The Origins of Money

Five thousand years ago, the people of Mesopotamia – who had already invented the wheel, were the first to plant grain crops and were responsible for the development of cursive script, mathematics and astronomy – began to make payments to each other.

The token they used to measure the balance of giving and receiving was Barley. One hundred and eighty grains, 11 grams of this precious resource was called a Shekel. These tokens of exchange could be used to measure value and ‘spent’ if you ate it – as bread, soup or a stew perhaps. Alternatively you could  ‘invest’ it by planting it and growing it into more tokens and resources.

Five thousand years later and in many different physical and virtual forms, money is vital to almost every society and has become so embedded in the way we think and behave that it has come to represent much more than a token of exchange. There is a sense of magic and mystery around money and that in turn acts as a catalyst for our projections onto it. The projections, identifications and entanglements make our relationship with it complex. Money was benign and inert, just a token, now it is deeply connected to our psychological and emotional well being and sense of self.

We use it, not just as a measure to balance an exchange for food and other things but also to measure and display our sense of self and our relationship with it. It’s become an entangled web.

This short article offers a systemic perspective on our relationship with money, abundance and the flow of life itself.

Money is neutral

It was Aristotle who first suggested that we think of money just as a neutral resource, rather like a heap of building materials that can be used well, to build a home or school perhaps, or wasted. Money itself, like building materials, tells us nothing about how to use it. You can turn a pile of bricks and wood into a beautiful home but you have to have learnt to look at the raw materials in a particular way and developed skillfull ways of using them to create this resourcing solution. Resources like bricks can, in the right hands, be turned into something beautiful that can be inhabited and support life and the flow of love. So it is with money.

Money is a belief system, that rather like all the different ideas about gods, invites our most vibrant projections, all our hopes and fears get projected and so it takes on its now life, but even though so many of us are busy projecting onto it like that, underneath its still just neutral.

If we can disentangle our complex relationship with money and restore its benign neutrality, its simple function as a resource and token of exchange, we may find that this affects our life, our intimate relationships and our work in a useful and generative way.

“When I have an idea about money, the idea will create an experience – and the experience will always reinforce the original idea.”

Peter Koenig

“Money has no moral opinions”

Abraham Polonsky

“All money is a matter of belief”

Adam Smith

From Pocket money ….

Our relationship with money is lifelong and is one of the subjects that is most often linked in complex ways to where we come from. Our family and social system-of-origin. For our family is where we first encounter ideas about abundance and money. We pick up all kinds of messages, many of them covert, about the family system relationship with abundance and money. Our parents’ decision about giving us ‘pocket money’ or not and the level of this compared to our siblings and friends become vitally important as we grow into young adults. It may become a measure of our self-worth and our sense of possibility as we grow up.

Money is a relationship and the way we relate to it often stems from the way our parents and their parents related to it and to us. We can look at the events surrounding its ebb and flow and see what patterns live there and then what more may be possible. We then have to look at our own thoughts and feelings around money and the place it has in our family and in ourselves.

There is for example often great shame in poverty and that can have a profound impact on a child’s self-esteem and subsequent relationship with money. There is also sometimes a great dignity in poverty and the children learn how to make their way in the world with grace and equanimity. Their relationship with money will be very different as a result. As a result of the many confusions around money we find many ways to declare ourselves unworthy or unable to have it around as a resource or friend, or blame it for our ills and woes. As a result we are not able to receive it or learn how to use it or grow it wisely.

All these patterns and more start in the family of origin.

Our first experience of it may be watching our parents or siblings using it to exchange for things they want in shops. We learn that playing ‘shopping’ is an effective way to feel like a grown up and, even though we are not quite sure what we are doing, we are learning about giving and recieving, about the balancing of exchange and about the worth of things. Then, when we are older, we may get given ‘pocket money’ and discover that it comes in instalments. We learn about spending and saving and the first time we see our parents or siblings argue is perhaps about this powerful thing called money. We pick up the unspoken attitudes and rules about money that our family share and we notice whether these attitudes are aligned with our own. We may align with the family rules or reject them. In between these two polaraties are all the shades of grey which with which we calibrate our belonging and our sense of self. We may notice that other members of our extended family system; uncles and aunts, cousins or grandparents for eaxmple have less or more than our family and this has meaning, changing attitudes, beahviour and how they are spoken of.

Money, we soon learn, is a serious business, something that has an almost magical power in and around our family system.

… to pension pot

As a result of the way that money and ideas about abundance are woven into the fabric of every family it is no surprise that we so easily project our hopes and fears onto it and give it meanings which we may carry all through our lives. The many meanings, hopes and fears around money often become negative or draining ‘life sentences’ or resourcing ‘sentences for life.’ These are not spoken outloud but internalised, deep within us. we only express them in our relationship with spending, saving and sharing money.

Some exampls of the kind of unconscious ‘sentences’ may include: ‘money is dangerous’; ‘money creates arguments’, ‘money is given as a sign of love’; ‘money is taken away when I’m bad, given when I’m good’; ‘money is not available for my family so we are less than….’;  ‘we have lots of money, so we are better than those people who don’t….’; ‘money will make me happy’; ‘When I have money I must give it away.’

