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Lesson 4 - Understanding Your Financial Feelings

Apr 11, 2023

Welcome to lesson four of Financial Sobriety School. Today is going to be all about the first foundation of Financial Sobriety, Understanding your Financial Feelings.

One thing I know to be so true is that when people are having a hard time with money, when negative stuff is coming up about money, when there's negative feelings, when there's narrative kind of happening in the background with the money, most of the time, it has nothing to do with the money, it has to do with the behaviors and patterns behind the money.

It has to do with the patterns, it has to do with the feelings that we're trying to push down, that we're trying to numb out. We try to replace the feelings with numbing out on our spending and buying things that we think are going to make us happy.

Think when you have been in a space where you have felt really emotional, really stressed out, anxious, and what is one of the first things you reach for? Maybe your phone for example. There's an impulse that happens immediately and then you pick up your phone, because you're wanting to change how you feel because it feels uncomfortable. It feels like it's something you don't want to be experiencing.

This is where the trying to buy something to make you feel better comes in, and overall, it really doesn’t make us feel better. Would like make you feel better? And if so, for how long?

I know myself when I was knee deep in my spending addiction, what the most horrible part about it was the regret, the embarrassment, the anxiety, all of that, after making a purchase that I know I didn't need, I know I didn't have the money for and then the mind would just start racing. 

Sometimes we spend to escape from the feelings of spending!


This is where the first foundation of Financial Sobriety of just starting to really tune into those feelings, starting to understand and being able to tap into that of what am I feeling right now? Why am I feeling that? What am I going to do to start to move through it?

There is a saying: Let it go.  Just let it go. Just let it go. I wish it was as easy as that. We just say we let it go and we are miraculously healed. It's kind of when you're feeling really super anxious, and somebody says, just calm down. Just calm down, you're going to feel better. Heck, no, I'm not feeling better when you tell me to calm down!

I love the word releasing. Releasing to me is working through what's actually happening. One of the biggest things that I do for myself when I started my Financial Sobriety was keeping a small journal with me at all times. When I felt that impulse pulled out my journal to investigate why I was feeling this way. This is the BIGGEST piece of the work, being able to check in with yourself that an impulse is actually happening.

Being able to turn that into a conscious feeling instead of a completely unconscious feeling. Being unconscious about what you're doing is totally normal right now. There are probably times where you've gone on a little spending spree and you don't even know what happened.

This is when your brain is acting from the emotional brain. You have an unconscious behaviour and neural pathway in your brain that = impulse, spend, dopamine hit + temporary good feeling to regret, embarrassment, shame, anger etc.

We are living in a consumerist and capitalist world that all day, every day we are met with advertisements with things that we're supposed to feel better, if we buy it that means we're going to be a better person if we have it. We are fed all these lies. And it's really, really easy to give into those lies. It's normal right now to try to be the Jones’s. The bad news is that the Jones's are broke and they aren’t good role models.


It's totally normal these days to go into debt to buy allllllll the stuff because that's what you feel like you should do.

I'm here to tell you that once we start to tap into our feelings, once we start to be really aware of that behavior, catching when we're starting to think about that behavior we can change.

Understanding our financial feelings, what does that actually look like? How do you do that? What does it mean?

  • Being grounded and mindful with your spending to ensure you are starting to become aware of your impulse to spend.
  • Checking in with ourselves whenever we go to spend money. Possibly setting reminders on our phone, watches etc. to check in with how we are feeling or taking three really deep breaths. Possibly starting a mindfulness practice. Journaling. Yoga. Tapping. So many options to find what works for you for grounding yourself.
  • Understanding where you are in the window of tolerance (image below) on how grounded you are to make a financial decision.
  • Journaling when feelings and emotions are coming up about what is really going on. What emotions are you trying to escape from? What are you trying to numb out?
  • Coming from a place of self-compassion when you are checking in with your feelings and emotions with money. The narrative may keep going with negative thoughts about how you are feeling. Getting support from someone like myself, a money coach, can help you work through these to stop this pattern.

I did some training last year with the Trauma of Money, and it was so beautiful. They refer to what's called the window of regulation (see image below). Checking in with yourself to see where you are. Going from very low arousal to hyper arousal. This could also feel like being from completely dissociated to manic.  The window of tolerance is a great tool as it gives you a measuring system on how you are feeling about the decisions you are making.  We unconsciously make 90% of the decisions are completely unconscious, your brain is just working through its neural pathways as it's been trained to do. It's doing its job. We're not even thinking about our choices.


We can also get so caught up in the fantasy. The fantasy of looking better, feeling better, being better. This can be a trigger warning when it comes to the overspending. This was something I often did in my active spending addiction. I bought a lot of dresses, shoes etc. for my job. If I looked the part of a Financial Advisor I would be doing a good job. When we can catch ourselves in the fantasy this can be a good time to ground yourself, or ask yourself what is really going on. I was so unhappy in my role as a Financial Advisor and when I actually was able to connect my spending to my unhappiness in my job it was VERY powerful. I was numbing out so that I felt better in my job. I was reaching outside of myself to feel better in my job.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you are connecting to your financial feelings:

  • What is they why behind the buy?
  • What are you actually numbing out?
  • What feelings are you actually trying to escape from?
  • What am I trying to run from?
  • I'm trying to feel better by spending?

As I pointed out earlier checking in with yourself before spending money is a huge tool, this could look like:

  • Take three deep breaths before you enter a store and ensuring you are clear about what you plan to buy in the store.
  • Where are you in the window of regulation? Am I in the right state of mind to be spending money?
  • How am I feeling right now? Should I actually be going into this store?
  • Erasing your credit cards from online shopping to give yourself an extra step to take when buying things online. Using this as a trigger to question the why behind the buy.
  • Can I feel my body right now?
  • Activate your three senses, what can you smell? What can you see? What can you hear?
  • Use a 24–48-hour rule for online shopping. Put the item in your virtual cart but wait 24-48 hours before purchasing.
  • Rating items 1-10 for needing the item. Is it just something that you want and don’t need right now.
  • Have a window of time that is allocated if you need to do online shopping, for groceries etc. Sitting and doing a mindful practice before this time comes. Doing some journaling. Meditation. Yoga. Stretching.

We want to be checking in with our feelings and knowing what's going on within us and being aware. Feeling it and not trying to push it aside, not trying to ignore it, but honoring how we're feeling. From there we can start to be conscious and make decisions about how we are going to change our patterns and behaviours.

How are you connecting with yourself and actually being able to know how we're feeling? A lot of times the stress starts to live in our bodies, and we dissociate a lot. A lot of time that does happen with your spending, you're unconscious, not even thinking about it. I have a favorite book for that “Burnout” by Emily and Amelia Nagolski, it talks about completing the stress cycle. There’s so much stress around money and so many things that get stuck within us. Sometimes it’s really hard for us to even think about being present with money. This is where completing a stress cycle is really important. What this looks like is:

  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Meditation
  • Shaking (somewhat like dancing, believe me it feels REALLY good)
  • Cardio workout
  • Lifting weights
  • Going for a walk/run
  • Yoga
  • Thai Chi

 Forms of movement that will help release the stress from your body. We want to start to feel some hope. Start to connecting to our bodies and being conscious about how we are actually feeling.

When we are in this state is when we can make Sober Spending decisions. We start to make aligned, conscious decisions that we feel empowered and proud of.

How will you practice feeling your financial feelings?