Last updated on July 5th, 2022 at 03:06 pm
I know when I’m out of control of my personal finances because I don’t just avoid looking at my bank balances, I quail from it in abject terror. The longer I don’t look, the more terrified I get. When I finally do screw my courage to the sticking place and look, it’s almost always worse than I thought it would be, precisely because it’s been so long since I last looked.
It’s an accelerating spiral of terror, is what it is.
I feel like throwing up. Could looking at my bank balance seem any more like a forced trip on one of those modern-age theme park rides designed to scare the living bejeesus out of you?
That’s how I knew what my first dream goal has to be. Whatever you resist will persist. Whatever you avoid is where the crux of your victimhood lives. Whatever you will not face will kill you, or at least kill your dream, in the end. I would have to face down my terror of looking at my bank balance.
It’s nauseating to contemplate.
No doubt some of you out there are thinking I’m over-dramatizing. I don’t know what to say, except I’m not. This fear is as real and as dangerous to me as the fear of dying in an airplane crash, some people. Or the fear of crowds, for some other people. Or the fear of spiders and snakes for yet others.
Taking a cue from behavioral psychology, I decided to learn about desensitization. This is a process where, in tiny incremental steps, a fearful person learns to overcome and/or tolerate the objects of their irrational fear.
Desensitization consists of the following 3 steps:
1. Create a fear hierarchy. List every kind of exposure to the feared thing you can think of, and rank it from 1-10, with 1 meaning scary and 10 meaning terrifying. Put each kind of exposure on an index card and rank the stack from low to high.
2. Learn some relaxation techniques.
3. Start going through your “fear deck,” practicing the relaxation technique on each progressively scary card.
At that rate, I’d be in debtor’s prison before I could feel calm enough to do the real thing.
I thought about it long enough that I started to drive myself crazy until finally I plunged forth and checked my balance. It was scary, but for once it wasn’t worse than I thought it was. In fact, it was a little better than I’d feared.
That first day, I looked three or four times. By the last time, I wasn’t on the verge of tossing my cookies.
The next day, I got a low-balance e-mail saying I was overdrawn $1500. Just a small setback. Had I not looked at my balance the day before (several times), I’d have believed it. But since I had looked at my balance I could with a peaceful heart (and stomach) recognize that this was clearly, definitely, obviously an error. I called the bank, and they confirmed.
It’s the first time a bank ever apologized to me.
In the week since it has not been so easy. I’ve backslid and had to go through the whole face-your-fear drama all over again. I just now had to do it in order to publish this post with a clear heart.
What I know is this. If it’s this hard, I must be doing the right thing.
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