An Interview with Carolyn Bartlett
My Inheritance Journey by Diana Fromme
When my mother passed away in September of 2010, the last thing on my mind was the fact that I would be inheriting money. Although the illness that lead to her death wasn’t a complete surprise, I really thought she would pull through. At one point in her prognosis, it was a distinct possibility that all of her money would have gone to supporting her long-term care. My daily attentiveness to her languishing state in the hospital precluded all focus on the business aspects of what might be coming...as an Ennea-2, I had to process my feelings before being able to deal with any facts. After the memorial service, when visitors left and the fog cleared enough to see past a few hours, then it hit me. My brother and I were receiving a significant inheritance.
The thought was overwhelming. So many friendly faces were willing to give advice, but it varied and often conflicted: Don’t do anything hasty/Meet with a financial advisor right away. Rent out her house instead of selling it/Sell her house and be done with that responsibility. Voices in my head contributed to the confusion...how far was this money supposed to go, and how would I possibly please everyone in the fallout? I felt that the parceling out of my mother’s money was a huge decision even though I didn’t fully understand the deeper psychological importance of the inheritance as the last tangible gift from my mother. How would I reconcile the voices, make decisions, and move forward? I’d never had more than about $20K accumulation to my name. What in heaven’s name was I going to do with 15 times that amount of money? What would be the responsible thing to do? And so, in savings it sat.
Luckily, my brother helped me by going through all of my mother’s files. Then it was up to me to make the chart of assets and appropriations. Upon seeing the chart, I felt an odd mix of panic and excitement. This money could really help our family have an easier lifestyle; perhaps we could work less and enjoy each other more both at home and through travel together. The inheritance research also unearthed some surprises. The largest of these was the discovery that my brother was listed as the only beneficiary for a very large annuity, whereas all the other assets were equally split. This seemed odd – was it an oversight on my mother’s part? How many times had she purposefully mentioned that we should make time to go over “all the financial stuff” as she put it? I was beating myself up about not following through. Almost always, my life view guides me to pick solutions governed by justice and fairness. I wasn’t sure how to resolve these recent discoveries but I hoped that my brother would be on board with striving for fairness in the service of relationships.
Finally, my access to my mother’s bank accounts triggered a memory at which I gasped out loud – in 2008, after my husband Brian (an Ennea-7) had been out of a job for six months, my mother lent us $16K against the inheritance to pay off some of our mounting debts. My mom, an Ennea-2, had not drawn up a formal note for the repayment. I checked in with Brian – indeed, neither of us had ever repaid the debt! The feeling of owing gnawed at me and the direction for that money lay as an open question.
Seeking Traditional Help: Financial Advisement
There was no way I was going to attack an investment strategy alone. Because trusting in relationships is my home turf, I called an acquaintance, Warren, whom I knew worked in financial management. I called him specifically because he had made a sincere effort to help me on a writing project a few years back, without asking directly for anything in return for his time and the leads he gave me. Honoring relationships was again my guiding principal – offering my potential as a client in trade for his former time investment with my writing work. I considered myself inexperienced in financial asset management and warned him I’d need a great deal of education. Brian was initially willing to go along for the ride. The relationship kicked off just fine. Brian and I engaged in the in-depth consultations Warren asked for to “understand our investment beliefs and tendencies.” We had been through this drill in years past with a few other financial advisors, but no plan or relationship had ever prospered for us.
The first product we invested in, an annuity, was pushed through in a rush because Warren told us that the offer for annuity’s outstanding terms was expiring. While it appeared to be an adequate annuity, the process of deciding so quickly left a stale taste in our mouths, and Brian’s in particular. As an Ennea-7, he likes the process of visioning and is less comfortable with nailing down the decisions. I was eager to get some investment going and more comfortable with the decision to move forward, but in hindsight, how much of that was just to please Warren and show him that we would follow through to make his consultation time worthwhile?
As the other possible investment options rolled out, Brian became very angry. Just as we had encountered in years past, the product set was limited and Brian questioned if Warren really had our best interests at heart. We were making decisions strictly from an analytical level, and we both felt a lack of spiritual connection with Warren or with the choices he was offering. Our financial inexperience didn’t help us as we floundered, attempting to swim across the entire financial-management channel without properly training for such an event.
Warren and I didn’t speak the same language at all– I am relationship-based and he is fact-based. This was something I hadn’t noticed when he was helping me with my writing work. I learn more from stories and he explained concepts analytically. I had started with a complete innate faith in this relationship – not even imagining that others play with a different deck – but now I felt a growing sense of discomfort. Warren was a nice guy and had invested a lot of his time with us. I felt the “owing” burden in this relationship and yet I knew logically that I was the client and should call the shots. He likely saw me alternatively agreeing and giving him the green light to do research on a product, and then putting on the brakes when it came to getting account paperwork signed. No doubt, I was giving him mixed messages.
Seeking Money Psychology Assistance: A New Avenue
About this time in the process, LCSW Carolyn Bartlett called to ask for my professional help on a writing project. I knew she had experience teaching money psychology as well as the Enneagram. She wanted me to help her write, and I wanted some insight about the process I was going through with the inheritance allocations. Perfect! We worked out a trade, which of course felt great to me. We negotiated four sessions: one, overviews of the Enneagram and the inheritance challenges; two, a session for building my genogram, or visual family history; three, a session for building Brian’s genogram; and four, a session devoted to what we learned as a couple during the entire process.
Carolyn proposed that if we sorted out the emotional and psychological meaning of the inheritance, decisions about the actual money would come easier. Could this process yield the spiritual root that Brian and I were so lacking in our discussions with Warren?
