Money is like an Eating Disorder

Recently, I interviewed Geneen Roth, author of the new book Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Money and Food (podcast on Divination.com). Hers is the moving story of how, after decades of struggling with (and overcoming) eating disorders, she discovered that the same dynamics were also present in her unconscious relationship with money, and causing her as much psychological pain.

In Ms. Roth’s case, the trigger event that led her to realize her dynamics around money was losing her family’s entire life savings of 30 years to the swindler, Bernie Madoff — a fascinating wake-up call of a tale in itself. The book swings between her true story and the profound learnings that came out of it — lessons that actually apply to most of us.

People deal with money the way they deal with food, she says. Diet and binge translates to scrimp and splurge. No matter how much is available, we feel and act as if there is never enough and we worry about running out. Financial advisors report that even the very rich want to have twice of what they have now, no matter how much that is.

We need to take a look at this “accumulation sickness” — our demand for “more, more, more” (whether it be for money, food or even attention) — because our competitive greed is making us and our planet sick. One chapter of her book is dedicated to the concept of “What is enough?” If we are so driven for more that we never feel contentment, what about our capacity to feel love, gratitude and serenity?

This book helped me to take a fresh look at what money is and how we change our way of thinking for the sake of our own health and happiness. For most of us who are not starving, whether we think we have “enough” or not is essentially a psychological and spiritual problem.

For more, check out the interview via free download or iTunes.

3 thoughts on “Money is like an Eating Disorder

  1. I do wonder if it’s safe to say that for so many of us in this expensive nation, where there’s little safety net, where basic health care for a self-employed person can cost well over $1,000 a month, rent well over $1,000 a month if you want to live in some semblance of a safe neighborhood, other basic costs — cars, gas food, schooling for children, insurance, savings for college and retirement, savings for emergencies and other miscellaneous contingencies, clothes and other necessities parents and kids — for another $3,000 to $4,000 a month, that most would love to engage in a discussion about ‘what is enough,’ if they only had enough time. Most, though, arguably seem only just able to keep their heads above water, even when working two and even three jobs just to barely make ends meet. It can be a challenge to take a fresh look at money when the stale fact is that one’s income cannot be stretched out sufficiently to meet basic living needs. So I’m just not sure that setting the benchmark at ‘not starving’ is a fair one for making the issue of what money is tantamount to a spiritual and psychological problem. I wonder if the benchmark, instead, should be set at making ends meet, and then exploring what this can amount to, what constitutes the spiritual and psychological dimensions of ‘enough’, and what other existential dimensions might also come into play when discussing this most important issue you raised of ‘what is enough?’

  2. The issue of “lack,” which is what this is, is a spiritual issue. Ultimately, it is about lack of trust that the Universe will provide for us. There is enough for everyone, all the time. But if we distrust this, if we don’t believe it, then we cut off the flow. We are living in fear. And then the hoarding kicks in for some of us. Lack of trust is also about control, because we desperately want to control our world. And we don’t. The only thing that we control is our reactions and our thoughts. That is it. Trust has come hard for me, but I’m finally able to do it. My control issues want to take charge, and my ego thinks it needs to fill itself with food, money, anything external. But this is not truth. This is not real. I must be filled from within. I must find my own worth. I must know my own divinity and trust in that. My wealth does not lie in anything external to my being.

    1. I am totally agreeing with you. Fear of “lack” is nothing more than a desire for control, rather than letting go and trusting the One creator. Beacuse we have been taught to control our lives, and we confuse our Self with our capacity to control, we have dug ourselves in too deeply in the illusion of control. Letting go is hard. I am able to do it sometimes, others not so much. So far I continue to trade lack of food for lack of money for lack of objects,like fashinable shoes. In the end it is all a false need to control and a lack of trust in the prefect flow of life.

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