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Turning Financial Crisis into Opportunity

by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many individuals who are high powered, high income Wall Streeters. Even in the best of times, many of them are beset with emotional and psychological challenges in spite of their enormous wealth. Given the literal free fall of the economy that we’re currently experiencing, many are now facing the hugest hurdle of their lives; and I’m not simply speaking financially.

Those who are so fortunate to earn vast sums of money and accumulate enormous assets tend to place a disproportionate amount of their attention on what should simply be one facet of their lives. As unimaginable as it may be, billionaires may still suffer from self-esteem issues that plague many of us. Those who are driven to succeed in such a way are often compensating for other deficits in their lives. These may include challenges with interpersonal relationships and emotional intimacy. People who tend to be strong type A personalities are so inclined because they are very uncomfortable in the more intimate exchanges of relationships, so they default to the arena in which they feel more comfortable.

Of course there are many exceptions to my suggestion; people who have great financial success and strong and rewarding relationships. Yet, I find that this is more often the exception.

The key to happiness is a well-balanced life in which we honor diverse aspects of our being. Over emphasizing the material over the immaterial, things over relationships, severely constrains our life experience and turns us into money making automatons. Earning substantial money is fine, but not at the expense of a deeper and fuller life. The extreme orientation toward material wealth for some people denies them their very humanity. Just recall the stories of millionaires jumping out the windows of the skyscrapers where they worked in 1929 as the market collapsed. Losing their wealth rendered their lives unlivable. That clearly underscores the lack of balance. They were their money. Without it, they were existentially speaking, nothing at all.

Many holocaust survivors, left without family or friends and literally penniless, chose to move forward and face life after having experienced the most unthinkable horrors. Some succeeded. This is a choosing. And a profound one at that. Financial setbacks, absent the death and destruction of the holocaust, begin to pale in comparison.

I fervently believe that every crisis presents an opportunity. They are merely differing aspects of the process. Do we choose to focus on the crisis or do we ask what the opportunity may be? What opportunity could arise from the loss of one’s fortune? To begin with, the potential for recreating one’s life in a more balanced and authentic manner. The loss creates the opportunity for reflection and reconsideration as to what a life well lived looks like. An awakening if you will.

The crisis may in fact become the golden opportunity. As such, circumstances permit a brand new starting point in life. A time to take charge of your life and a mindful choosing of how you wish to live it. Indeed, without these crises life tends to just get stuck in the groove and we are more the actor of our lives than the master.

Let’s consider the word crisis. Crisis suggests an acute, unwanted experience or circumstance that takes us out of our comfort zone. And typically, we’re looking at loss of some kind. The crisis may be of a financial, relationship, health or spiritual nature. Ordinarily, we try to avoid this as best we can. Yet, the paradox is that growth and fundamental levels of change only tend to occur when we are out of our comfort zone. In chaos theory this requires a tipping point, in which we are thrown into the unknown, the discomfort of new territory. And this is precisely where transformation occurs. The financial crisis at hand presents a golden opportunity to re-balance our lives and take a more masterful position in how we choose to live. Without the crisis we are inclined to stay in the comfort of the predictable, but distant from the opportunity for growth.

I find it helpful to consider the phrase..I’ll be happy when…….. As we go through life we ordinarily fall into the trap of supposing that happiness will come with a future event. I’ll be happy when I fall in love, when I get my dream house, when I earn more money….Yet, that type of happiness is elusive. It remains beyond our reach, dependent upon yet more success. The financial crisis that many are experiencing presents a potential for reframing happiness and crafting a life in accordance.

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

One Response to “Turning Financial Crisis into Opportunity”

  1. chelsea Says:

    Hello, I am a student (junior) at Box Elder High School, and I’ve always been so curious as to how it would feel to be a psychologist/therapist. So my questions are, do u absolutely love what u do? Is everyday new and exciting? Is it hard to be a psychologist/therapist? I like the way u write and expand every detail so one can understand it easily and perhaps use it in their daily lives. I chose to read this, because my mother is totally not financially smart. And I thought maybe I could get some good advise out of it. Although we are not poor, we’re just average, but she doesn’t know how to save and that’s why she’s always complaining about not having enough money. I would love to help her but she doesn’t want help. Everyone has their own story right? Haha. Thank you so much for your time and I hope you are able to answer my questions. Have a great day!

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