The Power of The Shadow Unconscious – Money And Limiting Beliefs
To illustrate the nature of the human shadow, and the connection it has with liming beliefs, I’ll describe a client from my practice. (The client’s name and identifying details have been changed, and the story is recorded here with his approval.)
I worked with a client named James a few years back. He’d never managed to accumulate any wealth, no matter what he’d tried.
He came from a working class, blue-collar background, where there was a certain pride in his family’s history in construction and creation. And boy, was he ever reminded of that history when he was growing up! So he knew for sure that his ancestors had built the bridges and the railways and the furniture that “made Britain great” in the 19th and early 20th century.
But one topic which never cropped up in the family legend was their very real poverty. Many of the men in the family had been paid on piece work or day rates, with no guarantee of employment from one day to the next.
This was all set against a background of Methodist puritanism with an underlying belief at its core that “to be poor is virtuous, and to be rich is sinful”. Not only that, but the poor will get their reward in heaven after suffering on Earth!
James had generated a lot of wealth in his career. He’d had a job with a multinational company in which he’d been a comfortably-off middle manager. Later he’d been involved with start-ups in the early days of the Internet, and generated large amounts of cash, but he’d never managed to accumulate wealth.
No matter what he did, as he told me ruefully, the money just seemed to just disappear. In fact, he had considerable debts on his credit cards which, he said, had continually increased in parallel to his income. Now he was concerned that he was approaching retirement without any assets.
Success or Failure is Self-created
When we talked about his financial situation, he told me of some truly spectacular failures he’d “created”. For example, he’d invested heavily in Internet technology stocks in late 1999. These stocks had promptly declined sharply in value to the point where, dispirited, he’d sold all his shares at a 66% loss – over $100,000 – a mere three days before a new stock market index for technology shares had opened for business.
In the days after this index opened for business, the stocks which he’d sold at a massive loss rose by many times in value, which would have given him wealth beyond his dreams… if only he hadn’t sold his shares three days before the market opened.
When we talked about this, he was struck by the fact that he’d been so naïve as to have no idea that the new technology share index was about to open. And yet he knew, at some level, that he’d created this fiasco. Somehow, he alone was responsible for making it happen.
What I now realise he meant by this was that somewhere in his mind were all the preconditions needed for this to manifest in reality.
And those preconditions were, fundamentally, his limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are, simply, the things that he (and each one of us) had come to believe about himself in response to the emotional wounding he’d experienced during childhood.
Video – how to change your limiting beliefs
On another occasion James had been persuaded to make speculative investments in traded options, and he’d lost even more money.
The essence of this story was repeated over and over again in one form or another. One time he’d been given the chance to buy a house at a very low price, which he immediately sold for a few thousand dollars profit, only to watch house prices triple over the next 18 months.
He had so many examples of similar ill-fated decisions it was almost comical…. except for the fact that his losses had caused massive hardship for him – in fact they’d nearly bankrupted him.
Clearly there was something strange going on here. How could an intelligent man earning good money be so consistently foolish in his investment decisions? What lay in his shadow that “made” him behave in this way?
The Power of the Human Shadow
James had proved he could earn decent money in a job, but his ability to accumulate wealth was – well, non-existent. When we explored what was going on, he discovered he still had a deep attachment to his family. And also to the family’s belief systems around money. In fact, these beliefs were part of his identity.
However, they were clearly held in shadow because, if they had been in his consciousness, we can assume he would have avoided making the financial mistakes that had left him without any wealth.
To explain: shadow is a term used to refer to the unconscious beliefs we all hold about ourselves which are held in the deeper parts of our mind. We decide to repress them, that is to say, shove them into the unconscious, during childhood (or even later in life). This is because they are so uncomfortable to us. They counter everything we would like to believe about ourselves, and though unhelpful in our adult life, these beliefs do in fact basically determine the course of our lives.
Limiting beliefs are held out of consciousness, in the unconscious part of us which Jung called the shadow. These limiting beliefs can have a disastrous impact on our happiness, well being, and prosperity. You can read a lot more about unconscious limiting beliefs here.
The link above takes you to a website about shadow work. As you may imagine, this is a system of shadow work coaching or therapy which aims to eliminate limiting beliefs in the shadow unconscious and replace them with more functional and helpful beliefs.
If you are struggling with issues around money, you may like to consider seeking the help of a professionally qualified shadow work coach. She or he can help you to eliminate limiting beliefs around money, relationships, power, agency in the world, love, success and achievement.
The story of limiting beliefs continues
Back to James. One of the limiting beliefs he’d acquired from his family, who had always been poor, was the myth of the virtuous poor. This seemed to play out as an unconscious belief that if you were rich you wouldn’t be getting in heaven’s door any time soon.
He also seemed to have a deep seated belief that money was somehow evil or tainted – at the very least, a bad thing. This seemed to be based on what his religious family and the Church ministers had impressed upon him as a child. That old story involving rich men, camels and needles – you know the one – was a good example of that.
And so was something he remembered his mother saying over and over – “money is the root of all evil”. I guess saying that to everyone around her was quite a consolation to his mother when she didn’t have any money.
Unfortunately, hearing that kind of thing also seems to have been one of the main reasons why young James had unconsciously decided he’d be better off without any money in the bank.
The deeper we delved, the more it became clear that this man was stuck between his love and attachment to his family and its values on the one side, and his own desire to accumulate money on the other.
He was still running a childhood belief system which went something like “to be poor is virtuous and good, and to be rich is bad, even evil”. So the part of his unconscious mind which was controlling his relationship with money had no choice but to hold him back from ever accumulating wealth.
But the subtlety with which it operated was astounding. It’s hard to believe that selling a whole load of technology stocks three days before a profitable new market opened was any kind of coincidence. His limiting beliefs turned out to be quite straightforward and devastatingly powerful:
- If I get rich I’ll betray the family (and then I’ll be all alone in the world).
- Money is the root of all evil (and after all, I am one of the virtuous poor).
- The rich get richer and the poor get poorer (just like this family I belong to).
- Money doesn’t grow on trees (and so I can never have a lot of money nor can I make money easily).
- You can’t have everything you want (because there isn’t any money available to get it, or so my family taught me).
- There’s a shortage of money in the world (and this family lives with that just fine….so I won’t go getting ideas above my station!)
So: the question is, what to do if any of this sounds familiar to you? What if it resonates with you, or you feel limiting beliefs in any other area of your life might be getting in the way of you having what you want?
Well, you might like to consider getting the help of a professional coach who is experienced in working with the shadow unconscious.