Carolyn explained how a genogram is a map of an extended family system that provides a snap shot of the relationships at a given time, insight to underlying family values and where they come from, and a picture of how emotional energy travels (often in triangles). Carolyn pointed out the triangle of me, Brian, and Warren created by my anxiety to please and “pay back” to a relationship that Brian didn’t value in the same way.
The genogram offered a chance for me to see which dynamics most strongly influenced people in my lineage, thus revealing their circumstances. This process would give us good empathetic insights about why they did what they did, even those that are long past their time on earth. One can ask any question of the system in the context of the genogram – and patterns repeat – in my case I wanted to make the most of my mother’s gift.
Carolyn peppered me with questions about my family history. What did my mother and father do for a living? In what era did my grandparents and parents live? It was significant to my mother’s life and attitudes that the whole family lived through the Great Depression. I have half sisters – what was their relationship to my mom’s inheritance? What were my earliest experiences with money? Carolyn used the answers to these questions to draw my genogram, a large, branching web of family relationships and dynamics.
The visual representation of my family history yielded several important insights that underpinned my beliefs about money: My mother grew up with parents who emigrated from Italy to New York City, and they all lived through the Great Depression. My mother felt a strong need to contribute financially to her family’s welfare and made sure she wasn’t a financial burden on her family once she was old enough to work. (And she told me many times that she did not want to be a financial burden to us in her old age.) She learned how to live through tough times, and although never overly frugal, she was also never overly extravagant. In her later years she was generous with her money when it came to helping immediate family as well as supporting family trips and educational adventures. She blatantly stated, when offered to move to an independent living situation, “I’d rather that this rent money went to my grandchildren’s education.” The genogram helped me see that statements like this were value statements, which were leading to an overall connectedness with what the giver of my gift might appreciate that I do with her money. My father started educating me about budgeting from age 10. I received quite a significant allowance for such a young person, and had to allocate the required 10% of it to savings AND cover my competitive swimming expenses and family gifts before I could use any discretionary money. In my college years and early twenties, he gave me loans written with notes, so that I would get used to paying back what I owed on time and with the proper interest accumulation. This taught me an ethic of fiscal responsibility, and gave me a special relationship with him around money. Yet, this created a triangle among him, me, and my mother, who was not part of these financial discussions. Was I repeating this triangle by excluding my spouse at times for third-party relationships like the one with Warren?
Brian and I had been saving what we could for our biological daughter Amy’s college fund, and my mother had a grandchildren’s trust established for their higher education as well. Warren had identified a gap in the college funding as part of his analysis. As Carolyn wrote the gap amount on the genogram, I got goose bumps...$16K, the exact amount Brian and I had borrowed from my mother and never paid back. I had read the number in the report, but seeing it on the genogram felt like synchronicity. My half sisters theoretically would have gotten their inheritance when our father (two different mothers) passed away...but did they? No one on my mom’s side of the family knew the answer. My mother’s will did specify a fixed sum to go to each of them, so neither my brother nor I worried too much about this question....but it was interesting that the genogram made it an obvious relationship question. I was distracted by this piece of possibly unfinished business, and I made a vow to engage my oldest sister in this dialogue at some point in the future. I certainly didn’t want any distributions or lack thereof to prevent anyone, including my half sisters, from loving me.
Carolyn pointed out that wills are often a reality check for blended families. People don’t want to face the differences in resources and opportunities for the biological versus non-biological lineage. They can overcompensate out of refusal and denial or they take care of the biological lineage without recognizing and openly honoring the complications. Either way, these actions likely come at a time when unfinished feelings and even grief can surface and blindside people. Luckily, I did not feel that my relationships with my half sisters changed significantly after my mother died. We were not particularly close, but this event did not drive us further apart.
Carolyn’s genogram session with Brian was also fruitful. His insights included the following: Although his father’s father and his mother’s father were in banking, that financial knowledge didn’t trickle down throughout Brian’s immediate family. Brian money management skills were basically self-taught at the age of independence from home. His father’s behavior in general in their family was one of a rather isolated road: the company man who works hard, comes home, and buries himself in a newspaper and a cool vodka. This left Brian with a shadow about success and happiness…is conventional success exclusive of happiness? Does success lead to feeling trapped? Since feeling trapped does not line up with the 7 personality, Brian’s view of his father made for fear and ambivalence about “financial success.” A challenge for Brian, then, was how to engage in financial communication in a healthy way in our marriage.
Brian thinks that by watching his father’s behavior he also learned not to jump in when it came to family matters, including money. This behavior was partially mirrored when he learned of my inheritance...as I was casting out for help he remained purposefully quiet, shying away from the role of being fatherly to me, taking a back seat to being a leader. His 7 showed as he struggled with his own feelings about his connection to my mother. He felt as if she would have given him money to support his business ideas, and yet his dislike for control prevented him from pressing that idea too hard. He felt as if he wanted to avoid an authoritarian role; he didn’t want to tell me what to do.
The inheritance challenge then provided us as a couple an opportunity to work on our negotiating skills, starting with Brian providing input without feeling bad about taking control. Brian saw the additional money as an opportunity for us to work hard on something together and see it through.
Brian’s genogram also helped me see the strong loyalty lines between my husband’s children and their maternal lineage, just as I had seen in my genogram the solidarity from my father to his first daughters from a different mother. Though I helped raise my husband’s children and wanted to honor those relationships, they had their own trust fund established after the death of their mother when they were young. It was a relief to step back and see they were “taken care of” in this exercise. I could let go of the feeling that my mother’s inheritance had to be spread equally to them. My initial reaction was to support relationships through an equitable distribution among my step and biological children. Despite the fact that my mom had allocated a fixed sum to her stepchildren, I saw that my stepchildren had a significant gift from their mother, one I knew that Brian had already paid into.
