Impact of the credit crunch: a therapist's eye view
Psychotherapists and counsellors do not just focus on our individual or group clients.
Many of us are also interested in researching and observing aspects of the 'bigger picture'.
When a major social, cultural political trend or event starts to affect our clients we like to look at the macrocosm, for while we are committed to treating everyone as the unique individual he or she is, we also know that we live in an extremely connected civilisation and the affect of national and global shifts in awareness, belief systems and the impact of major events can produce similar responses in all of us.
I remember I was just beginning to practice during the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Of course, things have changed in some ways radically since then. If we are to slide into a challenging period for the average person financially, it will be different in detail.
What won't change in my experience, and my view, is the way people will begin to react to loss, hardship, disappointment and all the other negatives which are bound to come with any kind of economic crisis.
One thing I noticed, and in fact am beginning to notice now, is that people start to feel differently about themselves when they are either temporarily or permanently deprived of the opportunity to define themselves via the acquisition of wealth and possessions.
Some people slip into depression. Others become angry and feel a sense of injustice. Others begin to compromise ethics. Others go into denial, or blame others, often those close to them. Stress and irritability begin to get dumped on to others, work colleagues, partners, friends and family.
Substance misuse and the diversion from reality from entertainment, sports and other feelgood activities often increase, the 'spend' now available being diverted from other things in our budgets.
But mostly, people begin to substitute different values. When money is tight, the attention begins to turn to other sources of validation and nourishment.
This can mean an improvement in relationships, or perhaps the breakdown of a relationship that was only strong so long as the couple did not face financial challenges.
Counsellors and therapists are already reporting a growing client group which has chosen this time to process issues apparently long standing, but which have now been brought to the forefront by the shift in financial circumstance.
Our 'stuff', our beliefs, our habits, attitudes, our 'programming' will certainly determine how we respond to and deal with a whole range of life's challenges.
Since money, wealth, security and the acquisition of possessions certainly in the First World are now so inherently embedded in our sense of Self for many people, therapists are expecting an interesting time ahead.
Many many people do not have strong relational links with others, many have little experience of living without wealth, others have routinely substituted money, possessions and expensive activities for making nourishing and meaningful bonds with other people.
Others have no spiritual beliefs, religious allegiances or a cohesive set of inviolable givens about how to be part of a family or community.
When money becomes harder to acquire, or wealth disappears overnight, people in the above categories find themselves in unfamiliar territory and thiscan be extremely frightening.
There are myriad aspects to the development of the Self, and in a culture where people no longer live in static family or community units, where mobility is extreme, loyalty and commitment are very negotiable and being centred in Who you Are is increasingly substituted with being centred in Who others Want you to Be, a serious economic crisis is likely to reveal a lot of psychoemotional difficulties.
I would not wish to be full of gloom and doom.
There is no doubt that many people will survive, some will really grow and enrich their spiritual and family lives in the absence of money and consumption, and undoubtedly, as in every painful and initially frightening set of circumstances, small increments of improvement to the Human Condition are bound to result!
We're on the brink of a possible second order change in the US administration, the Global financial system, the way we are managing our enviroment and the growing realisation that everyone on the Planet really is connected to everyone else.
I am not feeling negative about what may happen in the next couple of years, but I am preparing to work with people who may be encountering real difficulties, and a sudden sense of disempowerment, temporarily, for the first time in their lives.
But I also know that all of us that value and find joy in counselling will be successful in supporting and processing these new challenges with our clients.
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Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
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