by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
A stock market that swings erratically every few years is looking to be the new normal: Many even doubt that a ten-year horizon is a safe one for long-term investors or those planning retirement. Economic worries are real. They can be all-consuming. Yet, often unacknowledged is the role of one’s emotional experience in diluting or magnifying reactions to economic stress. One’s background and interpretation of life’s separations and losses can be an added component in getting through challenging economic times.
Many mental-health professionals believe that separations and losses of all kinds in the present can evoke feelings of other losses in the past. It is obvious that one may be vulnerable to feelings of grief after losing someone to death. If another important person in your life dies soon after, it is common sense that grief may even be stronger because of the second loss coming within such a short time period.
Yet, small losses may kindle strong unconscious reactions. Did you ever lose a key or misplace something in the house and wonder at the strength of your reaction to such a small event? Have you ever been overwhelmed with a strong feeling while being in an airport or train station, with a feeling similar to grief, and wondered where it came from? For many of us, past losses including grieving over lost friends, family members who have died, friendships that have gone separate paths, can be evoked by dissimilar losses in the present.
Even Freud acknowledged the power of real-life economic responsibilities and down-turns. Yet knowing that these may be magnified by other emotional losses in our past may offer more understanding into what is going on, and help us from turning the corner where we leave the realm of realistic concern, yes, even fear, and enter an unproductive land of panic, despair, and despondency.