Take a momnet to reflect on your own inner, just out of conscious awareness, ‘life sentences’ are around the subject of money. You may have some negative ‘life sentneces’ that hang around you like a weight and you may have some positive, affirming ‘sentneces for life’ which resource and enable you.

Money is all around us and as we age we start to think about how much of it we may need as we get older and then stop earning. Our later years may be spent worrying about money and how much we were able to save and what it costs to ‘live’ and/or how to leave a legacy for the next generation.

Our relationship with money starts at a yound age and is carried all the way to death. Its impact often reaches far beyond.

From pocket money to pension pot.

“Money in itself is never the problem. And money in itself is never the solution. The place to look for the origin of any problem, or its resolution, is in another place: a relationship. It is invariably a relationship that needs to be addressed.”

Peter Koenig

“Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself.”

Alan Watts

“Money is neutral and when we disentangle the meaning we have given it, an easy relationship with money can emerge.”

John Whittington

Money is life (after death)

Human beings are the only animal that understand that one day they will no longer exist. As a result many conceits, ideas and beliefs have developed designed to protect us from the inevitable feelings that arise as a result of this unique insight into our own fargility.

Religious beliefs of many kinds, alcohol and drgus, sex – the force that creates life – and money: all these are used and misuesd to defend against the inevitable. Money is linked to death in that people imagine that enormous sums of money may protect them from death, perhaps even create some kind of immortality.

Money can also be connected to a sense of how long we are ‘allowed’ to live. For example, people say ‘I have enough money to last me until I am 80 or 90’ as if to imply ‘and then I must die.’ These are deep inner patterns and promises that we make to oursleves. 

Whilst it’s true that large sums of money can ease the process of getting older and of dying it is of course a fantasy that it can protect. Very often those who imagine it can are the same people who have not been able to relax back into the resources in their family of origin. Money comes to represent all the qualities that were missing or were rejected: safety, comfort, life energy.

It’s clear to see how ancient people got money, death and the idea of an afterlife mixed up. It’s also possible to see that in contemporary individuals who amass large fortunes and spend a considerable amount of it building monuments and shrines that will, they hope, shield them from the final result of life. Death. Ancient civilizations believed that, if they amassed great wealth in life, they could take it with them into death and so live again.

Polish psychologist Tomasz Zaleskiewicz who conducted extensive research into the relationship between money and the fear of death argues that money is ‘an existential drug’ meaning that it has become a drug that relieves our existential angst and creates a kind of protective shield, a buffer between us and our fear of death.

Zaleskiewicz and his team asked half the participants to complete a survey about their anxiety around death at the start of the experiment. Then they were shown a series of coins and banknotes and asked to estimate their physical size. The group overestimated the size of the coins by more than the control group who had been asked to complete a survey about the fear of going to the dentist.

How much money does a person need to qualify as rich? The death group named a higher sum than the dental group.

A small sum of money now, or a slightly larger sum in the future? The death group were more inclined to take the money straight away.

The important point is that the people dwelling on death seem to be comforted by having money, not spending it. In the ‘small sum now or a larger sum later’ it wasn’t that people were considering one final blow out. In a further study by Zaleskiewicz and his team, when people were asked to fill in the death anxiety questionnaire and then imagine how they would deal with a surprise windfall, they allocated more to saving than to spending.

Abridged from ‘Mind Over Money’
by Claudia Hammond

Money is love

Blind loyalty

It can be challenging for adult children to be either happier or wealthier than their parents were able to become. Something deep inside, that protects our sense of belonging, the loyalty that protects our ‘personal conscience’ limits the movement forward. This dynamic is designed to maintain the natural order of things and keeps the parent ‘big’ and the child ‘small.’

We stay blindly loyal to these patterns in the hope of helping our ancestors and in fear of becoming ‘bigger’ than they were able. These simple acts of loyalty, of love actually, appear to respect our ancestors but usually limit us and keep us stuck. And our parents and ancestors don’t smile on us when we limit ourselves like that; they want us to thrive.

“Attracting and retaining enough money to resource yourself to enjoy the richness of life is challenging if your parents or ancestors struggled to create or keep enough.”

John Whittington

“You can’t have a healthy relationship with money unless you love it. If you’re running after it, or you hate it, it’s always going to be your enemy.”

Peter Koenig

‘Did you grow up in a family in which the norm was to watch every penny, never be frivolous? What then happens when you’re faced with a great business opportunity that involves taking some risk? Do you stay true to your family’s way and turn down the opportunity? Or do you ‘break’ the rule, take the risk in the hope that it could open the door to wonderful opportunities and experiences?’

Sarah Henbrey

“There is no growth without guilt”

Bert Hellinger

Becoming disloyal

Becoming aware of what dynamics live in our family system and seeing the effects the limitations have on our family and our life can create a spark of motivation to move beyond what seems engrained.

We can choose to step beyond the family conscience and its apparent limits and then to restore or rebuild our belonging, by inviting the system to participate in the success and shift.

People say, for example, ‘I watched my mother/father struggle without money and in that moment I made the choice to stop the suffering, make some money and make sure my family was taken care of.’ This can become a growth point for the expansion of the family conscience.