I decided I could award my mother’s inheritance toward my stepchildren’s milestones at my own discretion, as I did when our oldest daughter got married last year. For our son, I have my eye on funds for him when he returns to school or has a solid business plan for an entrepreneurial adventure. Why? Because these aspirations are among those that my mother championed. It was becoming more and more clear how important the values of my gift giver influenced how I would decide to allocate the inheritance money.
From all the genogram work, I had some starting points for answers to my original questions. I had insights as to how family patterns repeat themselves and to which factors most influenced my mother’s beliefs about money. I was convinced of the importance of partnering with the inheritance giver, my mother. I was even gaining some ideas about what my mom wanted me to do with the money. But how could I be sure of my mother’s partnership around these big questions?
A Conversation with the Giver
Carolyn suggested an additional exercise to include my mother’s input to what she wanted for me and for my family: to journal a spiritual dialogue with my mom. I told my mother my concerns, asked her my questions, and listened quietly for answers. To my surprise and delight, the answers I wrote came loud and clear. Whether they came from unconscious insight or spiritual attunement, this exercise revealed important information. I asked her about the debt Brian and I owed her. My mother supported the idea that the $16K that my husband and I hadn’t paid back would be invested for our youngest daughter’s college education. The matching amount of money was no coincidence. This redirection of that debt made so much sense, given my mother’s wishes for her grandchildren. And, it gave me great relief to have a home for owings that had become an oversight on all of our parts. With regard to my reluctance to commit a chunk of the inheritance to a higher-risk investment fund suggested by Warren, my mother reaffirmed that she and my father were not completely shy of the stock market. I could feel comfortable repeating some family investment patterns by venturing out into a mixed-allocation fund that carried some level of risk.
Finally, the dialogue with my mother guided me to look at how much money she, in her retirement years, had lived on per year. This point was important because we had given Warren a fairly high retirement income benchmark, and were struggling with the amount of lifestyle sacrifice it would take to meet that benchmark. I concluded that this high level of retirement income was not necessary for us to have a comfortable retirement, which became a relief in letting go of the need to earmark all of our additional inheritance funds for that purpose.
So many insights yielded from this money psychology work helped me “do the right thing” with my inheritance. I took action with the values of the giver in mind, which also satisfied my 2 need to please, be helpful, and honor her gift. I hoped that my choices would enhance not only our current lives but those of our future generations. The root work also re-kindled my and Brian’s energy around making financial responsibility a priority and passing that ethic along to future generations. Brian re-committed to staying in his day job while simultaneously visioning his entrepreneurial future, as opposed to just jumping ship for the next Ennea-7 adventure.
To finish out our money psychology work, I discussed with Carolyn my relationship with my financial advisor. Under the lens of the Enneagram, I was definitely continuing the relationship more to take care of him. The relationship was no longer helping me make the best decisions. I decided that the products I had committed to were fine, but that I would not commit any more funds. This freed up resources for Brian and I to realize one of our dreams together: the flexibility to finance and move into a smaller home. We embarked on a downsize from our home of 17 years into a smaller but very comfortable house. We did not have to worry about selling the previous home first, which enabled us to finance immediately when the home we liked popped onto the market.
Looking to the future, Brian is hoping that the inheritance will allow money to flow more easily in his life. He is a visionary 7 who puts faith in his imagination to make a better way. He hopes to focus on the work a 7 wants to do – that of improving the world and creating and manifesting his many ideas. Contrary to his perception of his father’s circumstances, he won’t settle for the drudgery of holding down a job just to support a family’s status quo.
The combination of understanding my 2-ness, exploring the influence of mine and my husband’s genograms, and grasping the values of the inheritance giver empowered me to move forward with some key financial decisions that I don’t regret today. These were huge decisions; the inheritance was the last tangible gift my mother could lay in my hands. Psychological revelations took me from feeling overwhelmed to feeling in control and peaceful with the way I invested my inheritance.
Diane Fromme is a freelance writer based in Northern Colorado. She enjoys sharing perspectives and information about family dynamics. Check out her blog at www.dianefromme.com/blog/
Conversation with Carolyn Bartlett
Jack Labanauskas: It’s a pleasure to talk with you again and I’d like to pick up where we left off several months ago.... you had mentioned conducting a workshop on different styles of dealing with money. If I remember correctly, you were not teaching how to get rich quick, but how to understand the origins of our beliefs regarding money matters and how they influence our behaviors.
Carolyn Bartlett: Thanks for asking. It’s always fun to talk with you and you inspire thinking. Since money is intertwined with our sense of self, our relationships, work, family and our deepest held beliefs and values plus basic survival, it is a very interesting way to approach healing. And also practical because most people struggle with it. I started creating money psychology groups before I met the Enneagram. I tend to see everything in a context of family systems and facilitating money psychology groups seemed to help my clients, but they also helped me work with my long term interest in family systems, culture, money and relationships. Right up there as well was, of course, my own issues that needed healing.
JL: Of course, if we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, he places the physiological needs of health, food and sleep at the very base of his Pyramid; before the need for shelter, the need for affection or belonging, the need for self-esteem and finally the need for achieving our potential. Money is crucial in the physiological arena, for shelter and as a facilitator in matters of love and self-esteem — in some ways it’s even more basic than sex — after all, our own survival is essential before we can move to the next need.
CB: Yes, it is tied into personal survival and it gets attached to the whole hierarchy. We start to make meaning of money when we are children and we are watching our families trying to figure it out. Since it is so loaded with anxiety and hidden meanings, inside of every adult making crazy money decisions is a little kid who is making perfect sense at the same moment.
JL: Can you give us an example, maybe a case history, or, if that’s all right with you, how was it in your family?
