What is the true piece of freedom? And is it what we think it is?
Because I love stories about people, when I first picked up Olivia’s book – The Money Types Guidebook – all those years ago, I went straight to Section 2, where Olivia shares a collection of anecdotes, interventions and reflections from her work supporting people in their relationship with money.
Olivia tells the story of Dennis. Dennis was sitting outside the function room, waiting to attend one of her personal development workshops. She noticed even before the workshop began that Dennis was looking angry. Olivia was reluctant to allow the workshop to go ahead with Dennis, so she was apparently angry and felt it was important to talk to him first.
Through a brief conversation, Olivia learned that Dennis was harbouring resentment about the payment of a small amount of alimony (£65 per month) to his ex-wife, particularly when she appeared to spend it on frivolous items (one of these, much to Olivia’s amusement, was a white parrot).
The conversation went a little like this:
“Are you happy with your new wife?”, Olivia asked.
“Yes, I love my wife – and I love my life now!”, he replied.
After a small pause, Olivia said to Dennis, “Actually isn’t £65 a month a really tiny price to pay for a happy life, with the woman you love by your side?”
After discovering that Dennis was actually happy and in love with his new partner, she asked Dennis whether the £65 per month was actually a very small price to pay for happiness. Dennis then appeared to have one of lightbulb moments that can only occur when a question has gone right to the heart of the matter.
And when a person is ready and on the cusp of change.
With a big grin and with no further explanation, he decided his questions had been answered and that he didn’t need to attend Olivia’s workshop anymore.
He gave her a hug and walked away.
We – as readers – are left with a sense that in a brief few moments, Dennis has let go of many years of anger and frustration. And with this, he realised that his problem was the resentment of the payment, not the payment itself.
I loved and resonated with this story for so many reasons: the quick-fire conversation that led to a moment of rapid transformation for Dennis… provoked by Olivia’s specific question that got right to the heart of the matter.
We often think that change takes time, and this can sometimes be true. But we don’t always need to spend years in a psychoanalyst’s chair to have a transformation or revelation that lasts a lifetime.
Perhaps more crucially as a lesson for all of us, there’s also something here about the energetic ‘cost’ of hanging on to our resentments. Whether that’s spending £65 a month on a divorce settlement/alimony for an ex, hanging onto bitterness about something that happened in our financial past (“if only I hadn’t done x, life would be so different right now”), or blaming someone else for the position we find ourselves in. I don’t know Dennis or his personal history, but I’d wager if he took Olivia’s Money Types Quiz, he’d come out as High Prisoner: someone who feels trapped in a situation with all of the associated bewilderment, anger and resentment that brings.
All of this drains energy and detracts from what’s in front of us in the present moment. In the case of Dennis, how could he possibly enjoy the new love he had found with his new wife to the fullest when he harboured such resentment about the money he was giving to his previous partner?
By letting go and living where we are, in the present moment, we can instantly feel more abundant, as we can appreciate the life we do have in front of us. I imagine that’s the origin of Dennis’s big grin as he hugs Olivia. He gets to be in love. And so, why shouldn’t his ex have a white parrot?
I can relate to this story so much, and I’m will share a little of my history here which I hope will explain why.
Back in 2009, my mum was approached by my uncle to use her house collateral for a business he was setting up. It was one of those that ‘couldn’t fail’, and despite it stinking to high heaven and my repeated warnings to her she shouldn’t do it, mum went ahead and signed up as a director.
For a couple of months, my uncle showed up with £800 a month with my mum’s ‘dividends’, but after a while, he stopped coming altogether. On the rare occasions I did see him, he was jittery, shifty, and constantly looking out of the window and asking ‘who’s that’ every time a car passed.
Fast-forward five years: my uncle’s dodgy dealings meant he had full ownership of her house, and so when his business inevitably failed, the mortgage lender stepped in. Her family home taken from her in a cruel and transactional eviction. It was devastating in so many ways and this stayed with her for a long time.
Luckily, my mum picked herself up and now lives in a lovely retirement village in a gorgeous location, with friends she would never have met otherwise. My mum is an incredible example of building beauty from wreckage, but she could so easily have gone under.
Me and my brother felt as though our ‘inheritance’ had been ‘stolen’ from us. I can’t begin to explain the anger I’ve experienced over this in conjunction with the anger I felt on behalf of my mum. There were times it consumed me. What’s worse, I began to resent other people due to receive inheritances, and have – at times – had episodes of anger towards my mum for not listening to my advice.
However… learning through Olivia’s work that those with a high Prisoner ‘Money Type’ are likely to feel like victims of circumstance, I had a Dennis-style lightbulb moment….
That inheritance was never mine in the first place.
My mum may have re-mortgaged the house to take herself on a world trip or sold it and downsized to a smaller property to live abundantly in her old age. The house may have eventually been sold off to pay for a care home for her.
Either way, I had no right or claim to that money. How could I feel resentment at losing something that was never mine to lose?
It’s worth noting that in all of this, I was reluctant to jump to pseudo forgiveness of my uncle in order to release myself: there’s a lot of this in ‘spiritual’ circles. I’m not sure of Olivia’s perspective here; she may disagree with me, but I’ve learned that some actions are genuinely unforgivable, and I believe my mum was a genuine ‘Victim’ (note the capital ‘V’) of my uncle’s actions. I also truly believe that my uncle’s inability to sit still and his concern about every passing vehicle is the karma he has to live with as a consequence of his actions: he isn’t at peace, and he isn’t enjoying the life he is living. Karma sometimes shows up in ways we don’t always understand.
In fact, to go one step further, one of my mum’s new friends found her collapsed recently in her flat – she’d become sick with sepsis and went downhill very quickly. If she was living in her old house on her own, it’s possible no one would have found her in time… and well, the rest is unthinkable. But what I’m saying is that because of my uncle, it’s possible that she’s in a better place… and the loss of her house may indeed have saved her life.
All of this came from understanding my ‘Money Type’ and how it can hold me a Prisoner. I will still never get that inheritance, but the sting has gone, and boy, life is pretty awesome regardless.
So, what has genuinely released me from the shackles of resentment is to realise and release the entitlement and the associated story. And to see that what’s in front of me is pretty damned good. There’s nothing left to be angry about.
And this in itself can be quite challenging. Who are we when we let go of our resentments and stories of victimhood?
Looping back to Dennis, it could have been quite ’scary’ if he was not ready to change. Who would he be without the frustration and anger at his ex-wife? Could he truly step into his freedom and enjoy his life with his new partner? Luckily, he was sitting waiting to take part in a personal development workshop, so it sounds like he was ripening, ready for a transformation.
Which is good, because… (and I think I’d like to end on this note) if you are reading this and wanting change in your life, let me say this…
Olivia’s work ‘works’.
It brings about change. It leaves us with nowhere to hide (albeit in a gentle and nurturing way) when it comes to our stories and our relationship with money. There is no place for our anger, resentments and victimhood, but instead, an invitation to create a new story.
And all of that can (and does) happen in an instant….
What are the three key learnings from Dennis’s story?
- That our resentments and anger are the true price we pay when we hold onto them too tightly
- That change can happen in an instant if we are willing and ready
- That abundance can be right in front of us if we are willing to step into a new story
Those are my reflections, but perhaps you have some of your own too? If you’d like to share, both me and Olivia would love to you leave a comment for us here…
With love, and until next time,
Read my next blog in this series here, or if you missed it, you can check out my introductory blog piece here.