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The Strange Power of Financial Therapy: Engaging with Rick Kahler

Awaken! IFS and finances

Ten months ago, Rick Kahler, who is both a Certified IFS Practitioner and a Certified Financial Therapist, gave me two sessions of financial therapy, IFS style. It was a first for me to pay close attention to my relationship to money. I’ve discussed money often in the past – What salary? What loan? What savings? What is a pension? How to afford that thing? What currency? –  but this was the first time I had approached it with my relationship with money in mind.

I’m nearly 50 years old. I’d say spending 50 years on planet capitalism without due attention to the system that rules our experience at the material level is a mistake. Time for some remedial action? Shouldn’t we all attend to the matter with a lot more care? If you’re like me a bit laissez-faire and unaware about money, and not every one is, of course, it could be a game-changer.

Since the IFS and money therapy sessions mentioned, I have been noticing more and more publicity and activity around forms of financial therapy in society, such as the 2023 How to Get Rich TV series on Netflix. Interesting. So, I’m paying attention to money finally? About time.

It certainly seems the clearing of confusion about money I got, as a result of the work done together with Kahler, has made me more interested and aware of money matters – how it matters to me and my Parts-Self system in particular – and of what financial health is in a human life. In short, I’d call such health first the paying of attention. Kahler didn’t teach me how to save or invest or speculate. He went inside to where my emotions about money reside. The idea is to apply IFS to a person’s Parts and Self and see if their behaviours and feelings around money can become more Self-led. It did work for me. As we will see. But, not quite the way I had anticipated.

Are we reaching a moment where people are beginning to wake up to the damage being financially ignorant can do to you? Schools don’t very often help children to understand money matters. People often grow into adulthood having never received advice about money, nor help to understand how to attend to money matters well and safely. So, if our educational system is letting us down and parents aren’t advising (having never been advised themselves?), we need some education organised from elsewhere.

The first session Rick Kahler and I did is presented in full here (and a video extract from the second event, where we discuss money and IFS therapy, is below):

It’s worth some up-to-date comment (May 2023) about the videoed event above. Back then in the summer of 2022, I had a powerful reaction to the session with Rick and my story of transformation, written right after, is here. I can report that the buying of tools mentioned in the video footage since the session/s did not however completely disappear. New tools have been bought. I haven’t yet found time to use some of them. Oops?

But, I have not bought new liquids for use in arts and crafts (mentioned in the video) with impending use-by dates. That tom-foolery got resolved. Whatever has been purchased in the “shiney tools aisle” of my mind (and exited in financial form from my wallet) since the finances-focused therapy, was certainly done as a healthier behaviour. More reflective. More careful. In fact, for many money-spending “ideas,” I started a file with print-outs of things I wanted to buy –  things I desired to purchase – but decided to wait to consider in full. The print out was my way to collect and “have” the item. Much cheaper: bit of ink; bit of paper, a dash of electricity. I am yet to buy anything on those lists.

My buying behaviour has become demonstrably more cognisant of itself as a Part of me. Now there isn’t crazy impulse tool buying as a response to any momentary sadness. It’s mostly reasoned purchasing, budgeted and rather carefully done, if possibly occasionally a tiny bit indulgent. Now and then it is to treat myself; to reward for hard work done – and fair enough?

In other words, it was better behaviour for me and my system since I got some financial therapy.

Furthermore, the actual practical using of the tools I did buy has occurred – suggesting better planning of time and energy in line with purchases.

The buying is more connected to real life.

This has been experienced as a deep sense of pleasure and utility; of meaningfulness. No doubt such feelings are now significantly linked to the prior planning and thoughtfulness involved in the actual purchasing act? A more mature sense of self? It seems that way to me. I am no longer my financial enemy.

These are good feelings and good lived moments for me. But, could you have such help? I got that therapy because I edit this magazine and am writing this piece for publication – because I’m curious to share with you what it’s all about. I can’t afford financial therapy myself. If I could, I’d have some more. Most people, I wager (figuratively speaking…), are also not in a monetary position to spend their hard-earned cash on therapy about money. They need it for the energy bills; the food bills; the taxes, the occasional indulgent little purchase or maybe a night out to have fun.

However, moving towards a healthier relationship with money seems to be a good thing to want. However you do it.

Not only will it likely save you money – as it already has for me – but it gives you a good feeling connected to what you do buy because you are in a closer personal relationship to your act of purchasing. That relationship is one that has become authentically yours. It is not a relationship imposed by a capitalist culture. It is not a pressure to perform through spending.

