Other Books

Money Madness and Financial Freedom:
The Psychology of Money Meanings & Management

This is the only book I have written that does not have an explicitly spiritual perspective. The spiritual perspective is, however, quite implicit, this being noted by the reviewer for the Globe and Mail who said “while hardly Marxist or otherwise subversive in tone, Dr. Benner’s approach is definitely a welcome departure from the usual capitalistic crowd of financial advice books.” (December 21, 1996)

I mention the way this book differs from the others I have written because some readers assume that there are two David G. Benners and that this was written by someone other than the person who wrote all those other books on psychology and spirituality. I wrote this book because I had been doing some work consulting to the financial services sector and wanted to reflect on how and why we relate to money as we do. More practically, I also wanted to examine the way in which genuine financial freedom demands not simply increases in net worth but freedom from the ridiculous meanings we attach to it. So, once again, this book offers the same psychospiritual perspective that all my books provide, the only difference being that the spiritual dimension is somewhat more in the background.

Excerpt

Preface

Toward a Psychology of Money

Money is indeed the most important thing in the world. Every teacher or twaddler who denies it or suppresses it is an enemy of life.

~ George Bernard Shaw

If there is to be a psychoanalysis of money it must start from the hypothesis that the money complex has the essential structure of religion.

~ Norman O. Brown

Money, which represents the prose of life, and which is hardly spoken of in parlors without an apology, is, in its effects and laws, as beautiful as roses.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

While the answer may appear self evident, the question of exactly why it is that money is so important to so many people is, in fact, quite profound. What accounts for the drive to amass wealth when, after basic needs have been satisfied, it seems to bear no relationship to biological or economic necessity? And what explanation can be offered for the inordinate and frequently obsessive attention so often afforded acts of spending and saving money? And why is it that money has replaced sex as the last taboo of polite conversation? In short, what psychological laws govern money’s meanings and management, what is the source of its power, and why do so many people seem to worship at its shrine?

Given the obvious importance of money, it is somewhat surprising that so little attention has been paid to the topic by psychologists. That which has been done has been associated with three major sub-specialities of psychology which have addressed money – clinical psychology, social psychology, and economic psychology, each approaching the topic in quite different ways.

The majority of the work on the psychology of money has been done by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. As suggested by the term “clinical”, the primary focus of the work of these professionals is on the pathological aspects of money. Most of what is known about compulsive spending, saving, and gambling, for example, is known from efforts to help such people in therapy. Similarly, the majority of what is known of the more subtle but equally neurotic ways in which money behaviour and attitudes acquire their irrationality is also known through an examination of these processes in psychotherapy patients. However, while the consultation room provides a useful source of data about money behaviour one must be aware of the pathological bias which it imposes. The clinical psychology of money forms, therefore, a most valuable core of what we currently know about money’s meanings and management, even though a holistic psychological understanding of money requires that non-pathological aspects of money management also be studied directly.

The theoretical framework most commonly adopted by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists in their study of money has been that of psychoanalysis. This has proven to be an extremely useful tool in understanding the unconscious aspects of money meanings and behaviour. The psychology of greed and envy; the ways in which money becomes connected to psychological needs such as love, security, power, or intimacy; and the emotional meanings of money are all matters which have been uniquely illumined by psychoanalytic investigations. The problem, however, is that the language of psychoanalysis tends to be so technical and esoteric as to make it quite inaccessible to the non-specialist. The result is that beyond some clichéd generalizations, that which is known about the relationship between money and the unconscious has not generally been well communicated outside the psychoanalytic community. And that which has been popularly communicated has often involved such a distortion of the actual insight as to make it a laughable caricature.

The second major group of psychologists who have studied money behaviour are social psychologists. Much of their work has focused on the use of money as an incentive or reward for behaviour, particularly in the context of work. Social psychological research has also helped us understand the relationship between wealth or poverty and status, feelings of attractiveness or power, and the impressions held by others. By focusing on the role of money in everyday life, social psychologists have supplemented the understandings of the more pathological aspects of money behaviour provided by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. However, the majority of their research has involved experiments conducted in laboratories rather than observations of people in the context of their regular life and this is the major limitation of the social psychology research on money carried out to this point.

The most recent group to join in efforts to study money from a psychological perspective are a small number of researchers who are often trained in both economics and psychology and who focus on the study of economic behaviour and its social consequences outside of the laboratory. Calling themselves economic psychologists, this group is beginning to study such things as how attitudes and beliefs about money affect and are affected by such behaviours as spending, saving, investing, and financial decision making. They also are beginning to study the attitudes and beliefs about money associated with poverty, unemployment, work, taxation and tax avoidance and some attention has also been paid to the questions of how children develop their understanding of money and how families manage their financial affairs. This relatively new field is just beginning to bear its first fruit and these early results are quite promising. However, to this point there are still only a small handful of researchers working in this field.

