What Emotions Are Underlying Credit Card Debt?

I decided to write an article with the viewpoint that your mindset affects your debt. no-debtMost financial writers focus on how to pay off the debt…you know, the stuff like: spend less than you make, pay off your credit card each month, pay off the high interest rates first (or the low balance first if you follow the debt snowball), pay more than the minimum, etc. Ok, you already know all that. I’m also talking about consumer debt – having debt on credit cards because you’re spending on “stuff”, not about using debt for asset purchases. I consider that a good use of debt. Google used credit cards to start their business – it certainly was a good use of debt!

You also may think the reason you or other people are in debt is obvious – spending more money than you have. Are people just simply ignoring what’s in their bank account and spending more than they have? Well yes, but why? But maybe there’s something deeper happening here. Until we know the “why” we may not be making real progress toward solving the root of the problem.

My take on it is people do things because of what’s in their subconscious…and because it’s in our subconscious, it’s a secret to us. Really, it’s a weird concept to grasp that you have a pilot operating you that’s completely disconnected from your logical brain! So we need to start by addressing why the credit card debt is in your life in the first place. I have some interesting theories about this.

I believe a major reason people have consumer debt is mainly emotional. Spending helps us feel good. If there’s an emotional pain you’re feeling, shopping helps it go away, at least temporarily. Shopping releases chemical endorphins in our body. So does gambling. They give us a rush, a high, but it only lasts a few days.

According to WomensHealthMag.com: “In a paper published last year, researchers at the UK’s Brunel University noted that shopping is associated with increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that has been linked to pleasure and positive thinking. In fact, levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter released during pleasurable experiences including sex, can rise sharply even when you’re merely window shopping. In another study, published in the journal Neuron, researchers at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Stanford strapped volunteers to an fMRI machine and showed them photos of products. When shoppers saw something they wanted to buy, a flood of dopamine to the nucleus accumbens–the brain’s reward center–lit up their fMRI images like a dashboard.” By the way, that part of the brain is also related to addiction.

How else do you explain people who collect items they never use – like a friend of mine whose ex-wife collected thousands of scrapbooking items totaling $30,000 she never used? Or expensive designer clothes or shoes in a closet that are never worn? Or an expensive car or motorcycle you really wanted and never drive? Or how about my friend who bought what she thought were Versace sunglasses on Ebay that were inexpensive, then once she got them home decided they had to be fake and never wore them? What was the thought process at the point of purchase vs. the reality of really owning them?

I read an article about a wealthy man who gave his wife expensive jewelry and remarked her appreciation lasted only about 3 days. It inspired me to try an experiment and I bought an expensive handbag. I was excited about it for exactly 3 days. After that, it was just another purse and not that special. My emotions definitely peaked and then waned. Next time you’re excited about a special or long-anticipated purchase (like your next car), see how long you stay excited after you make the purchase. I’ll bet it’s about three days for you, too.

What could be the emotional reasons why people have debt? I believe it can do with feeling pain in the present, past, or future. While these may sound simplistic, keep in mind these can be deep emotional issues.

For example:

1. If they are feeling “present” emotional pain:
• They hate their job but make a lot of money, so they have to reward themselves constantly to keep themselves going.
• They are in an unhappy marriage and need to feel better.
• They have guilt about something and want to ease the pain.
• They want to spite someone and spend a lot of money to get back at them.
• They are acting spoiled like they can have whatever they want, just because they want it, whether they can afford it or not.

2. If they are in “past” emotional pain:
• They had a bad childhood and spend to make themselves feel better.
• Their parents had a Depression mindset and they felt deprived, so now they can spend and stop living in deprivation.
• They had a successful parent who they are trying to emulate or surpass in success and spending makes them feel and look successful.
• They feel “less than” due to something in their past that robbed them of self-esteem.

3. If they feel “future” emotional pain:
• They are worried about losing their home to a foreclosure.
• They are worried about losing their job.
• They are worried about outliving their money.
• They are worried about becoming a homeless person.
• They feel they have to prove they can be successful.

So present, past, or future pain may be causing a debt predicament at a subconscious level. If you’re in debt, does one of these past, present, or future pains fit you?

Once you know why you’re in debt, that’s only the first step. It’s not enough just to know why, you also need to identify what the right course of action is to change your behavior. Remember, this is at a subconscious level, so you have to address it at a subconscious level to cure it. That’s the first step to dumping the debt forever!

If you are wanting to fix this at the subconscious level, I suggest you use my special formula for affirmations. I created a whole podcast about this, it’s Be Wealthy & Smart #23, but I’ll share a short version here so you can use it right away.

First you make a statement that you want to be true (but isn’t yet), then you make an already true statement. Like this:

1. I have all the money I need to live on and a lot left over at the end of every month. (You want this to be true).
2. My name is _______________. (This is already true).
3. It’s easy to pay my bills and meet all my financial obligations.
4. I live in ________________. (state or country)
5. Money is attracted to me and keeps showing up in increasing amounts.
6. I have ____________ (color) eyes.
7. My credit cards are clear of any balances.
8. My mother’s name is ____________.

Write these on an index card and say them at least twice a day. Your subconscious should be replacing it’s old beliefs with healthier new beliefs. From there, your actions will begin to match your new beliefs.

In about 40 days, notice if you’re thinking differently about money and if your financial situation with credit card debt has changed, then let me know.

6 thoughts on “What Emotions Are Underlying Credit Card Debt?

  1. Linda you are so right! Emotions can work for us or against us and they are caused by thoughts. Habits (good and bad) are created by repeated thoughts and thus repeated emotions. It’s interesting to know that the energy of thought travels 930,000 times faster than the speed of sound!I’m so glad you taught this.

  2. “The reason people have debt is emotional, pure and simple.” Wow! That is a profound statement and gives everyone something to think about while standing in a store or surf-shopping on the web.
    Sue Painter

  3. this article really got me thinking….
    I agree that unconscious debt is really about deeper issues.

    But what do you think about using debt to move into a more expanded expression of yourself?

    so many of the guru’s today speak of a time when they had debt and used debt to stretch them into the next level.

  4. @ Laura

    I don’t think all debt is bad. I agree that an investment in yourself is a good one. The founders of Google used credit cards to finance their business as did our own Ali Brown. I’d say both paid off nicely! 🙂


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