Surf the Urge

Just came from an absolutely AMAZING training with Dr. Andrew Tatarsky of the Center for Optimal Living.  He was at The Actors Fund to talk about Harm Reduction techniques and his book, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy. While this was mainly focused on application with substance abuse cases, it is easy to make the connection to a disordered process with money. My favorite part of the training was the technique of urge surfing, where you delay responding to the urge to "use" (splurge, spend, drink, etc.).

In that delay you slowly breathe into the urge and describe the thoughts and sensations that come up. 

The urge becomes the way in to see what is driving the feeling. You "unwrap" the urge and ask:

  • What does the urge want?
  • What happened just before?
  • What does the urge want to change?
  • If it could speak, what would it say?
  • Is there a story it has to tell?
  • What part of you is speaking through the urge?

For so many of us, financial behavior is not strategic, rational, and deliberate -- oh, no. It is reactive, messy, and confusing. It's based on urges that have their basis in deep emotion and profound personal meaning. It touches on our multiple points of our identity, relationships, and social context. Before we can attempt to change or "clean up" our financial behavior we have to come from an initial place of compassionate curiosity and radical acceptance. Once we can perceive and understand the origin of these behaviors and how those behaviors serve us (even as they limit us), only then do we have the chance to make real, purposeful, substantive change. 

Radical acceptance. It's what financial wellness is all about.

Amanda Clayman