My encounter with Gale West came as a surprise. I had been engaging with Rick Kahler and as a result of that encounter, I was curious to know what else was happening of this kind of work to do with IFS and money. Gale’s name came up. Gale is, in fact, a founding mother of such work, having been dealing with this focused combination for decades. In 2020, she published a book called “Money Come Dance with me” which is her thesis and guide about the place of IFS and money in our lives as fruitfully operating together. The book is counter-intuitive if we choose to intuit money to be bad. For example:
…traumas and beliefs have held us hostage in constriction and lack. They have created structures that maintain the illusion of separation from one another and our divinity. As a result, those structures continue to perpetuate wars, create extremes of wealth and poverty, and destroy the land. Our planet, and life as we know it, is on the brink of extinction. Money, stuck in that system, has been hated, criticized, killed for, and sought after. Ultimately, it has been called the “root of all evil.” Is this money’s fault, or rather, the result of an old paradigm of domination and greed that money got trapped in? Is it possible that money, as we know it, is actually a reflection of our collective souls, including both our shadow and our potential? Is it possible that healing both ourselves and money will open the door for a new paradigm to emerge? By facing, addressing, and changing our structures and systems around money, our true potential as divine creators can be revealed in our lives and in the world. (West, 2020, p. v.)
Honestly, I would dismiss this as hyperbole if I had not been enabled by engaging with Gale to see it actually makes sense. Not only does it make sense but moving my thinking towards what you just read above has helped me immensely at the personal and emotional level. Also, my relationship with a world I previously thought unfair, somewhat vile and hopeless has shifted into a new relationship seared with hope. Blimey, eh!? I consider, based on this experience of transformation and healing received, that you too could have such an outcome. All you need to do or think is to (erroneously) currently frame money as a necessary evil. So, to qualify for changes, for most people, it won’t be difficult to shift to something more positive, if you can imagine we’ve all been getting that rather wrong. Given it’s an idea that isn’t hard to transform because our idea of money is usually extremely uninformed and/or saturated with negative notions such as resentment or desperation or greed, the odds of change are high. Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back? But, you see, that’s not the spirit of the thing. That would be to hold a noxious sense of money in mind: demand and deliver. We are on a journey into something else and really rather friendlier… More connected. More creative. Calmer. You get the picture. It’s a Self-led dynamic to money.
Six months on from first encountering this work, the incredulity remains. We are all highly conditioned when it comes to thinking about money. I still can’t believe I’m now seeing money as enabling a new world paradigm, but that’s how it is. So, what possible journey of discovery could have occurred to shift my relationship to money from necessary evil in my life to saviour of the planet? Can you make such a shift? What happens if you do and so does your neighbour and your family and friends? West’s astonishing answer is “the better world to come.” Through money? Hold on tight whilst we explore…
First, all the money-greed horror show isn’t the fault of money. Money as idea and function has been abused. To fully understand that we could dive into the various books on money that outline the history of it’s development in the world since its first invention, such as those books recently recommended by the Economist magazine here. People made money bad. A form of projection.
Second, if we befriend money and shift in our relationship to it, perhaps it may come to us (we’d most of us like that knock on the door from this friendly visitor), but that isn’t the point. Obviously, this, in itself, is a shift. A shift from desire and demand to relationship of unconditional kind.
The point is to be in connection to money – yes, relationship – with a positive energy of peace and thankfulness, or similar. A friendly approach, a kind approach. Not a use, abuse, spend sense of it.
Instead of cursing it for not being there, not being enough, not making us feel worthy and instead possibly desperately stressed, we should calm the hell down. Such a frantic dynamic is not from money. It’s from our inner world: it’s a burden. As such we can heal it. West suggests money isn’t toxic at all. It doesn’t have the power to be toxic. We do that. About it and to it. Thus, to ourselves, given the fundamental, inevitable and permanent place of money (howsoever it presents as transactional sign) in all our lives.
And healing this toxic connection to money that we carry within, can, as mentioned, West suggests, save the world. It’s a strange idea that having a happy and joyful relationship to money could save the world, for sure, but there is a clear and compelling logic to it. I conclude, following a serious reflective episode about how this could possibly be true, that West has a profound message. The implications are significant and wide reaching and do what therapy and well-being jazz often promises to do: to bring us into holistic relationship to ourselves and the world around us. Did I mention it’s weird that money could do this? Did I say I still struggle to imagine this could be possible? Incredulous Part…thank you for being careful.
