By Anne Barsch*, M.A., LMFT
Ever wonder why the Great Depression of 1929 was called just that? Not only did it mark a financial low in the American economy, but it also reflected the emotional landscape of the American people; out of work, in too much debt, hopeless and afraid. Sounds a little familiar doesn't it?
In March 2008,The Boston Globe reported that "The United States has already slipped into a deep recession that could be the most serious since World War II." With a weak US dollar, rising gas and food prices, and unemployment at an all time low, many are feeling the effects. Most families however, report cutting back on discretionary expenses like dining out and vacations.
And while statements from the media, like that from the Boston Globe above may be extreme, they do have the power to affect human behavior. An article by the American Psychological Association states that Americans apprehension about the economy may actually be enough to push it into recession. What we are talking about here is a self—fulfilling prophecy and how individuals deal with impending threats. That is, how do we tend to deal with what we perceive may happen?
Many people tend to spring to one extreme or the other. For some, anxiety surfaces causing them to make impulsive decisions focusing primarily on the short term. Others move to the other end of the spectrum and dive into planning mode. They can become very rigid about how they budget their resources; including their money, time and other assets.
Social psychologist Steven Worchel, PhD. describes it as such: "The situation begins with fear, often as a result of feeling threatened. Drops in home values and layoffs fuel the fear. Soon the fear turns to panic and people hold on tightly to what assets they have."
So what can we do to make it through these tough financial times emotionally?
In light of all the stresses, it is essential to remember that we live at a time when resources are at an all time high. We are coming off a consumers market, and anytime we make that transition — from a time of overabundance and prosperity back to business as usual — anything less feels like a void.
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