In the change, we want to be aware of what lives in our system and what needs to be resolved, respected or included, or we may rise fast only to do a ‘U turn’ at the point of success in blind loyalty to the suffering. However if we are respectful and

systemically mindful, we can find a place for everything and everybody and evolve new limits of a new conscience.

Resourced from behind

When we can see all that it took to bring us into life and find connection to the system by honouring what was given to us and growing it in our own ways, the sense of disloyalty can soften.

When we can see all that it took to bring us into life and find the connection to the system by honouring what was given to us and growing it in our own ways, the blind loyalty can turn into a respect and gratitude for those who made this possible and maximized their investment in us. Our loyalty can then be expressed as a legacy of love through growth and gratitude to the ones who got us here.

Taking steps forward in this way is not disloyalty but an expansion of the system. We are not leaving the family but leading the family into the new. This family system made our steps possible. We can look at those who came before us and say ‘Because of you – me’ and ‘Because of what you gave me, life itself, I have abundance and I will grow it and become a wise steward of what resources us.’

Then our parents and ancestors have their place, knowing that they were a part of our success and we in turn have permission to flourish.

This is about personal conscience. Personal conscience is the force that maintains the boundaries of our primary system, our family of origin. When we act in a way that is different to ‘the family way’ we endanger our belonging and feel guilty. But if we act in alignment with our parents and other ancestors we feel safe in our belonging and so feel innocent in relationship to the family/personal conscience. To grow we must be able to tolerate the feelings of guilt that come from that growth.

When we act in a way that is different to ‘the family way’, when we become guilty, we can do so in a way that shows courage, respect, acknowledgment and love and the ability to stretch for ourselves and the ones who will come after us. We can shift – from blind loyalty and the way it is in our families – to open eyes and wisdom, where all is seen and has its place…including money.

We can then mindfully create a new sense of belonging for us and those within our system. The whole system expands and grows with its dignity intact.

Looking at it in another way, we do our parents proud by doing better than they did. When they can see how what they have passed onto us is transformed and grown by us in the next generation, there is a feeling of doing something right. When we, the children, acknowledge what was passed onto us as well as the source, there is a settling of the system.

People often want to be able to get to the point where they can ‘forget about money’ and in doing so keep running away from it. To be able to ‘forget about it’ you first need to turn and face it and come into better relationship with it.

“Some people have a negative relationship with money in that they think it is inherently ‘bad’ or that people who have it are ‘bad people’. Later they may get involved with charity, church or other groups of belonging to do with helping and ‘doing good’. They may then find that their inner dismissal or disdain for money has a powerful limiting impact on their relationship to their work. They may keep themselves but also others away from money where it could have been very useful.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. It’s not love or money. You can have both together.”

John Whittington

“For those with personality types that are the same or very similar to their parent(s) then it’s natural and effortless for them to act in a very similar way. This natural, innate preference – discernible through a personality type framework like MBTI or The Enneagram – may however also cause powerful blind spots and limit the choices that they are able make. Blind loyalty limits growth and change”

John Whittington

“The polarities in relationship to parents and money are loyalty and disloyalty. The first leads us to manage money in a similar way to our parents and the second is an explicit push against that pattern. In between these two are many tensions pulling us this way and that as we struggle to find our own relationship with money; loyalty and disloyalty, abundance and flow.”

John Whittington

“Life is a game.
Money is how we keep score.”

Ted Turner

“Money is probably the most successful story ever told – because its the only story almost everybody believes. But if you look at the reality of money then the paper bills themselves are worthless. They become valuable only when someone comes along and tells us a story about them – and as long as everybody believes the same story I can take this worthless piece of paper and go to a complete stranger and get something in exchange.”

Noah Harari, author ‘Sapiens’

To live life fully, to allow ourselves to be happy, successful and enjoy abundance we must first return to our parents what is theirs to carry, take what is ours to grow and respectfully separate from our hidden loyalty to them.

“It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think that they can be happy without money.”

Albert Camus

Money Workshops

Forge your own conscious relationship with money and abundance

with John Whittington in London, UK
with Judy Wilkins-Smith in Florida, USA

Money can disrupt the flow of love in family systems

Trans generational debts

When someone in our ancestral field lost (or gained) a substantial amount of money it creates a story and a dynamic which gets passed down through the generations. That story often becomes our truth, our trap and our burden, locked in a repeating pattern until we are willing to look and change our understanding and direction.

For example we may give money away to be loyal to our grandfather who went out of business before we were born. Or we may hoard it out of a hidden loyalty to a parent who lost their money when we were young or ancestors who lost everything.

“If you give money away, if you keep giving it away ask ‘For whom are you atoning?’ If you feel compelled to give it away in service of something – who are you really trying to help?”

Judy Wilkins-Smith

“Nothing influences children more than the silent facts in the background”

Carl Jung

We may become entangled with a parent or grandparent who we sensed needed help – with their life or their money. We may find ourselves in a helping profession, or being overly helpful to others we work or live with, in order to try and get the balance of giving and taking, of exchange, in better balance. We may find ourselves working in non-profit organisations, as though money were an enigma and pariah, wanted yet excluded.

Inheritance Dynamics

The dynamics around the death of a parent or other relative are complex enough and filled with often conflicting emotions. This becomes more complex when money is involved and the subject of inheritance arises in the family system.

