“They” say that money isn’t everything…but who’s they? The people with the money?

The Dalai Lama once said that “These days, in our materialistic culture, may people are led to believe that money is the ultimate source of happiness. Consequently, when they don’t have enough of it they feel let down. Therefore, it is important to let people know that they have the source of contentment and happiness within themselves, and that it is related to nurturing our natural inner values.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Earl Wilson said, ” Always remember, money isn’t everything-but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense.”

So, who’s right? How important is money in our lives? How important is money to our happiness? I am sitting here browsing through all these wise and quippy quotes about money. The trend that draws my attention is that every quote that belittles the possession of money or summizes that it is insignificant, seems to be made by a very wealthy or famous person. The rest of quotes that address the fact that some financial backing is essential to survival seem to be made by everyone else.

Interesting. I think all of them are correct actually. Once you have achieved fame and fortune, money becomes less important because you already have it. You already have a foundation. The struggle is over. For the rest of us, we realize that human beings need money to pay for all the things that make your life possible. You need it to pay for your basic needs like healthcare, food, and shelter. That is just a fact. Having more money gives a person more choices and comes with more autonomy in their own lives. Can money buy happiness? Well, I think we have answered that question with a resounding no over the ages. Money cannot buy happiness. I am sure there are miserable millionaires everywhere.

There are some plot twists though. There are studies that show that, while having enough money for basic needs and provide a safety net is essential to well being, having additional income may not actually increase wellbeing and may even have a negative impact. Here are some statistics.

A study was done looking at per capita income in the United States from 1946 to 1990. Per capita income rose 150%, yet the percentage of people who reporting being happy fell significantly and depression rates rose ten fold. People who won large sums of money with lotteries were not actually happier a year later and had more daily dissatisfaction. The University of Minnesota did a nine experiment series that showed that when people are thinking about money, they isolate themselves from others. Money made people want to be free of dependents, be less helpful to others. When people compared themselves economically to others it only caused distress. Well, none of that sounds good.

So, why think about money so much? It does allow for some instant gratification possibilities. It does help provide for our basic needs, but we have shown that it doesn’t buy happiness. In fact, we have shown that sometimes too much of it can make things worse. I think it is not realistic to say that it doesn’t matter at all. That is not really possible. I just think that it can’t be your primary focus all the time. It’s too disruptive mentally and physically. There are other things that matter more like relationships, purpose, and happiness. Within reason, I think over focusing on money should take a back seat to those.

Dr. Katz

Teenage bliss?

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Remember how “they” always told us that high school and college were some of the best years of our lives? That these were the times to be free, live it up and soak up as much of life as we could? It always seemed like nothing would ever compare to our teen years and that they would be something we could look back on fondly for the rest of our lives. Well, that kind of thinking may have worked for other generations, but I am willing to bet that today’s teens just don’t see it that way.

Take a look around. Today’s teenagers face unprecedented obstacles that are unique to them. They have had regular school interactions ripped away. They have had to miss out on many important last firsts like their last sporting event, or prom, or even walking in a graduation ceremony. I realize that there are those of you out there puffing your chests as we speak stating that the challenges facing today’s teens are nothing like what you had to face. For example, some of you had to face the possibility of going off to war after high school. This cannot possibly be compared to missing prom or graduation. I get it, but, before you get all upset and entitled, who was trying to? Was anyone really trying to suggest that missing prom and being drafted were comparable? I really don’t think so. As I mentioned, this generation of teenagers is facing a different level of challenges that are unique to them. It is not an implied competition between current and past obstacles. No is better or worse off than anyone else. The situations are just different. Let these kids have their pain and attempt to deal with it the best that they can. Even if you chose not to embrace it, these kids are, in fact, in pain and this pain is very real to them.

I see examples of this every day. A few weeks ago, I had a group of my daughter’s friends over (under five kids and no hugging or snuggling allowed) and just observed. First of all, it was the first time some of them had really seen anyone else, much less each other. There were tears and rambling speeches about how much they had missed each other. Their conversations were particularly intense and loaded, as if they were trying to communicate as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, just in case the opportunity never presented itself again. There was a deep sadness and angst that pervaded their conversations. Instead of talking about gossip, boys and gum, they talked about their anxiety, their tics, their medications. They talked about how toxic school was. They spoke of parents as enemies of ideas. It was all so negative. They had spent so much time with their own thoughts with no one to bounce them off of that they had developed whole conspiracy theories about school and all of their relationships. It was as if their faith in any sort of return to normality had been destroyed and they developed a series of psychological walls to convince themselves that normality was truly overrated anyway and that there was really nothing to miss in the first place. I sat back and listened with my heart heavy. I wanted to interject and grab them all and hug them ( not very COVID PC) and remind them that it will all be ok at some point. Still, I didn’t make the gesture for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to interrupt. These were the wild thoughts that they literally and physically needed to get off their chests. and 2) I wasn’t entirely sure myself that things would be ok eventually and I didn’t know what further harm I could cause by raising false hope.

As I said, these kids are in pain and they need help. Now more than ever they need us to listen and provide counsel and a sounding board. They need some kind of structure to cling to and see their way through life. I know that we all have our own frustrations right now economically, physically and emotionally as well, but we have to suck it up somewhat as adults. These kids haven’t had enough life experience or tools to effectively deal with all of the change happening around them just yet. Whether they want to accept it or we want to admit it, they need us more than ever right now. All of our roles have changed. We are no longer just parents or just teachers or even just friends for them. We are sometimes their only consistent connection to the world at the moment. We all need to be a little understanding and work a little harder to make sure that that connection is a healthy one. Otherwise, who knows what the future will hold for them….or us.

Do rose colored glasses really help with mourning?

Funerals for family members are always tough and potentially gut wrenching. Emotions fly all over the place. Some people sob. Some people yell and get angry. Some people sit silently with a stoic facade, as if the outward appearance of strength will magically help themselves and others. Everybody searches for that perfect blended strategy that will allow them to both express their own emotions and comfort others at the same time. Some people are fortunate enough to have a ton of amazing stories of the deceased to share. We find ourselves grabbing for our rose-colored glasses, just in case our memories aren’t what we hoped, thinking that it will lesson our pain.

Ideally generations are able to gather and even broken bridges are able to be rebuilt over the realization that life is short and precious and time should never be wasted. However, this hope for relationship rebirth and mending of fences is truly only dependent on one thing: either party’s capacity for change and accountability. It is unrealistically painful to expect any sort of new outcome without it. As much as we would like to waive our magic wands and affect instant change, it doesn’t work that way. Change and healing are two sided entities that require movement and effort by both parties. I think that affecting change and healing in families is just that much harder because of the increased level of intimacy and emotional attachment. We tend to think that blood ties both bind people together and excuse all actions eventually with mutual exclusivity. I could not disagree more. There are some hurts that cannot heal regardless of shared genetic material, and that just is what it is. I am a firm believer that blood ties do not justify all wounds. We preach self preservation and value every day in order to empower ourselves and embrace the world around us so that we can be healthy both mentally and physically. Why wouldn’t this apply to relationships with family members? Should there be a separate set of rules for families? In my opinion, the answer is simply, no.

Dr. Katz