CB: When I was a kid, the youngest of 9 in a “his, hers and ours” family, money was a big object of stress, judgments about other people and fighting between my parents. This made money both scary and interesting. Outside my family it was equally confusing. The schools I attended in Boulder, Colorado were middle and upper middle class, but included migrant farm worker kids. The wealthy and upper middle class children were considered “smarter” and college bound, but I could clearly see by 5th grade that some of the migrant kids were a lot smarter and harder working than I was. For some reason they were not considered “college material” while I and some other affluent students were. Of course, good liberal One that I am I internalized a lot of guilt about the comparing and the unfairness of it all. As a One, I have all kinds of weird rules and ethics about money and its “right use.”. So, a career in Social Work was good for me. When people are stuck, I encourage them to look at their family of origin to discover why they can’t change using logic. Making a Genogram is a great way to begin.
JL: How so?
CB: A Genogram is a family history and relationship map, a diagram of where did your parents came from, their families, their stories. What was your birth order, what was the culture, what are some of the stories about all this history? You make a time-line, i.e., did they grow up in the Depression or were they from another country? How does religion, illness, death, major success, natural disasters, theft, bigamy, or just about anything you know fit in. Then step back and see what you carry from all of this. A lot of it may be positive, but there might be things you want to get loose from, and it can be easy to do if you see how it has a context that is different than yours and actually belongs to someone else. Doing this in a group makes it democratic because everyone has insights and wants to help.
JL: It’s like watching a typing panel and hearing answers to questions you have not dared to ask.
CB: Exactly, likewise, it is great to share genograms in a group so people get over feeling like no one else has issues or family secrets. The structure begins with sharing about money styles and the myths behind them. We share about our habits like being a saver, a spender, an avoider, etc. Maybe this information fits with what you might guess about type but not always. People come with some issue they want to change. We are keeping in mind what you want to be different as we look at how you may be carrying some kind of legacy that you might be able to get free of if you just see it. Of course, noticing how you might be passing along things you don’t consciously want to can help you interrupt that.
JL: So what you do is not along the lines of Napoleon Hill’s Rich Dad Poor Dad; where, if memory serves me, he states that we are conditioned by our parents to expect success or failure which later translates into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
CB: Um, a little like it maybe. He is considering his early influences. But, as I remember his book, he is mainly interested in how to use the insight to get rich. The paradigm is rich vs. poor. I am more curious about emotional and spiritual health and that might or might not include acquiring material wealth. There are a lot of ways money travels through relationships besides material success. I’ll give you some examples later to show how my work is different.
JL: What started this inquiry for you?
CB: My money classes came out of needing to figure out some things for myself. I hope it is not too embarrassing to tell, I think everyone has crazy moments, and this really is how it started: I had a big neurotic crisis after John and I got married. We had dated, even lived together for a long time, were best friends and all, but after we actually got married and returned from our honeymoon, I had an anxiety attack and impulsively wanted a divorce. I remember just feeling panic trying to breathe until I realized that my fear was because I believed that my dad controlled my mom with money. It was not new consciously, but on a visceral level marriage meant loss of freedom. Now conscious I could ask: “Does the situation really support this fear?” John is a Nine, which I had no ennea-language for at the time, but he has always supported my freedom and that has not changed. And, I had my own career, which my mother did not. I just needed to tell all that to the “inner child” and then it was good.
JL: My inner child has a hearing problem in this department and has a jaundiced view of my bright ideas, and it’s the yellow of bile, not of gold. Maybe my parents who had lost everything when they fled their country prior to the Iron Curtain falling, never expected to have a successful new beginning in a strange and bombed out post-WW2 country. It took my father 11 years to get out of the refugee camp and get a regular job. So my expectations were that money is unstable and it can be snuffed out in a flash. But life goes on, so you just pick yourself up, dust off and go forward with the next thing. So, playing in the stock market is an occupation that promises great returns at the price of risking to lose it all in a heartbeat. You could say it fits with type Seven.
CB: And clearly your family history, once you know what your growth edge is we use all these tools to go a little further and change things that are no longer helpful. We usually want to get rid of what we do and think of “the symptom” as bad but it is not so easy. Of course, as a therapist, I think transforming any “symptom” or problem is helped by finding the positive reason for it and making it conscious. For example, say someone can’t seem to stop over-spending and they really want to. I believe they really do want to, but also some part of them does not want to. So, how is over spending more important than stopping, because that is what they keep doing? We want to get the conflicts on the table so they can make a conscious choice. There is usually some motivation rooted in the family system.
JL: Ah, maybe that’s why we often have two minds about a decision.
CB: Sometimes it seems the family tribal brain opposes the “big brain” and what they want is contradictory. Anyway, my own little inner drama made me curious about how to work with money issues and relationships. So, after thinking about it, we invited a group of friends to work together on their money issues. Out of that I developed a framework for my money psychology groups. How do people work with money and what would they like to change about how they relate to money in their lives and relationships? Olivia Mellans’s book Money Harmony was in its workbook form at the time and it and was a great resource to everyone. I still use it to begin groups, but the major work is with Genograms. Later we were learning the Ennagram with some of the same people so it was fun to start applying it too.
JL: Did you find strong indications that our Enneagram type had a lot of bearing in how we deal with money?
CB: Sure. And some other Enneagram teachers have done a better job talking about this. I know Deborah Ooten did money panels at one of the IEA’s. Unfortunately, I missed this. Tom Condon has made mention of how money is expressed through Ennea-styles in the EM. He always has brilliant observations expressed creatively. Also, I have read ads from some folks in Boulder who are teaching the Enneagram with a money angle, maybe Lynne Foote? Not sure. Anyway, what I notice is probably pretty obvious, but:
Ones: Need to do the right thing with it. It’s about morals and ethics, fairness, comparing and mistakes.
Twos: Money is in the service of relationships and buying the special gift for the special person is likely to overrule any concern about the bank balance.