Thus, while work on the development of a psychology of money goes back to Freud and the earliest days of modern psychology, it has been divided up between the various sub-specialities of the discipline and the understandings which have been developed never adequately pulled together in an integrated form. Furthermore, the majority of the existing literature is written for social science professionals and has not generally done a good job of communicating insights to the general public. As a consequence of this, money has continued to be viewed and treated erroneously as an exclusively economic matter.

This is the reason why most of the existing books on personal finance fail to include a psychological perspective on the topic. It is also the reason why many people report that these books fail to answer their questions or help them make the changes they desire. Techniques of budgeting, saving, or investing are important but are of limited help to those who cannot seem to put into practice what they already know. If humans were creatures of pure rationality, information about monetary matters might be all that is needed. But, given that money behaviour is no more rational than any other aspect of our life, what is required is understanding of the psychology of money, not merely advice about personal financial behaviour.

The purpose of this book is to provide such an understanding. Drawing on the literature of clinical, social, and economic psychology as well as the research and experience of the author in clinical practice and financial services, its focus is on what is known about the meanings and management of money.

Part One of the book will lay out the foundations of a psychology of money. This section of the book will make the case for the importance of a psychological perspective on money, noting that in its long history money has played many social roles, its role as an instrument of commerce being only one of these. Tracing the origins of money back to ancient religious ceremonies we will discover that the magical expectations with which money is regularly invested have a long history. This history will then form the context for a consideration of the role of rationality in money management and for an examination of money’s many and quite idiosyncratic meanings.

The roots of money madness will be the focus of Part Two. Here we will examine in more detail the nature of monetary irrationality and will look at the contribution of the unconscious, the family, and society in its development and operation. This section of the book will primarily focus on attitudes and feelings toward money. Why do so many people feel guilt over their money? Why do many big winners in lotteries respond to their win by becoming depressed? Conversely, why do some people respond to a loss of money with a sense of relief? What is at the basis of greed for money? How does money relate to feelings of success, status, self-esteem, and personal attractiveness? The paradoxical ways in which we behave in relation to money generally become more intelligible when this emotional layer of the psychology of money is understood.

Part Three will focus on a number of important spheres of financial management, including earning, winning, losing, borrowing, spending, saving, giving, and receiving money. Here we will examine matters such as the role of earned money in the maintenance of self esteem, the causes and costs of compulsive gambling, the nature of financial stress, the profiles of those who are most likely to default on debts, and patterns of spending, saving, and giving money to others. The discussion of the psychology of money in general will, in this section, move to a discussion of the psychology of specific monetary transactions.

Finally, Part Four of the book explores the relationship between money, value, and values, focusing on the value of wealth and the values of financial freedom. True financial freedom will be presented as freedom from monetary irrationality and compulsion. As such, true financial freedom is not wealth but the capacity to see money for what it really is and use it in ways that constructively enhance life for self and others. Since the worth attached to money has its roots in personal values, not simply objective economic value, this discussion will also include considerations of the values which are associated with this freedom.


Free at Last: Breaking the Bondage of Guilt and Emotional Wounds

True freedom is freedom to choose how I will respond. If I am bound up in anger over past injustices, I have little freedom to choose to love those who hurt me. If I am locked in a cycle of depression and despair, I have little freedom to choose hope. If I am plagued by guilt or anxiety, I have little freedom to choose peace and joy.

Humans always live within limited freedom. Nor does freedom come with a guarantee about what the future holds. What freedom does give us, however, is the ability to choose how we will respond to whatever we experience. It also gives us the ability to be fully alive in the present and hopeful about the future. Absolute freedom is not possible for any human, but greater freedom is possible for all of us.

This book explores the sources of our bondage and the route to freedom. Such freedom does not involve escape from unpleasant experiences or difficult circumstances, but release from their tyrannizing inner consequences. It also provides the possibility of living a more fulfilling and significant life because of these experiences.

This book is now out of print. However, used copies are still often available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.

Excerpt

Preface

The speaker’s voice boomed, his words galvanizing the attention of both the immediate audience of 83,000, as well as the estimated 3.5 billion people who listened around the world. Just as they had done so 33 years previously when they were originally delivered, these words came from a place deep within the speaker’s soul. Reaching across the chasms that divided a nation and a world, they cut to the core of the soul of the listener.

The speaker was Martin Luther King. The occasion was the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Winter Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and the words were those of his now famous “I have a dream” speech. Dr. King first delivered this speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, and it became a defining moment in the civil rights movement of the United States of America.

