Medium 9781780490670

How Money Talks

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Money speaks in everyday life and in literature of our greed and our generosity, our pride and our humiliation and as it passes among us it shows our creativity and our ability to co-operate even while it can also lead us to fight to the death. This book is for psychological therapists and for the general reader interested in human nature. Money has mattered since the first human attempts to symbolise value and enable people to wait for the return on their own labours. Since the financial crisis of 2008 its impact at a macro as well as a micro level is inescapable. It has become a means of exchange, much like language and has opened up social mobility to factors other than birth.This book looks at the origin of money and its history but most of all, what attitudes to money tell us about the way we connect to each other. The book begins with a fictional narrative of a woman who finds her own way through anxieties and guilt about money to a state of greater understanding about what it has meant in her career and her relationship with her husband. The second half of the book is a discussion of the wider meaning of money through its history and its current trajectory, as demonstrated by money in psychological therapy. The symbolic meaning of money has been familiar since Freud showed the small child's delight in achieving control. Carl Jung showed the alchemist's search for gold and its parallel in the work of the therapist. Jacques Lacan has given us new ways of theorising money and its attraction through following the ways in which we distort and change the signifiers of our communication, both those that we seek to hide and those that are in full view.

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12 Chapters

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CHAPTER ONE: I’m a mess

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Alice got off the bus and thought “This is it. This is what I have decided to do and it must be all right.” She looked at her watch, anxious to be on time but not sure exactly where the house was. She thought she would need about five minutes to walk from the bus stop. She really wanted to get there on time because her friend Rosalie who was already seeing a psychotherapist had told her that that they are very hot on times so that you have to arrive dead on time and you will be asked to leave after exactly fifty minutes. Alice wanted to look like someone who knew how things were done.

The bus had dropped her in a busy main road with narrow footpaths and 1950s houses, beginning to look a little seedy although they all had gardens. She noticed that the busy road didn’t stop people from having at least one car each with the result that about half the gardens had been transformed into hard standing. “Hard standing,” she thought. “Yes, standing is hard. I wonder whether she will expect me to lie down.”

 

CHAPTER TWO: Adrift without a compass

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I“ ‘d better begin nearer the beginning” Alice said. And began the story that went on for many sessions, because she found that she enjoyed telling it and she began to realise that she wanted to hear it herself.

I was born in my grandparents’ house in a small town further north. It was a mining village with streets of small terraced houses with back yards that are familiar now in films like Billy Elliot. My grandparents stayed in their house where Grandad also had his doctor’s surgery and, although my parents moved us to very different surroundings, I remember the smell of coal fires and the cracks in the footpaths in those depressing streets. Yet now I come to think of it the streets were not depressing to me then. I skipped over the cracks as Granny took me to the playground. I must have been about four when I first became aware of the joys of Granny’s playground. There was a huge slide which took all my courage to climb. There were boys there, urchins with torn short trousers and full, rich Geordie accents, or rather dialects. I spoke “posh” and wore skirts as little girls did. They threatened to push me off the top step just as I launched myself onto the terrifying shining path that would take me safely back to the ground. I loved it there. Maybe even the sense of danger was part of the attraction.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Running up debts

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Alice spent a week obsessively thinking about how angry she was and how outrageous Margaret’s behaviour had been. Oliver hardly spoke to her and she didn’t try to get him to talk. She thought she could find out what she needed to know from the websites but what she really needed to know was that the treatment would work for him. She was caught in the not unusual trap of feeling that she couldn’t live with him but she certainly could not live without him. He sat in his study and she spent a lot of time in the garden ferociously pulling out weeds one at a time and making ugly little piles of earth with a few weeds and also some bulbs and a few periwinkles. These were supposed to be making ground cover and keeping the weeds out but they were thin and had not got any kind of a grip before the weeds had spread in a glorious riot of dandelions, buttercups, and brambles. She got hot and angry and began to throw the weeds into a pile on the path with the result that there was a mess of earth all over the path and a mess of bits of weed all over the presumptive vegetable patch. Nothing will ever grow here except weeds she stormed to herself but she stayed there and went on scratching at the hard, dry earth.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: When do I pay?