Threes: Money is attached to image. In our culture that probably means having a lot and being competitive, “I am the best with the most”, unless the Three identifies with a monkish group. But they are so good at manifesting and most of the New Age speaking circuit gurus are probably 3’s. It works for them. Others go broke.
Fours: Can have trouble finding ground in this mundane world of money. They might refuse to deal with it and flounder financially, or a good Three wing might help them acquire lots of money, fashionably expressed.
JL: I suppose the Renaissance idea of every artist relying on a rich sponsor didn’t come out of nowhere. Even Michelangelo (whatever his type, but one hell of an artist) could not survive on his own art and forged Greek statues for a living until someone sponsored him so he could do his own sculptures...anyway, that’s a gossip item among Florentine antique dealers.
CB: Speaking of “big brains”, do you think he was a Four? Such passion. Anyway, Fives generally may be compartmentalizing and withholding or might use their omniscience to know how to make a lot of money if it happens to interest them. Generosity might not be their first impulse, but once they get going or marry the right person they might be like Bill Gates.
Sixes: Doubt and anxiety play a role here with difficulty trusting others with money. They are likely to control it in relationships if counter-phobic, but if phobic might let others control it.
Sevens: Expansive vision in the service of not being limited — is this true for you?
JL: Well, for me it’s not about not being limited as much as I find dealing with money rather boring and secondary to the style how it’s acquired. In my late 20s I used to play poker on a regular basis and I’d go for the flamboyant play rather than the profitable one — it was expensive, but more fun.
CB: Mundane unless it is moving fast? Interesting, Some people say the addiction of gambling is the rush of losing. I am not saying that, just curious.
JL: I’d rather call it addiction to the hope of winning — a collateral benefit is the rush of the game. Be that as it may, I know of a foolproof system for a playful Seven to make a small fortune: “start with a large fortune....”
CB: To say something about each type, I think that for Eights: Money is an energetic field, a physical manifestation providing an anchor of safety in the world, my stuff. “No one can bully me now.” And, as Julia Foster says they can be “magnanimous.” And, Nines: Underlying belief of “I can’t know what I want” so they might avoid money or be passive aggressive or secretive. Right Action might empower them to create and be strong in expressing what they want.
JL: Provided the Nines are choosing the right action themselves instead of being “nudged” by circumstances into behaviors that would normally be completely out of character.
CB: Right, and, as I throw out these observations, as you point out, it is much more complicated. You have to consider the connecting points, the sub-types and all the causes and conditions that go into how this individual expresses their type. It’s helpful to see the Enneagram patterns and motivations, but even more so the spiritual resources for working with change. My workshops start with “what do you as an individual want to change? Let’s see how money psychology travels through your family system and how your family system fit in the cultural context and history.” I don’t focus on the Enneagram style in this work initially, but wait until it seems relevant.
JL: How would that change business happen?
CB: For example, I was invited to do a group in Wyoming a few years ago and they knew the Enneagram and were already making use of it. Two of the participants were a very successful physician and his wife. He was a Self-Pres Seven. The presenting issue was his anxiety about their new home. I guess it was pretty big and fancy and he was uncomfortable in it and wanted to sell it and move back to their old more modest home. His wife, a Social Three, had worked along with him to build their wealth and she was totally happy in this new house which she helped design. Her happiest childhood memories were of extended family getting together year after year in an aunt and uncle’s big house. For her, this house promised to provide this kind of space and be a symbol of their success. Both came from very poor backgrounds. His father died when he was a boy and was mentored by a group of elders in the rural area of his family roots, perhaps “like minded defenders”. These men made loans to young people for college. In exchange, it was understood that they would in some way help the community in return. Wealth in this culture was not displayed. He actually had not taken their money, but the genogram revealed his deep loyalty and identification with their values. His anxiety was replaced with tears when we got to this hot spot on the map. Out of the insights or dilemmas that are revealed, I made individual suggestions about ways to work out unfinished business. I suggested he have an imaginary conversation with them about the house and ask for their blessing on his life. Out of this he recognized some ways he could give back to the community. In that case, his fears of being trapped, his loyalty to roots and his spiritual resource of “holy work” came into play. They were able to make use of their Enneagram styles in the larger context of understanding all the dynamics. As far as I know they stayed in the house.
JL: I hope their house was not foreclosed and now it’s us bailing them out with our taxes... that reminds me why I may find money boring, or rather feel some disdain towards it. At times after reckless spending or losing, I trained myself not to be sorry about it. I can see how it fits in my own Genogram. My parents had lost everything material after the war and all my father had of value was his “word” or sense of pride/ethics/values — that was the one thing the Russians or the Germans could not take. So I was taught that in order of importance material values are at the bottom of what’s precious in life. It’s much easier to make and lose a fortune (or a living) than it is to develop wisdom, character, virtue etc. Such things are like a reputation that took a lifetime to build but can be lost with a single sleazy act.
Then there is always the underlying sense of impermanence at the root of what plagues Sevens and fuels gluttony. That’s why epicureans are known to grasp at the finer things in life lest they slip away...
CB: Seven envy here! And if you know the types of your ancestors as well as their story you can see the gestalt in a way that honors their gifts and gets you free of their limitations. This is a good thing yes? In genogram work when you know or have a good guess about the style of any of the players this deepens how you might really get them and their relationships. Used well, the Enneagram makes it “3 D” For example, “What was it like to be the 7th child and only son during the Depression while the family is evicted and there is not enough to eat?” It’s a lot of information already and then add to it that they are an Eight, or Nine, or whatever Ennea-style. You start to really imagine who they were. What helped them survive or thrive or become alcoholic or be confused? The more we know about the causes and conditions of others who’s unfinished business you may carry, the clearer it is that it’s not personal to us. Of course, everyone’s relationship with money is influenced by and filtered through Enneagram style, but when people take the Enneagram too much out of context it loses its juice. It is fascinating how money dynamics are perpetuated through the generations unconsciously. Sometimes you need to expose and work with what I call “loyalty binds” so people can get free.
