How many different ways can you finish that statement? What is money to you? We all have a different way to answer such a question, and this is why I find money to be such a fascinating topic of discussion.
Every individual has a unique relationship to the symbol of money – formed and transformed throughout our lives – and this is why a conversation about money becomes a deeply personal one. Our personal identifications and associations with money cut to the core of not only who we believe we are as an individual, but also how we believe the world to be, collectively.
Symbols are human-made, abstract representations of reality. They carry whatever meaning we choose to imbue them with. Many symbols have been used by different cultures throughout history, in diverse ways, often resulting in two divergent meanings for the same symbol. The numerical symbols of money are an open canvas for our experiential interpretations. We see money as the key to the fulfillment of all our needs and desires. How else would we meet our needs, save for the purchasing power of money?
Today, due to its nature as a purely abstract symbol, we are free to project all that we choose into money’s story of meaning. We are free to place all of our hopes and dreams into money, turning it into a universal means as well as a universal end as it consumes all stories of value. We are free to place all of our fears and limitations into money, rendering us paralyzed and anxious under the habitual confines of victimization and scarcity. Notice what thoughts and feelings arise when you find an unexpected account balance on your screen. What a powerful magic, to affect such bodily reactions like that. What a powerful magic, to have an abundance of goods arrive at your door after a few clicks of a mouse.
The magic of money comes from the agreements that we create. Since money collectively carries such a strong agreement as a story of value (most everyone accepts it as payment, and for some, money has been elevated to the only story of value), it becomes easy to see the power it has over the actions of individuals. How do you get someone to do something for you? Paying them seems to be the most efficient way for money is the instant gratifier of our needs. Thus, we continue to re-create the belief that the external force of money has a particular power over people (see where the hierarchy of wealth is embedded?). We can observe this monetary influence in our individual lives when we feel compelled to do something we really don’t want to and can sense money as the primary motivator (whether to justify a future goal or as a result of the need to survive).
Money has power because we give it that power. No, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as long as we become aware of the type of power we give it and remember that we always have that power within ourselves. Money is the ability to focus human intention and guide collective action. It contains a story that gives people roles, defines responsibilities and boundaries, communicates what is valuable, and imbues future visions with creative life. One person cannot build a skyscraper alone, however, wielding the symbol of money they can move people, machine, and land to create monuments of human ingenuity.
I would love to see money more openly discussed for I believe it to be very near the root of our global crises. What is it? How do you feel about it? What stories and experiences have you associated to it? Does money come easy or does it require sacrifice? What does it feel like when you purchase something? How do you feel when you do not have any money? What thoughts and emotions arise when you think about your debts and savings? How much of what you do during the day would you still do if you weren’t paid to do it?
We have invested much of our sense of self into the symbols and stories of money. The economy is a collective reflection of our individual associations to this essence. Neither ‘money’ nor ‘the economy’ are actual, tangible things, and yet when we are cheated of this force in any way, we can feel as though part of our selves has been ripped off. When we choose to keep money as a taboo subject, even remove it completely from our relationships, we are effectively choosing to not look at deep, fundamental wounding that is calling for attention. When we choose to sever relationship through money, we are choosing to ignore the powerful healer of community – the balm for our wounds of separation.
I feel on a deep level, that by facing our personal and collective associations with the tool of money head-on, we are able to transform our economic stories from the destructive, world devouring, soul work sacrificing agreements of yesterday, into collaborative, world creating, and soul work supporting agreements of tomorrow. Through relationships found in community we are able to find the love and support, challenge and nurturance, and truthful reflections of attention that we require to heal and transform such agreements. As long as money is used as a separator, as a means to easily avoid interdependent relationship, as a justification to perpetuate hierarchy, and as a way to bypass conflict resolution, we will never unlock the transformative and healing power it contains.
What kind of world are you supporting with your dollars? What are you saying ‘yes’ to? Who are you investing in? By choosing to bring money into my personal relationships I have been given the opportunity to look at some deeply hidden aspects of my Self, both through my inner observations as well as reflected back to me from others. Having the commitment to remain present and attentive to such observations in relationship creates the deeper connections between people sorely lacking in today’s highly monetized world.
I believe we must transform our economic stories so as to imbue them with abundance, flow, and trust, rather than scarcity, accumulation, and competition. Money has pooled in vast quantities that are inaccessible to most in need of it. How do we open the dams of false security and allow the waters of money to nurture humanity’s seeds of creativity? I believe that we have the power as individuals to transform the world and story of money through our day-to-day actions with others. This is how we create the environment, send out the invitations, and call forth the change from within. Together, we always have enough to thrive.
If you are interested in reading more about the story of money and the emerging gift economy, check out The Collective Tribe’s Foundational Strategies Series or Skye Dreamer’s book, “The Spirit of the Gift: A Storymap to Living in the Gift“.
Skye Dreamer offers dream mentorship support to help individuals move from victimization, limitation, and a lack of motivation into a life of purposeful work through one’s creative gifts. Contact him if you are open to exploring a mutually supportive relationship of trust and reciprocity!