THE BLOG
10/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Financial Sobriety

These are the times that try men's.....and women's ......emotional sobriety. There are few institutions that are as affected as much, by the emotional climate, as the stock market. And right now, the stock market is not very emotionally sober. Going from zero to ten with no speed bumps in between is characteristic of a lack of emotional sobriety. And right now, we're seeing just these emotional swings reflected in the market. If we back it up, the set up for these swings began a while ago and just like people, the markets got way over extended for a lot of "feeling" reasons. Maybe we've been feeling richer than actually we are; living way beyond our means.

Many among us, led by our major financial institutions and government, have been spending money we didn't really have and taking on levels of debt that made us have to live on the edge and spending money we don't really have. Emotional sobriety and financial sobriety have a lot in common. When we neglect the basics, enough sleep and rest, proper nutrition and exercise along with leisure and down time we become over extended emotionally and psychologically. We start to run on empty. Then we look toward solutions that make us feel better and feel full fast. Solutions that "borrow" on our already accumulated good health and energy. Maybe we drink to calm down because we're too riled up to calm down on our own or we do coke to maintain a schedule that we shouldn't be maintaining in the first place. Or to create a false feeling of confidence because deep down, our running on empty is making us feel increasingly anxious and scared. Getting over extended emotionally or financially comes at a price, eventually we have to pay for things in real time, real energy, in real money.

A lot of us have been living as if we need everything we want; as if we don't have to refill the coffers, emotional, physical and financial, that are meant to sustain us.

When leadership is poor, as it has been in this financial area, we need to take responsibility for ourselves. Living within our means is a concept that cuts across both our financial and our personal life. It's OK to wait for something or someone we really want, to take things a bit more slowly and live a bit more simply. Sometimes less is more. Certainly on the emotional level this is true, our hearts are meant to take only a certain amount of beats per minute, when we stress number, we stress our whole bodies.

As people, we can only absorb so much input before we go on overload as well. Slowing down, breathing and being more fully available to live in the moment has the paradoxical effect of making the moment feel richer and more satisfying. And when we experience this, we feel less in a rush to cram as much into twenty four hours as it can hold. We value being present, being available for the myriad of little interactions that can enrich our day if we can slow down enough to let them happen. Sinking into the life we already have somehow expands our capacity to take it in, to feel it, to be fed and nourished by it; we're living within our emotional, psychological and physical means. The same phenomenon occurs when we learn to enjoy what we already own, somehow it starts to seem like enough.

When we get too stressed we spend more energy trying to get rid of time than living it. But getting rid of the hours of our day only leaves us feeling empty, then we want to fill up on people, places and things rather than enjoy them, we want to gobble them up whole. We lose our capacity to taste and live the life we already have and to enjoy the things and for that matter the relationships already in our lives. We get into the never enough mentality which leads us straight toward emotional imbalance and financial imbalance. We can get sort of addicted to stuff as a solution for everything just the way we can get addicted to mood altering chemicals. We accumulate more in order to alter our mood, to feel better fast; leading to an emotional and financial lack of sobriety.

These are the times that try our emotional sobriety; if there is a silver lining, maybe it's to learn to take a deeper look at the way we're living and make the kinds of changes that will lead to lasting and sustainable sobriety on all fronts. This would be a luxury, if we're lucky, we'll have this luxury.