The premise of The Money Mirror is that many – maybe most – women are neurotic in some way about money. The authors, a psychiatrist (Lieberman) and a professor of English (Lindner) posit that learning about a series of archetypes of women can help us recognize our own neuroses, and maybe overcome them. “Money Phobia,” as they term this neurosis, comes in many forms.
Their method was to administer extensive written interview questionnaires to approximately 125 middle-class women in their New York City network in the 1980s. We can see immediately this will not be representative of the wide range of humans on the planet. It has the risk of reflecting a narrow gender, class, and specific time-and-place-in-history focus.
On the other hand, I happen to buy into their premise, and would even expand upon it. I think everyone is neurotic about money. Men, women, middle-class, rich, poor, urban, rural, American, overseas. Our specific fears and responses to those fears run a wide range, but few are free of irrational and possibly destructive practices when it comes to money.
One entertaining technique the authors employ is tapping into well-known fairy tales to explain the irrational behaviors of their subjects. Some wish to be “saved” by an imaginary wealthy prince, and therefore abdicate self-direction when it comes to planning for the future. Others feel dirty about the origins of their own money, so take (self-destructive) steps to rid themselves of money whenever it threatens to accumulate. Some of us may hold on to any money we have, unable to part with it even in the midst of relative objective surplus. Others have a kind of drunken-sailor approach to spending wildly as soon as any comes available.
If self-recognition and learning about others’ similar problems has therapeutic effects, the book can encourage a helpful process of reflection. The final chapter has a series of group activities and money quizzes that could guide further discussion for those looking to tackle their own money phobias.
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