THE BLOG

Is There a Croesus Complex?

02/20/2015 05:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015

2015-02-20-220pxCima_da_Conegliano_God_the_Father.jpg

The Times recently ran a piece about the discipline of financial therapy ("Stressed by Money? Get on the Couch," NYT, 2/9/15). Usually one needs some degree of financial security to pay for therapy which is only covered on a limited basis by most health plans. So the kind of person who one imagines going into financial therapy because he or she has financial problems may be hard put to pay for it. For instance the person who spends more than they have might go into financial therapy, but if the therapy were long term, it might result in bankruptcy as a result of the treatment itself. There's an old Pete Seeger line which might apply here,

"Oh Dr. Freud, Oh Dr. Freud. How we wish you had been differential employed. For the set of circumstances sure enhances the finances of the followers of Dr. Sigmund Freud..."

Or let's take the person who is frugal, he or she is not going to go into financial therapy to improve largesse because he or she doesn't like to spend money. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tverskty, the nobel prize winning economists, have written about "loss aversion," a condition where people make bad decisions due to irrational fears. Money along with sex and relationships are subjects that people in any form of therapy talk about, but financial therapy like sex therapy obviously has a particular aim. In normal therapy the idea is that if a patient deals with deep seated problems that result in maladaptive behavior, a person will start to make better decisions when it comes to money or sex. Just as a gambler might start investing in low yielding, but secure tax free municipals, a promiscuous man or woman might settle into safe and secure relationships that are totally lacking in passion. However, let's consider the case of the patient who decides his or her basic problem isn't his or her personality. It's just money. Such an individual might go to a financial therapist who will improve their yield or a sex therapist who will enable them to have lots of hot sex with the same person--say a partner who liked to dress up like a male or female whore. However, caveat emptor. No matter how much credit card debt you retire, you may still suffer from bigger problems than just money or love. For example, you might be suffering from the kind of existential anxiety that comes from the realization that God is Dead.

"God the Father" by Cima de Conigliano (1515)

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}