JL: That’s a new concept for me,
CB: If it’s OK I can give a couple more examples.
JL: Yes please.
CB: The first comes from work with a church group in Colorado Springs a few years ago. The first evening is an introduction to money styles and the myths that often drive them. A middle-aged couple was there to work on their communication. They were stuck in their money management communication, i.e., she was spending, giving and avoiding and he was frustrated. He felt they needed to save more for retirement. She was in tears saying, “I hate rich people” Very juicy! She, we’ll call her Susan, agreed to be my demo Genogram person the next day.
Susan’s paternal grandmother was very wealthy and competitive. She used this to dominate people, deciding who would get money and what they would do for it. She experienced this grandmother as cold and mean and she resented her. Her maternal grandmother was more nurturing, very poor and overlooked by the family. Susan felt this injustice, idealized maternal grandma and was loyal to her. On some level if she allowed herself financial success she felt her paternal grandmother would win and she would betray her maternal grandmother. By sabotaging any acquisition she got she was loyal to her poor grandmother and paying back the wealthy one by rejecting her values. Both grandmothers were now dead and how she carried their unfinished business was preventing her from being loyal to her marriage and self-interest in the present. That is the loyalty bind.
The Genogram revealed quite a context. The wealthy grandmother had barely escaped the Armenian massacre as a young woman. She immigrated to the U.S. and not only survived but re-built the family legacy of wealth. Rich grandma was being loyal to murdered relatives while reclaiming their legacy. Of course, the qualities that allowed her to make this happen were the same qualities that made her controlling and insensitive. We might guess her possible types but don’t really know.
It was not that the facts were new to Susan. She was supplying me the information, but when she was able to see the net of relationships and get the group’s insight and perspective about how her grandmother was reacting from her own powerlessness and family loyalty, it allowed her to replace the hate with compassion. In this she also released the hold her interpretation of both grandmothers had on her finances, allowing individuation and valuable developmental steps for living as a free grownup.
JL: Susan sounds like a heart type.
CB: Susan did not know the Enneagram, but I am pretty sure she was a Four. She had a flamboyant, artistic style and did not want to deal with the mundane quality of money. Only deep feelings and emotions mattered, and she was fairly dramatic in her history of getting rid of it. It seemed the work was transformative for this couple though I can imagine they still had issues the Enneagram might have helped with.
JL: It’s amazing how reactive we are to our upbringing. We follow family patterns, often blindly due to closeness. We can see similar patterns in society. For example, the so called “great generation” of our parents were deprived by depression, then got crushed by the war. They reacted by hunkering down and working hard on rebuilding the material losses. This focus on material i.e. security came at the expense of idealism. Their kids, the baby boomers or the 60’s generation, rebelled against so much materialism by seeking idealism (utopian or not); for many it meant losing the distinction between being responsible and serious seekers after truth and narcissistic libertines intent on personal gratification.
CB: OK, just so you know the 60s is where I came up and I think there was a lot of good in it. But, your point is well taken. I think we traded our idealism for drugs, and that was sad. When you make a genogram, make a time line to one side of the map to show all the generational and big picture stuff. There are generational differences we forget. One of my friend’s, let’s call her Anne, father grew up in poverty, but he had a talent for making money. In some ways his life supports the bootstrap myth. He was hard working, bright and lucky enough to have a wealthy uncle who would pay his college tuition to a good private university, allowing her father to study business.
JL: What was his area of expertise?
CB: He recognized the potential in seemingly worthless pieces of real estate and used his business savvy to leverage a purchase with little down and later sell it at a good profit. He was a Five with a nice dose of omniscience. Any time he came close to making a truly large amount of money, he would sabotage himself by engaging in obviously disastrous business deals. He favored making bad loans. This kept their family on the edge with a general anxiety that poverty was just over the next hill, despite appearances. This stress periodically ignited the smoldering anger underlying her parents’ marriage and they would occasionally come close to divorce over money. Anne’s mother was a Self Preservation Two: not only was he messing with her security, but also there were all these relationship dynamics that she was being left out of.
JL: Hmm, courting disaster with bad loans sounds like what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did to our economy.
CB: Yeah, I wonder about their motivation too. Hungry ghosts. In Anne’s dad’s case, his self-sabotaging was as logically incongruous as it was consistent. Any time he came close to making a lot of money, he would sabotage it. The little she knew about his family history, suggests he carried guilt for having more financial success than his five brothers. His gambler dad abandoned them, on a good run. The single mom and five boys lived in poverty. He was the only child to take advantage of a wealthy uncle’s promise to pay for college if they had the grades to get in. There was some resentment and estrangement, leaving them remote strangers to her.
JL: Did he flaunt his success to fan the resentment?
CB: No, and he never allowed himself to have any appearance of luxury. He was a classic Five in that way. Following his death, each of his children received an inheritance. Within weeks, Anne responded to this gift by engaging in a self-destructive business deal. Her sister did the same, acting independently, seemingly in parallel trances, and within days of each other. Both were making self defeating choices rooted in misplaced loyalty. When what you want for yourself and what seems to make sense, is usurped by a stronger choice driven by relationship and emotional history it can be an unconscious loyalty bind. On the surface the decisions they drive make no sense, but when we examine the family system and see how patterns repeat themselves through generations, their strange logic becomes as clear as a poem understood. Anne’s father was loyal to his father and his daughters were each loyal to him.
Anne is a One, so she was really critical of herself. Her sister, a Six, saw it as confirmation that the world is full of treachery and trust will always lead to disaster. So they would carry forward the experience in very different ways.
JL: How so?
