What Money Can Do to Your Head

money evilMoney, money, everywhere – or so most of wish. While research has shown that folks who do have the basic necessities of life tend to be happier, other research shows that money can also have a detrimental impact on your anxiety levels and how you interact in social situations.

It can also hurt or help your paruresis, depending on how you think about and react to it. A reminder of the infamous (and oft-misquoted) saying may be in order here. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil.

That said, let’s check out what money can do to your head (and your paruresis).

How Money Can Alleviate (or Worsen) Anxiety and Paruresis

True or false:

  • Money can make you happier, which can reduce stress and help lessen your paruresis
  • Money can increase you anxiety, making your shy bladder or other phobias worse

Both statements are true, depending on your money views, expectations and relationship.

Money, Happiness and Expectations

Let’s start with the first one, that money can make you happier. This fact came to light in a Journal of Personality and Social Psychology we mentioned in a previous post. The research found that money, specifically making more it, can indeed make you happier.

But it also found that increased income can backfire if all it does is make you fall into a cauldron of expectations that you’ll increasingly make more and more money. If your expectations don’t pan out, increased income can lead to disappointment and, alas, misery.

You may also fall into the earn-more-spend-more trap, which leaves you just as deeply in debt as you may have been making less money than you were before.

The key to staying in the happiness zone, the study said, was to keep a positive outlook and realistic expectations. Staying in the debt-free zone, of course, entails sticking to a budget and only buying things you can truly afford.

Money, Anxiety and Fear-Based Decisions 

Money in general can lead to anxiety, regardless of how much of it you make, if you happen to fall into yet another trap: fear of the future.

Forbes offers up several insights into people’s relationship with money, which is often riddled with anxiety thanks to our fearful projections, not because of the reality of any given situation. That can lead to a spiral of fear-based money-related behaviors and decisions you make to avoid this horrible scenario that’s all in your head.

These may include:

  • Handing over control of your finances to a spouse, family member or financial advisor under the erroneous belief that they can “keep your money safe.” It may be a fear-based move just so you don’t have to deal with complicated money matters and also have someone to blame if all hell breaks loose. Hello, codependency.
  • Falling into the panic trap of “act now!” The act-now scenario can erupt from infomericals or other ads that tell you “only five items left!” or “limited supply!” Reacting with panic doesn’t give you a chance to sit back and review what you’re about to do. 
  • Agreeing to a financial agreement you don’t really understand. You don’t want to feel stupid that you have no idea what all that fine print means, so you may take the plunge unaware of what you’re truly getting into. 
  • Ignoring your instincts. Sometimes an investment or decision just feels wrong, but we may try to override our gut instinct with what we think is logic. 
  • Jumping on the bandwagon. Everyone else is investing in Richard Nixon head Chia pets, so you should, too, right? After all, you don’t want to be left out when these said heads explode all over the market! 

What Money Can do to Your Social Interactions

Being reminded of money can make you more stand-offish in social settings, interacting with others in a less intimate and more aloof manner.

Research conducted by Rotterdam School of Management assistant professor Nicole Mead and crew set up an experiment that showed just that. The research team wanted to find out if indirect reminders of money had an impact on how one person perceived another when meeting face to face.

So the team had a set of two participants each fill out a survey, one of whom had money reminders on the survey (i.e. images of dollar bills) and one who did not. When the two were paired together in a structured, get-to-know-you type of conversation, the person who had been reminded of money in the preliminary survey perceived the other person as “less likable” when they finally chatted.

Granted, Mead told Science Daily the money-primed person didn’t feel the other person was “nasty or horrible or completely unlikeable, but [it] just slightly dampened their interpersonal appeal.”

So why does money appear to make us think other people are perhaps not as warm and fuzzy as a new kitten?  The research team theorizes that people look at interactions that involve money as less warm and intimate as those where money is involved.

When we interact with people when money is involved, we tend to stay at a strictly business-oriented level, not becoming as open as we may be if we were interacting without the thought of money in our heads.

This makes sense if you think your interactions with the supermarket cashier or sales people versus interactions with neighbors or people at your gardening club where you share a common interest.

It may also help explain why some of us tend to shy away from friends who suddenly join one of those pyramid schemes or try to start us new Tupperware in every email they send. Once money is involved, we seem to get turned off from intimacy and keep things strictly business.

So What Can We Learn from All This? 

Money is indeed a big deal that can do big things to your mind. Keeping your eye on the reality of your situation, rather than your fearful predictions of the future can help, as can making sure you fully understand every financial move you make. 

One more key is to check your motivation when dealing with money issues.

Run toward what you want rather than away from what you don’t. Fear-based decisions rarely work out well, and they can wreak total havoc on paruresis and other anxiety issues whether or not money is involved.


Photo Credit: origami_potato via Compfight cc