Money Leads to the Itch You Don’t Want to Scratch

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Scratching that itch leads to a desire for financial gain

Question: What is an effective way to avoid the financial temptations in life?

Answer: WebMD says that the skin is the only part of the human body that can feel both pain and itch—an itch for its part can be triggered by something outside of the body or by something within. And while it feels good, scratching triggers mild pain in the skin that distracts it from the itch.

Sometimes the irritation caused by scratching releases the pain-fighting chemical serotonin, which can make the itch feel itchier. That is why the more we scratch, the more we itch. And the more we itch, the more we scratch. Too much scratching can lead to wounds, infections and scarring as well as anxiety and stress.

Money can trigger an itch. But do not get me wrong. Money has its place in life and society. To live a decent life, we all need money. That is why governments try to spread wealth around through social programs like low-cost housing, free education and even dole outs. After all, money is like fertilizer as it is useless if it is not spread.

Since the time of the early humans, the need to compare has been baked into their psyche. Comparing is an effective tool to see whether something is short or long, narrow or wide and heavy or light. Comparing is an integral part of self-preservation and a person is rewarded with happiness by flooding the brain with dopamine when a job is well-done in this field. It is when self-aggrandizement is confused with self-preservation that happiness takes on a false meaning.

Money can trigger that false sense of happiness (i.e. that itch). Instead of financial relief, scratching that itch leads to a desire for financial gain. Once that gain is made and happiness fades, the current state is looked upon as lacking, thus fueling that want for more financial gain. It then becomes an insatiable desire for “the good life.” (Remember when you said that a rented apartment would be sufficient until your friends started to move into their own homes?)

Compounding this behavior is the practice of comparing oneself to others. As the saying goes, “We are always comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.” (Remember too how you were content with a 32-inch LCD TV until the appliance store delivery truck wheeled in a humongous screen LED TV into your neighbor’s home?)

The book “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness” by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz says that, “Life, even when it is good, is not easy. There is simply no way to make life perfect, and if there were, then it wouldn’t be good. Why? Because a rich life—a good life—is forged from precisely the things that make it hard.” The authors say that the key to a long and healthy life is good relationships.

efren cruzEfren Ll. Cruz is a Registered Financial Planner of RFP Philippines. He is best selling book author of Pwede Na! (A Complete Guide to Personal Finance) in 2004, and is the chairman and president of the Personal Finance Advisers Philippines Corporation.

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