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Alice knew that she was getting near the point when she would have to look at the worst time of her life. At times, she thought, she would not be able to talk about it. Supposing Margaret did not want to hear about it. Suppose she made all the effort to face it which she knew she could do best through talking to Margaret, but what if then she felt that the talking was all wrong. Margaret had the power to do that. In fact, she had a lot of power. Alice realised that she really cared what Margaret thought. She had begun to realise that what she had felt for Anita was very much the same as what she now felt for Margaret but with one essential difference. She longed for Margaret to allow her to touch her. Alice wanted to hug her. She wanted Margaret to hug her. She tried to convince herself that she didn’t feel this but she spent so much time on giving herself a good talking to that without success that she began to think she might just have to accept her feelings. So then she thought, that it might be usual. Everyone talks about falling in love with your therapist. Why should she be different? In fact she should not be different. She needed to have this experience and discover what it told her. That gave her some relief though she did worry about exactly what it did tell her.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Circumvented

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Alice told Margaret that she was afraid that she was feeling increasingly paranoid. At the very least she was lonely. The Trustees were not with her at all on any of this. “Have they had the chance to be?” asked Margaret. Alice dismissed this. “They could be supportive at any time.” But as usual she found that Margaret’s comment was a germ that grew, multiplied in her head and could not be ignored. She had not given them a chance. She had enjoyed growing more and more bitter and resentful and there was no response from Barbara to make her feel otherwise. In fact, she gave ample opportunity for escalating feelings of powerlessness every time they spoke.

I appointed Lana as the new Fund raiser but then Barbara told me that I should fire her. I declined to do that and that hastened my own downfall. I hesitated, wanting to give Lana another chance. I wanted her to succeed and somehow I thought that Lana must know what to do. “If only I could give her a bit more time,” I thought, “all would be well.” I brooded over the actions of the Trustees and in my imagination wrote many letters to them with innumerable ways of showing how angry I was and how they had made my job impossible. I was by no means reluctant to concentrate on this grievance because thinking about Oliver and possible loss of him was too painful.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Be with me

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Alice made her way into Margaret’s room a month later with heavy steps. It had become the refuge that home had once been. She had longed for the moment when she would get there. She sat down and found she was too full of tears to speak. Margaret said nothing but waited attentively as always so that after a while Alice found that she could talk and she began:

I went home and when I went through the front door there was that kind of silence that tells you that a house is empty. That’s funny I thought. Oliver’s car is outside; he must be here; where can he be? I went to check his study just as I normally do and there he was … . Sorry … . I managed to ring for an ambulance and the men were very kind. They were there in no time and they found me trying to do CPR. “It’s all right” one of them said. “We’ll take over now.” They got him into the ambulance really quickly and we went to the hospital with blue lights and sirens and in a daze I followed his stretcher into the Accident and Emergency department. They told me to wait in a special room. I will never forget that room: the torn leather on some of the chairs, the horrible red plastic of the row of hard chairs against the wall. There was no window and that bothered me. How would I know when the daylight came? I wanted to know what was happening but I dreaded being told. I don’t know how long it was but it wasn’t long. A young tired-looking doctor came and checked my name. Then he said “I’m sorry.” He didn’t need to say any more. I knew that Oliver was dead, probably before he left the house. Left the house. That sounds like a deliberate action doesn’t it? I found that I felt sorry for the doctor. Poor kid. He didn’t like the job of telling the poor wife, widow … . sorry … . He’ll have to learn though. It goes with the job.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Money had to be invented

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Money affects the life of most human beings, either by its presence or its absence. Money makes us both master and slave. Alla Sheptun captured this paradox: “Our power over money is real only inasmuch as we are able to understand its power over us” (Sheptun, 2011). Karl Marx located the whole of our ideological processes on an economic substructure (Brenner, 1986: 3), but even those ideologies that have no direct connection to Marxism are based on an understanding of economics and the effect of economic position on each of us as individuals and as the products of a society.

In the contemporary market, money is essential to enable exchange of goods. What is essential in the therapeutic encounter is exchange itself. Words are passed from one person to another and are received, held or rejected by each participant. The development of the process by which symbolic exchange becomes communication at all levels is one of the main subjects of this book. Indeed, in engaging with this book the reader might be receiving gifts from the writer but will not gain in the long run unless she is willing to bring her own ideas to assay the value of the currency being offered. Dipping into metaphor illustrates the way in which this chapter and this book makes and then uses its symbols. Its point is to ask the reader to consider the level at which money is important and yet to remember that it is only one strand of the complex of emotional and cognitive elements that operate in therapeutic encounters.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Growing in relation to money

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This chapter will describe a development in the infant’s relation to the world and to others which correlates to his relationship to money, as he moves from a system of gifts to barter and then to a system of trust and symbolic transaction. In therapy too, the adult progresses through a developmental trajectory towards greater trust and faith in his or her own humanity. She can allow herself to be in another’s debt and becomes able to treat her own debtors with generosity. The new-born infant opens her eyes to a blinding light, noise, and sensations all over her body that are all entirely new. Modern birthing processes allow for a little shielding of the baby from the shock of the first experience of the world outside the relative safety of the womb. Whatever the birth experience, the new-born has more to learn than any adult can imagine. Seeing a child change from the innocence of this first minute to become the standing, walking, individual who is beginning to begin to talk at the end of the first year is one of the most moving experiences of the miraculous that anyone can have.