Before connecting one on one (see video below) to discuss the above shift to world peace with Gale, who is a healer, therapist, teacher and self-styled “midwife” to successful living, I did an online, bilingual English-Spanish (consecutive translation) workshop in November 2022, designed and led by her in collaboration with IFS Barcelona. The eight hour workshop (over two days) was advertised as “opening the door to a new paradigm of joyous wealth and well-being” to “transform your relationship to money.” I’m not interested to endorse that workshop, or promote it. Quite the opposite, in fact, because not everyone will be able to afford it, although it was a fair and reasonable price for the benefit gained, if it’s possible to afford. I couldn’t – I went in on a press ticket. I want to do the opposite of promotion of anything because the task here is to benefit all of us: by bringing to all readers of PARTS & SELF the idea of the work we can do to transform our interactions with money by ourselves. It’s so very important, I feel, having discovered the hidden toxicity of money in human life – thanks to the work of Gale West – that I will outline the transformational experience I had in that workshop to prove this wider point. You do not need to do a workshop. You need to pay attention to money in your life. Which is also the conclusion that is apparent in the PARTS & SELF Special Open Collection on IFS and Money, throughout all the articles we have so far published.
To sum: the workshop – the work I did – opened my eyes to how wealthy I already am. I had thought my “bank balance” sucked. But no, I’m super rich. You are probably (hopefully) too, even if the bank just sent you a nasty letter. By that I mean West’s emphasis on the various forms of wealth we already have. These are nothing to do with notes, stocks, material possessions, or any other capitalist gain. Nothing to do with bank letters.
The following was promised to the workshop attendees to give you a taste of what went on: “Address and heal ancestral and collective money trauma; Identify and unburden parts that hold money wounds; Create a new money story; Invite money to dance with you as guide and friend.” It doesn’t really matter what the workshop was about however. The fundamental element – currency – of change is this: money ain’t a baddy.
But despite this simplicity there was merit in the detail. The above workshop promises need unpacking for the wary, such as I was. In doing this I hope you might get a better sense of the work involved/required to make and create a shift in relation to money.
Did you know that our relationship to money is coloured by the relationship our parents have or had to money and their parents and relatives before them? I had never thought of that. In the workshop I found myself joining in the instructions and passing some dark burden stuff down an imaginary line and, yes, you maybe guessed it, into a ball of light at the end. I felt a bit “playful” doing this – to put it positively – because I’d never done anything like that before. But why not? Why not recognise that what we feel about money was highly likely to have been coloured by the atmosphere, conversations, tensions and fears of those whose job it was to bring money to the table to pay for things needful and wanted whilst we were growing up. Of course we’ve been affected! Yet, before this workshop that had never occurred to me. Which in fact speaks volumes about how much we push money into the shadows as a topic for discussion and of conscious awareness. That sounds to me like what people do to trauma.
Yes, I passed the ball backwards and chucked it into a light. Felt fine. As a result, I think I felt a bit more relaxed than before when thinking about money. Noted.
I would put the nice feeling down to paying attention to what West described as the trauma money entails by virtue of our reactions and the burdens these generate. Giving that trauma zone a little loving tlc was no bad move. At the start of the workshop, she quite accurately said “money is one of the biggest sources of trauma around the world.” So, nice feelings aside, I agreed and agree. It might be that something spiritual occurred in the passing of burdens of trauma caused by money problems down the line. I’d like to think I helped my ancestors lighten their loads – poor sods – but I can’t be sure.
What I can be sure of is that that ancestral part uncovered a whole load of twisted thinking that whilst it had previously felt entirely justified and rational and life-long – here to stay as just-the-way-things-are – turned out to be what elsewhere is described as “money scripts.” These are a few I uncovered: Rich people were a species apart and I and my family was of a normal money type = ordinary level money, aka middle class professionals, getting by with some perks but not many, nor extravagant ones. So, an entire world view constructed of beliefs about money and me that, to put it bluntly, was limiting. Never a rich girl, never abundance.
No doubt you have a world view connected to how wealthy or otherwise you are that frames your money thinking? It’s worth dipping into this.
Darker yet I discovered I held a belief that money was, in no way, to be celebrated or liked. Where did that come from? Was I born thinking like that? Obviously not.
Even darker I found that were I to commit the sin of liking money or wanting it in abundance, I’d go straight to a hell I don’t hold exists the way they say, but that fiery pit would clearly have been my money-loving destination. I’m not even Catholic! I think otherwise, but, gee, there was money with a couple of little red horns.
My foray into ancestral burdens about money revealed I had certainly positioned myself among the minions, whatever that means. Perhaps begrudgingly, or rebelling against it, but the heritage identified was clear. A social position of low status they no doubt had, my ancestors. Ordinary folks that they were, as fishermen, nurses and mechanics. This little window on my soul enabled me to see what equality is when it is not connected to how much money you earn. It was an open and panoramic view.
Lastly, from an extremely long and impressively sour list, came the family silence. Don’t. Talk. About. Money.
Ach! Darn it.
During the workshop one task was to identify any Parts that hold money wounds. This was good fun. West said she wanted to help money become less of a sword to stab yourself with and instead “a lubricant.” Lubricating what turned out to be “bringing your gifts to the market-place” to “make love to the world.” Okay… She said, “when we bring our gifts to the market-place it is an act of self-love.” Self-love is good, so I was in for that one. With bells on and frankly, at this point, my yet-to-be-born Esty store, among other hopeful interests, was beginning to take shape.
