The Financial Crisis and Emotional Intelligence – What it Teaches us About Our Romantic Relationships

You may be wondering why I am discussing the financial crisis in a newsletter about relationships! Don’t worry, I have not lost the plot… what is happening at the moment in the world of banking can be related back to some fundamental emotional problems and the way that we try to compensate for these through materialism. We can therefore learn a great deal about our relationships and how to avoid the equivalent to the credit crunch in our personal lives.

The problems we have seen in the financial world have affected us all. We will all pay a price for the imbalances that have been allowed to develop around excessive amounts of unsecured borrowing. In short we have been living way beyond our means and the system has caught up with us. Somehow we thought that wealth and material success would make us happy. Perhaps we thought that a bigger and better house or flashier car would be the answer. We haven’t notice it, but the developing word has been paying a price for our greed for many years and now we must also face up to reality.

We can use the Psychology of Vision model to understand what has gone wrong – in fact it has been predicting the sort of problems we are facing now for years. We can understand them as an example of Independence. As individuals we become Independent to avoid being Dependent on other people for our success and happiness. Underlying this is a subconscious decision to never rely on another person again so that we cannot be let down and hurt as we were in the past. This fear of dependence comes from our earliest experiences in our original families whenever bonding is disrupted. In such situations we often take on guilt and develop low self-esteem for having failed significant people in the family – usually our parents and siblings.

Rather than feel our guilt and sense of failure we decide to avoid such close relationships with people and at the same time suppress our emotions so that we can never feel that dependent again. In work and life we will begin to replace the intimacy and love within close relationships with money and material goods. We try to control others to bring us the material success that we want and to make sure that our fear and guilt is never triggered through failure. Everything we do to achieve success involves things outside us rather than trying to find contentment within – this is the crux of the problem and has led to the credit crunch.

Any early successes as an Independent just encourages us to greater Independence – it seems to be the strategy for happiness. The more we get, in terms of money, power and influence, the happier we conclude that we will be. This is what has happened in a collective way in our society. We have used our material wealth to distract us from the inner quest – both emotionally and spiritually. We have assumed that we can succeed without emotionally meaningful, intimate relationships and have used materialism to distract us from the need to heal our fears and insecurities. The economic growth in the last 10-15 years has allowed us to maintain the illusion that we can borrow and spend our way to happiness.

This Independence has created some very unpleasant behaviours. Our Independent ego’s can be terribly selfish and greedy. We may criticise the bankers for their obscene bonuses, but the truth is that many of us have invested in what was a burgeoning housing market or searched out the most lucrative investment returns. I have had to eat humble pie myself as I find my savings frozen in an Icelandic bank! The reason we can act in such a greedy way is because Independence destroys empathy. With our emotions suppressed we stop feeling the consequences of our selfish behaviour and actions. We stop caring about other people and just look after number one. This is how the banking industry took such ridiculous risks – they had become blind to the consequences of their actions and in any case knew that somebody else would bail them out if it all went wrong. Of course for every winner in a commercial deal there is always a loser. Most of us would rather not think about the people who suffer. Even the plant has taken a hit – our rampant industrialisation may have made our lives more comfortable but the environment is picking up the bill.

So what does this teach us about our relationships? Independence always creates problems for us. As we separate and create an emotional distance in our relationships we stop feeling the full range of our emotions and when we do this we lose empathy. The worst thing of all is that we become blind to the people around us and their problems – we may not notice that our partner is hurting and needs our help. Instead we will make everything about us. We will look for external gratification and seek every more exciting rewards at work and in our personal life – but fail to address the growing problems in our relationships.

Ultimately though we cannot continue with such Independent behaviour forever – it catches up with us with stress and burn-out or the mid-life crisis catches up with us. In the Psychology of Vision model we reach the Dead Zone. Our relationships begin to fail and we are thrust back into our feelings of Dependence that we had defended so vigourously. The parallel in the financial and commercial world is exactly what we are seeing now. The pack of cards that is built around Independent corporations comes crashing down and we stare failure in the face. The very fear that drove us into Independence is now realised. This is the problem with an Independent strategy – it brings about the very thing that it is supposed to protect us from. In our relationships we become afraid of intimacy and the full expression of our emotions – both positive and negative. At best, we end up living half a life and cannot feel the joy and freedom that true partnership can bring. At worst we see a credit crunch in our relationships – not this time about money, but about a bankruptcy of love.

Let us hope that the current problems in the financial world are an opportunity to move to more Partnership and cooperation. Everything that happens to us both good and bad can be seen as a learning opportunity. We can re-build the banking sector as an industry that is emotionally intelligent and really cares about people. It would be in service to the people of the world rather than in competition with it. Perhaps this is somewhat idealistic give the egotistical track record of man, but at least we can choose to live in Partnership within our personal relationships. We can recognise the dangers of Independence and move towards people with open hearts. By feeling our emotions and communicating and healing our fears we can form much better, sustainable relationships, which then become a model for the people around us and for business.

Most of us are facing financial worries with the credit crunch. This article discusses the causes of these problems and compares them to our romantic relationships. By making parallels it provides us with some pointers to how we might improve our relationships.

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