious and frustrated.  You’re repeating the same pattern you saw laid out for you as a teen!

But this is where change happens.  Admitting that the way you’re handling money today doesn’t work or serve you in a manner that is beneficial to your life

Now, you begin the process of unpacking all of it to see the fact that this behavior no longer serves you in a healthy  way. This is what we call unpacking:

Forgive yourself.  This is so important if you’re going to release old habits.  Know that you did the best you could with the tools you were given at the time.  We are all doing the best we can at any given time.  Now you know better and have the responsibility to do better for yourself and for your financial future.

You may even need to forgive others that are a part of your financial past.  Remaining in a place of hurt, pain and anger only stalls your progress and gets in the way of being able to make true financial progress.

huna Ho'oponopono

Ho’oponopono Technique is a gentle Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness.

The process is as follows:
Go through each person, situation, thing that felt has hurt you (don’t forget to include yourself).
Let any residual emotions associated with each to come up.
Then say:
“I forgive you. I’m sorry. Thank you. And I love you.”

Or if that’s too much “woo woo” for you do this instead:

Go through each person.
Picture the person and visualize sitting with them (if this is too painful, just write the name of the person).
Then say the forgiveness mantra below.

I forgive and release (enter name here) __________________________. I know you did the best you knew how to do at the time. I release and let go of all blocks this grievance has on me. I now welcome in love, peace and freedom in its place. (Now take a deep long breath.)

Forgiveness is not about the other person, but rather about cleansing and releasing the hold the pain has in your life. For you to experience prosperity in your life you need to cultivate the right conditions internally, before you can experience it externally. Source

Recognize the old money patterns that keep showing up from your past.  What’s your money story?  What were your first experiences with money?  How was it handled around you growing up?

How did your mom and dad approach money?  How did they talk about it?  Was it something that was difficult or did it come easy to them?

Pulling all of that together, how does your past now influence your current financial reality?

Decide whether you’re ready to change.  Let’s get real for a moment.  Nothing will change if you’re not ready to make the decision to change and then follow through with it.  It’s cool to read this article and get pumped and excited – but be honest with yourself about the decision to change and what it means.

We’re not wishing for change.  We’re making the decision to change and then following through with it.  If you’re not ready to change, cool.  Just know that you may not want to get to the point where your current spending habits force you to change…or else…

Change while you still have some measure of control.  Though, when it hurts to continue the same toxic patters, that is often the turning point for many people.

Ready for change?  Let’s do it.  Are you overspending?  Create a spending plan that reflects your money values.  It’s OK to keep the things you love but toss stuff that holds you down.  You can make time for spending but keep it within reason.  Are you fighting with your partner about finances?

Take some time to think about whether the issue is really with them or you?  Are either one of you super controlling about money?  Be honest.  Have you had the “money talk” yet?

Sit down and have what I like to call a “come to Jesus” moment about your money.  Lay it all on the table and create a plan to get your money back on track.

Set up a money meeting with yourself or partner on a weekly basis.  Hold yourself accountable.  Be honest about where you are, mistakes made and what you’re doing to change them.

Change doesn’t mean perfection but it does mean progress.  If you find that old patterns are showing up (impulsive spending, hiding money, spending recklessly etc), be honest with yourself about the root problem and work towards changing it.

Financial baggage can weigh us down in the worse way, especially when we’re working to make good changes that will benefit us in the long run.  Know that the journey in doing this may get difficult but it’s the kind of work that frees you from old patterns.  And it is oh so worth it!