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Senior Correspondent

Ancestral Baggage Around Money: Find It and Deal With It

This was a week for digging up old baggage: ancestral baggage around money.

I’ve overloaded myself over the past many months, taking on project after project, pushing to create massive financial change in my life. The workload has been disruptive to many other parts of my life, but there has been a feeling of “forced march,” as if the force were stronger than I am.

This, coming from someone who has addressed all the issues of financial peace of mind and who has rebuilt her life after losing everything and (theoretically) coming to understand the topic of money well.

As I spoke with a friend I consult when I can’t figure things out alone, in my mind’s eye I started to see a long trail of people. They looked as if they went back several generations. I realized they were my mind’s image of my ancestors.

And the look I saw on their faces was that of struggle. Struggle around money. Hard work in order to make it. Difficulty keeping it. Lots of risk-taking (something my family euphemistically calls “adventure”). And all the women outliving their husbands, who had not prepared sufficiently for their wives’ longer lives. So, despite periods of great comfort, women ending their lives in struggle, trying to make ends meet.

Where Our Money Beliefs Come From

All the primary beliefs we have around money come from what we feel, see and hear as children. In our earliest years, up until our conscious minds kick in at age 6 or 7 with concepts of right and wrong, true and false, we accept what we experience as “truth.” So, unless we have a reason to revisit a belief as we grow up and consciously change it, we carry many beliefs forward that came directly from our parents and other figures of authority in our early lives (teachers and preachers, for example).

This means that if we find ourselves displaying money behaviors that are less than healthy, we can often go back to our childhood and identify where the behavior came from. If the belief around the behavior doesn’t make sense as an adult, it’s relatively easy to release the belief based on what we know today is true.

Ancestral Baggage Around Money

With my recent exploration of ancestral messages, I realized that we might also find some very old patterns driving our behaviors, so old they almost feel etched in our DNA. That’s exactly what I was seeing this past week.

To understand that baggage better, I made up am exercise that turned out to be very helpful to me.  I’d like to share it with you.

To figure out if you’re being influenced by ancestral baggage that is making it harder than necessary for you to be successful with money:

  1. On your father’s side of your lineage, make a short list going back two, three or four generations, with your father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s names. Beside each one, write a phrase or two of what you know about his work and life.
  2. Close your eyes and suspend reality for a moment. Envision those various generations of men, with their wives, all sitting around a large table, maybe having Sunday dinner. While it’s unlikely they’d be talking about money itself (because it was a taboo topic), they would talk about their work and their lives.
  3. Envision yourself as a child, sitting quietly with all your elders, being seen and not heard. Listen beyond the words and try to feel what their financial lives might have felt like. Let your imagination soar, even fantasize a bit, for about five minutes.
  4. Open your eyes and write down any feelings and impressions you might have captured around the different people’s attitudes towards work, money and financial peace.

Then do the exact same thing with your mother’s family.

What themes did you pick up on for each group? Were the people optimistic? Did money flow to them easily? Was life all about hard work? Did they have any choice in how their lives played out? Did they feel in control of life or controlled by life? Did they have a social “class” they felt they belonged to?  Did they feel they (or their children) could move up and out of that class easily? Did “people like them” deserve to have comfort and ease? If they came from another country, when did that break happen, why and how did that turn out for them? A success or a disappointment?

How to Use This Information

Next time you find yourself acting with money in a way that makes no sense to you, and that can’t be explained by what you know you picked up from your childhood, take a look at what you discovered here about ancestral baggage. See if it explains the behavior.

Or, if you are facing great resistance doing what you know you should (and want!) to do to make your life financially more secure, again check that baggage.

This ancestral baggage should be no more difficult to release than the beliefs you adopted from your parents as you grew up. Look at each element in the context of what you know today. Ask if it makes any sense to hold onto. If not, use whatever little ritual or process you prefer to release it from your life.

And then move on.

One detail: ancestral baggage doesn’t have to be negative. It can also explain your incredible ability to break through obstacles, achieving despite all odds and finding it perfectly normal that you are enjoying full financial peace  of mind already today.

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