When an amount of money is passed down a generation in a planned way and there is a healthy connection and conversation about it amongst all involved then love and money can flow onwards. This is however often not the case, and painful patterns can surface.

Obligations of inheritance

There can be a sense of obligation when a large sum is inherited and it is helpful to see if this is linked to a hidden loyalty or an event where this was not handled well. Sometimes, the sense of obligation can feel urgent or heightened and this tends to signal a clue that something is wanting to be balanced or included

There is actually more of an opportunity than an obligation and that’s where the transformation lies. When the inheritance is handled well, all feel seen and included. This in turn creates a sense of belonging and if done with a sense of what is expected from each member in return for the inheritance, discretionary energy and collaboration with balance and growth may result.

A large inheritance has to be managed very carefully so that the balance of love and money is maintained on all levels. Now and going forward. Built systemically, the whole family can grow and flourish.

The impact of dis-inheritance

✣ Family systems are balanced and sustained by forces, like gravity, which are attempting to align with consistent sets of underlying principles and dynamics pertinent to each system. To understand their origin and subsequent language is to understand the nature of money in that specific system.

✣ Often the dis-inheritance is not first generation. It’s a repeating pattern being played out for generations until somebody breaks the cycle and creates a re-solution.

✣ When a child is disinherited, siblings often repeat the pattern and cut each other off for successive generations. We may see generations of siblings who do not speak to each other or get along and have inexplicable anger and resentment, as though they were feeling the imbalance right now.

✣ Children in subsequent generations struggle and represent the excluded ones.

“A son can bear with equanimity the loss of a father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair”

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

✣ Children may be filled with inexplicable rage or an amplified sense of fairness and unfairness. They can become activists and campaigners for the disadvantaged in order to bring attention to what is out of order or not right. With unresolved issues, what is excluded expands and repeats and can escalate from a family disinheritance to social outrage.

✣ Some may not feel able to hold onto their fortune and will lose it to atone for the imbalance. You may see them give up their money to scam artists, businesses that are bound to fail, drink or gamble it away.

✣ Others will carry the dynamic of the perpetrator or victim on the family and/or the business. You may see the same dynamic played out as autism, schizophrenia, bi-polar tendencies or stammering, sometimes attempts to include all involved. They can also become addicts as a result of carrying both the victim and the perpetrator in their bodies.

✣ You may see self-injurers, or chronic illness or suicidal tendencies, all attempts to balance for the injustice or to make it seen. The strong pull to be ill or hurt can be felt as a kind of ‘systemic trance.’ They may also become petty, nit picking and vengeful.

✣ We begin to hear sentences like ‘Money brings misery’, ‘Filthy rich’; ‘Money is a curse’ and this of course turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy and eventually either the money disappears, the happiness disappears or you see families who have spectacular accidents and cannot take fully what’s been created. In essence we align with the beliefs and mind-sets we create and then make them ‘the truth’.

✣ If the siblings agree to the disinheritance, rather than making it right, this sets off a rage around money or success and eventually generations of siblings hate one another for no apparent reason, fanatically and disproportionately to any incident that sparks it. They may find that their children suffer in collusion with the disinherited one or suffer as the perpetrators.

✣ The ones who have more often cannot look at the ones who have less because they feel the guilt of the inequality. They take on the ‘face’ or place of the ones who created the inequality in the first place.

✣ Later generations may be compelled to adopt disadvantaged children or fight for injustice without knowing why. They may haggle over small amounts of money and explode over any financial discrepancy feeling themselves cheated or taken advantage of.

When a parent cuts a child off this is often a result of feeling cut off from their own parent and so they cannot see their own child as their attention is held by their (often disapproving) parent and this passes down from generation to generation. So you get lines of unseen children and disappearing parents, in a repeating and limiting dynamic. We may also see these ‘children’ demonstrating outrageous behaviours to get the attention they need.

Question from workshop participant:

“What happens when you have children out of different marriages and the children from the previous marriage have been dis-inherited?”

Bert Hellinger: “There’s a famous example of that. I have a friend who wrote a book about Thomas Mann’s family. There is an entanglement in that family. His grandfather had five children, two sons and three daughters. The three daughters died and the wife died in childbirth. The two sons survived from the first marriage.

The grandfather remarried and had five more children. He gave his business and his factory to the eldest son of the second marriage and disinherited his sons from the first marriage. When the sons who inherited the factory died, he stipulated in his will that the factory should be closed rather than kept in the family.

Thomas Mann had an older brother, Heinrich, who was also a famous writer. But Thomas again established himself as the first one to the detriment of his brother. Thomas had very tragic experiences with his own children. For example, one child committed suicide, and he was estranged from others. All the tragedies that happened in his family are related to the pattern of the first-born being discounted in favour of those children of the second marriage.

So the tragic pattern goes through the whole history of Thomas Mann.”

Bert Hellinger in ‘Touching Love’ Volume two

The flip side of this is children who are attempting to prove to their parent that they are good enough to be seen. They often become irritable and brittle leaders who say they can do without mom or dad and yet drive harder and higher seeking the approval they reject.

They may be saying, inside: ‘Even with all that I have done they still don’t see me.’

