Wealth and Poverty in the Family

Many wealthy families as well as those struggling financially are turning to family therapy for help, and the importance of the family structure is now well documented in family business as well as the more invisible loyalties we have to wealth and poverty of our parents and our grandparents.

One of the things I work with in my practice regularly is the trans-generational impact on creation or loss of wealth. Why is it that we see fortunes squandered in two generations when before they could pass over three generations? Why do sons struggle to become more successful than their fathers? What is the emotional and spiritual price of privilege? These questions can be explored when we look systemically at the larger family system. We find that basic systemic principles within the family that affect the flow of communication and love, also have an impact on the flow of “energy” or money. Within the closer family system relationship is key: and the importance of trust between parents and children, dealing with guilt, isolation, entitlement and family values. We cannot hide our wealth or our poverty from our children and expect them to develop a healthy understanding and relationship to money.

Money has in many cases become a taboo subject, particularly to admit that you have a lot of it. Kids of wealthy parents have higher rates of depression and anxiety. How do you stay motivated and find meaning in your life’s purpose in a world that measures success materialistically? How do we tap into our motivations and passions and realise them without this motivation, or if we are struggling to make ends meet? Is making meaning out of a profession a luxury only afforded the wealthy few? Or does inherited wealth rob life of the deeper meaning of vocation? In many cases there has not been a safe space to explore these questions as systemic taboos are perpetuated.

In my approach relationship is key. Not only to our parents and children, but also to our grand-parents and the trans-generational histories that we come from. Who was wealthy and who was poor? How was it gained or lost? What happened in these people’s lives that motivated them? Were there any ill-gotten gains, and who ultimately pays the price for this? What are the cultural and religious thoughts around wealth and poverty? It is only through acknowledging and looking at this bigger picture, that we can come to understand ourselves in all the richness and complexity of our financial identity. Through family constellations we can also see where our family and inner resources are and draw on these for support in dealing what we are currently facing in our lives.

These are just some thoughts, and I look forward to your comments.

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