The workshop was pitched to therapists and other healers so they could help and heal their relationship to money and thus be enabled to help their clients in similar fashion. Another way to put that was that we were all, in that workshop, turning up to greedily lap up, selfish-capitalist mentality style, the wealth of well-being all this re-gigging of inner money world was giving. Nothing ever changes? Greedy this time for well-being? But because the relationship to money was changing in the group among those attending, there was a palpable shift in energy. The first day reports from participants definitely involved heavy tales. By the end of the second day it was a noticeably lighter atmosphere. Instead of desire and demand we were moving, or had moved, to relationship. Relationship is not capitalist thinking. It is not selfish.
Here are before and after drawings I did within the workshop, as part of an exercise to do with emotions and money. It’s a visual self-expression you can try yourself. I recommend doing the before, then reading and viewing all about money in our Special Collection to do with IFS and Money. Then do an after drawing. Are they different? Are they radically different?
This is the first drawing: “How do you feel about money.”
As we can see there are manacles on the ankles weighing or tying me down, a saw through my head, a backpack (likely heavy – I get the impression it’s probably not a parachute), a red arrow going through my heart from behind and a chain surrounding my splayed body. Eek.
The second drawing, after some light chucking, emotion facing and other useful attention-giving to money and me, was: “How do you feel about money now?”
Spot the difference? This image is simple, without heavy imagery and even has a playful ball, which refers – one could suggest – to a sense of playfulness – a characteristic of Self-energy. The circle around is transformed from a heavy chain to a light dotted line. Does that mean money can get in (to my bank account), through some kind of protective barrier, with greater ease? I’m curious.
It was then suggested participants write a letter to money. This was mine:
You have not been my friend. You have kept me tied to jobs I didn’t want or that hurt me. You have been a heavy stone in my heart, me carrying it around as a weight that never goes away. I have had a relationship with you of mistrust, insecurity, sometimes worry, often disassociation or denial of your place in my life. I have turned my back on you, my face away. I have rarely looked you in the eye. It’s been much better in the past few years. As you can see I am now actively paying you attention – seeking to heal our wounds and mend our relationship. I would like to be your friend. I would simply like to have a positive relationship with you, not a negative one. Thank you for your patience. I’m arriving and I’ll bring a bunch of flowers.
This letter treats Money as if it had a character and a selfhood (I’m giving it a capital as if it were a person). That is part of Gale West’s message and it seems to be what she holds to be true. For me “talking” to Money as if it was a Part, felt both bonkers and easy to engage with. Truly, what does one have to lose? Certainly not money. Cost free nutsiness.
Well, it might be weird and feel a bit bonkers but since writing that letter I do see Money as a presence or a connection that I have. It now has greater profile in my consciousness. It has taken on new dimensions. I like it better for that. It feels more ethical.
The suggestion by West that there are seven dimensions of wealth is an ethical stance in the face of money as one-dimensionally about transactions that do not care and are merely instrumental.
This multi-faceted approach to our individual, human wealth involves:
- Spiritual wealth
- Right work wealth
- Relationship ad connection wealth
- Environmental wealth
- Rejuvenation wealth (rest and relaxation)
- Emotional well-being
- Health wealth
- Financial wealth.
The participants in the workshop did a tally of all our forms of current wealth and it was noticeable how much varied wealth was recognised. Some of us reported we were rich, as I had to, if I was being honest with myself. This extant wealth was and can be linked to expressions of gratitude. Gratitude is said to be an accumulator of benefits psychologically and physiologically. Saying “I’m rich!” in such a holistic and humanising light is a whole new thing.
Gale West has suggested that Money has a consciousness and has spoken to her. She says, “there is a new paradigm of collaboration and generosity and money wants to be aligned with that.”
After various other exercises framing money away from “domination and greed” and as a positive force, I joined in writing a revised or new letter to Money. Here it is:
Your role is important. You have had a bad profile. I hope your profile and role in the world changes. I thank you for never abandoning me entirely. I would like to have a responsible, loving relationship with you, where we collaborate and work together to bring joy to my purpose and thus joy to the world. I respect you. I value you. I hope you can touch the hearts of all those people with dysfunctional relationships with you in the same way you have touched my heart in this workshop.
Peace, joy, love
I must have been loved up and caught up in the workshops’ joyous, floaty spirit because I don’t normally speak or write like that. However, what is noticeable is the differences between the first letter and the second, in terms of the spirit of their communication to “money.” The tone has gone from miserable money to my mate money.
All told this work on me and money was useful. Now, when the subject of money comes up I am open, willing to engage, interested and curious. I am definitely more entrepreneurial.
West suggests that if the people who have money are those who face life with a sense of responsibility for self and other, then being wealthy is the right thing for them. It is better that people like that are rich (I believe in this sense we are talking about denari in the bank) than wealth in the hands of criminals and selfish, immature people. Makes sense. If you’re not a communist. But, let’s not get into politics because this thing about money…well, it’s spiritual.
After the workshop ended Gale West and I arranged to talk face to face and an extract from that conversation is here: