Last night, while watching the Tony award show, I noticed some of the advertisements focused on older adults; retirement and pharmaceutical pain management. The former used visuals to scare the viewer into realizing that they will live longer than 65 and had better be saving for retirement, and the latter also used visuals to show how limiting life is without the use of their medicine. 

I often hear concerns from clients, family and friends of the lack of available or disposable money. These people can have a net worth anywhere from $0 to 3 million dollars. The amount of money that people have doesn’t seem to be the common denominator. There are people with lots of money that obsess about it and there are those with none that don’t, and more commonly, vise versa. I argue the common denominator to be their relationship with money. 

Similarly, I hear concerns from clients, family and friends on the pain and suffering that they endure because of physical, mental, or environmental influences. Again, there are people that suffer great pain and do not concern themselves with it, while others that suffer less pain, and allow it (pain) to take up most of their daily attention. The common denominator doesn’t seem to be the pain itself, but the relationship the person has to the pain.

In this society, we are socialized to escape or avoid pain. By saving money and preparing for retirement, we can minimize anxiety. Only problem is that this works in the short-term. Then, the thoughts of not having enough creep in and obsessing about money returns. Similarly, we are socialized to take a drug to avoid or minimize suffering pain. Again, this works in the short-term, but in the longer term, we build tolerance.  

*** This article is part 2 of a 3 part series where I go over acceptance based strategies for dealing with agism. ***

As mentioned in the previous article, when we allow our  thoughts and emotions to dictate our behavior (escape or avoid), then we limit possibilities. A thought about money today will not increase its amount, but it may limit what we do with the day. If I use it obsessing about how much I don’t have, then I have reduced my day to private events. However, I can accept that I don’t have enough, and accept that I will be anxious about not having enough, and choose to enjoy the day regardless. Similarly, I can accept that I have pain, and that the pain may limit some of my activity, and just as others have done, I can choose to do something that I want to do regardless of the pain.

Not having enough money is limiting and suffering extreme pain is also limiting. They are also relative. Working toward earning and saving is a value, as is taking pain medication to be able to enjoy an activity. The question is are these 2 things (saving, pain medication) working for you today?

Exercise: Sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes and take a few deep grounding breaths. Focus on your breath for a few minutes. Then, ask yourself, “what problem do I have right now?”

If you are like many, you may realize that in this moment you have NO problem. The concerns about money may be about the future. Pain is something that may be happening now, but doesn’t have to be a problem now. By making it a problem, the focus becomes about fixing the problem in the future, not now.

For many of us, there is NO problem in this moment as we sit here.

Bringing ourselves back into the present moment and accepting our discomfort about money or pain allows us to live our lives. Focusing on the lack of money and the amount of pain we suffer limits our possibilities for enjoyment. 

Exercise: Ask yourself, “what kind of person do I want to be in relation to money and pain.“ “Do I want to be someone who can enjoy life (engage in outdoor activities) regardless of the amount of money or pain that I suffer?”

Then, when you notice yourself thinking of money or pain, bring yourself back to the present moment and DO something that is consistent with the type of person you want to be. 

For example if you want to be the type of person that enjoys outdoor activities, when you find yourself obsessing about money, take yourself outside and engage in an outdoor activity. If you want to be the kind of person that tolerates pain, then the next time you suffer pain, refocus on the present moment and engage in an outdoor activity. 

*** Practice this exercise until my next article post. ***