“I have a dream,” he began, “a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed . . . that all men are created equal”. His dream was a dream of justice, equality, and freedom. It was a dream of a day when the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners would be able to sit together at a table of brotherhood. It was a dream of a day when his children would live in a nation where they would not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. It was a dream of a day when, he said – quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah – “every valley would be exalted, every hill and mountain be made low, the rough places made plain and the crooked places made straight.” It was, he said, a dream of the glory of the Lord being revealed.

Martin Luther King’s famous speech was a call to let freedom ring, to let it ring from every hill, from every mountain, from every village and from every hamlet. “When we let freedom ring”, he said, “we speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro Spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God we are free at last.’”

Martin Luther King’s dream was, of course, a dream of an end to racial discrimination. But the need for freedom extends beyond freedom from racially inspired fear and hatred. There is also a need for freedom from a broad range of fetters that binds people to the past, making it impossible for them to be alive to the present or hopeful about the future.

As idealistic as it may sound, such freedom is possible. Think of the freedom from hatred that Martin Luther King himself showed in his dreaming, not of revenge, but of reconciliation. Or, recall the freedom that Nelson Mandela showed a few years later when, after 27 years of imprisonment for his opposition to apartheid, he made a place of special honour for his former jailor at his inauguration as the President of South Africa. Picture Pope John Paul III entering the prison cell of the man accused of trying to murder him to pray with him. Think of a person who finds freedom from guilt after causing the death of someone through negligence, or of another who achieves freedom from anger and shame after being sexually abused as a child.

What is the freedom these people have found? It is the freedom to choose how they will act. If I am bound up in anger over past injustices, I have little freedom to choose to love those who hurt me, or even those who remind me of this hurt. If I am locked in a cycle of depression and despair, I have little freedom to choose hope. If I am plagued by guilt or anxiety, I have little freedom to choose peace and joy. This does not mean that if I am free I will be able to choose, do, or experience whatever I desire. Human freedom is not absolute. Only God is absolutely free. Humans always live within limited freedom. Nor does freedom come with a guarantee about what the future holds. What freedom does give us, however, is the ability to choose how we will respond to whatever we experience. It also gives us the ability to be fully alive in the present and hopeful about the future. Absolute freedom is not possible for any human, but greater freedom is possible for all of us.

Freedom seems easy if life has been easy. If there were no disappointments, betrayals, tragedies, or interpersonal problems, personal freedom might be quite a simple matter. If children didn’t rebel, or spouses were more faithful, or employers more just, or friends more thoughtful, perhaps all of us could be free of bondage to the past. Perhaps, we might feel, under these circumstances we could be truly free and fully alive. But few of us know a consistently easy life. Our lives seem full of troubles. Peace and contentment often seem elusive. Just when we think things are going well, we experience some tragedy or injustice that shatters our hope and catapults us back into our anxieties and distress. At other periods of our life we seem stuck in the past, caught in a time warp by past emotional wounds and consumed by guilt or anger. Or we may be stuck in the future, anxiously preoccupied and apprehensive about what we fear it may hold for us. Maintaining personal freedom is not easy for most of us, and restoring it after it has been snatched away is always an enormous challenge.

When bad things happen to us it is very tempting to experience ourselves as victims. We may feel victimized by cancer, by a lack of money, by our family, by the loss of a job, by the betrayal of a spouse or close friend, or by other traumatic events. Furthermore, the way other people relate to us often encourages us to adopt a victim identity. None of these things are fair, and it is often almost impossible to not pity ourselves. Seeing ourselves as a victim is a way of making sense of a perceived injustice or a significant loss. But while such an identity is understandable, it is always regrettable. For adopting a victim role is another way in which we sacrifice our freedom. Instead of the tragedy being something that happened to us, we are the tragedy. Instead of being the recipients of injustice, we become the results of injustice. In short, when we adopt a victim identity, we become the tragic things that we endure. Experience becomes identity and we become bound to the past.

Is there really any hope for genuine liberation from the tyranny of the past? What is the nature of our inner bondage, and what are the routes to freedom from it? How can we live life with more vitality and presence? How can we be free to engage deeply with others, and free to be the unique self God has ordained from eternity that each of us should be? These are the questions we shall address in what follows. But let me not leave any doubt about the answer. We do not have to be victims of the bad things that happen to us. The past need not have the last word! Aliveness to the present and openness to whatever the future may hold are possibilities for all of us. It is not just for those who have had good childhoods, nor for those who are strong, who have health or wealth, who have access to good psychotherapy, or who are spiritual giants. Genuine inner freedom is possible for everyone. Such freedom does not involve escape from unpleasant experiences or difficult circumstances, but release from their tyrannizing inner consequences. It also provides the possibility of living a more fulfilling and significant life because of these experiences.

