Debt is a financial and emotional burden worth clearing
Jenny Griffin, aka the Catharsis Coach, talks about how transforming debt can be a worthy investment. For Griffith, debt begins with a mindset and can it with a different one. Jenny has a BA in Anthropology (Victoria, BC), an MSc in Social and Behavioural Sciences (Amsterdam, Holland), and an MSc in Social Anthropology (Edinburg, Scotland). Her dissertation at Edinburgh was entitled ‘Catharsis and the Art of Falling Apart: Rewriting the Narratives of Self.’ She explains below how she believes a person's individual story of debt can be transformed towards a more abundant consciousness.
How would you sum up what The Mindset of Debt is all about?
The Mindset of Debt is a look at the deeper spiritual meaning of debt. It’s too easy to say debt is caused by X or Y, and ignore the fact that there are always underlying factors at play that define the way we interact with our money. Each person has a unique debt story that plays (like a record) in their subconscious until it’s addressed and re-written. These could stem from early interactions with family members, the stories you were told around money, your own sense of worth (or worthlessness, as the case may be), etc. The book encourages you to pinpoint your story so that you can work towards making the changes necessary to shift your perspective. It offers some ways to begin questioning your habitual behaviours and get to the root of your own debt story.
There are alot of books on beliefs and prosperity being connected, what is original in your ebook?
I don’t really know, as, to be honest, I haven’t read any others. I’m a proponent of an embodied spirituality that comes of living our experiences consciously and through that, understanding what gifts they are offering. I’ve lived debt and journeyed through my deepest pain to find my inner truth. In doing so, I connected with my intuition, my souls’ desires and my purpose. When I write, I allow the words to flow through me and trust that they are what needs to be heard. I’ve done the academic thing (I have two Master’s degrees) and worked within the scientific concept of grounding knowledge in theory, but for me, that felt inauthentic. I don’t want to write within paradigms that had been previously explored by others, I want to write what is right for me. There’s so much knowledge available that we can tap into with such ease if we just allow ourselves to do so. We’ve been taught to restrict ourselves and believe what the authorities tell us to be true. It serves us far better to find our own truths.
Changing thoughts and core beliefs is not easy as they can be deeply ingrained in the mind. How do you suggest people effectively reprogram themselves?
The first step is to admit that they exist. Part of our societal tendency is to want to escape from the things that haunt us. Debt is only one way to do that – by purchasing things that we choose to believe will make us in some way ‘better,’ or happier, even for a short time, we skirt around the core issues. They’re never as bad as we expect - the fear of what we’ll find beneath is far worse than the thing itself. I believed for so long that I was stupid, because it’s what I was told as a child. I began to embody it, responding to the world in the way a ‘stupid’ person would. My debts sprang from the need to prove myself as something other than that – the majority of my debt is from student loans. After my second Master’s degree I realised that whatever it was I was seeking through education was actually already within me. I began to tell a different story, one in which I no longer responded to the world around me from the starting point of ‘stupid.’
Have you had any testimonials from clients who worked with you and were able to shift into an abundance mindset?
I’ve worked with a number of clients, but not on this specific thing, because it’s new to me. I was actually surprised when I ‘heard’ I was to write a book on debt because I felt entirely unqualified to do so. Yet as I sat down to write, the words flowed and I began to understand that by living my own experience of debt, I was actually examining the process from the internal perspective of having been there. Through this, if I can be of service to others by sharing it, then so be it.
Why has personal debt increased so much over the past four decades? Is it the marketing of credit cards to people or much deeper than that on a societal level?
That’s a good question, and difficult to answer. I don’t think it has anything to do with the marketing of credit cards but feel it’s a much deeper issue. There’s an underlying sense of dissatisfaction with what is and the need to soothe our collective wounds with the instant gratification of material stuff. It seems to me people don’t want to feel what’s really going on and would rather just bury it under mountains of clothes, cars and other toys. The underlying feelings don’t go away, they simply resurface as other things – disease, anger, PTSD, depression – and then the need to bury all that is added to the burden. If we were able to express ourselves more authentically in everyday situations, we’d find our connections with others grew stronger and we’d need fewer excuses to bury our dissatisfaction. Vulnerability has become a bad word, when in fact it’s a vital link in making connections with others.
What are the biggest obstacles that people have when cutting down debt?
Debt feels overwhelming – it feels out of control – and the fact that a big organisation or authority is quite often in charge really throws people off. I think one of the biggest obstacles is understanding that they don’t own you. They can take your stuff, but they don’t own your soul (cue Braveheart: ‘they cannae take my freedom!) They DO NOT own your power unless you hand it over to them. You have the capacity to negotiate whatever payment works for you, as small as it may seem. Don’t worry if it looks like it will take you 400 years to pay off the debt, because what you can do right now is the most important thing. Life has a way of shifting, constantly, and in six months from now, you may be in a completely different position (or mindset!) and find a way to double or triple the payments you make. This is rooted in huge fear. Let go of all the potential outcomes and focus on what small action you can take right now.
Is debt reduction just a matter of earning more and reducing living expenses, such as moving in with a roommate instead of renting an apt on your own?
That can be part of it, and the more people learn to think outside the box, the better. We don’t always have to own everything – there are so many ways to accept things into your life without the need to own them. Take for instance the housing issue – why not try housesitting? There are numerous international agencies that advertise house sits of different lengths (some for years at a time!). The idea is that you live in someone’s house and look after it for them while they’re away, sometimes taking care of pets and some gardening while you’re at it. What do you get? A free place to stay, utilities paid, etc. There are also a number of websites and groups which are based on the idea of being money-free (by choice). They tell stories of people who’ve lived outside of the current monetary system by offering work or other exchanges for goods, services and housing. There are ways that exist to cut expenses down, and it can be as simple as taking the word ‘buy’ out of your vocabulary. Instead of, ‘oh I need to buy new clothes,’ what about, ‘oh, I need new clothes.’ That opens up a channel for things to show up for you in an entirely different way (maybe a friend donates clothes to you, maybe you have a clothing swap in your local school gym, maybe you find a great second-hand shop that takes your old clothes on consignment or in exchange for some new ones… etc).
Is frugal behavior aligned with the abundance mindset? Why or why not?
Strangely, frugal behaviour can limit your potential for accepting abundance, because by being overly careful or stingy, you are moving from the assumption that there is not enough. As I mentioned above, thinking of alternatives to monetary exchange can help keep the flow of abundance moving. Also, ensure that what you are giving in the world holds real value for you. If you’re working in a job you really hate, the energy you give out at that job is that you are simply there for a paycheque, and the value you’re providing is limited. As you align more fully with what you have in the world that is of real value, you give it easily, lovingly and freely, and things begin to flow back to you in the same way. This ties in with knowing what your debt story is – once you know what it is, you can begin to rewrite it.
Do you plan further ebooks on this topic? What else are you planning to offer in your coaching practice?
It’s possible I’ll write more, depending on the questions that arise form this one. I’ve designed a program where people can work through their debt stories with me for a really low cost – a sliding scale starting at $5 per session. It’s designed to help those who are in debt pinpoint and rewrite their stories and move into a more abundant mindset.