Abundance and Scarcity

Central to any understanding and changed relationship with money is an understanding of your inner relationship with abundance and scarcity.

Money is neutral, but we are not. If we are not in the right place in our relationship with abundance we will struggle in our relationship with money as well perhaps as with life itself.

Abundance is all around us. When seen, included and respected it can be available to us in all kinds of ways, including money.

The systemic perspective allows us to see where this natural movement towards abundance can be interrupted, entangled and restricted. There can be many sources for this confusion, but most often it begins in the family.

“Sometimes people can’t give or receive and money expresses that.”

Judy Wilkins-Smith

“No complaint is more common than that of a scarcity of money”

Adam Smith

“Money is a kind of poetry.”

Wallace Stevens

The Split and the Shadow

It is by now understood that all human beings split off feelings, ideas and constructs of what is either unbearable to look at or at present impossible to understand. Many of these splits are inherited from our family and family system and passed down through the generations. As a result its hard, because it feels like disloyalty, to establish a different framework.

As we move into adult life we carry and express these inner spoils and dislocations in a number of ways, leaving many understandings and ways of thinking about the human condition in the shadows, in or shadow.


“I see money as an archetypal dominant that can be taken spiritually or materially but which in itself is neither”

James Hillman

Money, the shadow and the ‘helping professions’

When you feel called to work in a particular profession, for example therapy, counselling, coaching or other work that could be described as offering some kind of ‘help’, there is often a disconnect between money and the deep motivation behind the work and your reason to do it. It can feel unseemly, unkind even, to think or talk about the financial aspect. As if money and being helpful were mutually exclusive. However its often the case that these artificial and uneccesary divisions between the world and the heart only limit our capacity to be useful and add value to others.

When people say they are ‘not in it for the money’ in this context they may simultaneously exclude money which will usually then leave the system. The personal shadow gets entangled with societial norms and expectations, it can soon feel ‘wrong’ and ‘disloyal’ to have or even talk about money in systems where its presence and worth have been excluded. The split, an inner disconnect, between themselves and their shadow gets manifest in the systems and they and the system often gets weaker as a result.

People who work within organisational systems that rely on voluntary workers and donations, and within other not-for-profit systems, may be attracted to them because of their own relationship with money and abundance and if they look closely they may find they are supporting scarcity – supporting the opposite of abundance.

Together they and the less advantaged may be perpetuating a lack of consciousness and direction with money. So it is that the parts of oursleves which are in the shadows, the less conscious or excludede and denied parts, get projected into and emerge within the system to which we are attracted and work or live within.

A Contribution to Soul and Money
By James Hillman

Whatever we say about money with its relation with analytical practice, whatever we say about money at all will be conditioned by the mind-set of our cultural tradition. We speak first of all at an unreflected level, with the voice of collective consciousness, to use Jung’s term. So, in order to gain purchase on the money question in analysis, we have first to see through our collective consciousness the very deep, old, and imperceptible attitudes that archetypally, let us say, have money already fixed within a definite framework, especially in regard to soul.

This framework is that of our entire culture, and it is Christian. So we are going to have to look first of all at Christian ideas and images regarding money and soul. I set forth now without benefit of Christian apologetics and exegetics, without recourse to scholarly apparatus, simply as the plain man who opens his Bible in a hotel room and takes the words there within the framework of his collective consciousness. For the words of Jesus in regard to money, whether or not we are directly conscious of them, are still sounding in us as members of this culture.

From ‘Soul and Money’ by Russell Lockhart et al (out of print)

Religion and money

The family and social system we grew up in will have a very significant influence over our relationship with money as does the prevailing spiritual or religious practice in that system.

We learn so much about money through our relationship with our authority figures. In many families the ‘authority figure’ is experienced as the father – if not actually then psychologically, by his absence of presence.

Authority figures can also mean higher authorities like the church and the many ideas about ‘god’. The relationship between most gods, religions, faiths and money is complex and confusing as it usually comes with many unspoken hints and implications. This potential for projection and entanglement is compounded by the fact that ‘god’ is so often male, a man-made god or a man, made god.

When there is confusion and overlay between these two ‘authority figures’ and money the entanglement created can become complex and limiting.

“According to many religions the ‘our father’/God figure appears to reject money, equating it with greed. As a result there is an identification of greed with money and not wanting to disappoint the father.”

Judy Wilkins-Smith

Most faiths, religions and spiritual practices have strong ideas and guidance about money built into their fabric. If you follow a particular faith or practice and they tell you that money is bad or should be given away or stored you will, naturally, stay loyal to those ideas, in order to protect your belonging. Doing something different, being in a different relationship with money than your faith guides will be very challenging as that would require you to be ‘guilty’ to that conscience group.

People are taught in many religions to fear money rather than learn about its flow, be curious about it and see what it could mean in family and societal systems. To see how it could be used well. Like much of religion, we can find ourselves frightened into staying small and insignificant, rather than being the most significant version of ourselves.

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

Dorothy Parker

The connection between money and the church is especially powerful because the church relies on a shared belief in a supernatural power – a very high authority figure. This is of course seductive, especially to those without a clear or resourceful family system to lean back into. When this power gets connected to money – either we feel we are making a connection with God through giving the church money, or we feel shame in front of God for not giving – the church strengthens its power over us. In this way confusions over money and its many benefits deepen again.