CB: Each was unconsciously showing their loyalty to their father by acting in a way they had consciously been critical of him for. Anne talked about it as it was happening, the anxiety and sleeplessness was unbearable. When she did not listen to her gut, or her friends, nightmares gave her clear warnings. We were in a dream group together at the time. It was obvious to everyone, but she was guided by something else. The unlived lives and unfinished issues are always being played out in our lives.
JL: And you say this often happens without us having a clue why or where something came from? I suppose it’s not just a mechanism to repress painful memories and works with positive experiences too.
CB: Sure, but we take those for granted because we like their effect. A more positive family transmission might be, for example, you enjoyed painting as most five year olds do. Perhaps your artistic efforts were a special delight to your grandmother and she encouraged you to pursue a career in painting. Of course, she sees your talent! And you became an artist.
JL: Grandma may have had her own motive to like art...
CB: Because she was quiet about her past, you might never know that her beloved father also had a talent and a passion for painting. Or that he gave it up to support his family by working in the coal mines during the Depression. He was a hard worker and a good provider but never got back to painting. You might never know that your grandmother and he had a sweet and special relationship and she knew he loved art. He died of lung disease when your grand mother was just 13.
JL: I wouldn’t have known that.
CB: All you know is her eyes light up when she sees your art. You internalize this positive feeling, associating it with painting and it feeds your career as an artist. You paint for yourself, of course, and for your grandmother, but something more is also being healed through your work. Your grandfather’s unlived life is being allowed.
JL: That’s how unbeknownst to us karmas are driving many of our behaviors and most of them did not even originate from any of our own action. Any alteration of the course of life with the figures in our past would have changed our current state as much as any effort might on our side.
CB: Exactly so, and we are lucky enough to know if we can act from consciousness it can make such a good difference.
JL: I wonder if lack of consciousness could also explain why some folks go on shows like American Idol and make complete fools of themselves, all along convinced they were brimming with talent...
CB: Oh, I feel their pain, it is not entertaining at all. But, lets run a less positive artist scenario. Different family, same level of artistic talent. Your grandfather painted, failed to make a decent living, and drank himself into early death. Your widowed grandmother married again, this time to a hard working businessman. Perhaps she did not love this man so much as she had the artist, but this time she would be practical. Your stepfather brings no children to this marriage and he favors your father.
Deeply loyal, your father grows the family business he inherits into a successful chain. A serious man, he works hard and takes care of his family and keeps his feelings to himself. You never learn much about his life passion beyond duty.
JL: Let’s say I’m still drawn to painting.
CB: Your art is met with sad eyes by your grandmother and ignored by your father. It is not like anyone says you can’t have that, you just know. You may even feel a vague shame about your efforts. So, you “set aside childish dreams” join the family business and perhaps drink a little too much.
JL: Clueless of the roots of my own inner discontent I’d assume that my choices in life were my own.
CB: On the surface, all options seemed open, but in another way, art threatened to expose grief and guilt in the family system. There is more to inheritances than the obvious material passed down.
JL: Oh what a tangled web we weave...or rather, was woven for us by our past environment and we just lie in this hammock thinking we made our own bed... is that one or two metaphors too many?
CB: I don’t know, but we can influence the future, right?
JL: I imagine that the first impulse after reading up on the Enneagram is to figure out which type fits us and then to proceed mapping our important relationships, musing about which traits are type-based and which are not, examining our intimate relationship dynamics, etc. To make a connection with financial issues is rare and few enneagrammers have written about it. Even culturally, we have been prodded much more to be open about sexual matters than about money habits — it’s still out there like the last frontier to be explored.
CB: Absolutely, the money traumas can be very deep and buried. I have been thinking of social class lately and how people are unconscious to its impact and how it makes them feel more or less important.
JL: When you say social class do you mean it, as it is understood in America, that is, largely economical and maybe distinguishing between old and new money?
CB: Well, I’m familiar with the American way, of course, and I think that money gives people unfounded credibility in the dominant culture. That influences how you express your type too.
JL: As an ex-European I found Americans refreshingly less locked into intricate class structures. Success, influence and money play a larger role than blue blood, tradition, history, ethnicity or culture — things that splinter Europeans into a kaleidoscope of classes. Maybe it’s the nature of young cultures where immigrants started on a par from “scratch” and had only a few generations to establish traditions. Australians, Canadians and Americans are much more fluid and au naturel in this regard when compared to old and crusty cultures with grooves carved deep over many centuries...
CB: Are we fluid? It would be interesting to do your money Genogram given that you have been through so much in early childhood and moved around a lot.
JL: I meant fluid in the sense of being mobile. Europeans are much more constrained by bureaucratic shackles and traditions. In my case, after 25+ years in the USA, I guess all that hubbub would make it harder to trace which influence is at the helm. So instead of peace of mind and a decent nest egg I’ve been on a ride that at times was as “precarious as an elephant hanging over a cliff’s edge with its tail tied to a daisy.” It began early with “entrepreneurial” stuff in post-war Europe. As kids we were playing among bombed out ruins always with an eye for live or spent ammo or bomb fragments that we could gainfully recycle as scrap metal or have fun blowing up.
CB: Told like a true Seven! That’s where the Enneagram meets with the family history and I can see how you would become a libertarian with your family seeing the worst of any other ideology.
JL: Yes indeed, it put a crimp into my ability to have faith in government or working in a structured setting. That forced me to make a living on my own, albeit on quirky terms accepting higher risk over more security whenever it came at a cost of submission to authority. Now I prefer tinkering in the stock market where I’m dealing with impersonal forces I can’t control, but they can’t control me either unless I allow it. It’s a game based on my ability to make good choices that decides whether it’s chicken or feathers for dinner. It fits with the feeling that nothing in life is guaranteed and ultimately impermanent...aside from the monthly deadlines. That’s why producing this paper acts as an anchor to regularity and stability.