But, if you can’t afford therapy – yes, the irony is clear – how can you save money and transform your relationship to money as a result of therapy? The key might be in a DIY style approach. Watch the Netflix offerings (note to self: subscription per month costs X), buy the book you’d like to read about money and emotions, or whatever (Note to self: file the receipt for your tax return), start to sort out your bills and take account of spending with more attention (Note to self: be compassionate if you are making mistakes).

A total cessation of spending is not what resulted from my engagement with Rick Kahler. I’m pretty sure a purchases-lockdown is not the point anyway. Just more sanity regarding money. I don’t think I would be able to easily or quickly go really deep down into Parts formed in childhood without following specific therapeutic methods, but I do think that I could get a similar taste of financial sanity and carefulness if I was kind to myself as a person in charge of a wallet. Really in charge and really, actually, properly responsible. It’s a thought. A relationship in the making. A relationship we can all make for free, with a bit of attention paid. Pun intended.

I have to be honest and admit that before this newly minted attention to money I was self-critical about myself and money. I felt out of my depth. I am not afraid now.

From an IFS standpoint, as a result of the therapy with Rick Kahler, I came into relation with that Part (or Parts of me) exhibiting financial discomfort. That relationality seems to have – again in IFS terms – developed a stronger aspect of Self to these Part/s. It was helpful deep work, despite, in fact, that first session (see above) being somewhat “adhoc” according to Kahler, and not a full IFS protocol. The attention and the chance to speak, whilst being listened to by someone interested in financial “scripts” and other related matters re money and the fear it can evoke, appears to have been a relief to my system and brought joy.

It was also a big surprise. I was non-plussed that money had had such a hold on my psyche.

Money is a problem for many people. Who knew our money issues are linked to childhood sadnesses….?

So, yes, money had been a problem in my system. I had always just thought that money itself was a problem. A social problem. A global problem. The big problem. Thus, touching me problematically.

Turns out it was my problem. A shift in my relationship with money occurred with this subtle adjustment to attitude, but that shift was not the final result of the therapy. The emerging result was/is, quite simply and quite subtly, a better life. That improvement isn’t in fact particularly linked to money, I notice. It’s as though money caused problems in my system which caused problems in my life. So, now that the money is better regulated, my life has improved globally speaking. Powerful. Money as a friend, if befriended?

From the impact on me for the good of a light touch financial therapy intervention we can perhaps surmise that even a little is a lot for most people, financially speaking, who cannot afford full sessions of therapy? I hope there is a way to package the kind of experience I had with Rick in that session shown above in the video that can be shared with the billions of people on this planet with money issues. Yes, billions. Of people. It would change the world. Not because we’ve abolished capitalism, which is the go-to idea for solutions. It would change because a whole lot of negative energy would have shifted out and away from Parts.

The most interesting thing for me was the lessening of fear. There was something else though: the strange, but seemingly intelligent (if we view it as a long term plan), approach of my Parts towards tidying my affairs. There were isolated disaster zones in my house of untidiness: the left side of my study (including the filing), the entirety of the garage, the middle cupboard in the hallway. I believe that they existed to stop me being clear headed. If I had order I could think about money so the Parts reasoned and if I could think, well, things would be scary. If I could think I could do that accounting which requires order…but accounting is scary…so the untidiness that stops me thinking and thus stops me making money is keeping me safe… ? A bit messy.

We conclude: prior to the financial therapy there was unknown self-sabotage regarding money making. Now, order and tidiness everywhere is appearing. Because of financial therapy? I could never have predicted that my own response to financial therapy would have been to become a tidy freak, but that was how it is working out for me. I see the Parts logic. Well done Parts for your financial strategy!

This is my experience. There are many people who could benefit from similar support. To be born radically unequal financially is a trauma. To be furnished with the power to destroy yourself with debt and encouraged to do so by capitalist culture, to seem more “equal,” is trauma. Attending to money with therapeutic care of some kind is a rope. It can pull us out of quagmires and despair about our financial situation. It may not make us money, but it makes us better placed to make money.

IFS and financial therapy as a combination, or similar, is a good way to approach the inside of the matter. It goes deep into the source of money illness. We are, after all, all motivated within regarding money and so, the more interior healing a model like IFS can offer – combined with the voice of money matters – the better. I confirm it’s a good investment of your time and energy and, if necessary, money.

Here is a short extract where Rick Kahler and I discuss money and IFS. It’s taken from the second session we did together – and happened right at the end of that session.

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