The connection between religion and wealth has been the subject of considerable research. One of the findings is that the more secular the population is the wealthier they are. This rather confirms the idea that strict moral and religious codes reduce flow and limit imaginative ways of using money to strengthen and support systems. Although most churches are themselves very effective at gathering in money, for their own work and ideas about doing ‘good work.’

‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’.

The Bible. The Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10

“The lack of money is the root of all evil.”

Mark Twain

Perhaps we might consider that love of money is not the root of all evil. On the contrary, love of money in a true sense tends to foster gratitude, a sense of adventure, possibility and collaboration. It can create growth, gratitude and a sense of responsibility and sharing or enabling the success of those who come after us.

Money, god and guilt

Many people who have money or are very wealthy feel guilt for having so much. They struggle with their relationship with money just as those without do. Others inherit or perhaps win large sums of money. Whether inherited wealth or received by chance they may feel enormous guilt. The guilt can lead to limiting behaviours, habits and addictions in a bid to get rid of the money and other attempts to reduce the burden of guilt. If these same people are also religious they may spend their time waiting for their particular god to punish them with an illness, a disaster or a lower place in heaven.

Wealth often asks us to step beyond the conscience of the system and walk into new territory. It is a responsibility imbued with a great deal of societal admonition with respect to its pitfalls and inherent risks. We often focus on the problems it brings and not quite so often on what it enables.

However, wealth presents an opportunity which only a few seem to take. It is often harder to welcome the gift, grow it wisely and learn the benefits of the wealth and abundance and then pass them on.

This shift requires people to migrate from a mindset that holds that money is inherently evil or wrong, to a mindset that sees the wonderful role that money can play for a better world at the individual, family and societal levels.

Money is a relationship. It asks to be understood and respected, explored and grown.

There is nothing wrong with wealth and ease and being a role model for what is good and right about wealth, teaching others what’s possible and removing the unwarranted stigma around money.

“When we deny our wealth eventually it will remove itself and go where it’s wanted. Wealth looks for wise stewards who have the courage to embrace it and employ it in incredible ways.”

Judy Wilkins-Smith

Money and happiness

Perhaps the oldest and most common projection onto money is that the more of it we have the happier we will become. If we think this is true we may spend years of our life striving for it by working hard to become very successful in our field of work.

As the wisdom of age emerges we may notice that we have our success, we have more money but we are still not happy. We might ask ourselves what does money mean for us or what would we like it to mean?

We can save ourselves years of frustration and emptiness if we are willing to understand what money means to us and indeed what more money will represent for us too. Then we focus on why we would be happier and direct our attention and money flow there. We can imbue it with happiness and hope, freedom, health or whatever we choose.

Money and happiness are not mutually exclusive, but money never resolves the search for happiness on its own. Unless your inner relationship with money is changed, nothing else will be changed.

When we start to shift from seeing money as a problem to viewing it as a collaborator, enabler and co-adventurer, we have a chance to work with it, grow it and nurture it without a sense of fear.

Consider the fact that we have no problem with embracing love, joy, and gratitude with happiness as forces and flows that we can address with affection and trust. Then ask

what excluding money from this group costs us and how it might live with us if we were able to view it with happiness and trust too?

Notice what happens as you ask that question and then see if you can trace your reaction to language that lives in your system or the event that created it.

Sometimes money or lack thereof is felt and seen as almost a living death, a vacuum, a lack of love by God himself, an unworthiness for the gods of fortune to smile upon, the pronouncement that we are one of the many doomed – or blessed to suffer from lack and be righteous and virtuous thanks to lack of it.

For some lack of money and resources means they must die and for others there is a supposition that they will live because they have it.

“We say to ourselves ‘If only I had more money I would be happy’. However, those people who have plenty of money are often not happy, nor do they often see themselves as successful. Money brings great responsibility and less time to experience happiness.”

John Whittington

Love, money and balance

Love, money and balance in partner relationships

Nowhere is money the ‘currency’ of a relationship more often than in intimate partnerships and marriages. It is the most common cause of disagreement and dispute in couples and families and is used to measure and attempt to balance levels of pain during a separation or divorce. Click on ‘An imbalance of money’ below for more on this topic.

An imbalance of money

Although you can see instances where love transcends money, there is a often sense of inequality of money when one person has more in a couple relationship. This can spell trouble for an intimate relationship. When money is clearly discussed before the relationship becomes permanent each understands the expectations of the other. However, a ‘pre-nuptial’ contract can suggest ‘I do not trust you completely’ or ‘What’s mine is mine’ sending a signal that there is an area that belongs to only one. For the other it may sound like ‘I do not love you enough to share everything with you’ and this can translate for the one with less to feelings of being unloved.

In this and other ways money can become a measure of love, respect, balance and can create exclusions and suffering when not thought through and handled skilfully and with respect.  Later in relationships ‘money surprises’ can also disrupt personal relationships in hurtful and entangling ways even when the foundations appeared to be clear at the start.