CB: I think that subtype plays into it very strongly, like, what are your fears and how do you use money in that way? I think that’s even stronger than type. JL: Do you see subtype as linked to type, the way Oscar Ichazo describes them? According to him head types are spawned by the Social, Heart types by the Relational and Gut types by the Self-preservation instincts? Or do you see all types as having any subtype?
CB: I think we are born a type and then the subtype is more environmental.
JL: That makes sense, but Ichazo’s theory does too. Apparently the average person does use all three instincts, albeit not in equal measure. So the overall dominant instinct could be the underlying force that culled our type, while subsequently, our changing circumstances may require relying more on a different instinct. For example, times of war or hardship activate the self-pres instinct. During times of family collapse much attention is absorbed by the relational instinct. The social comes to the surface when we need to adapt to a group or in matters such as politics. Of course, if our birth instinct and the environmental demands coincide, we’ll probably have a strong and clear instinctual orientation.
CB: In my own case, I’m a Self-Pres and it was part of what the family culture was. Also, I only fully understood my Enneagram type after I got the subtype thing, and then it made sense. I’m almost more self-pres than One. I’m just a lot more concerned with my survival and whether I get what I need than with my social standing, although my intimate relationships are deeply important and I probably care more what people think than I like to admit. So, I hope people don’t think badly of me after this interview. It could affect my self-preservation. Back to that, my parents went heavily through the Depression and I carried that like it was mine.
But the Enneagram affects money styles and I’d guess that Sevens would be more expansive, maybe playful and philosophical about it. Would that be true for you too?
CB: But, unless you have people on a panel and you are asking Enneagram questions, people of the same type can look really different. For example, I have known Sevens who are weirdly cheap and secretive about money and Sevens who are so expansive and free with money they become bankrupt. The common ground would be a motivation to avoid being limited. Understanding the motivation is what allows compassion for them and for us. What am I doing, is it working, and how can I respect the motivation that drives it, but change it if I need to? That is an internal loyalty bind — I am loyal to a vow I made as a child, but it no longer makes sense. Like the granddaughter of the Armenian grandma, or me after I got married.
JL: I always assumed that Ones have a natural inclination being organized in financial matters. Is that so for you?
CB: I think that some Ones can be a lot more confident about money than I am. I hate details, and before I married I kept 2 checkbooks with different banks so I could trade off and never have to balance either. And, as long as I am telling on myself, I always sort of make sure that I don’t have too much money.
JL: Ah, so your Self-Pres goes both ways, seeing danger in too much as well as in too little. Does that happen instinctively, like when you have too much it burns a hole in your pocket?
JL: Do you then give it away or spend it?
CB: Hmm, I tend to give it and also just slow down and make less.
JL: Does guilt of having more than your fair share enter into consideration?
CB: Yes, definitely there is that, and for whatever reason when I think I have enough, my interest drops off and I start doing more things with art...and there is no money in that.
JL: Being an artist and broke seems to be a natural combo. It’s as if nature decided that “too much of a good thing is not healthy” so to save your soul and keep you strong one of the two has to go. Other types that are less artistically oriented have less guilt issues. I can easily imagine enough money to stop striving for more, but there is not a trace of guilt should it be way too much rather than just enough. I could for once enjoy the luxury to give more to worthy causes.
CB: For example, Eights like to amass and are comfortable doing it and with the power it brings. There is a confidence, but you may run into others that go against this pattern. One of my best friends is a Five and she’s one of the most expansive acquisitive people that I know. She’s always getting more stuff. Her husband’s a One and they meet at Seven and they’re always buying stuff, the best of everything and more. They’d open four bottles of wine for a dinner with four people. Not very Five-like on the surface. Big Four wing and huge internal connection to Seven and Eight.
JL: There is a hoarding or collector aspect to Five.
CB: Yes, but it’s not a minimalization sort of thing. It’s more expansive, but they’re both in their connecting points at Seven and Eight and they really come into play too.
JL: You did write about family dynamics and does money play into that? CB: Yes definitely. Money is one line of inquiry into your family and it’s a hot line because it’s so important to us. People don’t like to talk about it. One woman told me she went on a first date and they were talking about sex, sharing hang-ups and she asked if he would be willing to tell her how much money he made. He said no. It is a big secret! Actually that makes me think of one of Judith Searle’s funny and wise poems, you should ask her if you could publish it.
JL: Yes I’ll mention it to Judith. About the secretiveness around money, a good friend who is rich found that as soon as folks know he has a lot of money their behavior would change. The relationship could become muddled so that he’d no longer be sure if they’re relating to him as a person or to his money. Sex is different in that you can’t claim to be a super lover if you’re not. It would become apparent as soon as it’s tested. But, you can keep the appearance of being rich (or poor) up for much longer. Another alternative is you were brought up as a good Catholic and you could not freely talk about sex or money.
CB: Ha, ha, I went to a Catholic school too – so we know how bad we are – yes?
JL: Has your money neurosis been improved by all the attention?
CB: Yes, I have a friendly relationship with myself, spiritually and psychologically, about it. I am perhaps a little better with actually managing it in the concrete world. I don’t like to be limited and try to keep myself in a position where I see how it is important but not too important. That is easy because we have flow, if circumstances get hard I imagine I will struggle not to be crazy. I believe there is too much romancing of the “Great Depression” especially by some politicians who seem to want to help us experience it again.
JL: Well, most likely it will work according to the saying: “It’s never as bad as we think it is, and, it’s never as good as we think it is.”
CB: I like this! Thank you so much for inviting me to this conversation. It is not hard to do this work, if anyone is interested there are suggested resources on my web page and if you can find a group of friends to join you it is even better. Of course, if people have extra money and want a facilitator, I am available!