In order to experience genuine freedom we must first understand the sources of our bondage. Only when we know the things that block our vitality can we take steps to overcome them. Part One of the book, therefore, examines two major sources of inner bondage – emotional wounds and pathological patterns of guilt and anxiety. These, we will discover, are the major ways in which our aliveness to the present is blocked.

Part Two describes the healing of emotional wounds. This is the route to freedom from the past. Apart from such healing we are doomed to obsessively remember the past, or worse, to actually relive it. These chapters describe in detail the practical steps involved in resolving and releasing the pain, hurt, and anger associated with emotional wounds. This is the basis of freedom from the bondage to the past.

Part Three describes the dynamics of vital living. Here we will explore the route to freedom from guilt and anxiety, and describe the possibilities of an aliveness to the present which is accompanied by an openness to the future. This is the abundant life which Jesus promised to his followers. It is the freedom that is necessary if we are to experience genuine reconciliation and community. It is the freedom that witnesses to the presence of the Kingdom of God. It is the freedom we all long for and so desperately need. And it is also the freedom that is ours in Christ. There is, therefore, no reason to settle for less.


Understanding and Facilitating Forgiveness,
(with Robert Harvey)

I wrote this book with a Presbyterian minister friend to illustrate the way in which my Strategic Pastoral Counseling model could be applied to counseling that centered on forgiveness issues. My co-author was an experienced pastoral counselor who brought a strong Biblical perspective to the topic while what I provided was a psychological understanding of such things as why forgiveness is so hard and the process of releasing anger and experiencing healing of the underlying emotional wounds. While our primary audience was pastoral counselors, only three chapters focus specifically on counseling, the others all dealing more generally with the theological and psychological dimensions of the forgiveness process.

This book appears to be on its way out of print. However, used copies are still widely available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Choosing the Gift of Forgiveness,
(with Robert Harvey)

This book, the companion to Understanding and Facilitating Forgiveness, was written for those struggling to forgive, not those seeing to help those with such a struggle. Coauthored again with Robert Harvey, it presents a concise discussion of the nature of emotional wounds and lots of practical examples of how to deal with the underlying wounds while you take steps to release the anger and pain associated with them.

Once again, this book appears to be on its last print run. However used copies are widely available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Christian Perspectives on Human Development,
(with Leroy Aden and J. Harold Ellens)

Written by sixteen individuals representing a variety of theological and psychological perspectives, this edited book presents a discussion of what it takes to become a fully functioning human being. Dimensions of development that receive special attention include faith development, spiritual development, and the development of self and identity. The uniqueness of the book is the interweaving of these and other dimensions of human functioning in a holistic consideration of growth and maturity.

This book is now out of print. However, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest

I wrote this book to work out my thoughts about the inherently spiritual nature of humans and consequently, therefore, of psychotherapy. My argument is that psychotherapy is modern day soul care and as such, is a deeply spiritual process regardless of whether explicitly spiritual or religious matters are ever discussed. But this isn’t just a book about therapy. Most basically, it – like my later Care of Souls – is about the way the psychological and spiritual dimensions of human existence are interwoven and the possibilities of engaging with people holistically if we wish to support their becoming more whole and integral.

This book is now out of print. However, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling
(with Peter Hill)

encyclopedia-150

This book is not a quick read. In 1,276 pages and containing over 3,000 articles it presents a Christian perspective on all important topics in counseling psychology.

Although it is now out of print, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Counseling and the Human Predicament
(with Leroy Aden)

This book explores the psychology and theology of human brokenness and dysfunction and the route to human wholeness.

Although it is now out of print, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Psychology and Religion

This book presents a selection of articles on a broad range of aspects of the interface of psychology and religion. Part 1 examines aspects of religious experience studied by psychologists (e.g., conscience, conversion, faith, guilt, etc). Part 2 explores several facets of psychology in the light of Christian faith (e..g., doubt, envy, love, self esteem, sexuality, etc.). And Part 3 deals with topics that are important to Christians but generally ignored by psychology (e.g., religious legalism, hope, spiritual growth, etc.).

Although it is now out of print, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Psychotherapy in Christian Perspective

After discussion of some general issues in counseling and psychotherapy, this book presents more than 50 of the most common individual, group, marital and family approaches to therapy and a faith perspective on each.

Although it is now out of print, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.


Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy

This book presents a discussion of the elements and processes of approaches to counseling or psychotherapy that seek to be distinctively Christian. It also includes 15 detailed case studies of such approaches, noting the strengths and limitations of such explicitly faith-based therapies.

Although it is now out of print, used copies are still available through online used book sellers and in good used bookstores.