Until recently and in western society it has been more common for men to be in a position to earn more money than women and so the man in a heterosexual relationship is sometimes referred to as ‘the bread winner.’ But society and the employment market have changed and this – combined with far more freedom and resources for women to work, raise a family and make choices as well as the wide acceptance of same-sex partnerships – affects the balancing within partnerships. The ‘balance of power’ in relationship is often a crucial aspect of the hidden dynamics in couples.

Even in this world we live in, in the 21st century, a woman gains much of her ‘soul weight’ by giving birth to children. She may also however express this primary pattern through giving birth to companies and projects, and gain her ‘weight’ in this way.

Men often gain their ‘soul weight’, even now, by bringing the security of money and taking care of their families through the provision of resources. When this relationship dynamic is changed and the woman brings in the money the man’s weight can sometimes be lightened. You can sense this in the tension between such a couple. The ability to feel their own ‘weight’ is restricted in some way.

Sometimes the man in this situation may look and act in a childlike way. They may display the emotions of an adolescent rather than a man and display emotions like temper outbursts, sulking, cutting comments more typical of a younger male. In this example the woman gets ‘bigger’ and gains more ‘weight’ and the man feels ‘smaller’ and loses his ‘weight’. Sometimes the man feels controlled by the woman’s money and greater ‘weight’. This can create anger in the man and disrespect in the woman. In such cases you may see henpecked men, over dominant and unhappy women who feel they are occupying two roles as well as unhappy men who feel they are occupying neither.

Each couple is unique in its dynamics and needs to be explored carefully so as to find the most strengthening interventions and changes that bring balance and restore flow in the couple and around them in the system they have created.

I’m not worth it

For some people there is a powerful inner voice which tells them that they don’t deserve resources, strength or money. They may be attached, unhelpfully, to scarcity due to a hidden loyalty and so may be living out a ‘life sentence’ for someone else. They may express it, internally, like this: “I’m not worth it, I’m not good enough”

“You can’t have a healthy relationship with money unless you love it.”

Peter Koenig

This kind of life sentence could come from an ancestor. In other words it’s not your sentence; it comes from before you. The words began and are carried by the next generation, through blind loyalty, a kind of blind love.

Ask yourself in this situation: “Who wasn’t allowed to be valued, equal, good enough”?

Often associated with a group of men or women who were victims .

An exercise:

Stand opposite a representative for the person with whom this dynamic started, the person you may be identified with and say:

“If you couldn’t have it…how dare I?”

“I have money but I can’t spend it on myself because I’m going to make sure I feel not worth it just like you…”

You could later perhaps try a ‘sentence for life’ that begins to soften and release you from this deep unconscious identification:

“I see the sacrifice you made and I’m going to honour that by living well.”

“I will celebrate the journey you began by taking it further, fully and joyfully.”

“I know you didn’t experience this – watch me as I do. This is how I remember and honour you and your life.”

“I have resources and choices with money that were not available to you. Please smile on me as I enjoy them.”

“You can’t have a healthy relationship with money unless you love it.”

Peter Koenig

For the love of money

What you can’t love, you won’t explore and grow, or invest too much time into. Outgrowing a sense of fatalism around money opens the doors to learning about it, edging a little closer to it and actually beginning to enjoy its company.

In this way you edge past the global limited money conscience and into the world of abundance. Happiness and adventure both take courage.

Agreeing to look at and then allow and finally perhaps to love money, allows the flow to be restored and the path forward to open. Understanding that it is simply a force and that you are responsible for how it lives in your world can allow you to feel the same gratitude, appreciation and love for it as you have for your health, your world and yourself.

Until you can love it, you will find all the ways in the universe to make it disappear.

Finding the right fee level

Our relationship to money, our inner life sentence or sentence for life, can limit or resource us when it comes to talking about money and negotiating our salary or fee level.

The balance of give and take, the balance of exchange is often difficult to get right for those selling their time or expertise by the hour, by the session or by the day. This is particularly true for consultants and coaches, therapists and health practitioners. Many people who go into these ‘helping professions’ want ‘a rich life’ in the sense of an interesting and intellectually and emotionally rewarding life and so are not often able to combine that with riches in the sense of financial wealth.

Charging for the value we create can bring us face to face with our deepest inner relationship with money. Until we can disentangle our relationship with money from our sense of self and from its meaning in our systems of origin (family and social systems) and as soon as we are able to separate out current money from money we gained or lost in the past, only then we can start to articulate our true worth.

Money is a teacher of worth and invites you to examine where you do/don’t feel your weight.

A conversation with money

‘Life sentences’ and ‘sentences for life’ around money

Talking with money
The way we talk to ourselves about money is informed by many other relationships we have in our hearts and minds as we grow and develop. Changing the conversation can have a significant effect on our relationship with money.

Many of us human beings hold deeply affecting but just out of consciousness inner sentences about money.

For example:
‘In my family the men have the money…’
‘In my family a man took away my money and my security…’
‘In my family men have the money/success and women get to worry…’
‘In my family wealth has been made and lost continually’
‘In my family there’s never enough money…’’
‘Money is the root of all evil…’

In fact we are quite skilled at being able to deny, disavow, dismiss and denigrate it at the same time as we are saying we need it. So we need it, but we don’t want it or want to be seen to want it – and so it will go elsewhere.

