Loyalty can be a truly wonderful thing—on both the giving and receiving side—and like most things, being loyal can lead to some negative results. The misplaced loyalty knot I’d like to talk about is all tangled up with biology and anthropology.
It starts before we are born. On the biology side it really stems from those big brains we have—or rather how much more growing they need to do after we are born. We have to be cared for by the parent for a much longer time compared to many other species. It’s not just about walking and talking, it’s also about the complexity of human society. We need to learn how to communicate and behave. All very complex things going on in a brain that isn’t really ‘grown’ until early adulthood—despite our strong teenage opinions!
We have tons of things to learn, and we learn those things from our parents. To make that learning more effective we are biologically hard-wired to be loyal to the parent. We take whatever they say or do as the “gospel truth” when we are little. We HAVE to! They are our protection from danger, our source of food, and our primary source of knowledge. We absolutely cannot afford to piss them off—they might abandon us! And if they did that, we would die. That is as true for us today as it was when we humans were hunter/gatherers long ago.
That hard-wired loyalty has a bit of a dark side though. When it comes to money it gets messy. And around money, all that loyalty creates huge problems for generation after generation. It’s that thing where we don’t talk about money since it’s so taboo! We learn about money without any actual training, by observation only and thus we absorb and create many odd ideas. Not only are the ideas a bit strange but they are hidden—we aren’t conscious of them.
This misplaced loyalty creates a bunch of strange results:
- If your parents fought about money you will likely fight with your spouse about money.
- If your parents fought about money you may very well decide that money is evil and bad, and make sure to have as little of it as possible.
- Women will often unconsciously make sure they do not make more money than they perceived their fathers did as some kind of loyalty.
- Perhaps the only way your parents expressed affection was with money, so that’s the currency for you to give or receive affection.
On and on it goes, and we don’t actually consciously recognize we are caught in these old familial traps around money because they somehow just “are”—they are so ingrained in our brains we have never ventured to distinguish and analyze them.
That is exactly what I would invite you to do! Spend some time thinking about—maybe even journaling—about you and your money. Do some digging. See how what you are doing with money relates to how your family handled and talked about it. You’ll find that you are doing something very similar to what you perceived your parents did, or you are doing the opposite of what they did. The ‘perceived‘ word is in there because the topic is so taboo you probably don’t know what they actually did with money You only know how you percieved what you saw and heard around money.
It’s a knot well worth untangling because this misplaced loyalty has been influencing your relationship with money all your life. If you look more closely at it you can then make a choice to keep it or change it. That’s the problem with taboo things that never get discussed. We don’t even recognize we are caught in them, let alone that we have a choice. Give yourself the choice!
Shell Tain, The Untangler
If you’d like some support understanding how this loyalty piece played out in your family, just give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com.