Money and the Fear of Death

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I recently got re-certified as a Neurotransformational coach, which is all about the brain science of how you create the changes you want in your life. What has become increasingly clear is that “who” we are being is the key to bringing forth and sustaining positive results.

My brilliant mentors Ann Betz and Ursula Pottinger have identified seven levels of consciousness, a measure of “who” you are being from moment to moment, ranging from the lowest energy to the highest.  They are:

1. Hopelessness

2. Fear

3. Frustration

4. Courage

5. Engagement

6. Innovation

7. Synchronicity

When you are in a state of fear, for example, the part of your brain that is most active is the older, survival oriented, reptilian amygdala, and your nervous system is typically flooded with fight or flight hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.  The constant stress of modern lifestyles plus a 24/7 input of largely negative messages from media keeps you in what we call an amygdala hijack state, and makes it difficult to access the higher creative functioning of the pre-frontal cortex.  (Cavemen didn’t invent the bow and arrow while they were running away from lions.)

Although scary things do happen, for the most part, society functions well enough and 99.9% of us make it through the day just fine.  Though fear can be understood in the context of the acronym, False Expectations Appearing Real, it nevertheless feels real in our bodies.  Our brains, ever the problem solving machines, try to fix the problem.  Your brain reasons, if you are feeling afraid, then what you need is safety, right?  And in our capitalistic-based reality, more money theoretically equals more safety. 

If you are reading this, you surely have a roof over your head, food in the refrigerator, and your safety and survival is not in danger.  Which isn’t to say you wouldn’t enjoy having more money and what it can buy, but you certainly don’t need it, not in a way that would justify the level of anxiety most people (including myself) regularly feel around money. And getting more money only assuages the anxiety temporarily.  This regularly happens for me when I get a new client, and I relax for a day or two, only to feel the drumbeat of fear getting louder with each day that passes that I don’t get another new client.

I have come to believe that my fear around money is largely my reptile brain’s way of trying to make me safe, and solve the unsolvable problem of my fear of death, since more money equals more safety.  So we spend our lives on the hamster wheel running faster and faster and never getting any closer to solving the problem (which is in fact, unsolvable).  In fact, having more money often creates even more anxiety around what it takes to keep it—and stay safe! And we waste our lives living in fear, and making less effective decisions from our reptilian brain, rather than our creative brain.

What do we do about our fear of death, then?  That’s real, right?

My spiritual practice aside, which tells me that I am an eternal being that is part of the never dying “all that is,” what’s real is that my body is going to die, and my body is afraid to die.

What’s needed is to release the fear from my body so that I can access higher brain states and focus on other things besides trying to solve the unsolvable.  I do this by naming it, feeling it, and accepting it.

I accept that I am afraid to die.  When I honor that fear today in my mind, I can release it today, because my mind knows I’m not going to die today.   (Of course, tomorrow will bring a new today to accept my fear of death all over again).

And if I’m not going to die today, and I release the fear that I am going to die today, then, from that place, who do I want to be today?  How do I want to live my life today?  What do I want to create today?

Those are great questions to bring to coaching.

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