Write down the sentences about money (and/or success) in your family.
Do those sentences still serve you now?
What might happen if you changed them? What will happen if you don’t?

‘Life Sentences’ that limit

“To give is better than to receive”
“Rich people are greedy, bad people”

‘Sentences for Life’ around money

People set goals and they use affirmations, both of which can be very useful when re-setting a relationship with money. However, the relationship with money is so deep and the meaning we project onto it so great that it can also be useful to know about and use the special systemic sentences that are a characteristic of this work.

These sentences are unlike any other form of language.

The Dirty Dozen

As you reflect on the value of money and your relationship to it, the twelve questions below will support you in the clarification process and in preparation for further exploration:

  1. Finish this sentence: ‘Secretly I believe money is….’
  2. What is your first memory connected with money?
  3. What emotion, memory or physical sensation comes up for you when you recall the way your parents and your wider family system spent and saved money?
  4. Do you think of money as male, female or something else?
  5. How did your parent(s) react when you expressed a desire for more money?
  6. What pattern emerged in your family system around money, the way it was talked about and the way it was spent on or given to you?
  7. To whom in your family system are you most loyal in your particular relationship to abundance?
  8. Who made the money in your family system and what impact does that have on me?
  9. Who lost or struggled to make money in your family system and what impact does that have on you?
  10. In what context are you often very generous with money (giving, lending or gifting) and how does that make you feel?
  11. What emotional needs are met for you by saving / spending money?
  12. Finish this sentence: ‘Secretly I believe that if I had more money it would make me feel….’

See here for the next workshop on our relationship with money and abundance.


This brief article on a large subject has introduced some of the common dynamics around our relationship with money and abundance.

There are 3 key sources of dynamics around money and abundance


For example you get caught in a family system dynamic.

Your grandfather loses his money in business and you feel unable to make your business successful at the same age. You may never see the connection, the hidden loyalty to another’s suffering and remain entangled, repeating their difficulty in some way.


For example you get money and death mixed up and hoard money in the unconscious desire to ‘avoid’ death or at least make it easier.

Or you see the accumulation of money as a path to a more meaningful life.

Religious / social

For example you are brought up in a family and social system that has a ‘life sentence’ covertley or overtley within it to do with money or resources in general. Like ‘Money is the root of all evil’ or ‘Only the poor go to heaven.’
Perhaps it is ‘All you need is money’ or ‘Money will make you happy’. These ideas and phrases get interlised at an unconscious level and contribute to our life-long relationship with money and abundance.

And 3 patterns of relationship we can find ourselves in with money:

Move away from

We may move or push money away from us, believing that it will do us harm, make us lose our sense of self or overwhelm us. We may spend our lives avoiding it whilst also feeling that we should have more and that we are somehow owed. Or feeling like we want it but cannot let it close for fear of being punished in some way.

Perhaps we feel that money is in debt to us, but that familiar pain feels somehow comfortable. We may find that we are also resistant to other resources and find that we resist all the ways in which money could flow to and with us.

Move Towards

We may run towards money either in the hope that it will make us happy or that we will not be lonely or afraid of death when we have it. We may spend our lives working hard to get it only to find that there is never enough.

Even though we know that money is the great unobtainable and we know we will never have it, we say something different. We may be very motivated to get money but uncertain how to use it well when we do. In other words the dog chasing the car has no idea of what to do when it catches it.

Feel resourced by

We experience money as one of several resources which support and nourish us and have little or no emotional attachment to or projection on money.

We may have a sense of joy, adventure and appreciation for it, as one of the great forces in life.

“Money is like Oxygen, it is essential for living but not the purpose of living”

Nick Williams

“Exploring our relationship with money is to explore our connection to the flow of life and love. Allowing ourselves to enjoy abundance is a vital step on our personal and professional journey.”

John Whittington

Abundance and resources

Central to any understanding and changed relationship with money is an understanding of your inner relationship with abundance and scarcity.

Abundance is all around us. When seen, included and respected it can be available to us in all kinds of ways, including money.

A feeling of abundance comes to us and stays with us when we are able to:

✣ Receive what is ‘behind’ us – the resources within our family-of-origin and ancestors
✣ Be aware of our physical presence and innate health
✣ Tune into the larger impersonal field of resources we have around us (rather than just think about how much we have)
✣ Think beyond the current system’s mindset and give ourselves permission to see what’s possible
✣ Feel, think and show joy around and appreciation for money and all that it can bring
✣ Understanding our origins and what lives there and then looking for what is most possible here allows us to take it all the way to creation and completion, knowing that the system is always at least partially responsible for our success. In this way we know where home is – even financially but will always have home to thank in some way for our financial success.
✣ If we can see the adventure, the destination and a good reason for changing our current mindsets, home becomes a springboard for success.

Money Workshops

with John Whittington in London, UK
with Judy Wilkins-Smith in Florida, USA
This article was authored by John Whittington in consultation with Judy Wilkins-Smith.
The articles in this series do not offer specific advice but stimulus for your own reflections. They provide only an introduction into what’s possible in a systemic coaching or constellation workshop. This way of looking and working can be combined with others to give an understanding of the human condition. The writing is always a work in progress as the authors continue to observe and articulate the dynamics in human relationship systems.
© Life Love Leadership 2016