Many people who are not poor have a bit of a habit of blaming people who are poor for the fact that they are poor.
Isn’t that like blaming people for the fact that they were born or for the fact that they have two legs?
People with enough money can actually BLAME and SHAME you for living frugally and not buying into consumerism. That’s nuts.
But after that, it gets more complicated.
Deep poverty is like a small cage you can’t get out of
First, there is the fact that deep poverty makes your world and your world view shrink. When that happens, the number of opportunities within mainstream society shrinks too. You become increasingly marginalized and the better-off may see you as some kind of potentially dangerous wild animal.
Second, deep poverty is often deeply traumatic and can upset people’s relationship with money badly.
Money becomes a source of pain.
What happens next? You avoid money. You want to get rid of it. It makes you nervous and antsy because even when you have a small windfall, you are so acutely aware of all the things you need… and you know that the money will be gone before you know it and that it won’t be enough to cover the things you need, let alone the things that might really make a difference. So even windfalls can become a source of pain and discomfort.
Money becomes like the stove you burned your hand on or the dog that chased you and bit you when you were little.
Money becomes the thing that meant that you had to keep your kids home when all the other kids went on a school trip.
My office contains mostly items that came from Freecycle or the streets or are otherwise “pre-loved” and upcycled. The chair was new, from Argos, cost about £40. My office also has four floor lamps that I bought (partly to enable me to make videos), and three of those came from Argos at about £6 each, and the fourth one also came from Argos and was £15 or so. One lamp on my desk came from the streets (discarded, yes) and the other one from Freecycle and it’s lovely.
Money becomes the thing that makes you sell – or lose – your most treasured possessions (and for some mums on Universal Credit, your body).
Money becomes the pain you feel at Christmas when you know that your kids deserved so much better than what they got.
Money becomes the source of the pain you feel when you have to send your kids to school without breakfast.
And from then on, your relationship with money is forever troubled. Money will always make you feel uneasy and it may make you want to spend it all quickly. Before it’s gone again.
But there is also the other thing, people becoming overly cautious, and ending up spending too much over time because they spend too little in the moment. What is cheap in the moment can be very expensive in the long run. (I even see landlords and their staff fall into that trap.)
An example of that is buying a four-person set of flimsy plastic cutlery for yourself or a friend because it only costs one pound, whereas you’d be better off buying cheap all-metal cutlery for one or two that will last you many many years.
Money is the thing that made your kid trip and hurt his knees because of his shoes.
Prolonged deep poverty can result in a money-oriented form of, what is it? PTSD?
You end up making “bad” decision after bad decision because there is never enough of the stuff and you don’t know any longer what you could do that would really make a difference.
Take the kids to McDonalds on that rare day that you can afford it and stick out your tongue at the gossipping neighbours because life is too short and if your kids get hit by a bus tomorrow, one of the things you will end up regretting is that you hadn’t taken them to McDonalds the day before. Not only because of the food but because of what McDonalds meant for the kids. A feast! A party! Feelings of abundance and joy!
Part of my desk, with my Freecycle lamp. If you have a keen eye, you may spot another item that I bought “new” on the right side in this photo. It is a small original artwork, which I acquired for no more than £25 some years ago and which brings me joy on a daily basis. But I don’t have the latest gadgets, I don’t have the biggest screen on my desk and I haven’t run my fridge for about 18 months now. To my astonishment, I discovered that I actually only rarely need a fridge. We’ve all been taught that we need one and that we need to run it all the time. I needed mine for my eye drops, but then Pfizer started offering a version that does not need to be refrigerated and I now avoid pharmacies that don’t stock that version.
Going hungry too many times can do something similar. Some people have to skip lunch even when someone offers them lunch because if they say yes to that lunch, it will throw their bodies out of whack. Out of the poverty routine. That would make life harder for them.
Charlotte explains it in this video:
If you have gone without sufficient food or sufficient variety for a while, and then suddenly have enough money to eat, you may find that you can’t stop eating as if your body is thinking “quick, quick, before it is gone again”.
Is there a poverty phone line?
You can get DEBT COUNSELLING.
But debt counselling often only works if you have a sufficiently high and steady income and nothing ever breaks down and your kids behave like perfect little robots.
I would like to help change poor people’s relationship with money.
Been tossing that over for a few days now. I want to see something started like an AA meeting or support group for people in deep poverty.
AA meeting sounds too much like “It is all your fault”.
No, it isn’t. Money isn’t your fault. It is society’s fault. Money was not supposed to start dominating our lives the way it does these days. Money was supposed to support us, not crush us.
Support groups, then. Self-help groups.
I imagine a room and a table stacked high with notes or a bathtub filled with notes.
Is that abundance? No.
Abundance comes from many things, including what you can do with money.
But for people who have been living in deep poverty for too long, it is like having been locked up in a dark room for years and suddenly being released into the summer sunshine.
I’ll toss it around some more.
When money becomes like cancer, you no longer like money much…
Money is the thing that makes you sit in the dark and in the cold in the winter because you can’t afford to heat and light your home, makes you feel really really miserable and makes you notice how little daylight there is in the winter.
After a few days, you slide into a state of hibernation. It’s a waiting game, waiting for some money to come in.
Money is that thing that makes you pick up a piece of construction foam because you were hoping it was a bread crust.
Money is when you become really thin and somebody compliments you because you are really thin.
In the meantime, if you’re in deep poverty, but can get onto the internet and do have a headset, go here and listen to this for a while with your eyes closed to clear your mind:
I discovered binaural beats and how they influence brain activity when I was living in Florida in the mid-1990s. They can calm your mind and bring your stress levels down significantly.
If you use binaural beats at home, sit in an easy chair or lie on your bed and relax while you listen to this for half an hour, through your headphones. But listening for 2 or 5 minutes often helps too.
A quick shortcut? Crank up the two levels on the left to get your brain really really really relaxed, the kind of “relaxed” that deep sleep can do for you. Don’t touch the other controls.