 

CHAPTER NINE: Spendthrift or miser?

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The small-scale exchanges of the infant and young child lead the way towards the exchange economy in which the adult lives. This chapter will concentrate on the external effects of the child’s struggle for control of ingestion and excretion, showing how each person reveals an attitude to holding on or letting go, getting and spending and how that relates to his place in society and the presenting problem that he might bring to therapy. Aspects of the financial markets are an indicator of social attitudes to money as are more intimate relationships with partners and other family members. The mass media are interested in the divorce settlements of celebrities and hold discussions on the rights of spouses and civil partners. Each adult is a potential or actual partner in a relationship of some sort whether in a marriage or at work or within a family.

Ever since Freud published Civilisation and its discontents in 1930, citing guilt and the destructive instinct as the two main forces dominating our social relationships, writers thinkers have used psychoanalytic theory to clarify human and social behaviour. In relation to money and its impact on the individual, social structures are important in reinforcing the guilt that the individual will construct for himself. Freud began this work with a statement about value:

 

CHAPTER TEN: Who pays for psychotherapy?

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Economic transactions function because I want something which another person possesses and which they will transfer to me if I offer something desirable in return. Whether we like it or not there is a market in psychotherapy, counselling, and psychoanalysis. Because of the vast pit of mental suffering and despair in the community, the services of these professionals are needed. Often these services are needed by those who cannot work or who cannot find the work that they are ready and willing to do and therefore cannot pay for what they need. The usual rules of the market cannot be left to match supply and demand or the most vulnerable will be left without help. There is another area in which this rule does work. This is of course the private psychological therapy offered to those who can afford to pay. As long as there are enough of those people, there will be a supply of trained therapists who can also provide some services through charities and organisations that do not pay them much if anything.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: How money talks to therapists

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Psychoanalytic theorists have faced some of the primary and most difficult questions about the nature of human beings. They therefore try to identify the psychological imperatives that we need to consider in understanding what goes on in the human mind. In the mid twentieth century, the psychoanalyst W. R. D. Fairbairn based a complex theoretical structure on his answer to the philosophical problem of the nature of desire:

Libido is not primarily pleasure seeking but object seeking. (1946, p. 137)

This was a revolutionary idea as philosophers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had generally postulated that human beings seek pleasure and avoid pain as their primary motivation. Freud (1920) had accepted that hypothesis as a basis for his thought, particularly in the process by which we defend against painful thoughts and resist moving from being governed by the pleasure principle to the reality principle (1920).

Fairbairn made another contribution to thinking about psychic structure: he added the possibility of an exciting object to the dynamics that are possible in the unconscious. The relationship with an object may be primarily connected with one of the zones of the body (oral, anal, or genital) that Freud associated with developmental stages. If we associate the interest in money with the stage of developing control, we can understand the tension that is involved in making sure that there is no mess visible, partly because there would be relief in evacuating the contents of the bowels. Just as there is a reward of approval for holding on to faeces, there can be pleasure that may be associated with all the activities connected with accumulating and spending money for its own sake. Like the pleasure connected with the bowels, this pleasure is not socially approved.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Money matters in the consulting room

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Every therapist has to deal with his or her own human greed and defences against it. The therapist is also seeking the narcissistic satisfaction of being a therapist as well as having the associated income. Being a therapist requires patients and with them the assurance of having the money from the fees that confirm this status. Greed may take the form of demanding high fees or may be shown in working free of charge or for very low fees. Whatever the financial arrangement, people will challenge it and the therapist will have to deal with all sorts of practical and emotional questions. This chapter will examine the processes that occur in the consulting room where the psyche of the therapist interacts with the psyche of the patient in relation to payment, thefts, debts, and gifts. It will draw on experience in private practice and in a large clinic as well as in the NHS.

The therapist has her own personal experience of managing money and has managed her training costs. Trainees pay fees for their training, for personal therapy and for supervision. Not all these elements are paid for separately in all institutions. For example, some of the training supervision is included in the fee for those who are training where there is a clinic in which they work. Whatever the payment arrangements each trainee is likely to be very involved with questions of how to pay and what the payment means. Since fees for training as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist can amount to at least 50,000 in London in the early twenty-first century, many people will have to take out loans and will also consider working at another job part or full time in order to fund the training. The way the training body deals with fees is bound to be significant, because it fills a parental role, in providing the experience and learning and therefore the background for future practice of each candidate in training. Even more important will be the model provided by personal therapists and supervisors.

 

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